Wednesday, October 20 2021
You may recognize these words from the benediction at our worship each week. This prayer is prayed over us at the end of our services. Jim Branch, a mentor, and friend, who will lead our “Refresh” event on January 7-9, 2021, led our staff and session meetings this past week.
In our staff meeting, Jim walked us through this prayer with an encouragement and a challenge.
The flow of the prayer is as moving as it is beautiful. It begins by asking the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our inner beings so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith. This suggests that our inner beings need to be exercised, worked out, and strengthened so Christ can live in us. This all starts with a basic trust in God’s goodness and love that grows in us as we exercise it. The first “so that” refers to Christ’s presence in our lives.
The next “so that” refers to our being rooted and grounded in love. When Christ dwells in us, our lives take on a new strength and foundation. Paul uses images of a tree rooted in the ground and of a building with a solid foundation. These are images of growth, strength, and firmness.
The next “so that” is implied – to understand the widest, longest, highest, deepest love of Jesus. I see the cross in this description - God’s demonstration of His unconquerable love that goes up, down, and out. Notice two things: 1) this is something we do in community – with all the saints (i.e. followers of Jesus), and 2) this is a different kind of knowing that certainly involves our minds but goes beyond our minds – it is a knowing in our inner being.
Finally, the last “so that” - to be filled with the fullness of God. How often life leaves us feeling deflated, depleted, disappointed – empty! But God’s great desire is to fill us with Himself – His life, love, and joy. This is the point and reveals God’s deepest desire for us and our deepest need for God.
This is a prayer - we cannot do this by ourselves. But it is a prayer for strength – God will not do it without us. It is a prayer for the Spirit to strengthen us – God intends to help us. Our part is to practice faith – to trust God. This practice works us out and gets us in shape so Christ can dwell in us. This is spiritual formation and involves practices that train us for a deeper relationship with Jesus.
So I ask myself these questions and let you listen in…How am I being strengthened (or weakened) in my inner being? Am I setting aside time and space to grow in my relationship with Jesus – both personally and in community? How are my routines and habits strengthening my inner being or weakening it? How are they rooting me or grounding me in God’s love – or something else? How am I growing in my experience of Jesus’ love - or not? How am I experiencing God’s fulness – or not?
May His Spirit strengthen us in our inner being so we may be rooted and grounded in God’s love, experiencing the cross-shaped love of Jesus and being filled with the fulness of God’s life, love, and joy.