At Grace Church Barrow we’re journeying through Revelation 1-5 this term. As well as being actual churches in first-century Asia Minor (what is modern-day Turkey), I’m convinced the seven churches selected (chapters 2-3) are also representative of all churches in time and space. Therefore as we read the letters there will be aspects of challenge and encouragement for all of us in each one.
So as we go through the seven letters to the seven churches (chapters 2-3), I thought it would be personally helpful to myself to write a prayer responding to each letter each week as a pastor…
The first letter in Revelation is to the church in Ephesus (2:1-7). You can read it here.
Lord Jesus, you are the One who holds us in your sovereign hands. You walk amongst your churches, whatever post-code we may have, whatever point in history we may inhabit (2:1). Church is not something we construct or make happen. We are your body, something you create, the fruit of your Word going forth in the power of your Spirit.
Thank you for encouraging us to persevere. For recognising our service for you. For seeing our desire to uphold your truth and expose error amidst a spirit of ‘this is my truth, tell me yours’ (2:2-3).
And yet you challenge us: you expose us in ways perhaps we would never have expected.
And this is your charge: that we have ‘forsaken the love we had at first’ (2:4).
Oh, our majestic King and beautiful Saviour, our triune God, a tri-unity of love. How far we can indeed fall! How lost we can get ourselves! How much we can miss the point of it all! (2:5)
To forget it was all about love. To assume our worship. To take our eyes of our devotion. To plough on with activity and orthodoxy, but to run on empty in our hearts.
I know this isn’t about you wanting us to work up from within us some momentary feeling. I know you’re not expecting us to always have grins stuck on our faces. But you want us to come back to our first love.
So, take me back to the cross. To your bedazzling salvation plan set forth from before the foundations of the world was even laid. A plan to lavish your triune love upon us. Drench my heart afresh in the glories of Calvary.
As Paul prayed for the Ephesian Christians decades before, would I be so ‘rooted and established in love’ that I would ‘grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:17-18).
Help me to repent therefore. Help me to see where I tend to turn for affirmation and love. Help me to see where my heart has been captivated and wooed by other things. Even good things, like ‘rightness’ or ‘ministry’ or ‘knowledge’. How foolish to get excited about those things rather than You.
‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so’. My home. My centre. My heartbeat. Simple enough for my young faith to paddle in and yet deep enough for endless delight through every season.
So rekindle my affection for You, the pearl of great price. Keep my heart basking in the sunshine of the gospel.
It is such a privilege to pastor your flock, to teach your word, to hold out your gospel to those who are starved of hope and grace.
But as I do these things, give me an endurance that is not dry or bitter. Give me a faithfulness that always cherishes as well as guards. Give me an orthodoxy that is always captivated by the beauty of the truth it stands for.
Would every part of my sermon preparation; every bible study; every conversation, be shot through with love – for you and for those you have created and placed me alongside.
Would every piece of admin; every email sent; every social media interaction, flow out of a warm heart.
Would every interaction with my family and those I bump into throughout the day at least hint at the manner of someone who can’t believe they have been shown unimaginable generosity.
We hear the words of your Spirit in this letter. Give me ears to hear. In part they are painful words, but words we long to receive and take to heart. Help us, dear Lord and keep my heart loving you through thick and thin, lean and plenty, feast and famine, until the day when you invite us to eat from the tree of life in your eternal presence.
In your precious name,