6 Tips the Writer of Ephesians Taught Me About How to Pray

https://flic.kr/p/9F6vYd

https://flic.kr/p/9F6vYd

My wife and I began reading the book of Ephesians yesterday – the next book in our daily reading through the New Testament.

In the first chapter, the writer says a few words about how he prays for this group of Christians (in Ephesus, a place in southwest Turkey).

In these few sentences are some valuable lessons about what to pray for, and how.

–He says that, when he prays, he always thanks God for the people to whom he was writing.

–He says that he prays that God will give them a spirit that will make them wise in the knowledge of God.

–He says that he prays that they will have greater understanding in their hearts; then they will know the hope that God has given to them.

–He says that he prays that they will know that the blessings God has promised to his holy people are big and beautiful. (Personal note: I don’t think of blessings as specifically material ones.)

–He says that he prays that this group will know that God’s power is great for those who believe.

I’d guess that Paul also prayed for many other things—their health and obedience to God, and so much more, probably.

But the phrases above, in particular, are what he emphasized in this passage.

So, here are my 6 takeaways:

1) In our prayers, it is important to be thankful for others.

2) It is good to ask God to give people a spirit that makes them wise.

3-4) It is valuable to pray that people will have more understanding; that will help them to know hope from God.

5-6) It is wise to consider the connection between our holiness and God’s blessings on, and God’s power for, us.

May Paul’s prayer be yours today. Here is the text, from Ephesians 1:15-19:

“That is why I always remember you in my prayers and always thank God for you. I have always done this since the time I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people. I always pray to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ—to the glorious Father. I pray that he will give you a spirit that will make you wise in the knowledge of God—the knowledge that he has shown you. I pray that you will have greater understanding in your heart. Then you will know the hope that God has chosen to give us. I pray that you will know that the blessings God has promised his holy people are rich and glorious. And you will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe.” (Version: ICB)

 

What I Learned from my Last Day of School

The value of proper conclusion

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/ek3wHw

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/ek3wHw

Every morning last month I attended a Turkish course at a language school in Istanbul.

Toward the end of the course, I learned that there would be a final exam on the last day.

All month, I had completed most of my homework and studied when I could.

But as I realized just how hard the final exam might be, I was quite sure that I would not pass it.

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Understanding why we fight

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/9AeqD2

Photo: https://flic.kr/p/9AeqD2

Waiting at the water department in Istanbul, my wife was number 30 in line.

After she was there for a while, the office closed for lunch.

And everybody waited longer.

Someone made a comment about the dysfunctions of bureaucracies in “Muslim countries,” and that sparked a small shouting match.

A government employee finally intervened and the security guard appeared.

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yale1

Enjoyed a concert by the men’s a cappella group from Yale, “The Spizzwinks(?),” performing in our neighborhood in Istanbul. They performed in tails in a 9th century Byzantine cistern. (In the 9th century, a church stood atop this cistern.)

God’s ultimate justice

I was talking with someone recently about botched justice: when someone deserving punishment doesn’t really get it.

Photo: http://tinyurl.com/ka2loyw

Photo: http://tinyurl.com/ka2loyw

That’s the unfortunate reality for many places in the world–some people aren’t punished accurately.

This person said that, when justice was not accurately (or adequately) received on earth, there was somehow comfort in believing that it would, ultimately, be received from God.

Now, I’m not one to say that someone is going to hell; that’s not for me to decide.

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Chasing wishes on a cobblestone path

Photos by Ayşegül Bektaş Frame

Photos by Ayşegül Bektaş Frame

Every year on April 23, thousands of Turks board ferries and make their way to the largest island off the coast of Istanbul.

Many of them purchase a spool of colorful thread from vendors lining the cobblestone path to the top of a high peak, and they unravel the spool as they walk.

1 - IMG_1333 1 - IMG_1364

Interestingly, in a country that is 98% Muslim, those making the pilgrimage each year are walking towards a Christian monastery, named after St. George, that sits at the top of the mountain. When they get there, they hang charms in the trees of the churchyard.

They also light candles. They wish. They hope. They pray.

Inside the church,

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Video: the Islamic Call to Prayer

Photo: The Blue Mosque, Istanbul. http://pixabay.com/en/ahmetsultan-mosque-m-istanbul-710597/

Photo: The Blue Mosque, Istanbul. http://pixabay.com/en/ahmetsultan-mosque-m-istanbul-710597/

Five times every day in the Middle East, the call to prayer rings out loudly from mosques all over the land. Loud speakers, attached to the mosques’ towers (called minarets), allow entire neighborhoods to hear the müezzin calling out the prayer from inside.

Often, you’ll hear a chorus of prayers from different mosques.

The prayer is in Arabic; this short video, shot while my wife and I were walking in a nearby park one evening last week, captures a short segment of it.

When the call to prayer is heard, many people

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