Earlier this month I drew attention to Dr. Greg Sheridan’s observation in his new book, God is Good for You (Allen&Unwin:2018), namely that ‘Liberalism (today) remains in furious rebellion against Christianity, its parent and its source. A certain panic at the existential emptiness of liberal atheism impels liberalism to a new authoritarianism. Everyone must genuflect to the same secular pieties’ (p.31).
Furthermore, as his book develops, he writes, ‘It is evidence of how Christianity has been marginalized in the popular culture in the West that there are very few Christian celebrities, or rather celebrities whose primary fame is due to their Christianity, their Christian works or writings,…’ (p.66).
‘The new atheist polemicists are really the bishops of the new atheist religion, fortifying their followers in their beliefs by reference to their own sacred texts and authorized teachings. But they are false prophets of a false religion.’
‘Christians,’ he says, ‘have a right to be worried about what is happening to their beliefs in the West. The primary challenge is not intellectual but cultural…’ (p.66).
How then do we respond? The Bible’s starting point – and ending point – is prayer. How important it is then that we consider, not just the importance and the power of prayer, but rather the One to whom we are praying.
Let’s look again at Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Now to him who… is able to accomplish abundantly far more…
Handley Moule (Ephesian Studies, p.133), quotes Adolphe Monod who wrote of these words: “After the grandest promises which human language can express, the Holy Ghost here closes by declaring that all which can be expressed is infinitely below the reality which is in God. In vain we mount, even in the track of an Apostle; we can only contemplate, after all, ‘parts of the ways of God’ (Job 26:14), and we must always conclude with ‘groanings that cannot be uttered’ (Romans 8:26). Yes, and nothing other can suffice us than this avowal of insufficiency; nothing less could respond to the vague and vast need of heart. All that the mind comes to see distinctly, and the mouth to enunciate with precision is incapable of satisfying us. This conclusion accordingly, astonishing and unexpected, is just what we required…” (Moule, p.133).
Too often, in our minds, God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what he is like, what he expects of us, what he seeks in us. We are not captured by his holiness and his love; his thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.
We need to pause and meditate on Paul’s words: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish than all we can ask or imagine…
Handley Moule continues to quote Monod: “Nothing can restrain or bound the power of God towards us; nothing in him, nothing even is us; no limits set to his power, for it knows no limits; not even the weakness of our prayers, and the imperfection of our knowledge, for he is able to transcend all our demands and all our conceptions” (Moule, pp.133f).
Think of it: Paul the Apostle tells us we should be confident in praying for the limitless resources of God’s power to be at work within us.
Handley Moule comments, ‘The Doxology… seems to come less to close it (the prayer) than to waft it aloft into eternity. This is one of the great Scriptures, the Holy Spirit’s words of the first order. Let us recall it, let us ponder it, to be ourselves uplifted, and then abased, but only to be the better uplifted again in the power of God’ (HCG Moule, Ephesian Studies, pp.132f).
It may be that we have not reflected sufficiently on the awesome nature of our God. Or maybe God is saying to us, you do not have because you do not ask. You’re playing in the shallows. You’re not swimming in the deep crystal clear waters of God’s love.
Ask. And when we do, we will begin to understand just how much God does love us. Then we can know what it means for us to love the Lord our God, and to know his power at work within us as we live in today’s world.
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Visit the Anglican Connection Booth.
Lunch with the Anglican Connection ‘Focus Group’ – Tuesday, September 11 from 12:00pm to 1:30pm. Theme: ‘Thomas Cranmer & the Psalms – and 9/11’.
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© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com