Class 5 – The Spirit Unites Disciples Because We Join Together in Spiritual Formation Practices

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1–6 NIV11)

Main Point For Today: The Spirit unites us when we participate in spiritual formation practices
To quote John Mark Hicks, “Disciples, united in prayer, are united in the Spirit. The practice of prayer (as well as other disciplines) is rooted in the work of the Spirit. The Spirit is present to listen and speak in these moments.” p69
Many spiritual disciplines are available: fasting; silence; celebration; confession; Frugality; Fellowship;

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  • But today, we will focus on prayer
  1. The Spirit unites us when we pray together in defending our unity and helping one another
    • “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” (Jude 1:17–23 NIV11)
      – Context – divisive, Spirit-less people, threat to unity
      – Antidote to division – prayer together in Spirit
      – Context – doubters, weak, threat to unity if they are neglected
      – Antidote to weakness and doubts – pray together in the Spirit
  2. The Spirit unites us when we pray together for one another to be courageous in declaring the gospel
    • “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:18–20 NIV11)
      – Context – in prison, tongue-tied & afraid
      – Antidote – ask a whole church to pray for you – united with Paul in his mission
    • Reminds us of this situation:
      – “On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “ ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. ’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:23–31 NIV11)
      – Context – threats via persecution, could have divided them
      – Antidote to fear – prayer to be in accord with Spirit’s agenda
  3. What does it look like to pray in the Spirit?
  • No one definitive answer
  • Here are some thoughts for us to chew on and discuss in our local groups. First some thoughts from other authors:
    • “The Spirit is given as helper, and not least for the task of prayer (Rom. 8:26–27); but…in the Spirit means more than by the Spirit’s help. The Spirit is the atmosphere of Christians’ lives, and as they live in the Spirit grace will be given to watch and power to continue in prayer.” Foulkes, Francis. Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary. TNTC 10. IVP/Accordance electronic edition, version 2.8. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1989.
    • “By the Spirit—Through the influence of the Holy Spirit.” Wesley, John. Wesley’s Notes on the Bible. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.4. Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 1997.
    • “Barclay has: “Let the Spirit be the atmosphere in which you pray.”” Wood, A. Skevington. Ephesians. EBC 11. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. Accordance electronic edition, version 2.8. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.
    • “The writer is calling for prayer inspired, guided, and made effective through the Spirit. Those who are united in their access to the Father through the Spirit (2:18), who are built into God’s dwelling place in the Spirit (2:22), and who are being filled with the Spirit (5:18) can and should pray constantly in and through this Spirit.” Lincoln, Andrew T. Ephesians. WBC 42. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.6. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.
      • Praying in accordance with the Word of God and living according to God’s teachings
      • Praying whilst in conscious dependence upon the Spirit, asking the Spirit for what we need – strength, courage, faith, wisdom….
      • Praying whilst consciously mindful of Jesus, whose Spirit we have. What would he do, what would he think? Especially helpful when we are faced with circumstances which the Bible does not specifically and explicitly teach on. Looking for the Spirit inside to help us live as followers of Jesus in a way faithful to him, not only in the precise words he uttered, but also in the way he lived.
      • Praying mindful of the Spirit that he would unite us, and praying for our unity in the Spirit. Praying together mindful that the Spirit is in me, and in you, and in all of us, and that he might truly unite us.
      • Also important that when we are praying alone we remember that we are still praying ‘with’ our fellow-believers, as long as we are praying in the Spirit
      • What is God calling you to be? Trusting, courageous, persevering, forgiving – when praying together about this we are strengthened us and we pray in a way the Spirit delights in.
  • I have two questions for you:
    • What does it look like for your local gathering to pray in the Spirit?
    • Are there some other spiritual disciplines your local gathering could practice that would delight the Spirit?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

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“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm