"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
We used to pray this verse alot at Anchor in the early days. The sky was the limit, the dreams were big, the anticipation exciting, the new work invigorating. And overwhelming from the get go. So we focused on this prayer of Paul's, reciting it too each other with a knowing smile - we knew that God was at work in and through us...we just didn't know what it was all going to look like. Would our church grow fast? Would there be throngs of converts? Would we have a flood of baptisms? Would there be rededications and callings to ministry. Would we be able to add staff to keep up with our ministries? Oh the dreams we had.
It's been along time since I prayed this verse...too long.
There has been no quick and ongoing increase in attendance. There were no throngs or floods of new believers, baptisms, or rededications. No long lines of people being called to full-time ministry. The staff we've had in the past have all had their positions ended due to inadequate finances.
Now when I utter this prayer, it is without the glib enthusiasm or dreamy anticipations of God's miraculous work. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm feeling when I pray it...amidst a very messy ministry, where God is mysteriously at work; gains seem elusive and losses are crushing. It's been hard to say goodbye to so many good friends who were part of Anchor, and now are not: Slagers, Kuntzs, Jeff & Jenna Johnson, John and Melissa Konkey, and so many others. It's been beautiful to welcome so many new neighbors into our congregation: Brandi Moran and her family, Lee and Jesse, Darrell and Liz, Jesse and Khara and others. For whatever reason, I'm so much more aware of the pain so many people carry around with them; the pains that come from growing older, from raising a family, having a job, going to school; but also from being betrayed, being neglected, being abused, being marginalized, being rejected, being alive. Everybody has some kind of pain - whether self-inflicted or from another...and so many of my friends and neighbors at Anchor seem inundated with it. The prayer about God doing "immeasurably more" now seems to center around rescue, redemption, reconciliation, restoration within the hurting and wounded lives of Anchorites. I still want to see conversions and baptisms, disciples making disciples, believers being called to a ministry vocation, etc. And it is happening. But not with the rapid growth that impresses or brings renown. It seems messy, mysterious, elusive.
Whereas before I prayed this verse out of a eager anticipation, now it is prayed existentially: out of my existence within Anchor, and the sharing of my life with our friends and neighbors and carrying their burdens and in praying with/for them...oh that God would come through for us..."how long Oh LORD, how LONG?????" until you do the immeasurably more?
So like Paul, I get down on my knees, I cry out from behind my steering wheel, I recite underneath the nightsky stars:
I pray that out of God's glorious abundance he may strengthen my fellow Anchorites with power through His Spirit within our souls; so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through trust/faith.
I pray that we - being rooted like a mighty oak alongside the clear stream, being established as a solid cornerstone in the massive refugee-home for those rescued from the Way of Evil...I pray that we may be rooted and established in love...
I pray that we may have power - God's ability within us - together with all those who are part of the Kingdom of God, to grasp with our minds and heart and soul how wide and long and high and deep is the mercy/compassion/grace/patience/forgiveness of Christ...and to know this generous love that surpassess all knowledge - that we may all be filled to the brim of all the fullness of God - Creator of all the universes and galaxies and solar systems and our Earth and all that is within it.
Now...to a God like that be glory from our frail and forgiven and Spirit-formed church...A God who can do more than we can grasp or know is possible...a God who can do more in and through us than we could hope for...