Epaphras Prayer Letter

The Epaphras Prayer Letter encourages people to support the Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT) through their prayers. The Apostle Paul named Epaphras, saying of him, "He is always wrestling in prayer for you..." (Col.4:12). The letter comes out every week. ILT makes it available on its website and through email subscription. Each letter contains an inspirational thought and several prayer concerns for you to pray in support of ILT and its mission—to raise up faithful preachers and teachers of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

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Monday Morsels

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of April 19, 2021

The Fourth Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

 

April 25, 2021

 

Jesus came as the disestablishment of religion. He wrote no books. He taught only one prayer. He commended only one new ritual—the “Do this in remembrance of me.” He co-opted the Jewish practice of baptism for his own purposes. And, when he sent out his apostles to bear witness to him, he didn’t provide them with the blueprints of an institution. He didn’t establish a specific order of service for worship. Jesus wasn’t the least bit interested in religion. But he was interested in faith… faith so powerful that a bit of it—smaller than a mustard seed—could command trees and uproot them. Cast your gaze upon the religion you call Christianity. Other than the name of Jesus, how does it really differ from the other world religions? They all call for faithful obedience. They all have some form of the love command. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you,” is common across many religions. Christianity is merely another religion without that cry from the cross, “It is finished!” Jesus has done it all. There is nothing more for you to do. Faith and trust in what Christ has done gives you both heaven and earth: heaven because Jesus has opened the gates and bid you welcome; earth because he’s returned you to it as a gift to enjoy rather than an arena in which to prove your righteousness.

 

Prayers from one who must shrug off the practice of religion and simple trust the sufficiency of Christ’s work.

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ grant that I am grasped by him and shown the delights of faith. Amen

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, so draw me away from the fanaticism and visible glory of religious practice so that I would walk by faith alone and not by sight. Amen

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, so make of me that new creature in Christ that all my obedience flows out of the new creature I am rather than the force of my old sinful will. Amen

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ turn me toward my neighbors that I might see in them the opportunity for their good rather than the opportunity for my good works. Amen

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, when I looked for arenas to accomplish my religious agendas, my neighbors suffered. Grant they would trust me enough that the faithful me would be useful to them. Amen

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, you established the Institute of Lutheran Theology so that preachers of Jesus Christ, him crucified and him alone would be raised up to deliver the Gospel in its purity. Keep it safe from practitioners of religion. Amen

 

Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, as I await his coming in glory, grant that I may be content in the humility he has worked upon me. Amen

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of April 12, 2021

The Third Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

April 18, 2021

 

For the restoration of our righteousness, God has seen fit to establish two kind of repentance. The first kind of repentance comes upon us when, as we hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are brought to the trustworthiness of our God. His promise is sure and certain. He remains faithful even though we are not. His forgiveness stands even upon those who killed his Son. The first kind of repentance restores us to a trustworthy God. The second kind of repentance comes upon us as we come to know how untrustworthy we have been as neighbors. We have failed to surely and certainly fulfill the tasks of our various vocation and our neighbors have suffered as a result. Our repentance of sorrow and contrition over what we have done and left undone begins the establishment of our trustworthiness once again. The second kind of repentance restores us as trustworthy neighbors.

 

Prayers from those so untrustworthy that they must plead to a trustworthy God…

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake release my tongue, unseal my lips, and let me speak my confession before you. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake open my ears, break my heart, and let your Holy Spirit work repentance within me. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake fill me with the faith of Jesus Christ that he would bear my unbelief and I would enjoy his total complete trust in the Father. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake turn me toward my neighbors that in my repentance I would become once again worthy of their trust. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake grant that, as my heart is filled with the work of the Holy Spirit, my hands would be filled with care for my neighbors. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake grant that the staff, faculty, and students of the Institute of Lutheran Theology tend and nurture it as would all who desire to be useful neighbors. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer.

 

Father in heaven for Jesus’ sake and for all the days of my baptism keep me in hope and anticipation for that day when your glory shall be manifest. Lord in your mercy, hear my prayer. Amen

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of April 11, 2021

The Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

April 11, 2021

 

The full, bodily presence of Jesus Christ, complete with flesh and blood, confronts you in the Sacrament of the Altar. That same presence is handed over to be the life of you, a dead sinner, every time the Gospel is preached in its purity. The full, bodily presence of Jesus Christ, complete with flesh and blood comes to you in the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. There is no spiritualizing away the bodily presence of Jesus Christ your Lord. He simply will not be a fleshless and bloodless entity for you to turn into some abstract principle of tolerance, acceptance, and hospitality. He is the Word of God and that Word is a person complete with a fully human nature which means flesh and blood. This fully human nature becomes your life in faith as you are baptized. You are restored to the promises of that baptism as your sins are forgiven in another confrontation with that fully human nature. There is simply no way for you to escape the nail holes in his hands and feet, the spear wound in his side, or the cuts of the thorns upon his brow. Every time the full, bodily presence of Jesus Christ, complete with flesh and blood confronts you, you are convicted of being a sinner complicit in your God’s death, and you are convinced that. despite your sinfulness, your God still says, “I forgive you. You are mine. I will never let you go.”

 

Prayers from those who cringe that they must have a flesh and blood savior…

 

Heavenly Father grant me the eyes of faith that I, too, might behold the marks of the nails, the wound in his side, and the cuts on the brow of my Lord Jesus Christ and be confident that he does not lie when he cries out, “Father, forgive them!” For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

 

Heavenly Father hold me in the faith of Jesus Christ because he has exchanged my doubts for his faith. For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

 

Heavenly Father grant that the blessed exchange gives me such righteousness that I would be well ordered within my community of neighbors. For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

 

Heavenly Father return me to the promises of my baptism whenever your word of absolution falls upon my ears so that I would have its certainty for my faith to cling to. For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, in your Son Jesus Christ, you have distributed your testament to all believers. Grant that I, too, would receive the inheritance you have prepared for me: the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, you have called many to be staff, faculty, and students at the Institute of Lutheran Theology. As you have called them, so also hold them in your protection and in the faith of Jesus Christ that they would live confidently through these, the days of their Baptism. For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

 

 Heavenly Father, as I live out the days of my baptism between the time of my sacramental death beneath the Word and water of baptism and the time of my physical death of going down to the dust from which I came, grant me ears to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ fresh each morning. For Jesus’ sake, listen to me. Amen

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of March 29, 2021

The Resurrection of Our Lord – Mark 16:1-8

April 4, 2021

 

You look forward to the Day of Resurrection of our Lord. But this Holy Week must still be traversed… Holy Saturday endured… Jesus must go down his grave, and we are baptized into his death, joined to him so completely that his tomb is our tomb as well. Holy Saturday, that day for the revelation that God has shut up the entire world in sin, takes even our laments from us that we might all the more fervently anticipate the Day of Resurrection. And so, we anticipate it throughout the days of this week. Only in that anticipation are we freed to experience how strong a hold sin has upon us and the depths of perversity into which sin has taken us. Even as we sing, “Ah, Holy Jesus,” confessing our complicity in his crucifixion, the Easter acclamation hangs unspoken but real before us, “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!” The truth of the resurrection frees us to know the truth of our sinfulness and cease our dread and denial of it.

 

Prayers from sinners who would rather deny their sin than experience its depths…

 

Heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, grant me to know the truth of the resurrection. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, grant me to know the truth and depths of my sin. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, grant me confidence in the promise of my baptism—that, since I am joined to Jesus in a death like his, I will certainly know a resurrection like his. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, grant me such faith that you love me even though I am numbered among the killers of your Son, that I endure this Holy Week, not only in fear and trembling, but with anticipation of shouting the Easter Acclamation with Christ’s brothers and sisters. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, for Jesus’ sake, grant me both repentance and new life; hold them together such that I do not despair nor take pride in either. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, hold the Institute of Lutheran Theology under your protection, granting that its students, staff, faculty, board, and donors know both the depths of sin to which this week drives them and the height of exaltation which is delivered on the first day of the new creation. Amen

 

Heavenly Father, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise to all who believe it that they, too, will be raised from the dead. Hold me in this promise all the days of my baptism. Amen

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