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 February 17, 2020

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19–21, ESV) 

Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79, KJV)

 

In both our Holy Scriptures and our contemporary speech, the stark contrast between light and darkness is everywhere. For example, when we talk about going through a painful period we say “I was in a very dark place”. There are too many examples in the Bible to list but one is John 3:19, “And the judgment is based on this fact: God's light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil.” Earlier in John, we read that the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. From Advent to Transfiguration, while the days are short, we think much about the Light of Christ. In the short days of winter, we in the church have a strong sense of our need for this Light. The following is just one stanza from one hymn that acknowledges, or rather pleads, for this Light: 

Visit, then, this soul of mine; 
pierce the gloom of sin and grief; 
fill me, Radiancy divine; 
scatter all my unbelief; 
more and more thyself display, 
shining to the perfect day. 

The challenge for preachers on Transfiguration Sunday is to translate this epiphany into a way that might truly pierce the postmodern consciousness. This gets at the heart of what is needed in seminary education today. Seminarians need to be taught how to understand the text before them as the people would have originally heard it, then be able to scan and understand the contemporary, cultural horizon, and holding those two things together proclaim the Law and Gospel. And it needs to be done in such a way that people of different ages and perspectives hear it as truth for them. What a job the preacher has! Let us pray for those preaching this Sunday and for those learning to preach and for those who teach them. We would thank you for praying for ILT in your own words, now and as often as the Lord would lead you. God bless. 

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of February 10, 2020

“Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny”

(Matthew 5:21-26).

 

Anger. Lust. Divorce. Those are the subchapter headings in the English Standard Version over verses 21-37 in the fifth chapter of Matthew. Another Bible at hand simply has the heading “Personal Relationships”. Perhaps our personal relationships are not characterized by anger and lust, but many people listening to the sermon are, perhaps profoundly, and since we are being honest, none of us are innocent.

 

The Word addresses individuals within a community, and we are all addressed, abuser and victim alike. The abuser is confronted, and the victim is comforted, but of course no one is truly innocent. We all need a way out of our troubles. Jesus says that we need to come to terms with our accuser because we will never get out unless we pay a fine. It is still news to some that he is the one that pays the fine; he is the one who provides for us the way out. We need preachers who dare to address the sin among us, who will also preach the only true good news concerning our salvation. Let us pray for those who will preach next Sunday and let us pray for the preachers still in training.

 

We pray:

 

+that our faculty be granted the skill, patience and wisdom to prepare and impart the ability to rightly divide the Word of truth

 

+that our students have everything they need to learn and apply the Word to their context

 

+that our board and staff are guided in their work and that our supporters are blessed too so that they might be a blessing to faculty and students.

 

Finally, we pray for our congregations, our nation, and all people everywhere that we might have strong, faithful communities everywhere, seeking to live together peaceably.

 

Amen.

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of February 03, 2020

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

 

Matthew 5:17, 20 

 

Individually or collectively, what sort of an example are we? Isn’t it amazing that any group of Christians has embraced the idea of being a “City on a Hill” except as an aspirational ideal? Or is it! 

 

Pity the poor preacher and his or her congregation who does not have a correct understanding of Law and Gospel when they have as their sermon text something from the Great Sermon of Jesus of Nazareth. More than likely they will either hear only Law or only Gospel, which of course, is not Law and Gospel.  

 

As we mull over the Sermon on the Mount again, may the Word of God be active and do the separation so that hearers be both convicted and freed.  

 

Experience shows that such preaching does not occur everywhere and always. This is one very important reason why the Institute of Lutheran Theology exists. We are just beginning our Spring Term and we ask you to pray with us: 

 

+For our faculty, that they might teach our eager students the life-giving message of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ 

 

+For our students, that their hearts and intellects are so well-formed that many lives are, too. 

 

+For our board, our staff, and our supporters, that they have everything they need to do their work so that the Institute of Lutheran Theology keeps to its mission. 

 

Lastly, we ask you to pray for the family of Jim McGarigle. Jim earned his STM at ILT and was one of our Ph.D. students and an instructor, but he finally succumbed to his battle with cancer Friday evening. It was particularly tragic because he had been told that he was winning the battle when he took an inexplicable turn. Many will be shocked to hear it as the last they heard he was going to be fine. Jim leaves behind a loving wife and children and many friends who grieve this loss. 

 

Thank you for praying. 

Epaphras Prayer Letter - Week of January 27, 2020

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” 


Matthew 5:11-12 


Come writers and critics, who prophesize with your pen 
And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again 
And don’t speak too soon 
For the wheel’s still in spin 
And there’s no tellin' who that it’s namin' 
For the loser now will be later to win 
For the times they are a-changin'* 

 
“The loser now will be later to win” sums up the Beatitudes quite succinctly, or as well as any eight words could. For those of us for whom the wheel of fortune is still in spin, the Lord knows that we need some perspective and is giving it here. The preacher’s job is to break it down, again. 


Epaphras Prayer Letter is meant to gather together the prayers of the ILT community. We pray for the success of our educational mission. We see ourselves as the vanguard bringing relief to churches everywhere in need of sound preaching. We do this humbly though. We are in constant need of the resources to bring this about. But we have reason to be of good cheer. We are blessed. 


Our primary blessing is the Word, which declares to us we are blessed. Not in some sweet bye and bye, but now. Here and now. We have comfort as we mourn. We have peace in a raging storm. And even if our church was set afire and a mob chased us down the way, our Lord is there. 


We have begun a new term. Please pray: 


+That each and every faculty member be strengthened and inspired to convey the blessings of our Lord in such a way that each student can proclaim the gospel exceedingly well 


+That each and every student is blessed in all the ways they need to be present in class

 
+That all the preachers in our supporting community proclaim the gospel Sunday in such a way that even the most worried and distracted come to know the blessings our Lord has ready for us 
Thank you for praying with us. God bless you!  


*Bob Dylan, second stanza, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” a song about the Civil Rights Movement. 

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