Epaphras Prayer Letter
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
Week of July 19, 2021 | Sunday, July 25, 2021
The gospel text tells us “… their hearts were hardened” (vs. 52). This verse strikes fear in sinner’s hearts. John Calvin, the Swiss Reformer, heard such words as these in scripture and concluded that God has chosen from before time the ones he will glorify with eternal life and the ones he will condemn to eternal punishment. There is no escape with this sort of double predestination: it is heaven or hell, and God has already decided who is going where. That decision is part of God’s secret counsel which no one knows. Luther and his fellow reformers understood God as revealing his will in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had no doctrine of double predestination. Luther and the others held that the Word of God proclaimed as the Gospel of Jesus Christ wielded the power and authority of God. The Gospel “is God’s power unto salvation for all who believe” (Ro. 1:16). When Paul preaches to the Ephesians through the letter he wrote to them, Paul tells them—and consequently us—that “God has chosen you in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). You have a preacher of the Gospel, God’s Word of power and authority. You have a preacher of the Gospel who delivers God’s choice of you—your divine election—unto salvation. When you don’t have a preacher, you are left in the dark regarding God’s choice, either for you or against you, heaven or hell, but you won’t know which.
Prayers by those who flee from the absolute God of double predestination and into the arms of the God who has elected them in Jesus Christ…
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, draw me away from that unpreached God so absolute and inscrutable in his secret counsel; draw me instead to the arms of Jesus Christ, your Son my Lord, where your loving heart is revealed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, do not leave me in fear and trembling, not knowing whether you have saved me or not. Place in my ears the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that the Holy Spirit will work faith within me and assure me of my divine election. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, hold me in the faith of Christ Jesus my Lord and draw me ever deeper into the love of those who bear the name Christian that I may know both faith and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as I know both faith and love, make me of some use to those neighbors of mine. Turn me first to those of my own household, then to my community, and then outward to my neighbors around the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when my neighbors fail to engage with reciprocity the love I deliver to them, grant me the heart of Jesus Christ that I may forgive them for their withholding of my daily bread. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, look upon the Institute of Lutheran Theology and bless it with the fruitfulness of students and faculty, of staff and board members, and of alumni and donors so that its teachings may be fruitful in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, hold me in faith and love until the end of the days of my baptism. In Jesus’ name, Amen.