For seven years, Ezekiel gave his grave warnings of destruction, and then his words of prophecy came true. All that Ezekiel grew up believing he was born to do and the place in which he was to do it were now destroyed. His fellow Jews shared the shock and sorrow that Ezekiel felt as many of them were dragged away into their forced captivity. Shock and sorrow soon turned to anger, desperation, and despair. Their homeland and all that was precious about it lay in ruins. Hopelessness settled into the hearts of God's people.
Then, in the time of greatest hopelessness and despair, God sent Ezekiel a strange vision about a field full of many dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). God had Ezekiel prophesy to these bleached and lifeless bones, and they came together into skeletons, then connective tissue, and then skin covered them. But, they were lifeless because there was no Breath of God in them. Then Ezekiel spoke and God sent his Breath, his Holy Spirit, into these lifeless forms and they lived.
God explained to Ezekiel just what the vision meant in these words:
Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD'" (Ezekiel 37:11-14 TNIV).
The power of God to bring new life to his people comes from the Holy Spirit, the Breath of Heaven that the Father sends to bring new life to his people. This is the power that raised Jesus from the dead and is available to us as his followers (Ephesians 1:15-21). In the middle of our darkest nights of hopeless despair, God can send the Holy Spirit to bring fresh hope and new life to renew and empower us, his people.
This power took the rag tag bunch of apostles who had let Jesus down so many times in his earthly ministry, and used them to change their world. This power, this heavenly wind, empowered them to be witnesses to Jesus all over their world (Acts 1:1-8). In the face of threats and persecution, as they prayed, the followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and boldly proclaimed the message of Jesus (Acts 4:31) trusting in Jesus' promise that God's heavenly Breath would give them strength and words to say in such difficult times (Luke 12:8-12). And this power, the Holy Spirit who lives inside each follower of Jesus and can do in us what is beyond our power to imagine, is available if we are willing to pray for each other to receive him (Ephesians 3:14-21).
So what's the point?
The Holy Spirit is God's presence within us, God's power for us, and God's strength given to us. We must be passionate about praying for our family, our friends in Jesus, our congregation, and brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world to have God send his Breath to enter and empower us. Rather than just seeing the Holy Spirit as a gift for us personally, we must remember that this blessing is one we must pray for each other and the community of Christ. Imagine what would happen if the followers of Jesus, all over the world, began to pray for each other the prayer Paul prayed so long ago!
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21).
Yes, so many all over the world praying such a prayer could bring much more than renewal to the Church of Jesus; in response to our prayer, God would bring new life and fresh power to our weary hearts and dry lifeless bones and new life to our world lost in darkness!
I encourage you to write out a morning or evening prayer that helps you pray for God's power to be released into the lives of those you love through the Holy Spirit. I have shared my own morning prayer on my blog for you to use as a possible example. I would also love to get your personal reflections on this article and the questions below. You can post them on my blog comments or send to them to me to post: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you noticed how narrow our prayer focus so often seems to be?
- Do you find yourself praying for your needs more than others?
- Do you find yourself asking God for more than you thank him for what you have received?
Who that you know needs to know the presence of God in his or her life and needs to have the Holy Spirit fill them with God's power?
- Why not pray — alone or with a group of others — for these folks?
What ministries need the power of the Holy Spirit released into them to bless their service to Jesus?
When is the last time you prayed for God's blessings through the Holy Spirit to come upon your church family ... your physical family ... your small group ... missionaries you know ... church leaders you know?
- Why not pray for them by name right now?
How can you incorporate a regular time of prayer each day for God to release and bless your family, your church family, your friends, and those in need with the Holy Spirit?