Ep.326: Prison Prayers.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Ephesians 6 Paul calls himself an ambassador for the gospel. To which capital city was he posted? And what residence did they provide? This ambassador was posted to Rome, and his residence was a prison.

As a prisoner wrote to the Ephesians, “Pray for me. . .that I may fearlessly make known the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains” (Eph 6:19-20).

I have wondered about Paul’s wisdom making the journey that landed him in jail. In every city he visited, the Holy Spirit warned him that’s exactly what would happen. Listen, and marvel, at his attitude: “My life is worth nothing to me; my aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. . .” (Acts 20:24). Paul’s life was worth nothing to him? What is your life worth to you?

Paul heading obstinately for Jerusalem echoes Jesus who said, “I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:34). 

What’s with these prophets, drawn irresistibly to Jerusalem to flirt with death and imprisonment? 

Paul’s stay in Jerusalem was eventful. The Jews accused him of temple sacrilege. When they tried to kill him, the Romans threw him in prison and spirited him away to Caesarea. Felix, the Roman governor of Caesarea, wanting to placate the Jews, kept Paul in prison for two years (Acts 24:27). 

Festus, who succeeded Felix, ordered a new trial for Paul, during which Paul appealed to Caesar. Festus’ friend King Agrippa, after reviewing the evidence against Paul, said, “This man could have been set free if he hadn’t appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32). So they sent Paul to Rome where he preached the gospel as a Roman prisoner under house arrest. 

Was it wise of Paul to go to Jerusalem despite the warnings? Was it helpful to accept Roman protection and appeal to Caesar? A modern life coach would probably have told Paul to set reasonable goals for his life and ministry. Perhaps Paul could have lived a quiet suburban life writing his memoirs. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, few of us manage our lives the way life coaches recommend. And we who have tried the management advice soon descend into mismanagement and chaos. 

Scripture teaches that the cross was essential to Christ’s journey, and that you, God,  were Paul’s companion on the long road to Jerusalem and Rome. 

Take these wandering lives of ours. Give them meaning by the light of the gospel and the grace of your spirit. Be our life coach. Be our wisdom and righteousness (1 Cor 1:30).


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.325: Battle Dress.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Ephesians 6 says, “Put on the full armor of God.” Reminds me of the Sunday school song,
    I may never march in the infantry, ride in the cavalry, shoot the artillery,
    But I’m in the Lord’s army. 

The battle dress Paul recommends is like a SWAT team uniform as they prepare to  storm a drug dealer’s urban fortress. Paul lists six pieces of armor: shoes, belt, vest, shield, helmet, and sword.

Here’s Paul’s description of these pieces.  

The armored boots of peace. Really? Do peaceful boots storm the house, break the door and shoot up the interior?  

The bullet-proof vest of . . . righteousness. A SWAT team wearing a righteous vest? 

The belt of truth. I hope the SWAT team has true intel about the drug house, but I want their belt to hold up their trousers, not provide insight into truth. 

A ballistic shield and a bullet proof helmet. Not accessories I would link to faith or salvation. 

And finally, the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. Swords are outdated, so our SWAT team uses assault rifles, tear gas, and tasers. 

Why does Paul use this vision of violence to outfit his Christian soldier? I have two observations. And a warning. 

Paul’s world was violent. He says, “Five times I was whipped, three times beaten with rods, once pelted with stones, and another time, shipwrecked” (2 Cor 11:24). 

Paul doesn’t blame the devil and his army for the violence, but he does say, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenlies” (Eph 6:11-12). The source of violence was not simply the Roman soldiers who imprisoned Paul and the Jewish elders who had him flogged. There is a larger picture of evil that includes an unseen hierarchy of invisible evil forces.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force” (Mat 11:12). Paul and Jesus both used metaphors of violence to describe the Christian’s place in a violent world. 

A second observation is that Paul’s instruction is not for us to form Christian SWAT teams and invade heavenly territories held by evil forces. Instead, he tells us to stand firm. Our armor, including the sword or assault rifle, does not prepare us for a conquest of enemy territory. It enables us to stand firm in the faith. 

Which leads to a warning. Some teachers and pray-ers try to map out the geography of darkness, name the hierarchies of evil and fight them. While this fits our SWAT team analogy, it goes beyond Paul’s instructions to stand firm in our armor. 

Let’s pray.  

Our father, today we put on the belt of truth. May it expose the lies of the liberal left and the conservative right, the lies of governments and industry, the lies of conspiracy theories, and the lies of the devil. 

Expose the falsehoods we hold dear because they help us simplify and cope with a complex world, a complex civilization, and our own complex emotional makeup. 

Many things we do not understand. But we trust you Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Be our truth. Be our way. Be our life. 


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.324: Slavery.

Ep.324: Slavery.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Ephesians 6, Paul says, “Slaves, obey your masters with respect and fear and sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” And to masters he says, “Treat your slaves well, because their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Eph 6:5,9). 

I make four comments on the Bible and slavery. 

First, Old Testament Hebrew slavery, New Testament Roman slavery, and American civil war slavery, each treated slaves in different ways, some better, some worse. Hebrew and Roman slaves had more rights than African slaves in America, but they too were subject to abuse. 

Second, John Murray, in his book on Christian ethics, says the Bible teaches that a slave’s labor belongs to his master, but the slave’s person belongs to God. The master forgets this at his peril. Paul warns the master, “You are a slave to God; treat your slaves the way God treats you” (Eph 5:19).

Third, I was a wage slave at Alberta Motor Association for a quarter century or so. For a third of each day, my time and labor belonged to AMA and I lived under the corporate threat that said, “You’re dispensable. Get along with people, be productive, and don’t complain, or we’ll fire you.” Sometimes when I was implementing bad decisions made by my masters, I was comforted by Paul’s words to slaves, “Work with your whole heart as working for the Lord. . . .For it is the Lord Christ you serve” (Col 3:24). 

Not mine to question why. Mine to serve wholeheartedly, and trust the outcome to my master Christ. And yet, I wish I had spoken up more about bad decisions. There was, and is, room for reason and discussion.

Fourth, the story of God freeing Hebrew slaves from Egypt and guiding them to the Promised Land informs much of the Old and New Testaments. It is a grand vision of an oppressed and enslaved people on a journey through desert and hunger and thirst and war to find a new place to live and new way to be. 

That’s us. Paul tells us we’re slaves to sin. And if we have courage to face the desert and the dryness and the warfare of a journey, God will bring us to a new place to live and a new way to be. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, the prophet Micah painted a picture of peace and justice, saying:

Everyone will sit under their own vine
         and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid. . .  (Micah 4:4) 

Bring quickly that time when justice will rule the earth, when no one will threaten the poor with war and famine and theft, when assault rifles will supply steel for garden shovels, and tanks will be used as tractors. 

Meanwhile, teach us to be cheerful in our daily duties, as we serve others, and in them serve you. 


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.323: Submit.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Ephesians 5 Paul says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ” (Eph 5:22-24). To husbands he says, “Love your wives as Christ loves the church” (Eph 5:25). 

I read this passage at the wedding of a theologically liberal friend. On a lovely sunny summer day, in a yard that backed onto a golf course, I read  to a modern crowd “Wives, submit to your husbands”. I was shocked at how out of place it sounded in that context. 

The preacher who followed me said, “Of course in our culture we don’t model marriages the way Paul describes.” 

Recently, when my wife and I encountered this passage, she said, “We haven’t done very well following that model.” 

So what to do with Paul’s statement about wives submitting? 

In his book On Marriage, Tim Keller, with his unusual skill for taking the sting out of a difficult word like “submit”, presents a conservative position that makes Paul sound almost reasonable. 

He points out that American independence was not just a tea party to throw off the yoke of British taxes and move into a space of unrestricted freedom. Rather, it was an agreement to submit to a new constitution and a new array of laws. And Americans are still arguing about what that constitution means, and how to submit to it. 

Marriage is similar. Entering into a common law or legal marriage means surrendering some personal freedoms to make way for shared concerns. It just might matter to your partner if you are out all night without explanation, or if you skip the birthday planned they planned for you. 

And like the American lawyers who argue about the constitution, Christians who subscribe to the “submit” model argue over its meaning and application. Should a partner submit to abuse, alcoholism, or adultery? Or just to reasonable requests? And who defines reasonable

Once when I told a friend about a difficult situation in my marriage, he asked why I didn’t just point my wife to the submit verse. I replied, “Because she would point me to the verse that says I’m supposed to love her as Christ loves the church. I don’t think I’d survive long in that comparison.” 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, Bob Dylan said, “You gotta serve somebody.” But we want to think about freedom, not service and submission.

Teach us to give up our self-serving ways. Help our marriages to be companionable and friendly. Help us lead ordered lives, in service to each other and the church. 


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.322: Full of the Spirit.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

In Ephesians 5, Paul says, “Don’t get drunk on wine. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). I’ve never found a satisfactory explanation of what it means to “be filled with the Spirit”, but in this passage, Paul gives a couple hints. 

His first hint contrasts spirit-fullness with drunkenness.

In Shakespeare’s play MacBeth, McDuff wakes a sleeping porter late in the morning. The porter says he’s tired because he caroused and drank until the rooster crowed. Drink, he said, provokes nose-painting, urine, and lechery. “Lechery it provokes and unprovokes,” he says. “It provokes the desire but takes away the performance” (MacBeth, Act 2 Scene 1). 

I’m not competent to comment on the porter’s view of alcohol and sex, but parts of it line up with Paul’s view that drunkenness leads to debauchery. Clearly, Paul doesn’t condone carousing until the rooster crows. He suggests a lifestyle of being filled with the Spirit.  

Paul’s contrast between spirit-fullness and drunkenness, contains a second hint, because it’s not just a contrast, it’s also a comparison. To be drunk is to be “full of wine” in a way that influences attitudes and behavior. Being full of the Spirit also influences behavior. It prompts music in your heart, music in community, and constant thanksgiving to God. As Paul puts it, “Be filled with the Spirit and speak to each other in psalms and hymns and spirit-songs. Make music from your heart to God. Always give thanks to God” (Eph 5:19-20). 

But what about the vexing question of how to be filled with the Spirit? Some groups say it occurs when you are born again. Others say it happens when you first speak in tongues. Others suggest it occurs when you submit fully to Jesus as Lord of your life. 

As for me, I don’t see much of a connection between such experiences and the positive habits of heart-music and thanksgiving Paul proposes. I see spirit-fullness as a lifelong journey. As I empty myself of wine and greed and lechery, I make room for the Spirit, who fills me with himself. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, I like music in my heart and music in the community and a settled attitude of thanksgiving. Empty my heart of anxiety and swearing and the songs of debauchery, and fill me with spirit-music and love for community. 


I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube