A couple of years ago, I was speaking at our annual staff retreat, and read this quote:
“At the core of their being, in the deepest recesses of what they are—in other words, in the ‘inner self’—believers will never be more resurrected than they already are. God has done a work in each believer, a work of nothing less than resurrection proportions that will not be undone. Such language . . . is not just a metaphor.”
--By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation by Richard Gaffin
My wife, Jill, was sitting about three rows back, and she was so startled that she nearly jumped out of her chair. She asked, “Where is that?” I told her Gaffin was reflecting on the verse “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
I knew why Jill jumped. Most of her life she had been immersed in solid Reformed teaching, but she’d never heard that at the core of her being, in her heart, she would never be more resurrected than she already was. In other words, Jill had never heard that she really is a holy person, a saint. We don’t see saints among us because we don’t believe they are real. If our identity as saints is true only positionally, but not actually, then the word ‘saint’ is almost meaningless, like a participation award.
Not only had she not heard that she really was a saint, Jill had experienced the implications of this missing category of saints in the church. When our daughter Kim was young, Jill didn’t feel enjoyed or celebrated when she stopped volunteering at church in order to do the hidden work of love in our home, now expanded by the addition of a child with disabilities. Jill jumped at Gaffin’s insights because she immediately sensed how encouraging this forgotten truth is.
Jill is a typical everyday saint in the church, and she’s probably running 50 to 100 ministries on her own, loving different neighbors and praying for them. As church leaders and pastors, we are to equip these saints. The saints are the people who are enduring in tough marriages, whose hearts are breaking for their lost children, who are reaching out to their neighbors. Together, they are a gigantic ministry web.
The only way a saint can sustain superhuman love is by asking our Father to keep doing what he did at Jesus’s resurrection and now has done permanently at the core of our being.
What does this have to do with prayer? The only way a saint can sustain superhuman love is by asking our Father to keep doing what he did at Jesus’s resurrection and now has done permanently at the core of our being. So when we pray, we are asking the Father to give us the Spirit yet once again in order to bring us Christ so that he will resurrect something broken in our lives. That’s why prayer is like breathing for a working saint. When most Christians start praying, they think they are moving out of who they are naturally, but they are actually moving into who they most deeply are. We are never more ourselves than when we are praying.
In our prayer meetings, I often connect people’s seemingly mundane requests with their sainthood. So when Melissa asked for prayer for her dysfunctional family at Christmas, I cheered her on, reminding her that she wasn’t just unloading another prayer request, she was a saint on the cutting edge of the kingdom. When I do this, the saints light up. With a little encouragement and lots of prayer, saints blossom. The Spirit has imprinted our souls with the image of Jesus.