“Vanity of vanities,” says the preacher, “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?”
And thus begins one of the more depressing books in all of the Bible, but I would submit depressing in a good way, and here’s the reason I would say that. When we come to Ecclesiastes, we read in these words, in these chapters, a picture of life apart from God. Of life apart from the reality of who God is, and all that’s in his character, his love, his justice, his mercy, his power, his wisdom. Apart from the wisdom, power, love, justice, mercy of God, indeed, all is vain.
Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 Teaches Us Life is Vain Apart from God
The author of Ecclesiastes says this five times in one verse. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” The point is clear, that all is in vain, everything lacks meaning apart from the reality of who God is. The world revolves around God. You take away the center around which the world revolves, and everything falls apart and so as you read through Ecclesiastes, as we pray through different verses in Ecclesiastes, let’s be reminded of the God-centeredness of the universe, and the need in each of our lives for God to be at the center of it all, knowing that everything is meaningless apart from him.
Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 Reminds Us God is Our Rest
And so let’s pray based on Ecclesiastes 1:2–3. Oh God, you are our everything, and we fix our eyes, our minds, our hearts on you today and we say that apart from you, everything is vain. You are our life, you are the author of our life, you are the creator of our lives, you’re the sustainer of our lives, you’re the only one who can satisfy our lives. God, you are everything to us, oh God. You are our creator, our savior, our king, our ruler, our lord.
You are everything and we are nothing without you. And we pray that you would help us to live today with our minds and hearts and attention and affections centered around you and as we do for you, oh God to infuse meaning and purpose into everything we do. And fulfillment in our hearts. Our hearts, as Augustine said years ago, are restless until they find their rest in you.
Pointing People to You
And God, we pray that you would help us today, to point other people to you. We pray specifically for atheists and agnostics around us, for people who either assert that there is no god or doubt that there is a god and subsequently live as if there is no god.
God, we pray that you would help us to point them to the reality of who you are, especially in this holy week, especially on this day, when we remember Jesus, God in the flesh, going, having a meal with his disciples and preparing to go to the cross and kneeling in a garden and preparing to be betrayed, so that we might be forgiven of all of our sins, so that we might be restored to relationship with you, so that we might have life and meaning and purpose in you, so we might pray right now. God, help us to introduce people to Jesus. This week, to point people to the hope that’s found in Jesus. To the life and the meaning and the purpose that’s found in Jesus.
Led to Pray for East Asia
We pray that for people right around us, and God, we pray that for people far from us, for the people of East Asia, two million of them. Very few of whom have even knowledge of the gospel. God, we pray for the spread of your hope and your joy and your fulfillment and your meaning. All of these things that are found in you. God we pray for the spread of the good news of the gospel to the people of East Asia.
Oh God, we praise you for the meaning that our lives have in you. For the life we have in you. For the purpose we have in you that all is not vain when life is centered around you. In Jesus’ name we pray, who makes all this possible. By his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.