In wrestling with the idea of prayer, and Jesus' words in John 14:12 to 14, I’ve been asking for a word. Just a hint, really, that I’m on the right trail, that the tracks in the snow are leading somewhere real, as God leads me into some new adventures. 

That word arrived in our Sunday New Chapel service, in the sermon given by T. J. Foltz, Scripture Union regional director and one of the most engaging speakers I know.

T. J. led us in a bit of a word study – not our usual sermon format. The word he was after was one I’d never heard of, which wasn’t surprising, since it was Greek.

Katartizo. Or, if you need the original, non-messed with Greek: katartiðzw.

The word first shows up in the stories of the nets, in Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19. The sons of Zebedee are “katartizo-ing” their nets. Repairing them, restoring them, getting them ready to do what they need to do. T. J. had an old net he was throwing around – complete with gaping holes. A great prop. I wish I had a net like that of my own.

Molly, one of our recent college grads, was recruited to record definitions on an easel: Repair. Restore.

I’m not sure of the exact verses T. J. led us to, or the order, but came home and did my own study, I was so caught by what he had to say. Here’s my study (the bolded words below are the translation of katartizo) – then T. J.'s conclusion, and where it leads:

Luke 6:40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. 

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  (the KJV says “Be perfect . . . )

Galatians 6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

1 Thessalonians 3:10 Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.  (The KJV says “perfect what is lacking . . .)

Hebrews 10:5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me . . .” (This is Jesus, saying to God the Father: you “katartizoed a body for me” – created, equipped, prepared)

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

There are two more passages, but I want to stop and sum this up. This word, katartizo, is used to describe the way God formed the universe and the way he prepared a body for Christ to inhabit on earth. Powerful word. Sounds like God is the agent, at work preparing, forming, making, perfecting. But not just starting with something perfect: he’s also at work restoring, repairing, seeing what’s missing and supplying that as well.

But if you read back through the passages, God is agent in some, but there’s a human agency at work as well (“strive for full restoration”; “restore that person gently”; “we pray we may see you again and supply what is lacking”).  In some, there seems to be a double agency, or an unstated agent: who is doing the training? Who is creating unity?

I’d argue God is at work, and we are called to be at work too. We as individuals, but even more, the corporate “we.” “We” the church. There’s a mystery here.

With the full force of the word “katartizo,” consider these last two passages:

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The NIV in this passage says “make you perfect in every good work”. So, equip, make perfect. The amazing thing, to me, is that the writer of Hebrews is saying THAT power that raised Jesus from the dead, THAT power, is at work in us, to supply everything we’re missing, fix everything broken, repair, restore, renew, make perfect, SO THAT power can use us, can “work in us” all the amazing things God has planned.

The power that raised Jesus from the dead? That formed the universe? THAT power? And we're content with memorizing arguments?

T.J. circled back to the net – to remind us that Jesus called James and John to come be fishers of men, and that the point of “katartizo” is that God plans to fix us up, like their broken nets, so we can be effective at the task he gives us. That picture of a net is really at the core of this: it doesn’t work to fix one piece, and leave the others broken. It doesn’t work to repair one part, and leave the others as they were. One little perfect person, gifts intact, is about as useless as one little strand of net, if the gaping holes around it aren't repaired. 

So for us, as God’s body: katartizo implies attention to the whole. As I go pray for an injured part of the body, God is at work in me. As I invite others to be part of that prayer, God is at work in them. As we invite, welcome, participate in katartizo, that restoration spreads. The whole becomes stronger, better equipped. But it’s an interwoven reality, demanding attention to the whole.
Here’s the last passage:

Ephesians 4:11-16  So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.  From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

My thoughts in all this were prompted by a trip to pray for Emily, a girl struck by lightening almost three years ago. Watching her slow journey toward restoration has made painfully clear how little anyone knows about the mystery of the human body, and how little we know about the gifts God wants to give us. God is at work in her, to katartizo her, to heal and repair her, but He’s using her to challenge me, and others, to consider His own body, and to call, wait, work, pray for that process of restoration, preparation, equipping, to be carried out in us.

Your thoughts and additions are welcome.