Let's Pray Like Paul
           Eph. 3:14-21

          By Paul Robison

“While very ill, John Knox, a Scottish reformer, called to his wife and said, 'Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor.'  After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness.  He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen.  He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel.  He pleaded in behalf of people who had been recently converted.  And he requested protection for the Lord's servants, many of whom were facing persecution.  As Knox prayed, [he drew his last breath, and his voice was heard no more].  The man of whom Queen Mary had said, 'I fear his prayers more than I do the armies of my enemies,' ministered through prayer until the moment of his death (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/p/prayer.htm).” 

Do you pray for others, like Knox did?  How often do you pray?  Is prayer something difficult for you to do?  Today, we want to examine the life of a prayer warrior.  Maybe his practices and prayers can become ours as well.  The prayer warrior is the apostle Paul, and the prayer he prays is found in Ephesians 3:14-21.  Let's look at this text together.

Someone has rightly noted: “This is the second prayer recorded in Ephesians. The first one is found in Ephesians 1:15-23 where Paul’s concern is for enlightenment so that believers might know God's power.  Here in chapter 3, he prays for empowerment so that believers might use the divine power available to them” (Bill).  Let's examine this text more closely.  The first prayer practice of Paul that we can imitate is found in verses 14-15: For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named ...”  That practice is praying with humility before God.  Paul realized who he was, and he realized who God was.  Bowing was not the usually practice for a Jew since they usually stood for their prayers, but Paul is probably doing this out of a respect for God and an earnestness for God to respond to his requests.  Paul may also have done this as a model for those in the church at Ephesus; maybe they would join him in this posture while his prayer was being read (Witherington).  It would be interesting to know how the Roman soldier to whom Paul was chained interpreted this posture (Bill).  Paul's word for “Father” here is the same term used by Jesus when he prayed and shows not only an intimacy but also a majesty (Ibid).  In Paul's day, the emperor was called “the father of the fatherland,” but Paul tells the members at Ephesus that the true God is literally the father of every fatherland, of all groups, whether they be angels in heaven or people upon the earth.  God is a much greater father than our ideals of fatherhood entails (Foulkes).  Paul realizes God's divine greatness and his own human weakness, so Paul uses a posture to show his humility before the Almighty.  Bowing in Paul's day showed subjection, abasement, and supplication (TDNT).  Now the New Testament doesn't command or show just one posture for prayer; several different ones are mentioned.  Does our posture show that we are approaching God with humility, that we are approaching Him realizing our weakness and His greatness?  Let's pray with humility before God! 
Praying with humility does not mean that we have to pray weak or small prayers.  Paul makes some bold requests in out text.  So let's look now at some prayers that we can imitate as well.  Paul continues in verses 16-17: “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”  Let's pray that we will be transformed from the inside out!  I bend my knee and pray that God would grant you some things.  Paul knows Who is the Source of all blessings.  “According to the riches of His glory.”  If you talked with Bill Gates about something you'd like for him to fund, and he gave you $1000, he would be granting your request FROM the riches that he possesses.  But notice Paul says God gives ACCORDING TO the riches of His glory.  That would be like Gates giving you a checkbook with his signature on every check telling you, “Now, whatever you need for the project, just fill in the blanks.”  That's how God gives to us, brethren!  These are no small prayers indeed!  Paul prays that God's Spirit will strengthen these Christians' inner man and that Christ will control these believers' hearts.  One commentator made this remark about the first part this prayer request: “The prayer in this verse is to the effect that the Spirit of God within them would be a source of power, more firmly establishing them in the faith” (Coffman).  Another commentator made this observation on the second part of this prayer request: “If Christ has taken up residence in our hearts, He is at the center of our lives and exercises His rule over all that we do” (O'Brien)  The Spirit's strength and Christ's control is taking place in the inner man and in the heart; these are the same thing because they are the center of our being, personality, and will (Ibid).  Paul isn't praying for a minor tune-up, he wants the members at Ephesus to have theirs motors entirely over-hauled and running under Christ's influence!  The goddess Diana, the demons, and the magic incantations no more have a hold in their lives!  The Holy Spirit and Christ are working and abiding at the core of their being to transform them!  Let's pray that we too will be transformed from the inside out!  Only strength from the Holy Spirit can empower our spirits and only control from Christ can reform our minds.  These aren't just cosmetic changes on the surface; this is total transformation from the depths of our being.  This is making the Holy Spirit and Christ the gods in our lives that they are supposed to be—they are calling the shots, they are giving the directives, they are the source of our actions!  Let's pray that we too will be transformed from the inside out! 

Now notice the next petition that Paul makes in verses 17-18:  “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height.”  Let's pray that we will better comprehend the church's motivation and influence!  “Rooted is an agricultural term that means just what it sounds like. The very root structure of your life—the source of your strength, stability, and sustenance should be love.  [Supporting love.]  Grounded is a  building term that refers to digging a footer for a brick wall.  The footer provides the stability and strength of the wall that is built on it. That’s the kind of  love for which Paul is praying.  Foundational love.  Love that feeds and stabilizes everything we do.  Love that everything in our lives is built on” (Drake).  “If we are properly rooted and properly constructed on a foundation of love, nothing will be able to shake us” (O'Brien).  And it’s a love that we are to share with each other—“the people Paul calls 'all the saints'” (Drake).  The word “saints” “is not referring to super spiritual people who have died, but to believers who have been set apart for Christ.  In the New Testament, the word 'saint' is a synonym for a Christian” (O'Brien).  “[Now] the apostle [Paul] still keeps up the metaphor, comparing the Church of God to a building [or temple]” (Clark), and he shares with us the far-reaching influence of the church.  Its width is as broad as the globe for it welcomes people from all nations, races, and classes; its length is as long as God's eternal purpose in the past to God's eternal reward in the future; its depth reaches down deep enough to rescue the worst of sinners; its height reach up to put the believer in heavenly places so people can be raised from the guttermost to the uttermost (Clark; Bill)!  The Christians in Ephesus are the true temple of the living God, and the divine love that He has provided to support and ground them is nothing that the goddess Diana can ever provide!  Let's pray that we will better comprehend the church's motivation and influence!  Our motivation for all that we do for the church and in our service to others must be love.  The apostles Paul says very clearly in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we have the gifts of tongues, prophecies, faith, and generosity, but love is not our motivation, “it profits us nothing.”  Isn't he saying that if we do not have love as the root and foundation of all are actions, then all of our efforts are useless?  Is love undergirding all that you are doing in your service to Christ and to others?  And have we comprehended the far-reaching influence of the church?  The church is God's people, it is Christ's bride, it is the Spirit's temple, it is the world's salvation; it is Satan's enemy!  How many generations and nations has it already influenced across the centuries and how many more will it influence?  Perhaps the poet said it best: “I love Thy kingdom, Lord, the house of Thine abode, the church our blest Redeemer bought with His own precious blood.  For her my tears shall fall, for her my prayers ascend, to her my cares and toils be given until cares and toils shall end” (Dwight).  Look around you for a moment, do you realize that you are seeing the church?  Now how much, much, much broader is the church than our congregation here in Prescott?  Those of you who have been blessed to travel abroad know this wonderful reality!  Let's pray that we will better comprehend the church's motivation and influence! 

ow notice the thing that Paul prays for in verse 19: to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” Let's pray that we will better understand Christ's love!  “The beginning part of verse 19 seems like a contradiction.  How can we know Christ's love that is beyond understanding?  How do we know the unknowable?  Humanly speaking, we can’t. This kind of knowledge is not intellectual, but divine—it comes with salvation [and our relationship with Christ].  [Note carefully,] Paul is praying not that we know the love we have for Jesus, but that we would know the love of Jesus [for us].  When we contemplate His love, it will overwhelm us and blow us away!  The only way to really understand it is by experiencing it for ourselves” (Bill).  Let's pray that we will better understand Christ's love!  “Have we seriously devoted time to thinking about and trying to understand His love?  Have we contemplated His love in, say, the Incarnation? -- the cross?  -- [the patience and forgiveness He gave to His disciples?] -- and the great passages that extol His love” (Hughes)?  One brother describes the effect of Christ's love at the cross upon him in this way: “His radical, affronting grace cries out from the cross: in your place.  With three simple words, he invites me to put aside my own ill-defined and pretentious dignity. ... He took my sin, and now I can take His righteousness.  I no longer need to rely on an inadequate self but on a fully sufficient Christ.  Christ will once again take on flesh and blood through me.  My lips will speak His words, my hands will perform His ministry, my legs will take Him where He would go.  I can even go beyond the question: 'What would Jesus do?'  As I yield to His Spirit, I can ask, and truly wonder, 'What is Jesus doing through my life?'  ... If I desire to live with Christ in his home, I must die with Christ on his cross.  The apostle Paul bursts forth with the profoundly wonderful assertion: 'I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me' (Gal. 2:20)” (Hall).  Write this in big bold letters across the billboard of your heart: CHRIST LOVES YOU AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR YOU!  Let's pray that we will better understand Christ's love!

Now notice the next thing that Paul prays for at the end of verse 19: “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Let's pray that we will be more filled with God's traits, blessings, and favors!  “How do you contain the uncontainable?  This is an amazing thought!  As believers we have been created to be the containers of God. He desires to pour His life into ours and fill us until we’re full” (Bill).  Someone made this good comparison: “Several years ago my wife and I stood on the shore of the vast Pacific Ocean—two finite dots alongside a seemingly infinite expanse.  And as we stood there, we reflected that if I were to take a pint jar and allow the ocean to rush into it, in an instant my little jar would be filled with the fullness of the Pacific.  But of course, I could never put all the fullness of the Pacific Ocean into my jar!  Because Christ is infinite, He can hold all the fullness of Deity.  But whenever one of us finite creatures dips the tiny vessel of our life into Him, we instantly become full of [God's] fullness.  We can always hold more and more of His fullness.  And the more we receive of His fullness, the more we can yet receive!  This will be our experience in eternity—the ultimate elevation of our souls” (Hughes).  Let's pray that we will be more filled with God's traits, blessings, and favors!  God's traits, blessings, and favors are only a part of God's fullness.  If you want to add other facets of God to these three areas, feel free to do so since God's fullness is so vast!  “'Filled' comes from a word that means 'to be overflowing, like a cup that is running over.'  It means total dominance, to come to the place in your life where you are totally overwhelmed by God’s presence.  It means giving everything to God and leaving nothing to yourself. ... Do you experience the fullness of God on a regular basis?  That’s what Paul prays for these believers.  If you don’t live with this kind of fullness, try praying this prayer for yourself and for others.  Are you willing to say to the Lord: “Lord, fill me up so that my life is all you and none of me?” ... Think of an empty cup.  How do you get all the air out of it?  There’s only one way: ­by filling it with something else.  How do we remove the weakness, the sin, and the junk from our lives?  By being filled with the fullness of God” (Bill)  Someone has called this the most far-reaching prayer ever prayed!  Let's pray that we will be more filled with God's traits, blessings, and favors! 

Now notice the next thing astonishing thing that Paul affirms: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”  God is able to do.  This is a God of action.  He is able to do above all that we ask or think.  But Paul doesn't stop here.  “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!”  Now all this is just absolute astonishing, but the next phrase is what is even more exciting: How is God able to act beyond our expectations, Paul?  Notice it: “According to the power that works in us.”  God is able to unleash His extraordinary strength through the church, by means of our lives!  Now this is truly astounding, and doesn't this mean that God can do fantastic things through our congregation?  Let's pray that we will have new ministries (to see God's power in us)!  It was wonderful to see how Bro. Jim Honea started a Bible reading program last year that is continuing to challenge us!  It was terrific to see Sister Kay Haynie begin a soup brigade to put into practice Jesus' words about feeding others!  It was fantastic to see Bro. Fred Harris initiate our Spirit of Service Program, which is going to bless many people in our town!  To these ministries could be added the restarting of our Ladies' Bible class, our World Bible School outreach, and a new follow-up initiative for our House to House publication (which could use more volunteers)!  And perhaps there are others that I've overlooked unintentionally.  You see, new ministries such as these show us that God is alive and well, and HE IS WORKING beyond our widest imagination through us!  May these ministries be blessed and may they be multiplied as well!  May God so touch your heart with some idea of service or edification that more good works in Jesus' name will be done right here in Prescott!  Let's pray that we will have new ministries (so that we can see God's power in us)! 

The last thing that Paul does is another practice that is found in verse 21: “To Him [to God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  Paul shows us to pray with praise to God!  To our abundant and generous God be the glory for all of the spiritual blessings and favors that Paul has been praying He will provide for those of Ephesus, and that we can pray for all Christians as well!  Someone has said that our God is able: “a” for Almighty, “b” for boundless, “l” for limitless, and “e” for everlasting (Durham)!  Notice too that this glory comes through the church and Christ.  It is not either the church or Christ; it is both the church and Christ.  One commentator rightly notes: “All the systems that set aside the church, or propose a salvation apart from it, are disconnected, and shall always be disconnected from the mainstream of Christianity” (Coffman).  Paul then desires that God's glory be praised by all subsequent generations in perpetuity until Jesus returns!  And Paul's “Amen” was probably written to provoke a loud “Amen” from the congregation in Ephesus as well.  So let us add our loud “Amen” right now as we read again Paul's literal joyful praise: “To God be the glory in the church [and in our congregation] and in Christ Jesus unto all generations, forever and ever.  [Say it with me:] Amen!” 

What a great challenge Paul has presented to us with his practices and prayers in these few verses in Ephesians!  Let's follow him and pray with humility before God and with praise to God!  And then let's pray as He prayed!  Let's pray that we will be transformed from the inside out, that we will better comprehend the church's motivation and influence, that we will better understand Christ's love for us and for all the world, that we will be more filled with God's traits, blessings, and favors, and that we will have more new ministries!  “A little girl turned to her mother after church and said, 'Mommy, the preacher’s sermon was confusing today.'  The mother asked, 'Why is that, honey?'  The little girl answered, 'Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?'  'Yes, that’s true,' the mother replied.  'He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?'  Again the mother replied, 'Yes, that’s true.'  'Well,' said the little girl, 'If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through'” (Bill)?  Good question.  Does God show through in your life?  “The glory of God is most gloriously seen in the grace of His uniting His mortal, sinful creatures to His eternal, sinless Son” (Foulkes)!  “Those 'in Christ' are also in the church; and those not 'in the church' are not 'in Christ'” (Coffman).  Be added to the church today by being baptized into Christ right now!  Only by being a disciple of Jesus can all the wonderful blessings of these prayers be yours.  Does Christ show through in our life?  He loves you so deeply!  Why not make Him your Lord right now?