Sermon: Powerful Praying (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Powerful Praying

Ephes. 3:14-21 (ESV) 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  [16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  [18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

[20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Introduction-

Have you ever started to pray and before you were finished, you were thinking about something else?  The other day someone called me on the phone and asked me to pray for a young lady they knew who was struggling.  As I prayed for her I was also thinking about some useful counseling resources.  That led me to think about seminary where I received my counseling degree…that led me to think about where we lived and our daily routine…that led me to think about walking across the railroad tracks to class…and that led me to think about smashing pennies on the tracks…Oh how we get distracted.

Paul began a prayer in Ephesians 3:1 but was quickly led to contemplate the riches of Christ.  His distraction was much better than mine.  Now he is back to his prayer and he sort of picks up where he left off.  From verses 3:2-3:13 he was lost in the riches of Christ.  Now he is back on planet earth and busy praying for the churches.

Last week we learned that all of heaven and hell are watching the church in action.  All of the angels are intensely gazing upon the church and amazed by the wisdom of God.  Paul writes, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 

He knows that left to ourselves, we could never display the wisdom of God to rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 

Ephes. 3:10-12 (ESV) 

    so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  [11] This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  [12] in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 

Paul knows us very well doesn’t he?  He begins to pray.

He doesn’t take the normal Jewish posture of standing with a bowed head but he writes, For this reason I bow my knees before the Father.  This by itself shows us that Paul’s prayer is very intense.  He earnestly desires to see the things he’s praying for happen in the church.  A kneeling or laying down face to the ground is a posture that shows complete dependence on the Father to meet those dire needs.

Matthew 26:39 (ESV) 

    And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 

Paul makes a clear distinction.  He wants no mistakes made as to whom his prayer is addressed. before the Father,  [15] from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

Here, what Paul is getting at is that all believers whether Jew or Gentile, whether still alive on earth or in heaven are one family with one family name.  The Father is the Father of all who are in Christ.  He is not the Father of everyone in the world but only the Father of those who are saved.

The Apostle is praying for the church.  He is specifically praying that she would accomplish the very things which will bring God glory and that will cause the angels to marvel at God’s wisdom.

This request is like everything when it comes to living the Christian life, we cannot accomplish what God requires on our own.  God requires spiritual strength, a love for one another and a love for Christ to the degree that we cannot attain.  The answer to our dilemma lies in God alone.  He, as always, gives to His children the things He requires.

[16] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you

It’s very important that we pray this way.  Is there someone you would long to see converted?  Perhaps you’ve been praying very consistently for them.  I want to encourage you to pray understanding that God is a Sovereign God.  Use Sovereign God language like Paul does. 

Prayer #1- God I pray for so and so’s salvation.  I pray that they would see their need for Jesus. 

Prayer #2- God, so and so is desperately blinded by sin.  They don’t even understand that they need saving.  Would You in Your infinite riches grant then repentance and faith?  God would You save them?

Let’s look to Paul and briefly dissect his prayer for the church.  As we do this, think of how you can apply this prayer.  Think of ways you can pray these things for our church.

1. May God Grant Spiritual Strength

to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being

When do Christians need spiritual strength?  We need it all the time.  Paul was specifically asking this for the Ephesians as they were enduring persecution.  If they were to stand firm through this struggle they needed supernatural spiritual strength.  Today, our church members may be enduring suffering at various levels.  We can pray for them with the same spiritual power that Paul prays.  We can pray for the member who is struggling with an over demanding boss or who is trying to be that godly witness in an ungodly environment.  We need spiritual strength when we go up against temptations.  Perhaps there is one temptation, one sin that you just cannot overcome.  You’ve been a slave to it for years now and you just think it’s hopeless to ever be out from under it.  We must have spiritual strength to overcome sin.  We need spiritual strength when we share with others about Jesus Christ.  We should never think for a second that we are going to have just the right words to say that will cause someone to become a Christian.     

2. May God Grant Christ’s Authority in Our Lives

[17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-

Sometimes we could be tempted to just run over this phrase because we might think everyone who is a believer is already indwelt with Christ.  You might think this statement to be unimportant.  However, what Paul is getting at is that we should be praying that the indwelling of Christ will affect every part of our lives.  He wants Christians to pray for each other that the influence of Christ would be seen in every corner of their lives. 

This goes back to chapter 2 where Christ has made us citizens and fellow heirs.  We have been given full reign in the Kingdom of God not as strangers any longer but as citizens, Just as we are given free reign in the Father’s Kingdom, so Christ must be given free reign as a permanent resident of our inmost being.  He has a rightful place there and His influence must be felt.  We must, as followers, submit to His lordship over us.

In the same way, in another book, the Apostle commands us to allow the Word of Christ to dwell within us richly…

Col. 3:16 (ESV) 

    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 

As we pray for this, we should see that God will grant this request because we are praying for the very thing He requires.  We are praying in the will of God.  We don’t have to add to the end of these prayers “You will be done” because we know exactly what God’s will is. 

3. May God Grant A Foundation of Love

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 

It’s so important that the church of Jesus Christ have love at its most basic part.  Have you ever walked into a church and seen love working?  It’s a tremendous testimony to the church’s love for Christ.  Have you ever walked into a church and sensed cold hearted people?  We are to be rooted in love.  As a tree has roots that go deep for nourishment and for stability through the fiercest storm so we as God’s people are to be firmly rooted in His love.  Like the tree in Psalm 1, that is nourished even in the drought because it is planted or rooted next to the stream, so God’s love is what establishes us as believers.

He also uses the word for founded or grounded.  This is the picture of a large building that is there to stay because its foundation is solid.  The love of Jesus Christ is what keeps us as a church.  This love, however, must be within the boundaries of God’s Word.  If love leaves the shadow of God’s Word then it becomes a hindrance to God’s Kingdom.

4. May God Grant the Experience of Christ’s Love   

[18] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  [19] and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

Many of us think we understand what love is.  We often fall infinitely short.  Most of the time we look to man’s view of love.  This view is a selfish love.  I’ll love you if you love me or I’ll love you as long as you do what I think you should do.  This type of love is what causes people to struggle in their marriages.  Depart from that or stop loving me and it’s over.  This isn’t the love Jesus has shown us.

Romans 8:35 (ESV) 

    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 

2 Cor. 5:14 (ESV) 

    For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 

Jesus’ love is permanent.  He doesn’t love us only when we are doing what He wants us to do.  He even loves us when we fall short of God’s will. 

It’s also a love that controls us in the fact that this love was so strong that Jesus gave up His life so we could have access to God.  Jesus’ love is not self-serving but self-sacrificing and unconditional. 

If you want to understand love, don’t look to people, look to the One who is a perfect example of this love, namely, Jesus Christ.

This is extremely important.  The word Paul uses for knowledge does not mean a fact you learn.  Rather, it is learned by experience.  The only way I can learn of Christ’s love is to experience it personally. 

Like the child that’s told over and over not to touch the hot stove, he doesn’t fully understand until he touches it.  Then the experience of a burned finger has given him a new type of knowledge.  It’s not an intellectual fact he now understands but it’s a knowledge gained through experience. 

We can pray that we will understand and experience this great love of Christ.

5. May God Grant the Fullness of Himself

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

We can pray that members of this church would filled with God.  Out of infinite resources God will fill redeemed children with Himself.  This is the greatest thing God can give. As believers this is our greatest need.  God please fill us with yourself and your glory.

Psalm 42:1-2 (ESV) 

Book Two

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.

    As a deer pants for flowing streams,

        so pants my soul for you, O God.

    [2] My soul thirsts for God,

        for the living God.

    When shall I come and appear before God?

When we are filled with God, the things of this world become less important.  We begin to think more like God thinks and we attain more and more the mind of Christ.

We can pray that the Lord grants to those in our church:

Spiritual Strength

Rich indwelling of Christ

Foundation of love

An understanding and experience of Christ’s love

The fullness of God Himself

6. Paul’s Amen

[20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

The Apostle concludes his requests with a spontaneous outburst of praise.  When he considered the sovereignty and majesty of God he began to gush out with praise.  He gets caught up in the glory of the Lord and cannot help but to praise Him for His goodness to His children.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV) 

    Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

 

    [34] “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

        or who has been his counselor?”

    [35] “Or who has given a gift to him

        that he might be repaid?”

 [36] For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

We serve a God who accomplishes things for His children that we have never even thought to pray for.  God is so rich in mercy and power and love that He works in ways far greater than we even could comprehend. 

As we pray for each other, the things mentioned in this text, we will experience God working in ways we didn’t pray for and in ways we had never even thought of.

We see this principle in the Bible.  As we read, we see it over and over.

Abraham could not ever have known all that the Lord would do in his life.

He was called from the land of Ur and God said from you will come offspring that will number as many as the stars…through you all the nations of the word will be blest…Jesus came from Abraham’s line…All the nations are being and will be blest.

Noah, King David.

All these and many more experienced God in a way they never dreamed possible.  These people were not special but they all had one thing in common, God had granted them faith.

As we exercise faith in Christ we will experience unimaginable things at the hands of our heavenly Father.

Paul began to rejoice because he knew all these requests were in God’s will and that God would grant all of them to His church.

to him be glory in the church

As you begin to pray these things for our church, pray in faith knowing that these requests are God’s will and pray knowing that our heavenly Father will grant all He requires to His needy adopted children.  As you pray this way you are praying a powerful prayer.

Use the handout as a prayer guide.  Lift up one another every day praying for the types of things Paul prayed for.  Concentrate on the spiritual and not so much on the physical.

 [20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

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