A Prayer For Power!
Reading: Ephesians Ch. 3v14-21.
What are the most pressing issues in your life? What are the things for which you pray? When you really get down to business with God, what are the things, which rise to the surface, as you petition Him to meet your needs? These are the things that are important to us?
This is Paul’s second prayer in the Epistle to the Ephesians, the first being the need of spiritual knowledge and wisdom, Ephesians Ch.1v15-23. Here is a prayer for the power of God, asking for the ability to live victoriously over sinful habits and desires. He wants to be able to trust God in difficult circumstances, to do God’s work for His Glory, to display Jesus Christ in life attitudes, and the ability to speak with boldness to people about Jesus Christ without embarrassment.
If we could have the apostle Paul stand among us today and share with us those things which he would think are vital for us to pray for and to have, he might very well pray the same prayer he prayed in our passage today. What we see here is a prayer, which comes from Paul's heart. It is a prayer for believers. It is a prayer, which touches on things essential for the Christian life. We not only need to know God's power, we need to use it. It is possible to know a great deal about cars, to know how all of the mechanical parts interact, to know about the electrical system, to know about the transmission, engine, suspension, and the like and never use the car to go anywhere. On the other hand, it is entirely possible to know almost nothing about how a car is engineered, and to use it every day to travel many miles. We must use what we know, or what we know does no good. The same is true spiritually. It is possible to know a great deal about the truths of God contained in the Bible, and yet never live by those truths. So the focus of this second prayer is on how to know and live by the power of God. What a challenge!
This is the challenge for us as believers. If the need of knowing what we need to know and living by what we know is met, then we will be able to experience a sense of the power and presence of God.
I am your servant! Everything I have is yours. But even as I say that, I know you are serving me more than I am serving you. At your command are all of the resources of heaven and earth and because of you, are at my disposal and even the angel’s help me. - Thomas À Kempis.
Be pleased, O God, to grant unto me that great freedom of mind that will enable me to ... manage the common affairs of life in such wise as not to misemploy or neglect the improvement of my talents; to be industrious without covetousness; diligent without anxiety; as exact in each punctilio of action as if success were dependent upon it, and yet so resigned as to leave all events to thee and still attributing to thee the praise of every good work. - Susanna Wesley.
Dear Lord, for all in pain we pray to thee;
O come and smite again thine enemy.
Give to thy servant's skill to soothe and bless,
And to the tired and ill give quietness.
And, Lord, to those who know pain may not cease,
Come near, that even so they may have peace. - Amy Carmichael.
How would you pray? How do you pray? Important! Do you pray?
Let's look at the petitions Paul prays for us.
1. There Is A Dependence On The Holy Spirit! Ch. 3v14-16.
"For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man"
a. This Dependence Is Based On A Relationship With The Father: v15.
Christians should not have to be reminded of the power of prayer, yet often that very reminder gives us great encouragement. You see, the truth that omnipotence dwells within impotence is so majestic, grandiose, and elevated that we would expect Paul to address God as the eternal King of Glory or by some other such exalted title. But he says rather, I bow my knees before the Father. It's that term of loving endearment!
By prayer we touch the throne of God. God has ordained that through prayer we should set His hand in motion. And as we come, we are not to come to our Heavenly Father in fear and trembling, afraid that He will rebuff us or be indifferent. We do not come to God to appease Him as the pagans do to their deities. We come to a tender, loving, concerned, compassionate, accepting Father. He has chosen to respond to our prayers by unleashing His divine activity in our midst. The believer has no higher calling than to pray. Indeed, we never stand as tall as when we bow in prayer.
Prayer is powerful. Paul knew that. That is why he prayed. Multitudes have come to understand the power of prayer through the centuries.
Martin Luther the great reformer of the church had a good friend and assistant Friedrich Myconius. In 1540, Myconius became sick and was expected to die shortly. On his deathbed he wrote a farewell letter to Luther in tender terms. Luther read the message and immediately sent a reply: “I command you in the name of God to live because I still have need of you in the work of reforming the church . . . . The Lord will never let me hear that you are dead, but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done, because I seek only to glorify the name of God.” While those words may seem a little brash, Myconius, who had already lost the ability to speak when Luther's reply came, soon recovered. Myconius lived six more years and finally died two months after Luther.
Luther was under God exercising the amazing power of prayer and God wonderfully responded to his cry.
b. This Dependence Is Based On Resources Supplied By The Father. v16.
As we look at Paul's prayer for us, we notice that there are really four petitions to it. The first is found in verse 16 where Paul prays to God that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man. Here Paul is praying that we might have strength.
This petition, like all the others, is preceded by a qualification. Paul desires that God would answer according to the riches of His glory. Paul does not want the answer to come out of God's riches, but according to God's riches.
In other words, Paul does not want us to experience something of God, but to experience the limitless supply of God Himself. The provision for which Paul prays is strength. He prays that we might be strengthened. The place where we are to receive this provision is in the inner man. The power by which we receive this provision is given through a Person --- the Spirit of God.
We all need strength. And the place that we need this strength is in the inner man. That is the seat of influence and also the seat of feebleness in our lives. But we need strength beyond our own. We need to be strengthened with power beyond human power. The word-translated power is the Greek word dunamei. From dunamei we derive our words dynamic and dynamite. Both of these describe the power of God, which we so desperately need. This is not a human power, but a divine power imparted to us through His Spirit. It is only because the Holy Spirit is welcomed and received in our lives that we will receive this power. This calls for openness, humility, and receptivity on our part. God wants us strong.
2. There Is A Determination To Exalt Jesus Christ! v17a.
The next petition is found in verse 17a, where Paul prays that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Here Paul prays for our fellowship with Christ. God wants us more than merely saved. This prayer is that Christ may dwell in your hearts. In other words, Christ desires to settle down and be at home in our hearts. In fact the word-translated dwell is a compound form of two Greek words, kata (down) and oikos (house). Christ wants to settle down in our house. He wants to dwell in our hearts through faith.
Robert Munger wrote a booklet entitled “My Heart Christ's Home.” He pictures the Christian life as a house. Jesus enters the house and goes from room to room where He is surprised to find many things with which He is uncomfortable. He goes into the library of the mind and begins to clean up the trash found there. He replaces it with His Word. He enters the dining room of the appetite and finds many sinful desires listed on a worldly menu He replaces things like materialism, envy, pride, and lust with humility, love, meekness, and the like. He enters the living room of fellowship and there finds worldly companions and activities. In the workshop, only toys are being made. In the closet, many hidden sins are kept. Christ could only feel comfortable after He had cleaned every room. Only then could He settle down and be at home. But in order for Christ to dwell in our hearts, our hearts must dwell on Him. Our faith must cause us to be faithful to Him. End Quote!
I heard of a young man named Ray Hoo, who had just graduated from Iowa State University. He returned to his native Jamaica where he tried to find a job. His brother arranged for him to have an interview with the chairman of the Jamaican banana industry. Things went well during the interview and the chairman decided to make an opening for Hoo, even though there wasn't one. Then the chairman asked Hoo how he would like to spend his spare time. Ray said that he liked reading and sports, particularly soccer and basketball, and added, “I also spend a lot of time in Christian activities because I hope to someday give my life to Christian missions.” Upon hearing that, the chairman decided that he could not spend money to train a new man only to have him leave for the mission field. He said, “Young man, your ambitions are noble; but we want men who will give their lives to bananas."
Whatever you give your life to is what your heart dwells on. Is your goal to give your life to bananas? All around you, people dedicate themselves to bananas, or oil, or technology, or whatever you do. Life is too short to give your life to bananas. You need to give it to Christ.
3. There Is A Demonstration Of The Love Of Christ! v17b-19a.
The third petition continues in verse 17b-19a, where Paul prays that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breath and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. Here Paul prays that we might comprehend and know the love of Christ. The word for love here is agape. This is God's love. We are to be rooted and grounded in God's love. God desires that our roots run deep. He desires that our foundation be strong. We are planted in love. And from that perspective we can comprehend and know the love of Christ.
As a part of an assignment for a doctoral thesis, a college student spent a year with a group of Navajo Indians on a reservation in the Southwest. As he did his research he lived with one family, sleeping in their hut, eating their food, working with them, and generally living the life of a twentieth-century Indian. The old grandmother of the family spoke no English at all, yet a very close friendship formed between the two. They spent a great deal of time sharing a friendship that was meaningful to each, yet unexplainable to anyone else. In spite of the language difference, they shared the common language of love and understood each other. Over the months he learned a few phrases of Navajo, and she picked up a little of the English language. When it was time for him to return to the campus and write his thesis, the tribe held a going-away celebration. It was marked by sadness since the young man had become close to the whole village and all would miss him. As he prepared to get up into the pickup truck and leave, the old grandmother came to tell him good-bye. With tears streaming from her eyes, she placed her hands on either side of his face, looked directly into his eyes and said, "I like me best when I'm with you." Isn't that the way we feel in the presence of Jesus? He brings out the best in us. We learn to see ourselves as worthy and valuable when we are in His presence. The hurts, the cares, the disappointments of our lives are behind us when we look in His eyes and realize the depth of His love. Our self-esteem no longer depends on what we have done or failed to do; it depends only on the value that He places on us. To be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is to generate in other people the Indian grandmother's simple statement: "I like me best when I'm with you. - James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 228.
When he prays that we might comprehend this love, he is praying that we might understand it by experience. He prays that this comprehension might bring us to a place of understanding by experience the breath and length and height and depth of this love. The only way we can begin to understand this is to experience it for ourselves. The breadth of God's love is immense. It reaches to all men, nations, sins, needs, cares, and situations. The length of God's love is eternal. It existed before time, it is never ending, it is unconditional, and it is boundless. The depth of God's love is unfathomable. It caused God to stoop as low as a man is. He reached down to us. The height of God's love is infinite. In His love we ascend with Christ in victory, joy, truth, character, and love.
Measuring God's love is impossible. We are attempting to measure the immeasurable.
Paul also prays that we know the unknowable. He prays for us to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge. Once we have encountered this love, we will be forever amazed by it. It is literally indescribable. One is reminded of the words of that saint of old who penned the following lines on the walls of his cell regarding the love of God:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, and were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above, would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky.
4. There Is A Desire To Honour God In All We Do! v19b-21.
The final petition is found in the later part of verse 19b, where Paul prays that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Paul is praying that we might be filled with God. He is really praying that we might contain the uncontainable.
This is the privilege of the believer. We have been created to be containers of God. He desires to pour His life into us and fill us to the full. This is the mystery of the gospel. This is the mystery of Christ. Christ dwells in human beings. Christ dwells in us. And the greatest need for the Christian is to be filled with Christ. We are to be filled with His nature and character. We are to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit. We are to be filled with Jesus.
Thus the reason we are called to be members of the local church. It's always through the members of the local Church God reveals Himself in Christ through the Christian! That’s how important the local Church is to the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why our testimony is important in the Church of Jesus Christ. If you have no testimony in the area you live, the job you hold the life you live you are bringing dishonor upon the Church of Jesus Christ and He will not allow that to continue long, in one way or another He will remove you. Don’t place unholy hands on that which God has made Holy.
Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians Ch.3v20-21).
The four petitions for which Paul has prayed can very easily seem beyond our reach. Indeed, they are. Unless God intervenes to enable us to reach these goals, we will fail. And so Paul closes with a benediction, which reveals the power available to us through an able Saviour. Jesus Christ. It is a glorious doxology of praise to the only One who can accomplish these things.
Here he describes God as able. His ability works according to the power that works within us. The power within us is Christ. But look at how God's ability is described. He is described as . . . Able, Able to do, Able to do beyond that we ask, Able to do beyond that we think, Able to do beyond all that we ask or think, Able to do abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, Able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think. It is only through an able Saviour that we are going to experience what we really need. And we serve a God who is more than able. What is your heart's prayer? Through Christ, God can do more than you can ask or think.
Don't pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. - Corrie ten Boom.
I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day. - Abraham Lincoln.
Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? - Corrie ten Boom.
Our prayers lay the track down which God's power can come; like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails. - Watchman Nee.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are, it seems to me, largely fruits of sustained interaction with God. Just as a child picks up traits more or less simply by dwelling in the presence of her parent, so the Christian develops tender heartedness, compassion, humility, forgiveness, joy, and hope through "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit"--that is, by dwelling in the presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ his Son. And this means, to a very large extent, living in a community of serious believers. - Robert C. Roberts in the Reformed Journal (Feb. 1987). Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 10.