I Pray To God (Part 1) – Eph 3:14-21 Eph 3:14-21.  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. That’s his prayer. One sentence. And then he ends with this benediction.  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,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (ESV) It’s a familiar passage, and provides a pattern for prayer that we’d do well to imitate. In fact, I adopted this week in my prayers. Just like Paul prayed this for the church in Ephesus, I’ve begun praying it for you. Us. (Intro) Starting with Paul’s thoughts in v14-15. 3 of them. For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 3 thoughts, from which we get 3 prayer requests. But we’re only going to get to two this week. The first is for this reason. First 3 words. That’s the first thought on which Paul’s prayer is based. The question is, what reason? What’s the reason Paul prays? What does he have in mind? Well, it could be that he’s referring to what he just said in v13: our encouragement to not lose heart. That’s the first possibility. So I ask you [Paul said in v13] not to lose heart over what I am suffering. That could be the reason he has in mind, and probably is to some extent. Because it’s the nearest antecedent that makes sense. Which, if I might digress here for a minute, is a fundamental rule of biblical interpretation. Or any literature for that matter. The nearest antecedent, the nearest thought that was just expressed, is probably in view when a pronoun is used. In this case, this. For this reason. What reason? Probably the reason he just expressed in v13, if it makes sense. But there’s another possibility due to his verbiage in this paragraph, when compared to the previous one. He could be thinking of the blessing of the unsearchable riches of Christ in v8-9, because he goes on to talk about one of those riches, the love of Christ, in a similar fashion. Saying it surpasses knowledge in v19, and has breadth, length, height, and depth (18). In other words, it’s unsearchable. So that too is probably in mind when Paul says for this reason. Namely, our blessing. The blessing of having the vast, immeasurable riches of Christ at our disposal. That’s the second possibility.
The third, and probably most likely candidate for what Paul has in mind when he says, “For this reason,” is our oneness. Our inclusion in the family of God and oneness with all the saints. Like he talked about at the end of chapter 2. For he . . . has made us both one, it says (2:14). Creating in himself one new man in place of the two (2:15). Fellow citizens and members of the household of God (2:19). I think that’s the main reason Paul prays. Because we are one in the body of Christ, because we are fellow citizens, because we’re no longer two or three or four – even though we don’t act like it sometimes – Paul prays for all that follows. It’s like parents who pray various things for their kids. Their kids may not act like they love each other at times, they may fight and disagree every other day, but they’re one. One family, under one roof, with one authority, and tons of love. So too the church. Us. We may have our issues from time to time, but we are one. It’s a present reality. Just like our justification as individuals is a present reality. Even though our sanctification is ongoing. That’s the primary reason Paul prays. That we would be who we are. That we would live out our oneness. Now, you may be thinking, “how do know that?” How do I know it’s the primary reason? Well, first, Paul uses the same phrase to start v14, as he does v1. For this reason. Do you see it? For this reason and for this reason. Indicating that there’s probably a connection. Second, in v1, he doesn’t finish his thought. It’s an incomplete thought. Did you notice that a few weeks ago? Paul doesn’t even finish his sentence. He leaves it hanging. And us too. Take a look. 3:1.  For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. He doesn’t finish it. He gets to the end of v1, and feels so compelled by another thought, he digresses for 12 verses to express it, and only comes back to it in v14. Indicated by the same phrase he used to start his thought – for this reason. So the third reason that our oneness is the primary reason Paul has in mind, is that the nearest antecedent to the start of his thought, is the end of chapter 2. Where Paul talks about our oneness. For those 3 reasons, I think the primary reason Paul refers to in v14, is the reason he had in mind in v1 – our oneness in Christ. Our spiritual unity by virtue of our common salvation and fellowship. That’s the first thought in v14-15. And leads me to the first way in which I’ve begun to pray. And want you to do the same. I pray to God . . .
For our heart-felt unity (v14) Unity that’s precious, and cherished, and real. I pray that we would be one as He is one. I pray that the unity displayed in the Trinity is felt in us. I pray that we would love and treasure our unity as the family of God, just like parents pray that their kids would love and treasure the unity of their physical family. I pray to God for that. Not that we would be uni-form, but uni-fied. Full of love for one another despite our differences, despite our idiosyncrasies, despite our various backgrounds, or upbringing, or skin color, or culture of origin, or parenting, or opinions, and a whole host of other peripheral issues. Our heart-felt unity comes first. And it’s one of the most visible ways for people to know we are Christians. On that note, I missed the big storm this week. I was out of town. Which Becky is still a little bitter about. We had a two-day board meeting in Indianapolis for our Collective. The Great Commission Collective with whom we partner to plant churches and strengthen leaders. So I was out of commission while Becky was here playing pioneer woman like Little House On The Prairie. And when it was over, do you know how many people came to our cul-de-sac from outside our neighborhood, to help with the cleanup? None. At least that I know of. And none of us expected it. But people from our church did. They came. Cutting trees and stacking branches in our yard and our neighbor’s yard; who also attend here. Why? Why did they do such a thing? Because there’s a heart-felt unity. The same thing happened in the larger body of Christ. With a family in our church who borrowed our generator. Our power was good, so we didn’t need it. But they knew someone with terminal cancer who did. Another believer. So they snagged our generator, enlisted the help of someone from another church to get it going, and together hooked it up. 3 different families from 3 different churches. Do they dot their ecclesiastical I’s and cross their theological T’s exactly the same? No. But there’s a heart-felt unity because of their adherence to the Gospel, their love for Jesus, and their Spirit-filled compassion. More of that, Lord. Inside these walls and out. I pray to God for our heart-felt unity. In fact, let’s do that right now. Prayer – Father, I pray that we may be one even as you and Jesus are one (Jn 17:11). You’ve done an amazing work in our church, and I pray that you would do even more. I pray that the unity we have, the unity that is ours in Christ, would be heartfelt. I pray that you would make us perfectly one as Jesus prayed (Jn 17:23), so that our friends and family and neighbors would see and believe just like we have. I pray, in Jesus’ name, amen. (Summary) That’s the first thought in v14 that leads us to pray and shows us how. I pray to God for our heart-felt unity. (That you pray ___________ (v14))
The second thought, is Paul’s reference to prayer. I bow my knees before the Father. A short-hand way of saying, “I get on my knees and bow before God in prayer.” A position of surrender and humility. Getting low before the One on high. Not that he says prayer, but that it’s obviously what he’s talking about. Because kneeling and prayer go hand in hand. Kneeling = Prayer. The question is, why doesn’t he just say, “For this reason I pray?” Why does he say I bow? I get on my knees? I think it’s this. He’s emphasizing the importance of what he’s doing. Because the posture of kneeling wasn’t the norm in prayer. At least it wasn’t for Jews and early Christians. The ordinary posture was standing. Just like sitting is for us. Kneeling indicated something extraordinary. Something passionate. Something fervent. Kneeling = Passion. A significant passion or strong desire. Like the way a bad situation causes us to pray. Or a significant opportunity. We get on our knees to express our passion. In addition to our humility. Think King Solomon kneeling at the dedication of the temple. He got on his knees because he was particularly passionate about the completion of it, and what it meant for their worship. Or how about Jesus falling to the ground in Gethsemane? A difficult situation that evoked a passionate prayer. Either on his knees or on his face. Same for Paul who knelt in prayer with the Ephesian elders 7 years earlier. With much weeping and sorrow just before he left them. (Acts 20). Kneeling = passion. But here, Paul kneels under normal circumstances. If experiencing the love of Christ can be called normal. There’s no event, no situation, no significant opportunity; just life. Life in Christ. Indicating that kneeling in prayer isn’t just a sign of humility and passion, but that it’s normal. Kneeling = Normal. Paul is normalizing something that was rare. Does that mean all our prayers have to be on our knees? No. But it should be far more common. Normal. Marking our prayers with humility and fervency, just by our position. So I pray to God . . . That you pray fervently (v14) It’s one of our core values, fervent prayer. Praying at all times in the Spirit as Paul says in Eph 6:18, with all prayer and supplication. Petition. How can you pray under the influence of the Holy Spirit and pray anything but fervently? That would be like driving a race car in first gear on an empty track. Fervent prayer is what God wants. And it’s what God answers. Like the prayer of Elijah. A man with a nature like ours [it says in James 5:17; who] prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. I pray to God that you pray like that, because that’s what he answers.
Not that you have to work yourself up into some kind of frenzy, or rhythm, or volume, or verbiage, or anything like that. But that it’s from your heart, and has heart. You mean it and desire it. And remember the one to whom you’re praying, the one before whom you’re bowing. I bow my knees before the Father, Paul said. (14) Prayer fervently to God. Not the air, not the walls, and certainly not to others. Who cares what they think? You’re in the presence of God Almighty. Pray to him. Luis Palau is an evangelist who has traveled the world for the last 50 years, preaching the Gospel to over 25 million people in 70 countries. But he started by serving as a translator on Billy Graham’s team. And he tells the story of the time they were in Germany for a youth congress. I think it was the mid-60’s. They were sitting in his hotel room, when his assistant came in and said there was a young German evangelist outside who wanted to speak with him. So Mr. Graham told him to come on in. At which point this young man told Billy that he was having a hard time getting started. Speaking opportunities just weren’t happening. And after about 15 minutes, Dr. Graham said, “Let’s pray about it.” And according to Luis, Billy began immediately crying out to the Lord. But pretty soon his voice became kind of muffled. And Luis said he wasn’t sure what was going on, so he opened his eyes, and saw Mr. Graham lying flat on the ground, spreadeagled, with his face on the carpet. The greatest evangelist in the world he said, on the floor, praying fervently, for a guy he’d just met. Little did Luis know, that Billy Graham had been praying that way for years. Going all the way back to 1943 and his senior year in college. Where, according to some of his friends and classmates, he used to lay on the floor between the dorm room bunks, and pound the floor asking God to use him to reach the world. Is it any wonder God answered? There’s something about conforming the posture of your body to the posture of your heart.***** On the other hand, there’s something about humbling yourself physically, kneeling, that conforms your heart spiritually. That’s my story. I didn’t pray on my knees one time until I was almost 30 years old. The Spring of 1996, when God was calling me into ministry. And I literally found it physically difficult. Difficult to actually bend my knees, and kneel. I was too proud. I wasn’t accustomed to humbling myself like that. But I finally did one night, beside my bed. I fully and finally surrendered, telling God that I give up. “I can’t handle the compulsion anymore, and I’ll do anything you want. Just show me what it is.” How about you? Are your prayers less than fervent because you’re less than humble? Too proud to get on your knees? Too proud to surrender yourself and subject your life to
his will and his way. If so, the only solution is doing it. Getting on your knees and conforming your heart to follow. There’s no substitute. And if your heart is already there, get on your knees to show it. Conform your posture to your heart and make it the norm. Praying fervently all the time. Prayer – Father, will you spur us on in this respect? Will you do in us whatever it takes to bend our knees before you. To humble us so that we bow, heart and body. We submit ourselves to your will and your way. And pray fervently that you will fill us with your Spirit, using us, and gripping us with your desires, and convincing us of your truth, and leading us in the way everlasting. We pray, in Jesus’ name, amen. (Summary) Let’s pray fervently this week, for heart-felt unity.