Godís Power Strengthens
Explore the Bible Series
October 10, 2010
Background Passage: Ephesians 3:14-21
Lesson Passage: Ephesians 3:14-21
Frankly, I often pray like a toddler walks: halting, faltering, stumbling, unsure.† Someone, for my sake, needs to write a Prayer for Dummies book!† I know I should pray, but how to pray appropriately?† Thankfully, the blessings of prayer do not depend of the competence of the one praying.† Even ďwordlessĒ supplications garner the attention of God (See Romans 8:26-27).
One way to learn about prayer is to study the worship of great men and women of God, like the Apostle Paul. Iím still pretty new to grandparenthood, but I have observed the developmental process of my two-year-old grandson, Kyle.† He is a master mimic.† We often find great entertainment in watching him imitate the actions of adults (one has to exercise some caution with impressionable children around!).† On Tuesday evenings (during our family nights) Kyle wants to do everything he sees the adults doing.† He doesnít, for instance, like to use a baby spoon anymore; rather, he insists on using the same silverware we use.† He doesnít exactly know how to operate an ďadultĒ spoon, but he tries.† One day, heíll master the use of this important tool.† Like all little ones, he learns by imitation, and we may learn to pray in that manner.
I cannot pray like Paul, but I can grow in my understanding and practice of prayer.† This weekís lesson records one of the most elevated, majestic entreaties of our ancient brother, and these verses reveal much of the spirit and content of acceptable prayer.† When my devotional life falters, I may borrow Paulís eloquence, making his prayer mine.† On other occasions, I may venture to invest my petitions with my own concerns, faltering as I may be, I stagger through to express my heart to God.
Kyleís childish imitations of adult behavior may prove inadequate and, at times, amusing.† However, his parents and grandparents always relish and delight in his effortsóbut why?† We delight in his efforts because of love.† Is God any different?† He does not hear and answer our prayers because we necessarily pray well; rather, he delights in our stumbling efforts because of his remarkable love for his children, a love that transcends what we can even imagine.
I. Paulís Approach to Prayer (vv. 14-15): As we have seen in a previous lesson, Paul knew a great deal about prayer, and contemporary Christians, though separated from Paul by the passage of many centuries, may learn much from his approach to worship.† We note these features of his prayer life.
A. Earnest humility (v. 14a):† Most commonly, the ancient people of God stood as they prayed; however, on special occasions, they kneeled to denote a heightened earnestness and deep humiliation before God. Of course, believers may pray in any posture, but, when one senses a particular urgency, kneeling seems particularly appropriate.†
B. Loving devotion to God (v. 14b-15): Paul understood that he did not pray to a cold, aloof, alien god; rather, he lifted his petitions to a loving, attentive Father.† However, Paulís fondness for his Father did not engender an unseemly, irreverent familiarity with the Lord.† The apostleís theology retained a healthy balance between intimacy and reverence, a balance reflected in Paulís description of the Father, ďfrom whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.Ē† In him the various nations and peoples of the world have their being, and, in Christ, all believers may experience the unity of grace. ††
II. The Substance of Paulís Prayer (vv. 16-18): Because of grace, Paul prayed with great boldness; that is, he approached the throne of heaven in the name and authority of Christ, and, because of Christís exaltation, a lowly sinner has confident access to the court of heaven (See 3:12 and Hebrews 4:16; 10:19-22). Grace has opened a way for humble sinners to boldly approach, in prayer, the very presence of God, with full assurance of an audience with the King of Glory, through the mediation of Christ Jesus.† Therefore, with great assurance, Paul made these petitions to the Lord.
A. Strength through the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 16): God, in response to the believerís prayers, empowers the Lordís people, in the inner man.† This empowerment centers the power of God in the regenerate heart.† I surmise that this power engenders victory over sin and energizes believers for robust, energetic service of Christ.
B. The indwelling of Christ through faith (v. 17a): This inward strength attends the indwelling of Christ in the believerís heart.†
C. Rooted and grounded in love (v.v. 17b-18a):† Love, deeply rooted in the heart, extends to the Lord and the Lordís people, Jew and Gentile alike.
D. Understanding the dimensions of divine love (v. 18b): Christians, if not careful, may lapse into a narrow, constricted view of love.† Paul called his readers to divine love, characterized by great depth, length, height, and breadth.† Godís people should love with great depth, avoiding shallow expressions of compassion.† Their love, in addition, should evidence great length, a love that perseveres throughout life.† And, the believer much love with great breadth, broad enough to embrace all of the people of God.
E. Filled with the fullness of God (v. 19): Curtis Vaughan observes, ďThis seems to be an expression standing for the sum total of all the energies, powers, and attributes of GodÖ That is to say, he is requesting that their whole being may be filled with Godís presence and power, so that there is no room for moreólike the teacup on the seashore filled to overflowing with the swelling water of the vast ocean.Ē
III. Conclusion of the Prayer (vv. 20-21)
A. Paulís confidence in prayer (v. 20): Prayer, for Paul, was not a foolís errand.† God, the apostle says, is able to do far beyond what the pray-er can ask or think; that is, we cannot ask beyond Godís capacity to answer our petitions.† Indeed, we cannot even imagine the scope of Godís power to answer prayer.
B. Paulís aim in prayer (v. 21): Ultimately, prayer does not focus merely on God answering our petitions; instead, all of this redounds to the glory of God.† As we pray, we must focus on Godís glory, a glory wonderfully revealed in the prayers of Godís people.†