John T. Willis

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Paul's Intercessory Prayer--Ephesians 3:14-21

Paul concludes the first half of the Letter to Ephesian Christians with a PRAYER in behalf of the people of God. This prayer has many dimensions. This brief blog attempts to emphasize a few important ideas in this prayer--Ephesians 3:14-21. This prayer falls into three parts.

I. Introduction. Ephesians 3:14-15.
a. Paul explains why he utters this prayer: "For this reason." God, by his grace, had given Paul the opportunity and challenge to carry the message of God not only to Jews but also to Gentiles. This motivates Paul to pray in this prayer. 3:14a.
b. In prayer, Paul "bows down before" his heavenly Father. This is a LITERAL gesture. Gestures are very important. Often, we need to actually, literally "bow down before" our heavenly Father in adoration, submission, and guidance in God's behalf. See Psalm 95:6. 3:14b.
c. Paul declares that since God our Father is the SOURCE of all beings human and divine, "every family in heaven and on earth" takes its name. NO ONE, in heaven [among angelic beings] or or earth escapes the presence of God our Father. 3:15.

II. Paul asks God our Father to do FOUR specific things for the people of God. Ephesians 3:16-19.
A. Paul asks that God GRANT the people of God to be STRENGTHENED in their INNER BEING with POWER through GOD'S SPIRIT. How badly all of us need strength--not just physical strength, but especially spiritual strength to carry out God's work through us and in opposition to the power of Satan and his demonic followers. 3:16. See especially 6:10-12.
B. Next, Paul asks that Christ may DWELL in the hearts of God's people through faith--people rooted and grounded in love. Here, "Christ" is NOT an IDEA, but a LIVING, ACTIVE PERSON. Christ actually, literally "dwells" in our hearts. 3:17.
C. Then, Paul asks God's people may have the power to COMPREHEND what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to KNOW the LOVE OF CHRIST that surpasses knowledge. In one sense, it is impossible for human beings to fully and completely "comprehend" and "know," appreciate and fathom, the love of Christ that Jesus Christ has demonstrated to and for all people. But still, Paul urges us to strive to do this. 3:18-19a.
D. Finally, Paul asks that God's people may be filled with all the fullness of God. We are empty people--physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially--in every way. God alone can FILL our hearts and our needs. Paul prays that God will do just this. 3:19b.
*Before leaving this segment, notice that Paul specifically names God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Often, we try to distinguish between these "three persons" in some way or other. Biblically, they are so entwined that it is very difficult to distinguish each from the other. Biblically, each does essentially the same thing.

III. Finally, Paul emphasizes the GLORY of God. Ephesians 3:20-21.
a. We human beings constantly ASK God for this or that or IMAGINE about this or that. But in reality, God gives us his POWER within us, and thus ENABLES us to ACCOMPLISH ABUNDANTLY FAR MORE than ALL we can ask or imagine. Our so-called "achievements" are MIRACULOUS, surprising gifts of God. Paul reminds us that we need to be thankful daily for what God does WITHIN US. He alone is the source and ongoing power of life. 3:20.
b. Thus, like Paul, we should constantly give God alone ALL THE GLORY--in the church and in Christ Jesus. God has done this in the past. He does this now. And he will do this throughout all generations, forever and ever. Our prayer should be coupled to this thought with a resounding AMEN. 3:21.

What a wonderful prayer!!! We need to ponder this prayer over and over again. I hope this prayer inspired and motivates YOU. Share YOUR thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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