There were new converts to Christianity in the church at Ephesus. They came with character flaws and various experiences within their relationships, good and bad. They had spiritual questions about gods and mysteries. They needed a spiritual theological framework from which they could live in a manner worthy of the gospel. With this in mind Paul leads the believers in one of my favourite prayers in the Scriptures.
Many of these issues of spirituality are very true in our day and age. We have spiritual questions about God. What is he like? What is his character like? What about the afterlife? Angels and Demons… Do you remember the movie “Aladdin”? What would you ask for if you found a genie-in-a-bottle and were granted three wishes that were bound to come true? As Christians, we know that there are no genies in a bottle. However, we have the awesome privilege to kneel before our Heavenly Father in prayer to ask him for what we need.
I believe that Eph 3:14-21 is one of the most beautiful transitions in the Scriptures. In the Greek text, Eph 3:14-21 is another of Paul’s long sentences (1:3–14, 15–23; 2:1–7; 3:1–13, 14–19; 4:1–7, 11–16; 6:14–20). Paul has laid a foundation for us IN CHRIST. As followers of Jesus we are spiritually blessed. There are amazing riches of God’s grace made available to those who call upon Jesus; this grace is revealed in our being chosen, adopted, redeemed, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom and revelation. Having preached to the church in Ephesus about grace and mystery, and that Gentile are now recipients of God’s grace IN CHRIST, Paul now prays that they may be united experientially. He desired that they might genuinely know and experience Christ’s love and show Christ’s love toward each other.
Eph 3:14-15 – Personal Prayer
We must remember that our study is one of “Freedom” as followers of Jesus Christ. As a result of the foundation of that Paul has laid – “For this reason”… Paul now gives the Ephesian believers a model of prayer that is key for their circumstances. He begins by stating – “I kneel before the Father (Eph 3:14). There is a personal aspect to our pursuit of Jesus. Paul states I kneel or bow or worship before our Father in heaven; this reminds me of Matt 6:9 – “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name”. Paul’s bowing was not aimless but directional as described in Greek; it was a kneeling and facing towards the Father… In the various pagan temples of Ephesus, the believers would bow and face their god. He is using the very aspects of pagan worship to draw these new believers into a personal prayer encounter with the true God of Christianity.
The second point Paul is highlighting here follows on his thinking of Christian unity; God’s “whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph 3:15). Paul has been affirming the unity between the Jews and Gentiles in the previous verses. In other words, by prayer he reminds them that they are of God’s household; it is a safe and peaceful family that they belong to and freedom is their daily experience.
Eph 3:16-19 – Power Prayer
In the previous chapters Paul has given us the “theology of freedom” and now he is praying for the believers in Ephesus to experience “Holy Spirit freedom”. There were rich people in Ephesus who would parade their fame and wealth for others to see. Now he petitions the Father “out of his glorious riches”, in other words, there is an abundance of material wealth and resources that is glorious, heavenly, and exceeds the norm of a particular group and which can have a negative connotation. Paul does not want these riches, which has both spiritual and natural applications to possess the church of Ephesus but to “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”. Paul is praying for an empowering of the Spirit on the inside because there will be resistance to gaining true freedom, which begins inwardly then expresses itself outwardly. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives is absolutely essential to Christian living and freedom. It is the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers that continues the ministry of Jesus on earth. He uses these beautiful word couplets, riches and glory, strength and power, to inspire these new converts to faith in Christ – “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”; this dwelling speaks of to settle down and be a home.
Now Paul’s prayer highlights one of foundations of true freedom – love. Just as he desires Christ to live and dwell in our hearts, he now speaks of “being rooted and established in love”. Again, Paul uses two words in the Greek language to emphasize the importance of love – rooted deeply like a tree and established firmly like a building. Even though the church in Ephesus could experience glorious riches and strength and power, without the foundation of love their freedom would be tarnished. Paul speaks of the significance of power and understanding, Biblical freedom requires both as seen in verse 18. The power of right believing is essential, and he speaks of this in chapters 1-2; Paul want them to think rightly about the concepts of God. Now he is praying for them to “have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”. I find it interesting he uses dimensions to describe Christ’s love. Why? Because the Temple of Artemis was the temple with the biggest dimensions in all of Asia Minor. Now is Eph 3:19 he speaks of knowing – “to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”
Why is this verse so important? The knowledge of Christ’s love was not to be an intellectual fact only but an experience in life. The apprehension of verse 18 is conceptual knowledge. In verse 19, this conceptual knowledge passes into experiential knowledge as the saint experiences in his life that comprehension of the love of Christ for him in the sphere of his earthly life.
Word Picture: surpass, to throw beyond, excel, exceed.
Eph 3:20-12 – Praise Prayer
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. When we consider these few points that Paul speaks of to the church in Ephesus we should be inspired to know God and fulfill his dreams. Paul wants us to experience the personal and powerful aspects of prayer. But he does not stop there.
Paul states that GOD IS ABLE, God is powerful and competent, to do “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine”; beyond the furthest degree… Word Picture: overflowing… This is so true, especially to the believers in Ephesus who were hostile towards one another; now they are at peace with each other experiencing freedom as brothers and sisters IN CHRIST. The importance of praise towards God cannot be overstated. Praise takes our eyes off of our troubles and places them on Jesus Christ. This results in freedom in ways that are beyond what we can ask or imagine. This is good news.
This prayer holds the Book of Ephesians together. On the one hand Paul gives great instruction to the foundations of our faith in Jesus Christ. He helps the believers to understand all the spiritual blessings available. But he wants our theological understanding to lead us to the experience of God’s love. Therefore, Paul prays… A preacher was once asked, “do you think we should pray for even the little things in our lives, or just the big things?” The preacher, G. Campbell Morgan replied, “can you think of anything in your life that is big to God?” In other words, we should be in prayer all the time, big or little, God is interested in our lives. Paul leads by example in personal prayer, power prayer and then praise that is due to God.
This is a great prayer to pray one for another. Our freedom comes from the power of right believing about God, but this knowledge is experienced as we pray. All of us need to know our Father personally, and to know that we are part of his family, therefore we pray. The depth of God’s love in our hearts determines our encounter with freedom, therefore we pray. Because God is able to accomplish his will in our lives we pray.
Here are three prayer points for us this morning:
1. Pray that we find our place in God’s family.
2. Pray that we know and experience the Love of Jesus.
3.. Pray that we encounter our God who is able to accomplish great things for our lives.