Sermon Notes • February 28

Ephesians 3:14-21 Paul Prayed

Today we are going to be looking at Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Ephesus. This is Paul’s second prayer for them, the first being in Ephesians 1:15ff. Paul was a man of prayer and we should be also. Prayers in the Bible remind us of the things we should be praying for ourselves and for those we know. The most important pattern for prayer is, of course, the prayer that Jesus taught His disciple. We call that the Lord’s Prayer although the prayer He prayed for us is is found in John 17:6-20.

Paul was writing about the new society Jesus came to establish that has its oneness in Jesus at its center with the promise of multiple spiritual blessings to those who are a part of it. Paul prayed that each believer would know more completely the fullness of that fellowship and the reality of the promised spiritual blessings. 

Read Ephesians 3:14. Paul began by stating that the reason he was praying for them is the truths he had been writing about. While the Christians in Ephesus had a unique and special relationship to God, they were not taking advantage of that relationship the way they should. There is a huge difference between knowing something and applying that truth. 

In chapter 2 Paul had declared that Christians are alive in Him (2:5) and are His workmanship (2:10). Paul added in 2:19 that we are members of the household of God.  Paul added at the end of chapter 2 that Christians ae being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Then after a parenthesis in Ephesians 3:1-13 in which he reflected on his privilege to preach the gospel to Gentiles, Paul returned to those truths as he prayed for the believers in Ephesus. 

In a sense, this prayer forms a critical transition between the first half of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians and the second half. Recall when we introduced Ephesians, we noted that the letter is easily divided into 2 parts. In chapters 1-3 we have the doctrinal section and in the last 3 chapters we have the practical section. Before moving on to that practical section, Paul prayed that God would, “out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Paul knew that for us to be able to live as God wanted us to live, we need more than good theology, we need to be living out that theology in daily life. Paul knelt before the Father to ask Him to make the theology real in our everyday experiences.  

Our relationship with God brings with it special privileges and blessings but too many of us are living without enjoying or taking advantage of them. It is essential if we are going to live the full life God has provided for us, that we grasp the truth expressed in our theology. We could illustrate it with an example of owning a computer. Most people who own a computer use only a fraction of the functions that are built into it.  

In Paul’s prayer he was writing to tell the Christians in Ephesus that while they had the same computer or relationship with God that every believer has, too many of them were falling far short of what is available to them in that relationship. They are making use of 10, 20 maybe 30% of what their computer or relationship will do but there is much more.

Read Ephesians 3:16-17. To follow-up with the illustration of the computer, Paul was saying, “I want you to understand more fully what the operating system in your relationship is capable of doing so that you can use it naturally and comfortably. I want you to know the fullness of God’s provision so when you face an ethical challenge, you can make use of more of the functions of your computer/relationship with God.

That was Paul’s goal in writing. The things we should be praying foremost for ourselves, our family and our friends are the spiritual blessings that God has revealed in His Word. Sometime, think about the things you ask of God. If you are like most, what you pray for is generally centered on the physical well-being of family. We want God to care for our loved ones, keep them safe, heal them of physical diseases, job opportunities, etc. All those things are legitimate prayer items and fall under the category of “give us this day our daily bread.” Too often, however, that is the end of my prayers so too seldom do I pray for spiritual growth, a deeper knowledge of God’s love, for God’s peace etc. Those, however, are the things essential if we are going to live out our faith in a sinful and challenging world.

Moving on, Paul wrote, “I kneel before the Father.” We can too easily read that thinking so what. We give folks the option of kneeling or being seated and I then pray standing. I stand because that’s the biblical way (just kidding). Actually, standing was the more common way of praying in Bible times. Luke 18:9-14 is an example of men were standing for prayer. There is no prescribed right position in which to pray. You can pray kneeling or seated, while walking or lying in bed. 

Kneeling, however, implies several things. In ancient times one always knelt before a king, showing both humility and submission to him. When we kneel in prayer, we are showing humility and submission to God.

When we bow or kneel in prayer, we are expressing submission to the Lord. Expressing submission to anyone or anything other than God is forbidden which is why in Daniel 3 we read Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow to the statue King Nebuchadnezzar. Read Exodus 20:4-5 and Psalm 95:6. (When the Apostle Paul wanted to discuss the ultimate reign of God he noted, according to Philippians 2:10 that the time will come when every knee will bow before Jesus. Everyone will one day submit to Him and that submission is symbolized in bowing before Him.

Kneeling also seems to imply something else. Most of the examples of kneeling in prayer that find in the Bible are at times of urgency. For example, Ezra 9 records a prayer in the life of that man at a time describes an extremely challenging for Israel. There we read in verse 5, “I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God.” There was an urgency to his prayer for the nation. In the New Testament we read that when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, literally hours before His crucifixion, Jesus “fell to the ground and prayed.” His prayer was one of submission as He determined to do the will of the Father and not his will and it was a prayer of urgency since the next 24 hours would see Him on a Cross bearing our sins.

Whatever position we assume in prayer, and undoubtedly over a week we will pray in a variety of positions, we should always pray with the attitude of bended knees. All our prayers should be bathed in humility and submission to His will and not ours. 

Read Ephesians 3:14. It is important to note that when Paul prayed, he did so to the one who was worthy of his submission but at the same time to the one who was his Heavenly Father. We approach God as the almighty one who holds in His hands, according to Ephesians 3:16. “glorious riches.” We also approach Him as our Father. God can be scary but our Father in heaven can be approached openly knowing He will meet us with open arms. How you view God makes a difference in your attitude and expectations. Jesus taught His disciples to approach God as “Our Father who is in heaven.” The Greek phraseology there is closer to “Our dad who is in heaven.” While being sure not to overstep our familiarity with God, do not forget that when you pray you can approach Him as “Father.”

Always approach God on your knees as far as attitude and commitment is concerned. That is what makes for effective and meaningful praying,