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The Power of Jesus

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Seeking God and His Glory

Ephesians 3:14-21


            We had been driving for over 3 hours and it was a hot day. The air conditioning was not keeping up and when we got to the lake there was only one thing we wanted and that was to cool off in the water. Before we set up camp we headed for the beach because that was what we needed more than anything else.

            What do we need more than anything else? If we are thirsty, we need something to drink. If we are tired, we need rest. If we are discouraged, we need an encouraging word.

            What do we need more than anything else if we have an incredible message to proclaim to people who don't necessarily want to hear it and we are shy or fearful or unskilled?

            In Ephesians 3:14, Paul transitions from what he has been saying previously with the words, "For this reason." He has been talking about the good news which is now available to all people. He has spoken of his commitment to make that message known. Because of that message and the need to communicate it, Paul sees that what is needed more than anything else is prayer and for this reason Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus and gives us a model of prayer for one another.

            He uses an interesting phrase to speak of prayer when he says, "I bow my knees before the Father." The normal posture for prayer among Jewish people was standing, but kneeling was not unknown. The kneeling posture implies submission to God and a desperate seeking for the One who can answer. We sometimes talk about being driven to our knees and that is some of the implication of this phrase. There are times when prayer is what we need more than anything else.

            As he addresses God in prayer, he addresses him as the "Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name." This introduces two ideas which encourage us that this kind of a prayer will be effective. The words, "Father" and "heaven and earth" remind us that the God to whom we come is sovereign and rules over all. The unusual mention that He is the "Father of every family in heaven and earth" communicates the idea that He cares about every person on earth. Although we are used to thinking about God as the Father of believers, He is also in a sense the Father of everyone, since He has created everyone. Therefore, we recognize that there is no one who is outside of God's concern and care. So since God is sovereign and cares, we can be sure that this prayer will be heard.

            There are three requests that are made in this passage. In Greek the word "ἵνα" is a little word which is translated, "in order that." In this passage, in most translations, it is translated, "I pray that."  Although not every English translation makes it very clear, this little word appears three times in this passage. Each of those times introduces one request. Neufeld says, "The first is that believers might be renewed at the core with power and love…The second is that they might have the power to grasp reality and the love of Christ…The third request is that believers might experience the fullness of God." If we have strength, understanding and are filled with God, surely we will have all we need to make the gospel message known. What a great prayer to be prayed by us for each other in our need, particularly as it relates to the mission God has given us.

I.       Prayer For Strength

            Would you not agree that we are weak? I often falter in regards to the will to engage actively in God's mission. I lack the wisdom to know how to do it. I do not have the power to accomplish what God wants me to do. As much as I would like to, I know that I can't make a person believe in God. Because we are weak, we need God's strength and so Paul prays for strength. What a great prayer for us in our own weakness or for a weak church.

            The request for strength is founded upon a wonderful hope. Paul says "I pray that, according to the riches of His glory." What it seems that Paul is doing is giving a word of encouragement that God has all the resources needed to answer our prayer. But the phrase seems unusual. Why would he speak about "the riches of His glory." It would seem to make more sense if he said, "according to the riches of his power, or love or wisdom." Yet the riches of His glory is really an appropriate way of stating that we have great hope that this prayer will be answered. When those who are weak are helped by God's great strength, God receives glory. So to ask for strength because God will be glorified by giving strength, gives a wonderful assurance that God will answer this prayer. God desires nothing more than His glory and if we pray for strength and God answers, He will be glorified. Therefore, we have hope that the strength we need will come from God.

            So Paul asks God that the Ephesians will be "strengthened in your inner being with power." He is praying that they will have the strength of character and the power within that is needed to be God's people. He asks for the strength to live in holiness, the power to be bold enough, committed enough and courageous enough to do God's work. As he prays, he acknowledges that this power comes to every believer through the Holy Spirit. This also is a word of assurance. When we are weak, we are not nearly at the end of hope. As followers of Jesus, we have been given the Holy Spirit and it is the Spirit who will provide us with the power we need.

            In verse 17, he repeats in some sense, but brings Jesus into the picture. The Spirit who indwells us is the Spirit of Jesus. The Christian life is a life lived in Jesus. He is the one who changes our hearts and empowers us to obey God and to be actively engaged in God's work.

            This prayer seeks God's presence through the Spirit and through Jesus as the source of the power necessary for living the Christian life. This powerful presence of God is not something we conjure up by gritting our teeth and making it happen. God has already promised to be present with us and to help us and empower us. The means by which His presence and power is our is, as the text says, "through faith." God never forces His way into our life or ministry. He waits for us to seek Him and by seeking Him to trust Him. How often I have sought to accomplish things by my effort and strength of will when I would have accomplished much more by trusting in Jesus.

            Such strength comes to us as "we are being rooted and grounded in love." Paul uses two images, agricultural and architectural. The agricultural image says that root that allows us to trust in Christ is the knowledge that we are loved. The architectural image says that foundation of the building which allows us to trust in Christ is the knowledge that we are loved.

            So do we feel strong and able and skilled to walk obediently, to do God's work and to be successful as a Christian? Probably not. Probably we feel weak, but feeling weak is not a reason to become discouraged and give up. We have a God who seeks His glory through giving us the strength and power we need to be what He wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do. Instead of feeling like giving up when we are weak, such weakness becomes a motivation to pray. So let us pray for ourselves and for one another that we will have the strength within and be filled with the Spirit and with the presence of Jesus.

            Otto and Lidia Funk, missionaries whom we support, express such a request in their prayer letter. They manifest weakness and ask for just such a prayer when they ask us, "Pray that we will never get tired of being Christians."

II.    Prayer For Understanding

            One of the things that makes us weak is that we see so many things that seem beyond us. We know that the Word of God is powerful and that if people read it, their lives can be changed. In the news lately we have heard that many school divisions do not permit the Gideon's to distribute Bibles to grade 5 students any more. We feel powerless against this opposition to the Word of God.

            We have friends who are going to teach English in a restricted access country. When we write them we have to be very careful what we talk about and how we refer to their upcoming service. In publications their initials are used, but not their names.

            These are illustrations of the kind of things in the world around us that make us feel weak and inadequate especially when it comes to making the name of Jesus known.

            Paul's second request is that God will give them the ability to see a different reality.

A.   How Big is God!

            The song, "How big is God" has some great words that give us a glimpse into that larger reality.

Though men may strive to go beyond the reach of space

To walk beyond the distant glimmering stars.

This world's a room so small within my Father's house

The open sky but a portion of his yard.

How big is God? How big and wide is his vast domain?

To try to tell these lips can only start;

He's big enough to rule the mighty universe,

Yet small enough to live within my heart.

As winter's chill may cause the tiny seed to fall,

To lie asleep till waked by summer's rain,

The heart grown cold will warm and throb with life anew;

The Master's touch will bring the glow again.

How big is God? How big and wide is his vast domain?

To try to tell these lips can only start;

He's big enough to rule the mighty universe,

Yet small enough to live within my heart.


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            That is one expression of the reality which Paul prays that they will grasp when he asks in verse 18, "I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth." There is no object to this phrase, although we might expect one and so I agree with Neufeld who suggests that we supply God and His work described in Ephesians 1-3 as the object. What Paul is praying for is that they will be able to see the greatness of God. To understand that the frightening and fear inducing realities which cause us to shrink back and respond with hesitation are not the realities upon which we should rest our eyes. Whatever may concern us, must be submitted to the greater reality that the God whom we serve is very great and able to work in ways that are beyond our understanding.

            Neufeld says, "We thus should understand grasping the four dimensions as an invitation to grasp reality fully. That includes viewing reality from the vista of God’s secret now disclosed in Christ, and also taking hold of reality in the sense of participating in the gathering up of all things in Christ (1:10)."

B.   How Great His Love

            After one of the Wednesday Bible studies in which I encouraged us to love God, each other and the lost, I was asked by someone how we can possibly do that. We talked about it and agreed that the way in which we will be able to love is if we know that we are loved. It is a weakness within us that we do not have a deep grasp of just how much we are loved by God. So Paul prays that they will know, that they will be able to perceive just how much they are loved by God.

            Do we know how much we are loved by God? I think that we would have a good grasp of that if we understood that it is love which moved God to send Jesus and it was love which moved Jesus to go to the cross.

            However, if we say, "I get that" the truth is that we probably have not yet fully grasped it. When Paul says that the love of Christ "surpasses knowledge," we have to admit that we have not understood His love completely. That is the reason why we need to pray this prayer. The love of Christ is so amazing that we just don't get it completely. Yet if knowing the love of Christ is so important that we need to know it in order to live faithfully and in order to have passion to proclaim Jesus then it is important to pray for each other that we will have a deeper understanding of the love of Christ. That is the prayer spoken here, a worthy prayer.

III.  Prayer For Fullness

            There is a huge pile of snow near the corner of Waverly and McGillivray Blvd. Can you imagine being told to spread that pile of snow out so that it would melt more quickly and then being given a spade with which to do the job?

            That is how I sometimes feel about the task that we have been given. I can easily feel overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task before us as followers of Jesus. There are so many needs among the people out there. This has hit me particularly as I have moved into the city. In the country, my world was pretty clearly defined by geography and a much smaller number of people to whom to relate. Now that we are in the city, my prayer list of people who don't know Jesus is so much larger. Often I am asking myself, "what should my priorities be?" and "Whom do I need to connect with?" This can be so overwhelming that it moves us to paralysis.

            I wonder if that is the background out of which Paul offers his final prayer "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."

            At whatever point we may feel overwhelmed, God is not overwhelmed. If we are filled with all the fullness of God, then we will have the strength and ability to accomplish whatever God calls us to do. God has demonstrated His ability in creation, in leading Israel out of Egypt and by overcoming sin and death through the death and resurrection of Jesus. What can God not do? If we are filled with His fullness, then we will also be working from the resources that have already accomplished the most amazing things on earth.

            This is the prayer Paul prays for the Ephesians. It is a good model for prayer. It speaks to us because it refers to the task which Paul had, which God gave to the Ephesians and which God has given to us. It recognizes the resources which come from God and are found in Him. He prays for strength, for understanding and for fullness. If we prayed this kind of a prayer for each other regularly, what would happen? If God strengthened us, what boldness we would have! If God opened our eyes to understand things as they really are, what trust we would have! If God filled us with Himself, what great work we could accomplish for Him! So let us pray this prayer for each other.


            In the last two verses of this chapter Paul closes with a benediction. The benediction concludes not only the prayer of verses 14-19, but also all of chapters 1-3. In these chapters, we have seen the wonder of all that God has done. His amazing grace, His great love and His goodness revealed in Jesus are wonderful and He deserves this glowing doxology.

            What does the benediction do?

A.   God is Able

            The benediction encourages us. As Paul speaks the benediction, he addresses "him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine."

            The benediction is addressed to the one who is amazing in His power, wisdom and ability. It is addressed to the One who is able, who can accomplish all of these amazing things and who is at work within us." The God we have been speaking about, is truly wonderful and there is no lack with Him. This address encourages us that when we feel weak and inadequate and become overwhelmed with the task, we need to remember that God is also at work. In fact, God is over-abundantly able! We can't even ask or imagine all that God is able to do and will do. That encourages us that this able God is much more at work than we even know. This is not an excuse to stop doing God's work, but it is a call to stop being discouraged when we don't see results. It is a call to rejoice that we don't see the half of what is going on as God is building His kingdom. It is a call to trust in His power and ability. Wood says, "God’s capacity to meet his people’s spiritual needs far exceeds anything they can either request in prayer or conceive by way of anticipation."

B.   God is Worthy

            The second thing this benediction does is acknowledge and declare that God is glorious for all that He has done and is doing. God is worthy! When a person comes to Christ, we praise God for He has done it. When a person offers herself to God as a servant, we give glory to God for He has been at work. Because of all that God is and all that He has done He is worthy of glory.

            God's glory is most evident "in the church and in Christ Jesus."

            God's glory has been demonstrated in Jesus. When Jesus was on earth, He said in John 17:1, 4, 5 “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you…I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do…So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed." God was glorified because of the obedience of Jesus to the Father and because of what He accomplished.

            God is also glorified in the church. When you think about how a weak and ill equipped group of fishermen were filled with the Spirit of God and began speaking about Jesus, you see how God was glorified in the church as it grew within 300 years to become a dominant religious force in the world. Today God is being glorified in China and in Africa as the church is growing rapidly. As we pray and trust in God His glory will also be seen in our church and in each of our lives.

            May we pray this prayer for each other so that through us and through our church God may be glorified!

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