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Exceeding our Expectations

Praying with Paul  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Ephesians 3:14–19 NKJV
14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Tonight, we will continue our study of [Praying with Paul]. The title of my message is, [Exceeding our Expectations].
For a few weeks, we have looked at one of the prayers Paul prayed for the Ephesians.
I have had some special times of prayer in my office. I will kneel at my chair. I do not generally stay there very long before I get up and begin walking around praying.
Sometimes, I will move from my office to the sanctuary, spending time in prayer for our church.
More often than not, in those times of prayer, God will speak something to me or I will pray something He led me to pray.
When I conclude my time with Him, I will go to my office, open by prayer journal and begin to write what I prayed about. Periodically, I will thumb through the journal and look back to the specific requests I have made.
Sometimes I wrote something I forgot about and will feel pleasantly surprised at how God answered.
Perhaps that is what Paul did. He wanted God to help the Ephesian church grow in Him. Maybe he knelt down and called on God for a while.
After getting up from his time in prayer, maybe he wrote down his requests:
God grant them the ability to grasp your glory
Generously pour out your Spirit
Dwell in their hearts through faith
Let them experience the depths of your love
As I have mentioned in this passage, we should envision each verse as a step on a staircase. Each step takes us closer to the open door at the top, enabling us to mature and grow in Christ.
I love the way Paul concludes his prayer for the Ephesians. He moved beyond what he asked God to do and begins to express his gratitude for God’s ability to do more than He could ever imagine.
God knows what He wants for us better than we know what we want for ourselves.
After Paul listed what He prayed, listen to what He explained:
Ephesians 3:20 NKJV
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
Ephesians 3:20 NLT
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Ephesians 3:20 TPT
20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
There are three words I want us to focus on in 3:20, [Able], [Abundantly], and [According].
Let’s begin
1. Able
Ephesians 3:20 NKJV
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
Able is defined, having sufficient power, skill, or resources to do something.
Paul emphasized God’s ability, which is vastly different than our ability.
I am able to read fairly quickly, but I was not born with this skill. I am able to play the piano, read music or type fast, but these abilities took time and practice.
Likewise, there are many things I am unable to do. I cannot build anything, especially without instructions. I cannot lift heavy weights or play sports.
I know my skill set. I have a grasp on what I can and cannot do.
But that is not the case with God. There is NOTHING beyond His grasp or reach. He is able to do ANYTHING.
Hebrews 7:25 NKJV
25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
To think, He has the ability to save from sin. If He can take someone who is walking in darkness and bring them into the light, nothing is too hard for Him.
But He will also keep us.
Jude 24 NKJV
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
God is able to save us and keep us.
Why is He able? Because of who HE is, He is God, and nothing is too hard for Him.
When we pray, we must always remember He is able. Nothing is too hard for Him.
2. Abundantly
Ephesians 3:20 NKJV
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
Paul points out that God is able to do abundantly.
Abundantly means, existing or occurring in large amounts
Jesus explained what happens to us when we come to Him.
John 10:10 NKJV
10 The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
Paul understood what it meant to walk in God’s abundance, and it does not only have to do what what we HAVE.
Philippians 4:11–13 NKJV
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Paul explained what HE wanted from God, but he also wanted the Ephesians to know, He is able to let you live an abundant life.
It hit me as I wrote this message, we often equate abundance with what we have or don’t have. I believe that God blesses us and helps us.
However, God abundantly pours out:
His Grace
His Healing
His Love
His Mercy
His Kindness
And the amazing part is God never runs out, His storehouse is abundantly filled to overflowing.
Paul’s point, God is able to do abundantly, immeasurably more than we could ever ask or think.
Try to imagine the best gift we could receive from God. He can top that.
Try to think of the one prayer we would like answered. He can top that too.
There is no limit to what God can do to us and for us.
Paul told the Ephesians what he wanted God to do, but he lets us know that God is able and abundant...
3. According
Ephesians 3:20 NKJV
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
How does God exceed our expectations?
He does so according to the power that works in us.
I know I am emphasize the Holy Spirit often. Rightfully so. I want us to get it in our minds and settle it in our hearts— we need the Holy Spirit.
When we think of God, remember:
Father is seated on the throne
Son is at the right hand of God
Holy Spirit is working in and through us
Paul knew the importance of God’s power.
There is a difference between knowing about God’s power and personally experiencing God’s power.
Prior to his conversion, he knew about the God of the Old Testament, who performed great exploits and displayed His power.
But it was not until he was born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit that he had a personal experience with the power of God.
Jesus had a very specific mandate for His followers. They needed to know Him. Then He promised:
Acts 1:8 NKJV
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
I pray so often that God will give EVERY person in our church a hunger for His power to operate in their lives.
So much can happen in and through us. Paul shows it is ACCORDING or THROUGH His mighty power that works IN us.
Ephesians 3:21 NKJV
21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul began his time of prayer bowing before God. He concluded it by praising God, giving Him glory for all He does for every generation.
I love this passage we’ve studied for four weeks. Paul had it in mind that God’s people would grow in Him. Every time they prayed, it took them one step closer.
But it hit me recently, there are so many times we pray, requesting God to have His way in our lives, and He answers, sometimes years later.
We pray for what we face right now, but God knows the answer to what we will face in the future.
I remember answering every altar call I could when I was a child and teenager. Often, I would pour out my heart to God, asking Him to have His way in my life.
I did not really know what that meant. But as I look back over the past thirty years, I can say, He has exceeded my expectations.
I prayed God give me the right wife:
He exceeded my expectations with Bekah
I prayed God to bless my family:
He exceeded my expectations with Davis
I prayed God would use me in ministry:
He exceeded my expectations in allowing me to evangelize for five years
I prayed if God wanted me to pastor, He would lead me to the right congregation:
He exceeded my expectations seven years ago when Vulcan Assembly of God took a chance on a twenty-three year old evangelist
I pray God to bless our church:
He continues to exceeds my expectations in every service.
I concur with Paul, GLORY TO GOD, for He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above ALL we could ask or think according to His power.
So let’s invite the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in prayer. Just as Paul did for the Ephesians.
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