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PAUL’S PETITIONS IN PRAYER
Intro: The verses before us today reveal a man in prayer. Beginning in verse 14, Paul turned his heart toward the Lord to pray for the believers in Ephesus. In our last study, we looked at verses 14-15 and talked about Paul’s Pattern In Prayer. Today, we way to consider verses 16-19 and think abut Paul’s Petitions In Prayer.
As Paul prayed for the Ephesians believers, he made some very specific requests on their behalf. It is interesting to note what he did not ask for when he prayed. He did not pray for anything physical, material or financial. He did not pray for the healing of their sick. He did not pray that they would be delivered from persecution. He did not pray about the economy in Asia Minor. Paul did not occupy his prayer with so many of the things that seem to mark our own prayer lives.
If we were to be honest, I think we would all have to admit that most of our praying is selfish. Far too often we pray about things that are physical in nature. We pray for material needs. We pray for healing for the sick. We pray about our burdens and our problems. We pray for an easier life. We pray for more money. We pray about all kinds of things like that.
Of course, those are all worthy subjects for our prayers, are they not? After all, we are commanded to do so in Phil. 4:6-7, which says, “6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” While it is the physical, material and financial that seems to occupy our thinking, and therefore our praying; it is the spiritual that should be at the heart of our prayers.
Many of the things we pray about will not be issues in a year, or a month, or a week, or even a day. On the other hand, spiritual maters are eternal in nature. We can become so consumed with the issues that occupy our minds today, that we fail to even consider the matters of eternity.
When Paul prayed for the Ephesians, his focus is entirely spiritual. I want to draw our attention to the heart of Paul’s prayer in these verses today. I want to preach part two of Paul The Prayer Warrior. I want you to notice with me the petitions Paul made for the Ephesians as we think about the subject Paul’s Petitions In Prayer.
The first petition the Apostle makes regards their spiritual power, or strength. The word “might” comes from the Greek word that gives us our English words “dynamite and dynamo.” It refers to “inherent power, or the power which resides within something by nature.” This does not mean that we possess spiritual power in and of ourselves. It does mean that because we are in a relationship with the Lord, we have been empowered. The word also refers to “moral power and excellence of soul.” In this passage, it is speaking of the “strength of God in the inner man that enables the believer to live for the Lord.” Let’s notice a few thoughts about this prayer for spiritual power.
A. The Arena Of This Power - Paul prays that this power might be revealed in the “inner man.” He is referring to the soul, or the person who inhabits these bodies. He is speaking about the very source of all the problems we have in our lives. The soul is the center of our will, our emotions, our thought process, and our motives.
Everything we do in life results from the decisions we make within the “inner man.” When the “inner man” is weak, we are subject to being controlled by the power of our flesh. It is the weakness in the “inner man” that causes us to react in anger, to gossip about others, to curse, to steal, to lie, to commit sin, or to engage in any of the countless other sins we commit.
When we came to Jesus, we were made “partakers of the divine nature,” 2 Pet. 1:4. It is from this vantage point that the Holy Spirit world to reform us and remake us into the image of Jesus Christ. As the “inner man” is fed on the Word of God, engaged in prayer to God, and encounters God through preaching and worship, the “inner man” in strengthened. When the nurture of the “inner man” is neglected, the life of the believer never rises to the heights of spiritual fulfillment.
When we fail to experience the power of God in the “inner man,” we are like a man, mentioned by Dr. John MacArthur, in his commentary on Ephesians, named Julian Ellis Morris. “Mr Morris was English, and he was a very rich and eccentric man. He liked to dress like a tramp and would sell razor blades, soap, and shampoo door–to–door. After a day’s work he would return to his beautiful mansion, put on formal attire and have his chauffeur drive him to an exclusive restaurant in his limousine. Sometimes he would even catch a flight to Paris and spend the evening there.
Many Christians live something like Mr. Morris, spending their day–by–day lives in apparent spiritual poverty and only occasionally enjoying the vast riches of His glory that their heavenly Father has given them. How tragic to go around in the tattered rags of our own inadequacy when we could be living sumptuously in the superabundance of God’s unspeakable riches.”[i]
Again, it is Paul’s desire that the Ephesian believers be changed in the “inner man,” or on a spiritual level.
B. The Abundance Of This Power - Paul prays that their spiritual power may be, “according to the riches of His glory.” He is praying that God will bless them “according” to His spiritual wealth. That is an amazing request!
Think about it. If a billionaire gave a thousand dollars to a cause, he would be giving out of his wealth. But, if that same billionaire gave a million dollars to that cause, he would be giving according to his wealth.
Paul is praying that God will give believers spiritual power that flows from the vast, limitless resources of God Himself. Those very resources became ours when we trusted Christ as Savior. The phrase “the riches of His glory” speaks of those spiritual attributes and abilities that belong to God because of Who He is. When He moved into your heart, He brought with Him the fullness of His presence and His power. Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesians would be able to experience the full benefit of their relationship with the Lord.
Sadly, most believers live like spiritual paupers when they are in fact the possessors of limitless spiritual wealth. We are like the young man who was on a railroad platform years ago begging money for food. He walked up to an elderly man and said, “Sir, could you spare a dime?”
When the old man turned, the young man saw the face of his father looking back at him. He had not seen his father in 18 years.
The father immediately recognized his son and embraced him and through tears said, “A dime? Why, my son, I have been searching for you for 18 years so that I could give you everything I have.”
There is no lack of power, glory and blessing for the people of God. The apparent lack of these things in our generation stems from a lack of the ability to appropriate by faith the things God has given to us. The lack of these things exists because we are more concerned with the physical than the spiritual. God’s power and glory are limitless, and our access to those things is only limited by our ability to yield to Him.
C. The Application Of This Power - Paul prays that the “inner man” might be “strengthened with might by His Spirit” The power of God in our lives can only come from one place, the Holy Spirit. When He comes into a life, He comes in with power, Acts 1:8.
Here is what we need to remember, the inner man of the lost sinner is dead, Eph. 2:1, but it comes to life when Christ comes in as Savior and Lord. When the sinner is saved, the “inner man” is brought to life, and is made a “new creature,” 2 Cor. 5:17. The “inner man” can see, Psa. 119:18, hear, Matt. 13:9, taste, Psa. 34:8, and feel, Acts 17:27. If he is to grow strong, he must be “exercised,” 1 Tim. 4:7-8. The “inner man” must also be cleansed, Psa. 51:7, and fed, Matt. 4:4. The outer man is always perishing, but the inner man is constantly being renewed. Ill. 2 Cor. 4:16-18, “16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
What does it for the “inner man” to be empowered by God? It means that our spirits come under the complete control of the Holy Spirit. It means that we yield to His control, His will, His power, for His glory. When that happens, the “inner man” grows stronger and is more able to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. It is only when we yield to the Spirit and let Him control the inner man that we succeed in living to the glory of God. [ii]
Paul prays for their spiritual power. If there is one thing every believer I know needs today, it is spiritual power. That is a prayer we can pray for all our brothers and sisters in Christ. May the Lord ever help us to have the spiritual well-being of our fellow believers on our hearts and in our prayers.
I. He Prays For Their Spiritual Power
Paul now turns from praying for their spiritual power to praying for their spiritual passion. His prayer is for these believers to be filled with the love of God that manifests itself in love for God and for others. Notice with me the ways Paul prayed for their spiritual love lives.
A. V. 17a The Root Of This Passion - He prayed that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” He is not praying that they would be saved; they already were. When a sinner is saved, the Lord takes up residence in the new believer’s heart. The word “dwell” means “to settle down; to be at home.” It is the idea of someone being “comfortable in a home.” The idea here is that Christ will not be comfortable in the house of our hearts until our hearts are controlled by the Spirit of God. He lives in our hearts from the moment we trust Him as Savior, but He will not be “at home” there until the Spirit of God controls that heart.
Think of it this way: imagine that you have to move in with a new family. This family opens their home to you and invites you to come in, so you enter and take up residence. But, these people are pigs! They never throw out the trash or pick up their used dishes. They never bath or change the baby’s diapers. They leave food to rot on the cabinets and in the refrigerator. They never sweep, mop or dust. The house is full of all kinds of critters and creeping things. It is a deplorable mess. Now, you might live there, but you would never feel at home until the place was cleaned up.
The same is true with is. This verse is not about salvation, but it is about sanctification. The Lord dwells in our hearts by faith, but He is not at home in our hearts until we are under the control of the Spirit. When the Spirit of God controls us, He cleans up our lives creating a comfortable home for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Consider the house of your heart today. Christ may live there, but is He at home in your heart? Your heart may be His house, His Temple, but is it His home?
B. V. 17b The Reality Of This Passion - As Paul continues His prayer, he ask that they be “rooted and grounded in love.” These words speak of “putting down roots to give a strong foundation” and of being “stable or established.” He is praying for their maturity in Christ. You see, the evidence that any life has been brought under the control of the Spirit of God is the presence of genuine love.
When a person is saved, “the love of God is shed abroad” in their hearts, Rom. 5:5. This love manifests itself in love for God, 1 John 4:19, and for one’s fellow man, John 13:35. It is the Lord’s desire that we love one another. Ill. John 13:34, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” And 1 Pet. 1:22, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”
When the Spirit of God controls us and we are walking in His power, we will prove it by the way we love the Lord and others.
Many years ago, Dr. Donald Gray Barnhouse pointed out that love is central to all the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. He said, “Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Long-suffering is love enduring. Kindness is love’s touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.”[iii]
In other words, there can be no Fruit of the Spirit, and thus no evidence of the presence of the Lord, apart from love. When the Fruit of the Spirit is absent, so is the Spirit Himself.
Paul is simply reminding us that love for the Lord and for others is central to our existence as believers. It is as unnatural for a believer not to love as it is for a fish to run a marathon. The believer is given the love of God when he is given the Spirit of God. To fail to love is as difficult as failing to breathe. The only way for a believer to not love is to be actively disobedient to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in his life.
We can claim any excuse we want to, but the fact is, a lack of love is never the fault of the other person. A lack of love in any believer’s life is always the result of a disobedient, unyielded spirit! In far, the believer who claims to love God, but who hates his brother is a liar. Ill. 1 john 4:20-21, “20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” Yet, when a life is yielded to Christ in humble obedience, that believer can love as He loves.
According to the Lord Jesus, there is only one commandment for living, and that commandment is love. Ill. Matt. 22:37-39, “37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Paul echoed that thought in Romans 13:8-10, “8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
God wanted His people to be rooted in His love and built up through loving others and by being loved by others. That is Paul’s prayer for the church then, and it is still the Lord’s will for the church now. So, how’s your love life?
C. V. 18-19 The Result Of This Passion - When we are “rooted and grounded” in the love of God, we will be in a position to “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of that love. As the love of God is worked out toward us, in us and through us, it makes the love of God more understandable to all who experience it.
When Paul mentions “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height,” he is not talking about four kinds of love. He is talking about the fullness or the vastness of God’s love.
R. Kent Hughes writes the following about the verses.
“1.) A love which is wide enough to embrace the world. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
2.) A love which is long enough to last forever (1 Corinthians 13:8). As Spurgeon said, “It is so long that your old age cannot wear it out, so long your continual tribulation cannot exhaust it, your successive temptations shall not drain it dry; like eternity itself it knows no bounds.”
3.) A love which is high enough to take sinners to Heaven (1 John 3:1, 2).
4.) A love which is deep enough to take Christ to the very depths to reach the lowest sinner (Philippians 2:8).
The Four Magnitudes describe an infinite, incomprehensible love. In A. W. Tozer’s words, ‘… because God is self-existent, His love had no beginning, because he is eternal, his love can have no end, because he is infinite it has no limit, because he is holy it is the quintessence of all spotless purity, because he is immense, his love is an incomprehensibly vast, bottomless, shoreless sea.…’
Christ’s love is indeed incomprehensible, but Paul prays for our comprehension, that we “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp” its dimensions — literally, to take hold of them, to seize them. He knows this is impossible, but he calls us to this grand spiritual exercise for the health of our souls. It is to be our life’s occupation.”[iv]
When we are controlled by the Spirit and filled with His love, we are brought into a place where we can “comprehend” the vast, immeasurable love of God. The word “comprehend” means, “to grasp; to lay hold on.” Only as His love fills us can we grasp what His love means. Only when His love flows through us can others come to “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” To know His love, and to show His love, is to experience a miracle like no other!
I. He Prays For Their Spiritual Power
II. He Prays For Their Spiritual Passion
Paul’s final petition for the Ephesian believers is that they “might be filled with all the fulness of God.” This is a remarkable request. How can the finite hold the infinite? How can something so small contain Someone Who fills all things?
Imagine, if you will, that we are standing beside a great ocean. Before us stretches out and unending vista of water. We are nothing but insignificant specks on the seashore compared to that vast ocean. Now imagine that we dip a gal low bucket into the ocean. That bucket would immediately be filled with the power and fullness of that ocean. Our bucket could not contain all the fullness of that ocean, but it would still be filled with it.
Thus it is with Christ and His church. We dip the puny buckets of our lives into the vast ocean of His glory and we are instantly filled with Him. However, these finite vessels cannot contain all that He is. Yet, we find that being open to His power, His glory and His fullness enables us to hold even more of Him.
Paul is praying that the people of God might know all they can of the fullness of the Lord. He wants them to be vessels filled with the Lord’s power, presence, love and glory. That is only possible as we yield our vessels to Him and allow Him to flow into us until we are filled with nothing but Him. By the way, to be filled with Him implies that we become empty of self.
The word “filled” means “to be full; or to be filled to the fullest.” It speaks of “total domination.” The person filled with anger is dominated by hate. The person filled with wicked desires is dominated by lust. The person filled with happiness is dominated by joy. So, to be “filled with the fulness of God” is to be dominated by Him.
Instead of thinking of our lives as mere buckets that can contain only a small portion of His fullness, think of our lives as ships, which have been sunk in the ocean of His grace, until we are filled completely with all that He is and can give us. We are ships that are dominated by the sea of His glory, driven about by the waves of His will, carried by the whim of His desires. We are His and there is no room in us for us or for anything else, but Him.
Total domination is what the Lord is after. He will not rest until He controls our lives to the fullest. The longer we strive to control our own loves, the harder He will fight us. It is only when we yield to Him fully, that can be filled with all He is. I realize that this is something that will not be fully realized until we are home in Heaven, with a glorified body. But, I also know many have gone a long way toward realizing the goal of being filled with Him. Regardless of where you might be on your journey, it is always possible for you to open yourself to more of Him, His power and HIs presence in your life.
Conc: Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is amazing! He asks for spiritual gifts that an only come from the Lord. Paul steps away from the usual formula for prayer, which goes, “bless me and mine and make us happy,” to “Lord, do whatever it takes to make us holy.”
What does this passage have to say to you about your own prayer life?
· How many need to come and pray that same pray for your own life?
· How many need to come and pray that prayer for your family members and fellow believers?
· How many need to come and deal with problem areas in your life?
· How many need to be honest about the fact that your life is more filled with you then it is with Him?
[i] Adapted from: MacArthur, J. (1996, c1986). Ephesians. Includes indexes. (104). Chicago: Moody Press.
[ii] Adapted from: Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. (Eph 3:16). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
[iii] Adapted from: Hughes, R. K. (1990). Ephesians : The mystery of the body of Christ. Preaching the Word (116). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.