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Summary: Ephesians 3:14-19 shows Paul praying for God to empower the family of believers and grant them a greater knowledge of his extraordinary love for them.

Scripture

Today we get to the prayer that the Apostle Paul began in Ephesians 3:1. Having started to pray for the believers in verse 1, Paul then broke off into a digression in which he talked about the mystery of the gospel which had been revealed to him (namely, that God was making a new family of believers out of saved Jews and Gentiles), and about the ministry of the gospel to which God had called him. Now, in verse 14, the Apostle Paul gets back to praying for the family of believers.

Let's read about Paul's family prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Introduction

In his commentary on Ephesians, John Stott writes, "One of the best ways to discover a Christian's chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. We all pray about what concerns us, and are evidently not concerned about matters we do not include in our prayers. Prayer expresses desire."

That is so true, isn't it? Prayer expresses the desire of our hearts. When we ask for prayer requests, so many of our prayer requests are for ourselves or health concerns.

How different is the prayer of the Apostle Paul. In the last half of Ephesians 3 he pours out his heart to God in prayer for the believers in Ephesus.

Lesson

Ephesians 3:14-19 shows Paul praying for God to empower the family of believers and grant them a greater knowledge of his extraordinary love for them.

Let's use the following outline:

1. The Reason for the Prayer (3:14)

2. The Addressee of the Prayer (3:14-15)

3. The Content of the Prayer (3:16-19)

I. The Reason for the Prayer (3:14)

First, let's look at the reason for the prayer.

In his commentary on Ephesians, Kent Hughes writes:

Perhaps you have the same problem I have-my mind sometimes wanders as I pray. As I begin to make petition I pray for my mother, and as I think about her I envision my family home where she still lives. The vision includes my high school hot rod-a gray-prime red '41 Ford with racing slicks and the pinstriped epigram "Swing low, sweet chariot" just under the driver's window. Next, I am behind the wheel heading down Beach Boulevard for Huntington Beach and some bodysurfing! What began so properly and spiritually ends up being a stroll down Memory Lane-or, even worse, a frenetic run through my worries! I need a prayer list!

Does your mind ever wander when you pray? I know mine does. And so did the mind of the Apostle Paul. To be sure, his wandering mind was much more spiritual than mine. Paul began his prayer in Ephesians 3:1, only to break off into a digression about the mystery of the gospel and his call to the ministry of that gospel in verses 2-13, and then he returned to his prayer in verse 14. This is clear when reading verses 1 and 14 together: "For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles…For this reason I bow my knees before the Father." Perhaps Paul needed a prayer list too.

"For this reason" is stated in verse 1 and repeated in verse 14. Everything between these verses is a parenthesis. So, "for this reason" refers to what Paul wrote prior to chapter 3. Tony Merida writes, "Two chapters of God's amazing grace preceded chapter 3. Gratitude for the grace of God in chapters 1-2 prompted this prayer in chapter 3. Paul was stunned at God's grace in saving sinners individually and at his grace in uniting them corporately."

When we think about God's amazing grace, about God who called us, regenerated us, justified us, adopted us, and forgave us, we should go to God in prayer too. Do we?

Before we leave the reason for Paul's prayer, I want you to notice his posture. Paul said at the end of verse 14, "…I bow my knees before the Father." This may not strike us as unusual, especially if we are accustomed to kneeling when we pray. However, John Stott notes that "the normal posture for prayer among the Jews was standing. In Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the Publican both men stood to pray (Lk. 18:11, 13). So, kneeling was unusual." The question I ask, then, is: why was it unusual to kneel in prayer? Stott says, "It indicated an exceptional degree of earnestness, as when Ezra confessed Israel's sins of penitence, Jesus fell on his face to the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Stephen faced the ordeal of martyrdom." The Bible actually does not prescribe a particular posture for prayer. It is possible to pray standing, kneeling, walking, sitting, and even lying down.

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