Summary: Paul was writing from prison yet prayed for the church that they gain spiritual power. What is this power and how can it empower us today?
One of Terri’s all-time favorite movies is Aladdin. Now, I’m not talking about the live-action remake. If you’re going to watch Aladdin with her, it had better be the original Disney cartoon. The villain of the movie was Jafar, the grand vizier of Agraba. Jafar was the chief advisor, second in command, in a position similar to that of Joseph in Egypt. But that just wasn’t enough. Throughout the movie, we see him chase after more power until it proves to be his demise.
At the beginning of the movie, Jafar is trying to find someone described as the diamond in the rough in order to retrieve the magic lamp from the Cave of Wonders. It turns out that Aladdin fit the bill, but he outwitted Jafar and became the master of the genie.
Towards the end of the movie, Jafar gets his hands on the lamp. For his first wish, he wished to rule on high as sultan. The genie grants the wish, transferring the sultan’s attire to Jafar and then uprooting the entire castle and setting it on top of a nearby mountain so he’d literally be ruling on high.
Jafar demands that the sultan and Princess Jasmine bow before him. When they refuse, he declares, “You won’t bow before a sultan, you’ll cower before a sorcerer!” He then makes his second wish, to be the most powerful sorcerer in the world.
Aladdin tries to get the lamp back, but Jafar seems to be one step ahead of him, thwarting his attempts. But then Aladdin tricks Jafar, telling him, “The genie has more power than you’ll ever have. He gave you your power, he can take it away, you’re STILL just second best!”
Jafar realizes that Aladdin is right and makes his third wish- to be an all-powerful genie. As he is reveling in his newfound power, Aladdin picks up the new magic lamp and reminds him, “Not so fast Jafar, aren’t you forgetting something? You wanted to be a genie, you got it and everything that goes with it. Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty bitty living space!” Jafar is sucked into the lamp.
Some of you may be wondering, “Why would I share this story today?” We’re beginning a new series entitled “Pray Like Paul.” This month, we’re going to look at how Paul prayed for the church and hopefully be inspired to follow his example. Today, we’re going to examine how Paul prayed for spiritual power and as I pondered this concept, it occurred to me how Jafar is the complete antithesis of the kind of attitude we need when seeking God’s spiritual power.
What do I mean? Let’s begin by getting the end of our passage in mind. Paul is praying for the church to gain spiritual strength. This prayer was not to strengthen the church so we can lord our power over others or draw attention to ourselves. Let’s take a sneak peek at Ephesians 3:21 (read). To God be the glory is the result that Paul is seeking as he prays this prayer.
Why pray this prayer, why pray for spiritual power? The verses leading up to the prayer indicate that Paul is writing this letter from prison. He knows the Ephesians are aware of his circumstances and they’re very concerned for him. Things are not looking very good for Paul. But Paul knows the power of prayer, He knows how God can work in circumstances like his.
I wonder if the things that happened to Peter in Acts 12 weren’t on the back of Paul’s mind as he was writing. Seeing how the people responded to the execution of John’s brother James, King Herod arrested Peter. We’re told in verse 5 (read). The following verses go on to tell us that God sent an angel to Peter the night before Herod was going to take action. Peter thought he was having a vision as the angel woke him up and guided him to freedom. When he realized the events were real, he went straight to the house of Mary, where he knew the church had gathered to pray for him.
On a side note, when Peter knocked on the door, they had a hard time believing it was actually him. Now, how often do we go to God in prayer only half-believing He’ll act on it and then are shocked to see the prayer answered? We need to remember that the God to whom we’re praying has the power to answer.
As Paul shares his prayer for the church, he turns their attention away from his circumstance. He tells them he bows his knees before the Father. He humbles himself in the presence of God and he prays, not for himself, not for his situation, but for the strength of the church.
In the first part of his prayer, Paul identifies all three persons of the Trinity. He knows that only God is capable of answering prayers, and he points out the roles that the Father, Son, and Spirit take on so that prayers are answered. He identifies God the Father. When he states that it is from the Father that every family in heaven and on earth is named, He is declaring that God is our creator. He identifies God the Spirit as the one who gives us strength. He identifies God the Christ who will dwell in our hearts.