Summary: Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 is that his readers may be filled with God’s love and his power. We do not realise the full potential available to us
We come to the third of our sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians, and this morning it’s chapter three, verses 14 to 21.
This is one of Paul’s prayers; the second he prays in this epistle for the Ephesian Christians. Here we see his love and his concern for these Christians; he’s worried for them, but as he prays he becomes more confident and bolder. His prayer goes up, as it were, in a series of steps, like a prayer ladder, and the last clause in the prayer, as we come to look at it, we shall see that is’s so bold that it almost staggers belief- what Paul is praying for. It’s a request qhich some commentators have tried to water down, but which in its obvious sense is something mind-blowing!
Paul begins in verse 14 by saying For this reason I kneel before the Father. But, for what reason? I think that to understand the prayer and its meaning, its meaning for us, what we can draw from it, we need to understand the reason for Paul praying thus. Paul is, almost, with his pen, allowing us to read in what he’s praying the Father for the Ephesian Christians. And he begins:
For this reason I kneel before the Father. Some commentators would have us look back to chapter two, but I think that’s misleading. Paul says, For this reason. That surely suggests something which has he’s just written. We need go back no further than verse 13: I ask you therefore not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are for your glory. Paul is concerned that these Ephesians Christians with whom he spent so much time, so much love, so much care, so much effort, that they might now be dismayed and even deflected from their goal by what Paul is suffering for his faith
Paul was aware, too, that this Ephesians community was going to coem under suffering, going to come under attack. Paul on his third missionary journey had spent three years with the Ephesians. He then travelled on to other places, but on his way back to Jerusalem he stops off in Ephesus. He wants to give some final words of advice to the leaders of the Ephesian communtiy. Just listen to what he says to them, as recorded in Acts chapter 20:
I know that after I leave savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from you own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away discples to them. So, be on your guard. Remember that for three years I never stopped warning you day and night with tears. Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace which can build you up into the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
This is Paul’s reason for this prayer. We shall understand this prayer much more as we bear this in mind.
A little while ago, I liekened this prayer to a ladder, and I drew that thought first and foremost from two commentators: from John Stott and from James Montgomery Boice. I would follow Boice in saying that there are six steps on this ladder, so I would want us to see, briefly, what Paul prays for on each step of the ladder.
1. He prays that believers woule be strengthened through the Holy Spirit. I pray that out of the glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.
Paul is praying for these Ephesian Christians in face of the suffering they may encounter and their discouragement at his own. It’s because of that that he prays that they may be strengthened through the Holy Spirit; he wants Holy Spirit strength and power to be at work within them. So that they may come triumphantly through this time of trial and testing. And that prayer surely applies to all Christian who have to face times of suffering- that they would be strengthened by the Spirit of God in their lives; strength in the face of suffering, strength also in the face of all kins of circumstances; strength in the face of temptation. We’re all tempted at times, but Paul tells us elsewhere that with every temptation, God provides the way of escape, and it’s through the Holy Spirit in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the One who warns us, who gives us the grace to turn aside, to flee if need be.
But there can be other things too. Perhaps we are somtimes inclined to go in one direction, to make a certain choice, but we know such a choice would be morally wrong. We need the power of God’s Spirit then, so that w3e don’t just make the easy, attractive choice but the one we know God would have us make. John 16 tells us of the ’paraklete’, the Holy Spirit as the one who draws alongside.