Summary: By studying Paul’s prayer in the third chapter of Ephesians, we can discovering several key points that help us pray with power.
How to Pray with Power
[Transition from drama…] How many of you need a prayer support group this morning? We make it harder than it needs to be, don’t we?
1. Biblical praying should always begin with an acknowledgment of who God is. He is our Holy Father, who is in command of His kingdom. Our prayers should be centered on His glory, not ours.
2. As we contemplate God’s splendor, we’ll be aware of our own sinfulness. God desires that we humble ourselves, confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and turn from our wicked ways.
3. Our prayers should be bold and spontaneous, not trite and routine. God longs for us to come boldly and without hesitation into His presence and to lay our requests out before Him.
4. God not only loves to hear His children pray, He often chooses to work in tandem with our prayers. As we learned last week, sometimes God delays His plans until His people begin to pray.
Please turn in your Bibles to Ephesians 3:14-21. Follow along with me as I read this great prayer passage from the New Living Translation.
Before we jump into interpreting this text and looking for some points of application, let’s begin by making a few observations. By the way, one of the best ways to study the Bible is to follow these three steps:
What does it say? That’s observation.
What does it mean? That’s interpretation.
What does it mean to me? That’s application.
Let me make just a few observations that will help us understand this passage better.
1. Paul’s mind wandered when He prayed. That’s good news, isn’t it? My mind roams all over the place when I pray! Take a look at 3:1: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles…” It sounds like he’s getting ready to pray and then he spends the next 12 verses talking about the beauty and mystery of the church. When we come to 3:14, he finally returns to his prayer.
2. This prayer is Trinitarian. All three members of the Trinity are referred to in Paul’s prayer. Verse 14: “I kneel before the Father…” Verse 16: “I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit…” And in verse 17: “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts…” The most common way to pray in the Bible is to address prayers to the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. However, it’s certainly appropriate to address Jesus and the Holy Spirit when we pray.
3. This prayer is focused on our inner person, not on our bodies. So many of our prayers have to do with our health and physical needs. Paul is concerned more with how we’re doing on the inside. In fact, all of Paul’s prison prayers (those prayers he recorded while in prison,) deal with the believer’s spiritual condition, not the physical. There is certainly nothing wrong with praying for physical health we’re going to focus on this next Sunday, but Paul’s primary concern is internal, not external.
4. Paul’s emotions are fully engaged. The Apostle did not try to just pray with his mind he threw his heart into his prayers. He didn’t try the Serenity Prayer like Pam did or just thoughtlessly repeat God’s name like Drama Doug did. I picture Paul praying with fervency and a sense of urgency, much like Daniel did.
5. This prayer is focused on the need for power. The word “power” or “strengthen” is used four different times. This is the second prayer recorded in Ephesians. The first one is found in Ephesians 1:15-23 where Paul’s concern is for enlightenment so that we might know God’s power. Here in chapter 3, he prays for empowerment so that we might use the divine power available to us.
I was greatly helped in my preparation for this message by Warren Wiersbe’s outline of Ephesians 3. He suggests that this prayer can be broken down into three parts:
I. The Invocation (14-15)
II. The Petition (16-19)
III. The Benediction (20-21)
Let’s begin by looking at Paul’s invocation in verses 14-15. The first thing we notice is his posture: “I kneel.” Can you imagine what this must have been like for the Roman soldier who was chained to Paul? The Bible never commands us to pray using a certain position, although the most common way to pray was to stand up.
When Paul says that he kneels, the direct translation from the Greek is, “I bend my knee before the Father.” This is an act of humble petition. Think about your own posture in prayer for a minute. You may use several different positions. You may sit and pray while you’re reading your Bible. You may stand and pray. But there are times when out of desperation or because of a circumstance, that we feel compelled to fall on our knees in an earnest prayer of intercession. That’s what Paul was doing here.