Summary: The church and our nation don't seem to be in a good spot and need much prayer. The church in Ephesus was in a similar spot and Paul knew that they needed prayer desperately. Have we been focusing on praying for the church in our nation?
Opening illustration: A friend told me about a neighbor who years ago spent most of his spare time planting trees. The man seldom watered the young trees because he thought that too much watering spoiled them. (He came from the “no pain, no gain” school of plant care.) Pampered trees, he said, made for shallow roots, and deep roots were something to be treasured.
My friend told me that he often walks by the old place and looks at the trees his neighbor planted 25 years earlier. They’re rugged, strong, and durable now. Tall and tough. Adversity and deprivation seem to have benefited them in ways that being sheltered and pampered couldn’t.
All of this makes me think about the way I pray for others. I’m inclined to pray that God will spare my family and friends from hardship, but lately I’ve changed my praying. I don’t ask for an easy life for them, for that may not come in this world. Instead, I try to echo the prayer of the apostle Paul for the believers in Ephesus (3:14-19). I ask that their roots will go down deep into the love of God—experiencing a close relationship with Him—so they’ll grow up sturdy and strong. Then when the winds of adversity blow, they won’t be swept away but will stand tall as a testimony of faith. (David H. Roper, ODB)
Introduction: I'm especially encouraged when a wise, mature, Spirit-filled saint, who really knows how to pray, comes up to me and says, “Ajai; I want you to know that I'm praying for you.” To know that I'm being prayed for by someone like that makes me very eager to see their prayer answered! And I'm even more encouraged when I find out the specific details of what they are asking God for concerning me.
And what's more, I find such prayers to be motivating. When I learn that a saintly Christian is praying that I become a specific kind of man, or that I begin to take on certain specific characteristics of Christian maturity, or that I begin to do some specific thing that he or she believes God is calling me to do, I am inspired to grow, or behave more like, or to do that thing that they are praying for.
This morning, I'm going to ask that we look at just such a prayer from just such a Christian. Apostle Paul may have been one of the greatest Christian’s who ever lived. He demonstrated a life-commitment to the Savior that was total. He had been given an understanding of the truths of the Christian faith that was deeper and more profound than could be found among any other redeemed human being. He had been given a practical and experiential grasp of our riches in Christ that was beyond parallel. He was a man who was utterly consumed and driven by the love of Christ. And that's what makes his prayer for the church such an important one to consider.
How to intercede for the body of Christ?
1. Strengthen the Inner Man (vs. 14-16)
Paul's posture is significant: he bows his knees, whereas standing (Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11) was normal among the Jews. Kneeling is an indication of an attitude of worship, reverence, adoration, and praise. This posture is mentioned in Scripture numerous times: Solomon knelt before the altar of the Lord to pray (1 Kings 8:54 and 2 Chronicles 6:13). Ezra fell upon his knees to pray (Ezra 9:5). Daniel prayed upon his knees three times daily (Daniel 6:10). Jesus knelt down to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:41). Stephen knelt as he forgave his enemies (Acts 7:60). Peter kneeled down to pray before raising Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:39-42). At his farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus, Paul and those he was addressing knelt down and prayed together (Acts 20:36). Paul did this again with other disciples (Acts 21:5).
The phrase in v. 15 Paul was speaking of the saved, both Old and New Testament, those alive and those already in heaven. This is the only time in Scripture where the term "family" is used to describe the saints, although that idea is implied many times by the use of the word "brother" or "sister" when referring to a fellow believer.
One of the glorious truths that the Bible teaches us is that, when someone becomes a believer in Jesus Christ and is saved by Him, the Father sends the Holy Spirit - the third divine Person of the triune Godhead—to dwell in them. As Paul says, we are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession …” (Ephesians 1:13-14). He not only dwells “with” us, but also “in” us (John 14:17). And here, Paul prays that the resident Holy Spirit would do His work in the inner person of that believer - that he or she would be strengthened through the Holy Spirit with respect to his or her will, conscience, and mind - the “inner man”; from which so much of a person's life flows.