Summary: The ability to follow Christ’s commands (to love God and love one another) is only supernaturally bestowed. However, that ability is available to us simply by asking.
1. The first requirement of a working man’s prayer is the right posture. (3:14-15)
2. The second requirement of a working man’s prayer is the right petition. (3:16-19)
3. The third requirement of a working man’s prayer is the right power. (3:20-21)
Our study in the Book of Ephesians has brought us to a transition. The first part of most of Paul’s letters begins with theology. They cover some of the great doctrines of the church. They talk about Who God is and Who Christ is. They talk about salvation and what that means. Here in the first part of Ephesians, he spends a great deal of time talking about the church and what that means. But in almost every one of his letters, Paul moves from that kind of doctrinal talk to more practical talk. Now, don’t get me wrong, doctrine is extremely important. We can only know how to live right when we know how to think right. Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Right living only comes from right thinking. But right thinking doesn’t always result in right living. Sometimes your theology can be right on, but it doesn’t translate over to the way you live your life. Somebody put it like this—your theology can be as straight as a gun barrel and just as empty. That’s why we can’t just focus on the theology. If we just focus on the lifestyle and forget the theology, we’ll become legalists. But on the other hand if we just focus on the theology and forget the lifestyle, we’ll become liberals. Paul included both in this letter to the Ephesian Christians. And what’s interesting is that he began each section with a prayer. If you remember back to our second sermon in Ephesians. We were in chapter 1:15-23 and we covered Paul’s first prayer in Ephesians. That was a prayer that their eyes might be opened to the theological truths God wanted to show them. That they might have wisdom. That they might be enlightened. That they might have revelation in the knowledge of Who Christ is and what He did for them. After he prayed that prayer, Paul went on to show them those truths. He prayed that their eyes would be opened and then he taught them the truth. In our passage this morning, Paul prays a second prayer. This one is quite a bit different. This time, instead of praying that they would understand the theology he was teaching, he prays they would have the strength to follow through with Christ’s commands. His prayer opens this new section of practical day-to-day living by asking for the strength to do it. This morning, I want each of us to see that the ability to do the works God requires of us isn’t something we can do on our own. And when we understand that, I don’t want any of us to leave this place until we have asked God for the ability to do His works that only He can give us. To show us how to ask for that ability, we’re going to look at three requirements of a working man’s prayer. The first requirement is the right posture. Look with me in verses 14-15:
A working man’s prayer must include the right posture. We just finished with Valentines Day, but I’ll tell this story anyway. I’m always late with Valentines anyway. There was a teen-age boy who went into CVS to buy three boxes of chocolate. He picked out a small box, a medium-sized box, and a really large box. Well, that got the man behind the counter curious, so he asked the boy—“Why three different sized boxes?” The boy answered him—“this really hot girl and I have been talking for a few weeks. She’s invited me over to dinner tonight to meet her parents. After dinner, we’re going out. Here’s the plan: if she lets me hold her hand, she gets the small box of candy. If she lets me kiss her on the cheek, she gets the medium-sized box. But, if she lets me kiss her on the lips, she gets the big box.” Then he bought the candy and left. Later that evening, as he sat down to dinner with his girlfriend and her parents, he asked if he could say the blessing. He prayed and he prayed and he prayed. It was the longest blessing ever. Finally, his girlfriend leaned over and said, “You never told me you were such a religious person.” He leaned back and said, “You never told me your father works at CVS.” That boy might have had the right physical posture in his prayer, but he certainly didn’t have the right mental posture. Paul on the other hand had both of them right. In verse 14, we see what his physical posture was—he bowed his knees. Now, does that mean that the only way we can pray is if we’re kneeling? No. God doesn’t require a particular physical position for us to approach His throne in prayer. We can be standing up, sitting down, kneeling, or laying prostrate before Him. Our eyes can be open or closed. We can pray out loud or silently. Our physical posture isn’t nearly as important as our mental posture. But sometimes, our physical posture can help us get in the right mental posture. Kneeling like Paul was doing or falling on our face before God in prayer can remind us of who is serving Who. Sometimes it helps, but it’s not a requirement. But having the right mental posture is. That boy had his head bowed and his eyes closed. He probably had his hands folded and was using the best King’s English in his prayer. But he had the wrong mental posture. He was praying to keep from having to face his girlfriend’s angry father. But look at what Paul’s mental posture was. He recognized Who it was he was praying to. He acknowledged that he was addressing the creator of the universe. The Lord God Almighty. God the Father. God the Son. By calling on God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul recognized his heavenly Father. He recognized His savior. And he recognized the Lord of his life. When we pray, are we always casual about it? Are we always nonchalant? Or do we ever have concentrated times of intimate conversation with the Father? What an awesome privilege God gives us to enter His very presence in prayer. Do we abuse that privilege? Or do we treat it with awe and reverence? I’m not saying that we always have to fall prostrate before the Lord when we pray. There are times of quick prayers. There are times of very informal prayers. The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, so of course we aren’t always formal in our prayers. But the quick prayers and the conversational prayers and the “without ceasing” prayers are set up and made meaningful by the more intimate and formal seasons of prayer. When we start the day with a quiet time of prayer alone with God and His Word, it sets the stage for all the other communications with Him throughout the day. By starting off our day with the right physical posture of prayer and the right mental posture of prayer, God gives us the strength we need to live for Him the rest of the day. He gives us the strength to do the works He wants us to do. He gives us the strength to work. The first requirement of a working man’s prayer is the right posture. The second requirement of a working man’s prayer is the right petition. Look with me in verses 16-19