PRAYER FOR THE EPHESIANS
One day a young man found a genie-in-a-bottle. This young adult is walking down the beach and comes across an old Arabic looking lamp. He rubs it and out pops a genie. The genie says, “Thank you for freeing me from the lamp. In return I will grant you three wishes.” The man says, “Great! I always dreamed of this and I know exactly what I want. First, I want one billion dollars in a Swiss bank account.” Poof! There is a flash of light and a piece of paper with account numbers appears in his hand. He continues, “Next, I want a brand new red Ferrari right here.” Poof! There is a flash of light and a bright red brand-new Ferrari appears right next to him. He continues, “Finally, I want to be irresistible to women.” Poof! There is a flash of light and he is turned into a box of chocolates.
What is the moral of the story? We need to be careful about what we wish for! We also need to be careful for what we pray for. Today we are continuing in our series on prayer and I want us to take a look at a prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesians.
Ephesians chapter 3 is a wonderful chapter. After taking the first two chapters to describe who we are in Christ, Paul begins by saying “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles …” and you can see him stop and then go off on a tangent. He talks about his own calling, his mission to preach Christ to the Gentiles. He talks about the fact that even though he is called to such a great task he is writing from prison. To encourage the church not to loose heart he prays this prayer;
Eph 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have power. The word power is the Greek word DUNAMIS which means you CAN or are able to do something. Paul is praying here that the Ephesians would have the power or ability to do 3 things:
1. Power to Dwell (vs. 17) – make room for what He has revealed to you
Paul prays that the Ephesians would have power so that, through faith, they would have the ability to make room in their hearts for Christ. The word dwell means “to make a dwelling place.”
On one level, Christ comes to dwell in our hearts when we receive Him by faith. However, Paul is writing here to the church in Ephesus – to Christians. As Christians, are we making room in our hearts for God? Not just receiving Him as savior, but making Jesus Lord of our lives? In this sense, the issue is not IF Christ lives in you, but how COMFORTABLE is He in our hearts. Is Jesus Lord of your life? Have you confined Him to a single room or given him freedom within your heart?
Inviting a person to stay in your house overnight is different than adopting a family member. Jesus is not a houseguest but the head of your household. You can clean your house to “entertain” guests but you can’t do that with family.
Robert Boyd Munger in his very interesting booklet, My Heart- Christ’s Home. He says about this verse, “Without question one of the most remarkable Christian doctrines is that Jesus Christ himself through the Holy Spirit will actually enter a heart, settle down and be at home there. Christ will live in any human heart that welcomes him.”
This booklet pictures the Christian life as a house, through which Jesus goes from room to room. In the library, which is the mind, Jesus finds trash and all sorts of worthless things, and proceeds to throw out and replace w/ His Word. In the dining room of appetite He finds many sinful desires listed on a worldly menu. But in the place of such things as prestige, materialism, and lust He puts humility, meekness, love, and all the other virtues for which believers are to hunger and thirst. He goes through the living room of fellowship, where He finds many worldly companions and activities, through the workshop, where only toys are being made, into the closet, where hidden sins are kept, and so on through the entire house. Only when He has cleaned every room and closet within us can He truly settle down and be at home.
This is the third lesson for an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy. Either way, I would love for all of you to interact with me and each other in the comments section of this blog page. Post insights, ask questions, and discuss the lesson. Let’s get started!
I love technology. I have a laptop, an iPad, an iPhone, and a Kindle. There is no end to the wonders I can perform with these four marvelous tools. With my iPhone alone I can remotely turn on my porch lights, record my favorite television show, and never again lose my car in a parking garage.
The power to do all that and more is in the palm of my hand. Just one problem: My knowledge of how to do it is limited. I can do a lot with these tools – in fact, I’ve even taught others who know less than me. But I still have much to learn before I will be using these devices at their full potential.
The Christian life is similar. Last week we learned that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. As Peter put it, we have everything we need for life and godliness. All this is available to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. But have we learned how to stand on, rest in, and apply these blessings to our lives?
In the passage we studied last week (1:1-14), Paul beautifully elaborated on the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. Then, beginning in verse 15, Paul shifts from praising God for what He has done into thanking God for his readers and interceding with the Father on their behalf.
Read Ephesians 1:15-23.
When Paul wrote this letter, it had been at least five years since he had seen the believers in Ephesus, but he had heard wonderful reports about their faith. Their continued growth encouraged him and fostered thanksgiving. In turn, Paul encouraged them with his letter and prayers for them. Paul’s relationship with the believers in Ephesus demonstrates that God designed our faith to be relational. He never meant for us to be lone Christians! We see this truth all throughout Scripture and will look at it more closely later in this study.
These believers had “every spiritual blessing” and strong faith in Christ, yet Paul still prayed for them. Why? Although the full power of the Holy Spirit resided within them, they had not accessed everything God had already made available. They still had some growing and learning to do. It sounds just like me! How about you?
Look back at verses 15-23. Make a list of the specific things Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus. Focus on verses 17-19.
One thing that helped me see the heart of Paul’s requests for the Ephesians was to temporarily take away the descriptive words and phrases. Here’s what I ended up with:
I pray God will give you insight and discernment so you will grow in your knowledge of Him. I pray God will help you understand: 1) the hope to which He has called you; 2) the riches of your eternal inheritance; and 3) the resurrection power that is available to believers.
Before we take a brief look at each of these, let’s recall how this “insight, discernment, and understanding” is possible. To do that, we’ll take a quick detour to two of Paul’s other letters.
Read Romans 8:9-10. Who lives within every believer?
Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-16. How are believers able to understand spiritual things? How is it possible for believers to grow in their personal knowledge of God?
Growing in Knowledge and Understanding
Now that we’ve confirmed that God is able to answer these prayers through the presence of the Holy Spirit, let’s get back to Paul’s requests. First, Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would grow in their knowledge of God. The Greek word translated as “know” in the NIV and “knowledge” in the ESV is epignosis. It refers to the “fullness of knowledge acquired through personal acquaintance.”
What’s the difference between knowing about someone and knowing them personally?
What are some things you are purposefully doing to get to know God better? Is there something else you could be doing to experience God, His character, and His ways?
Next, Paul prayed that the Ephesians would grow in their understanding of three specific things. He asked God to help them understand the present benefits of their salvation in Christ, their future inheritance as children of God, and the power that made both possible.
The Greek word translated as “calling” or “called” in verse 18 is “used especially of God’s invitation to man to accept the benefits of salvation” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Paul uses the same word in Ephesians 4:1 to refer to our current earthly life. Our relationship with God gives hope for this life, not just the next.
In what ways have you experienced God’s blessings in this life? How does your relationship with God give you hope for today?
Read Titus 3:7, Matthew 25:34, and Galatians 3:26-4:7. Compare these passages to Ephesians 1:5 and 18. These passages help us understand the nature of our “future inheritance.” Check all of the following statements that accurately reflect the teaching of these passages.
___Those God saves become His child and Jesus’ sibling and co-heir.
___God’s heirs will inherit eternal life.
___God’s heirs will share in His Kingdom.
___Each of God’s heirs are on equal standing with all God’s children.
___God’s heirs are Abraham’s seed, children of promise.
___God’s heirs also receive the Spirit of His Son.
Are you reeling yet from the enormity of all God’s promises? If you’re still on your feet – or in your chair – the impact of this next truth should take care of that.
Reread Ephesians 1:19-20. What miracle does Paul say was accomplished by the same power that is working inside believers?
Did you tremble when you answered that question? The exact same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and gave Him authority over all things is the exact same power that is available to believers today!
Believer, what area of your life needs to experience this power today? Are you facing an overwhelming challenge? Does some stronghold have a stranglehold on you? Has God called you to a task, ministry, or area of service for which you feel inadequate? If so, write that below.
Considering the “incomparably great power for us who believe,” how can God work in the area of your life you wrote above?
As Paul ended his prayer in chapter one, he reflected on the power and position of Christ. We serve a Savior who has both the power and authority to rule and reign!
Reread Ephesians 1:20-23. Rewrite these glorious truths about Jesus in your own words.
Here’s two ways we can interact with each other this week:
- Respond to any of today’s questions in the comment section of this post. Share insights, ask questions, or simply praise our God.
- Share ways the rest of the group can pray for you. If you see a request, feel free to post a prayer. That way we can all pray for each other this week.
- Wait! One more thing! I’d also like to know if you accepted last week’s challenge and memorized Ephesians 1:3.
(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians can help us pray for ourselves and others. When we pray Scripture, we can be assured we are praying in God’s will! Print a hard copy of Ephesians 1:15-23. Put it in your Bible or where you have your quiet time. Use it this week to pray for others.
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