By Semi-Retired Pastor Jeremy Stopford

“14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you,  being rooted and grounded in love,  18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints  what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;  that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly  above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations,  forever and ever. Amen.

    — Ephesians 3:14-21 [NKJV]

   How does it make you feel when someone tells you, “Hey – I’ve been praying for you!”?  Don’t you feel that, either #1 “Great!  I sure could use prayer!”, or #2 “Wow!  What’s WRONG with me that I needed prayer?”.

   And even though we are challenged to pray for others, our natures tend to cause us to pray mainly for…ourselves and for our needs.

   Like the little boy who prayed, “Lord, I’m not praying for anything for myself, just a new bike for my BROTHER that we BOTH can ride.”

   Our text shows a neat thing.  Paul is praying for the CHURCH!

   First, he prays for the PURPOSE of the church.  Notice verse 14:  “For this reason” (or “cause”).  What reasons?

   * Being the objects of the Father’s affection (Chapter 1, especially verses 3-4)

   * Being the objects of the Son’s work (Chapter 2, especially verses 20-22)

   * Being the objects of the eternal mystery (Chapter 3, especially verses 10-11)

   * Being the object of the eternal work which may cause temporary struggles (Chapter 3, especially verse 13).

   Chapters 1-3 is the doctrinal section section of this book.  Paul wants to be sure that doctrine is carefully applied.  So what does he do?  He PRAYS for the church!

   Second, for the rest of the chapter Paul prays for the PRACTICE of the church, as seen in verses 14-19.  What do you suppose guides that practice?  First all all Paul looks at the SUFFICIENCY of the Father (verses 14-15).  This leads me to a question:  have you ever heard of – or even voiced the phrase – “the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man”.  Such  folks who hold to such a teaching have no need for personal redemption, for the cross, for the blood of the Lamb.  There would be no need for redemption under that thinking because, think of that, no Savior would be needed if EVERYONE is born a child of God.  Hmmm.  

   But there is another extreme:  there is the elimination of God’s existence!  And if we were really honest with ourselves, that is what the world is trying to do on a massive scale today.

   What is the Biblical balance?   For one, God IS in charge!  Matthew 5:45 says, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”   Let me ask you a question here:  have you ever heard a weatherman apologize for being wrong?  You bet – all the time!  Why?  Because “Mother Nature” and “Jack Frost”, despite his nipping at your nose, are NOT in charge.  Our Father is!

   Furthermore, God is the Author of life – and He wants…WORSHIP!  Have you read Psalm 139:13-18 lately?  Please do, and when you do, note especially verse 14,  “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”  And  remember the psalmist’s plea in verses 23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Do I fully fathom the depth of the Father’s hunger for my worship?  Do you?

   That reminds me of the marvelous, amazing story of the admiral of the boat directing it into harbor.  He hears a voice over his radio, “Commander of the ship –   turn 90 degrees starboard”.  The Admiral says to himself, “you’re nuts, I’m going the way I want.  I’ve gone this way many times.”  So he refuses to answer, and continues as he is going.  Soon a voice returns, “Commander of the ship – turn 90 degrees starboard, now!”.  The Admiral says to himself, “this guy has been smoking some whacky weed – there is no way I am going to obey a mysterious voice.”   It wasn’t long that the voice came back…”you must turn now!”.  Finally, the Admiral had enough.”You don’t understand.  I am the ADMIRAL OF THIS SHIP!!!”  And the voice says, “And I am the KEEPER OF THE LIGHTHOUSE!”

   The Lord hungers for His worship, for He alone is worthy of both our eternal as well as our daily worship and trust.

   The second guide of the practice is the STRENGTH of the Holy Spirit (verse 16).   Notice that the Holy Spirit’s “practice” is “according to the riches of His glory”.  I once heard the story – really! – of some missionaries who sought to enter Fort Knox, the holder of our nation’s gold.  They went up to the door – really!  They sought entrance to share with the overseers of Fort Knox about the love of God in Christ.  Of course, those keepers would not let them in.  On the other hand, the believer in Christ can go into God’s storehouse at any time!

   The STRENGTH of the Spirit is also seen in the “inner man”, the location of the REAL me.  Colossians 3 would be a good cross reference for learning about the working of the Holy Spirit in the “inner man”.  

Romans 6:6 is helpful as well:  “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”  The fruit of all this is that the Lord Himself will be on display in our lives!

   And third, our prayer is enhanced in a most practical way by the SETTLEMENT of the Son!  Verse 17 says in part, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts”.  WAIT A MINUTE!  I thought He already did!   Let me think through this salvation thing!  Jesus – the King of kings and Lord of lords – left Heaven’s glory, God becoming man, and ultimately died on the cross for my sin.  I have trusted that truth for my salvation.  He only is my HOPE!  So why does Christ have to further “dwell in my heart”?  What is the function of His “dwell”-ing in my heart?  The word “dwell” is a RICH word.  It means “to settle down;  abide; make His permanent home” .  WHAT?  Yes, it means to be HOME AT LAST!  

   How does that work?  Simply put, the believer goes through the day with Christ WITH you!    I’m reminded of the pastor who came a parishioner’s home to have lunch there after church one Sunday.  The father of the home asked the pastor to “return thanks for the food”.  He gave a simple prayer, and then all began to eat.  However, the little boy belted out, “PASTOR, YOU DON’T PRAY LONG WHEN YOU’RE HUNGRY, DO YOU?”  

   But the believer dwelling in Christ means that he is surrounded by God’s grace.  He is also filled with “the fullness of Christ.”  (Verse 19).  This means that he is “flooded” with His presence!  See 1:23.  Wow!  All that while in prayer!

   So brethren – how should we end our prayers?  Do we say, “Yahoo!  I’m done!”.  For many of us we say, “Phew!  I’m finished!”.  But our servant leader the apostle Paul says we should close our prayer in praise.  “PRAISE”? (Verses 20-21)  Yes, indeed!  Look at verse 21, as this brings us back to reality:  “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”  This is HIS program.  We are to pray, AND we are to give praise!

   There is a TRUE story from back in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s of the tightrope walker who set up a tightrope across Niagara Falls.  Before he began his “walk” across the Falls, he asked his crowd, “Who believes that I am able to cross the Falls walking only on this tightrope?”  Most everyone raised his or her hand.  Then he followed it up with another question:  “well then, who believes that I can cross the Falls on this tightrope with a person on my shoulders?”.  Once again, most of the crowd agreed, including everyone in the front row of onlookers.  He then went up to one of those who raised his hand  “yes” and asked, “well then, will you allow me to put you on my shoulders – if you really believe I can do it?”.  

   The Lord’s program is the same!  It is the proving that He is Who He says He is, working through the program He is building – His church!  And finally, the Lord’s program is amazingly to bring glory to Christ through His church.