ALIVE Prayer | Ephesians 3:14-21
Topic: New Testament Passage: Ephesians 3:14–3:21
Christopher Rich – November 3, 2019
ALIVE | The Way Unearned | PART VII
ALIVE PRAYER | Ephesians 3:14-21
Introduction | Prayer
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue our series walking the through the book of Ephesians called ALIVE: The way Unearned where we see life with God has been given to us.
In Christ, we have been made alive for a purpose. To live in the way God has created us. Both the rewards of and endurance in this life are by His grace alone so they are by nature unearned.
Pray is difficult. Why? We’re recognizing we a bit inadequate to navigate our lives and there are issues and circumstances that are bigger than we are, or we feel disconnected, so we start to talk to God.
We lose focus – because we get to easily distracted. Our minds are always running so fast we have a thousand different things creep up in to our head and what begins as focused communion turns to a cacophony of noise.
We are self-focused- we come to God when we need something (and because we do, we’re both self-focused with our needs and self-conscience about how self-focused we are. We pray our desires and when we begin to pray we realize how much of our deep desires are for ourselves in some way. Prayer can be shame inducing.
We hate awkward! – So we don’t pray for others because when you’re in a group there is too much quiet, or people start to get weird. We wonder if we’re doing it right. – We compare to others. We think it should be a certain way then we hear others pray and we’re like “shoot” I don’t do that!! I don’t even think like that!
We wonder if it works- We try it and we don’t get what we pray for immediately, so we throw our hands up and keep walking through life disconnected, distracted, and discouraged. Gospel Prayer (Alive Prayer) - Let’s be honest about our struggles with prayer and let’s be honest about our need for prayer. So we don’t pray because we think life is more dependent on ourselves. Or we become motivated to pray because we think that in the “work” of prayer we will earn favor from God. Prayer is not performance; it is entering into the presence of God desiring the peace of God in our lives and this world. It is necessary.
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther
This first half of Ephesians, where the church is reminded of the story and glory of God revealed in and through the Gospel of Jesus, closes with a powerfully poetic prayer for the people of God to experience the fullness of what it means to be Alive with God. To be Alive is to know we are people in great need.
PART I | The Posture We Need | Ephesians 3:14-16a
Eph 3:14-16a |14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory
Prayer in context. “for this reason” is both looking backward and forward. Looking back to have boldness, access, confidence through faith in Christ, since we have that, “for that reason”….. I bow my knee before the Father. Paul comes to God in prayer for God’s people. There is a posture remembering and requesting.
Posture of Humility - It was normal for Jews at the time to pray standing up. To be kneeling in prayer is to show both great humility and a sense of urgency. It is a posture of pleading. There is an earnestness and an eagerness. In prayer, we are actually lowering ourselves because we know we are not the greatest source of power, wisdom, and love in the universe or in our individual lives. The posture of our bodies in prayer is not as important as the posture of our hearts. Our heart posture maters because it determines if we’re approaching God with entitlement or with humility. We naturally have a sense of entitlement. We can easily think we know what should happen in any situation and we’re coming to God like He’s a cosmic barista who got our drink order wrong and now we want Him to fix it. So our prayers aren’t requests they’re orders. Change everything God, except me. Humility is necessary as we approach the God who created everything. We pray with a posture of humility not the pretense of it. Prayer is pleading in the presence of the Father, not poetry for the enjoyment of the saints. Humility before God also includes being patient enough to listen. God is all knowing, all powerful, all loving and good, but often we forget that God is patience. As much as we are not as knowing, powerful, and good as good we are also not as patient. Prayer is an act of slowing down. At times it is actively being inactive. We pray with a posture of humility because of God’s authority. Humility comes from knowing How glorious God is. We have a posture of humility because we know who we are in relation to God. We’re not built to understand or be in charge of our own lives, let alone the world. The more we try to hold on for control the more things become chaotic.
Posture of being Part of a People - We are part of “we”…. Jesus tells us to pray this way “Our Father.” We are part of a family. Paul is praying individually “I bow my knees” to “The Father” We’re praying to “Our Father” yes, He’s your Dad, but he’s also “Our Father!” He is the Father of every family on earth (diverse global family) and in Heaven. That means all believers for all time. Those on earth now and those in Heaven now are part of one family that is currently separated by life and death but one day will be united forever. While we are part of this family now, we long for that forever but recognize it is not yet. Are we alone and isolated? No! We also have great access to God because, in Christ, He our father, regardless of what family we have come from. So while there is absolutely reverence, it is in the context of relationship. We are in the family! We come to God the Father with a reverent Awe, while realizing we have unfettered access, and resting in our acceptance. We Have access! We should use it!
Posture of Giving and Receiving - We are before God giving Him Glory and receiving His grace. When we are giving God glory, we are not giving him something He doesn’t already have or something that we possess on our own. We’re not that glorious, it says glory is His! Prayer is where we give to God, but what are we actually giving him? It cannot be glory because we’re not rich in that. What are we rich in? Fear, desire to control what we cannot, anxiety, and exhaustion. So when we come to God in prayer we come bearing these gifts to throw at His feet. Prayer is an act of trust in God and a humble acknowledgement that we are people in great need. We are not sufficient on our own, God already knows this. God already knows you’re tired, anxious, fearful, and desiring to control what we weren’t designed too. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you “rest”, cast your anxiety on Him because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7) Paul in Philippians says “don’t be anxious but instead in prayer with thanksgiving give to God your requests”. So we give up our pretenses of control and our great fears to a God who is greater than our fear. There is nothing more humbling than knowing we are in prayer before a glorious God and nothing more honoring that knowing we have access to a gracious God. He is rich in Glory and He is gracious to us. This means God is both big, powerful, mighty, glorious, and God is near, kind, loving, and gracious. You are known by God. Act like it! Come to Him. Give Him what you cannot handle and receive from Him what you truly need. Expect Him to answer with great power with what He knows you need.
PART II | The Power we Need | Ephesians 3:16b-19
Eph 3:16b-19 | he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
We are weak, unloving, insecure, empty, and broken. In Prayer, we’re given powerful answers we need for life.
ALIVE Prayer gives us power us to be STRENGTHENED by the Holy Spirit (16b-17a)- To be Spirit-less is to be powerless. God, through the Holy Spirit, grants us power and strength at the soul level. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, God has made us alive to have this faith. We are alive because we have been made alive by the Holy Spirit. In Christ, and we live life because Christ is in us. Yet we face external opposition, internal discouragement, suffer bouts of anxiety, and seasons of apathy. Prayer isn’t asking for something we don’t have but accessing something we already possess and have already been given. The word strengthened means “fortified, braced, invigorated” there is a protection against the enemy (external), prevention of decay (internal), and propelling down the way of life unearned(onward).
Alive Prayer gives us the power to be rooted and grounded in LOVE (17b) We need this power not for our prideful desires, but to be directed to the love of Christ. We are given needed power to give and receive, experience and embody, love. You have a mixed metaphor that is both agricultural and architectural.
Tree - Love is what gives us growth. Growth is by nature organic. Healthy, living things grow. Love is what helps us flourish as we have roots going deep into the soul to draw nutrients for greater life. In prayer, being rooted in love we’re going back to the garden with God where we eat of the tree of life given to us by God.
Temple - Love is what gives us a firm foundation like a well-grounded building. The Temple = Presence of God Forgiveness of Sin. In prayer being grounded in love we are entering the temple, the dwelling place of God, and at times to do business with God. The temple is a place of communion and connection. But also, a place of confession and contrition. We can come before God confessing our sin knowing IN love, He has already provided the perfect sacrifice for our sin in Christ Jesus. So in love we come to God needing and receiving forgiveness. Christ’s Love is what drives our development as disciples and love is where we rest knowing we’re dwelling in communion with the God who loves us. Alive Prayer helps worship be established, and life enjoyed.
ALIVE Prayer gives us power to have Knowledge of Christ’s Love (18-19a) We need The Holy Spirits power to understand with “all the saints”, this is something we do together, the comprehensive nature of God’s love for His people shown in Jesus. We need this power individually for Christ to dwell in us, and we need this power corporately for Christ to unify us as His church. Know we do not have have the ability to comprehend that which is not comprehendible without the work and the power of the Spirit in our lives. If you have any understanding of the Love of God in Christ, we need to recognize it is the Holy Spirit that does all of this!
The love of Christ great and wide ranging we see this in the comprehensive nature of the language used.
“Yet is seems legitimate to say that the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind, ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and ‘high’ enough to exalt him to heaven.” – John Stott
This love of Christ is on display in the church as we see a people who are all in deep need of the Grace of Jesus called from every tribe and tongue in the world to be exalted with Christ for eternity! Yet the Love of Christ surpasses knowledge, meaning it’s not something we can fully download and have on our own or even collectively as the church, so we need to be on constant connection to the power to know (comprehend the Power and love of Christ. Power of God pushes us to the Love of God.
ALIVE Prayer Gives us the Power to experience the FULLNESSS of God (19b) – Fullness of knowledge, experience, peace. - This knowledge, love, and strength is all for the purpose of you having greater fullness, wholeness, peace with God. The purpose of this power is to know love and for us to be filled with life from God. God is the goal. Fullness means we have the power to live life with God and for God. To have the power of God applied to our lives. This fullness with have implications to every aspect of our lives so as he prays this he’s prepping us all for the transformation of our daily and temporal lives in chapters 4-6. We are daily (if not in a straight line) growing in our sense of fullness, wholeness, and peace, but it’s work and power of the Holy Spirit that will transform you. He’s going to remodel ever room of your heart so you will see things differently and do things differently than you ever would. This being filled with the fullness of God isn’t like a small tank that’s loaded up but an overflowing life of connection with God. We Need this regular provision.
PART III | The Provision We Need | Ephesians 3:20-21
Eph 3:20-21 | 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Who are we praying to? You wonder if it’s worth it or if God is worthy of our prayers? To be Alive is to pray to the God who is capable of doing more than we can expect or imagine. Knowing God is capable of more than we imagine reminds us He is more than capable of providing what we need truly need. Paul begins with God’s glorious identity and ends with God’s overwhelming ability. God is the Father of the whole family of God who is rich in Glory AND God is at work with in each of us powerfully showing His glory through us.
God is able. God listens. God knows what we think and imagine. God can do more beyond what we can consider necessary or reasonable. God has expectations that are greater than ours and He’s able to give, do, act, and answer more lavishly than we’re capable of considering. This means He’s not limited by our prayers and or even our own imaginations. Our prayers are too small! We pray things that our big to us but small to God! God is calling us to pray Bigger and in doing so we are recognizing (and worshipping) His greatness. We’re praying to a God who is more than capable! God has unlimited love and power.
Prayer is not a wish sent out in to a powerless ether, it is our hope declared in an eternal powerful God.
He enacts His power through us individually – we each have faith and His power is in us. We have ability, because of our identity, and are promised great security all from God. HIS POWER – in us HIS Glory – In church (Pray for the church!) and in Christ. So to have this connection and life with God you need to repent of trying to live independent of God and to rest and rely on Jesus working in your place who lived the life you could not, died the death you deserve and rose again so you could be made new and have new life of humility and dependence joy and endurance. Repent of sin and become part of God’s people. When? now and forever, all generations is all of history forever is the future eternity. Amen – So be it, let it be done. Alive Prayer in all times and circumstances is an Absolute Affirmation that we Trust Jesus!
We can’t just talk about prayer or talk about God without actually spending some time talking with God. This morning we are going to practice and have some time to pray together as a group, but silently.
Let’s start Big and work in
GOD’S Character and Nature (identity) | POWER, WISE, LOVING, Patience
World – Affairs (Specifically EQUIP – Burkina)
REGION – Election this week, PRC
CITY – HOMELESSNESS, SCHOOL District, MESH HOUSE
CHURCH – Community, Gospel Centrality, Growth (Rooted and foundation) Love.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS – Salvation, flourishing, relationships, marriages
YOUR SELF – Joy, Rest, Knowledge of the Love of Christ – Confession of Sin - Comfort of the Gospel Peace – Wholeness. Purpose of sharing Gospel, God working in us. Holy Spirit filling you with presence and power. Give you Anxiety, fear, insecurity, exhaustion.
Back to Christ (God’s ability) – Glory Now and Forever.
PRAY- Praise God for giving us access to pray to Him with both reverence for who He is and expectation of provision as a loving Father. Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding of the Love of Christ. Thank God for His work in your life and our church.