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Sermon #44 — Ephesians Sermons
Title: My Prayer for You
Text: Ephesians 3:13-21
Subject: Paul’s Prayer for God’s Family
Date: Tuesday Evening — July 19, 2016
Readings: Lindsay Campbell and Merle Hart
I often ask you to pray for me, as I endeavor to lead you in the cause of Christ, as I study, seek God’s message for you, and preach to you. I constantly ask you to pray for me as you send me from one place to another to preach the gospel, and as I write, publishing the gospel of Christ as far and wide as the Lord graciously opens doors of utterance before us.
Oh, that our God would bless our efforts in this regard, for the glory of Christ, the salvation of his elect, and the edification of his saints! I am more keenly aware today than ever that my most ardent study and labor is but vanity, unless it is blessed and made effectual by God the Holy Ghost. So I constantly ask you to pray for your pastor.
I assure you that I do not cease to pray for you. And that is what I want to talk to you about in this message. If you will turn to the 3rd chapter of Ephesians, I want to read to you and then talk to you about— My Prayer for You — My Prayer for You (Ephesians 3:13-21). I take the Apostle’s words for my own. This is my prayer for you. Oh, may God be pleased to grant it for Christ’s sake!
(Ephesians 3:13-21) “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (14) For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of 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 by his Spirit in the inner man; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (20) Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (21) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
The Apostle Paul was deeply affected by a heart-felt closeness and union God’s elect, his family. He lived, preached, and suffered for the sake of his family, the church. The prayer that is contained in this third chapter of Ephesians is a remarkable example of the love of faithful pastors for God’s people.
In the previous verses he had described to the church his attitude toward the ministry. To this man, preaching the gospel was not an irksome task that he was required to perform. It was his great joy to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. He counted it a gift of God’s grace. Therefore, he was content to preach Christ, even when it meant that he must endure many hardships, many even from those for whom he labored.
Paul was now a prisoner at Rome, imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and imprisoned by the very people to whom he preached; but his concern was not for himself, or for his physical welfare, but for the spiritual welfare of God’s saints. He wrote to the Church at Ephesus with the heart of a pastor, the kind of pastor God promises to give his people (Jeremiah 3:15). — Listen to his words of concern.
“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” — As I said, this servant of God endured many hardships. He was reproached as an evil-doer. He was stoned. He was beaten. He was imprisoned. And, eventually, he was slain. And all of these things he endured gladly. Why? By the exercise of human wisdom and expedience he could have avoided them. Why then did he endure these things? He did it for the elect’s sake, for Christ’s body’s sake, for the church. He endured all this for the redeemed of the Lord, and for you and for me. — It was for the sake of preaching the gospel among the Gentiles, and confirming their faith in the gospel, that Paul suffered. He was fearful that these Ephesian saints might be ashamed of him, the prisoner of Christ. Therefore, he made this prayer for his family, the church of God that it might grow and be strengthened in the love of Christ.
There could hardly be a more magnificently impressive picture than the Apostle on his knees in that Roman prison interceding for his beloved brethren. Next to the picture of our Lord on his knees in Gethsemane is the picture of the Apostle Paul on his knees in a Roman prison.
There, in supplication and prayer, the stocks and chains fall from him and he is free. His spirit soars. Paul thus triumphantly writes in jail before he is executed. In the second letter to his son in the ministry, Timothy, he speaks of his imprisonment, then he says, “but the Word of God is not bound.” God’s Word could never be imprisoned. The Word of God is free. And so the spirit of God’s servant was free, though his body was in bonds.
When he kneels to pray, he is free. In this prayer he soars in spirit, and his heart engulfs the whole family of God. What a marvelous example he sets before us. May God give us such hearts, so that our care is not for ourselves, but for others.
Lord, help me to live from day to day,
In such a self-forgetful way
That through the day and when pray
My life may be for others.
Help me in everything I do
To ever be faithful and true
And know that if I would serve You
I must be serving others.
Let self be crucified and slain,
Buried, and never rise again!
In union with Your darling Son,
Use me, my God, for others.
If those who preach the gospel could learn this lesson, God might be pleased to use us. We must learn not to seek a name for ourselves, but the everlasting good of the people we serve. We labor not for fame and fortune, but for the glory of Christ and the good of immortal souls. How happy the church of God be if we could each learn to live for others, if each esteemed the other better than himself, if we spent our lives for one another!
Proposition: In all things, let us seek to spend ourselves and be spent of God for the benefit of his people. —— How he has blessed me, if he makes me a blessing to you!
Divisions: I call your attention to three things in this passage of Inspiration.
1. The Purpose of My Prayer for You (vv. 14-15).
2. The Petitions of My Prayer for You (vv. 16-19)
3. The Praise of My Prayer for You (vv. 20-21).
First, let me show you the purpose of my prayer for you (vv. 14-15).
(Ephesians 3:13-15) “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. (14) For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”
When our prayers lack purpose, nothing but vain repetitions and their prayers are an offense to God. We need to order our words before God as he directs us by his Spirit. Paul here declares a clear and distinct purpose in prayer.
“For this cause.” — When you and I go to God in prayer we should do so with a definite cause or purpose. Paul had a specific cause for which he sought the Lord; and I have a specific purpose in my intercessions for you. —— “For your glory,” your everlasting glory in and with Christ, that is the object of my life, the object of my labor, and the object of my prayer for you.
It is my constant prayer for you, when I call your names before the Throne of Grace, that the God of all grace will strengthen you and keep you from fainting in the way. How I pray that God will prevent anything from turning you away from Christ, that he will graciously keep you and preserve you, for Christ’s sake!
Š Only the Lord God can keep you. Only God can keep me. This is God’s work. — If we persevere in faith it is because God perseveres in grace!
Š He has promised to do it (Jeremiah 32:38-41; John 10:28).
(Jeremiah 32:38-41) “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: (39) And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: (40) And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. (41) Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.”
(John 10:28) “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
(Philippians 1:6) “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
Still, we must never forget that God will be sought for his promises. His word is, “Ask of me, and I will give thee.”
Like Paul it is my prayer that God will make you see the wondrous mystery of your fellowship in Christ. — We are one family in Christ.
Š One Family as a Local Church
Š One Family with all God’s Saints on Earth
Š One Family with all God’s Saints in Heaven
It is my prayer and heart’s desire to God for you all, that you might be made partakers of all the promises of God by the gospel. Oh, how I pray that the Lord God will bless my labors for your souls to that end!
Š The Promise of Life Eternal
Š The Promises of the Covenant
Š The Promises of Comfort and Consolation
Š The Promises of Peace and Joy
Š The Promises of Strength and Confident Faith
Frequently, I am asked — How should we pray? Here is Paul’s answer, “For this cause I bow my knees.” When we pray, we must always pray on bended knees. But do not imagine that I am talking about physical posture. When we draw near to God in prayer, we should reverence him in our hearts, and it is proper to express that reverence in any suitable means.
Š Do not suppose that any particular physical posture is necessary.
Š Be certain that you do not employ any physical posture or form in public that attracts attention to yourself.
When Paul said, “I bow my knees,” he was expressing not the posture of his body, but the posture of his heart.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” — There is no true prayer, except the prayer of faith to the Triune God (1 John 5:7). We pray to the God of Revelation; and the God of Revelation is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Š He is the living and true God.
Š He is the God of the sacred trinity.
Š He is the God revealed in Christ.
Š He is God, our Father.
That does not mean that we should not pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, or God the Holy Spirit. It is commonly taught that the formula for prayer is to the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. But I do not find such a formula in the Scriptures. As each of the Persons of the Godhead is a distinct personality, we are free to call upon any through the righteousness of Christ.
Having mentioned the name of Christ, Paul cannot continue without a word of praise concerning him. — “Of whom the whole family, in heaven and earth is named.” The church universal is given the name of Christ. We are the sons of God, through Christ his eternal Son.
Second, in verses 16-19, you will see some specific petitions of my prayer for you. It is my prayer…
(Ephesians 3:16-19) “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
When we pray, we, too, should ask God to do definite things. If we aim at nothing in particular when we pray, we are apt to hit it every time. Here Paul asked that God would give four things to his brethren. These things I desire for each of you. — Spiritual blessings are the best blessings. These are the things that we should most earnestly seek, both for ourselves and for each other.
It is my prayer that God will make you strong (v. 16).
(Ephesians 3:16) “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.”
Spiritual strength comes to us according to the glorious riches of God.
Š Strength is granted to us by his grace.
Š We need strength to do the work of God.
Š We need strength to resist temptation.
Š We need strength to endure affliction.
Š We need strength to live for the glory of God.
It is the presence of God the Holy Spirit with us that gives us strength. Strength from the Holy Spirit in the inner man is the best strength a man can possess. Let us seek this strength.
Š Seek it for yourself.
Š Seek it for your brethren.
Š Seek it for your pastor.
How does the Holy Spirit strengthen our hearts? — Do not miss this. We are made strong only when we are made weak (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
Š When you think you are strong, you are very, very weak.
Š The weaker we are, the stronger.
Š God the Holy Spirit always makes us strong only by making us weak, and thereby graciously teaching us to trust in the fulness of Christ and find strength in him.
(2 Samuel 22:33) “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.”
(Psalm 22:19) “Be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.”
(Psalm 28:7) “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.”
(Psalm 59:17) “Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.”
(Psalm 118:14) “The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12:2) “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.”
Oh, how I pray that you might be constantly confirmed in and walk in the assurance of the love of Christ!
(Ephesians 3:17) “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.”
Christ himself is the inhabitant of every believer’s heart.
Š He dwells there as a King in his palace.
Š He dwells there as a Master in his home.
Š He dwells there as a Friend with us.
Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.
Š Faith opens the door to admit him.
Š Faith receives him.
Š Faith retains him.
Š Faith submits to him.
Š Faith delights in his presence.
Christ dwells in our hearts permanently. Christ comes into the hearts of his people sovereignly; and he brings his welcome with him; and he never departs.
What we need and desire is to be confirmed in his love. Without question, we need to have our love to him confirmed. But that is not the way to settle things. That is not the way to settle soul trouble. We need assurance in our hearts that we are the objects of Christ’s love, that perfect love that casts out all fear.
Š That’s the gift of grace.
Š That’s a matter of faith.
It is my prayer to God for you, my brother, my sister, that you might be enabled of God to comprehend the infinite, boundless nature of Christ’s love (v. 18), that you…
(Ephesians 3:18) “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.”
I try in everything I write and preach to convey the wonders of our Savior’s love. I want to know and want you to know as much of Christ’s love as mortals upon the earth are allowed to know of it. Knowing it, we will admire it, for the dimensions of his love are boundless.
The love of Christ is as great as God himself. Who can know it to perfection? (Job 11:7-9)
(Job 11:8-9) “It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? (9) The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.”
Yet, we have been made to comprehend that his love is without boundary.
Š In its breadth it reaches to all nations, ages, and conditions of men.
Š In its length it is from everlasting to everlasting.
Š In its depth it reaches to the lowest of sinners to retrieve and save them.
O my soul, study the love of Christ! Dwell much in this deep sea! It will fill your heart with wonderful amazement; and it will satisfy your soul.
“Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky!”
It is my prayer that as you are made by grace to know the love of Christ, that you will be filled with all the fullness of God (v.19).
(Ephesians 3:14-19) “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) Of 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 by his Spirit in the inner man; (17) That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; (19) And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Third, look briefly at verses 20-21, and let me show you the praise of my prayer for you. When I think about the things of which I have been preaching to you, when I think about these rich boons of grace that I seek for your souls, my heart is filled with praise to God our Savior. O Spirit of God, let us leave this house with our Savior’s praise upon our hearts and lips!
(Ephesians 3:20-21) “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (21) Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
When we bow to God in prayer, we should have a definite cause, we should seek specific blessings, and we should be careful to offer praise to him for his goodness.
Let us praise God, our great and glorious Triune Jehovah, for his Person and or for his power (v. 20). There is an inexhaustible fulness in our God. His wisdom, power, grace, and mercy extend beyond anything that we can ask, or even think. Open your mouth ever so wide, and he is able still to fill it, and more. We have proof of God’s all sufficiency. Do we not?
Š In the Scriptures.
Š In the history of God’s saints.
Š In our own experience.
Let us ascribe praise to God in the church (v. 21).
(Ephesians 3:21) “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Š The church is the place where God’s glory is revealed.
Š He alone must be honored in the church.
Š He will preserve his church throughout all ages for his own glory.
Š God is glorified in the church by Christ alone. He accepts our praise through Christ. That which gives him glory is the work of Christ.
Amen! So be it, it is my desire. So be it, it is sure!