Why We Pray – Ephesians 3:14-21 (Part 2)

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Faith Bible Church, NY

September 1, 1996

Why We Pray

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Part 2)

We began our examination of this morning’s passage two weeks ago. It is the second prayer of Paul in the book of Ephesians. Turn to Ephesians 3:14.

A few months ago we examined Paul’s first prayer in 1:15-23 and noted Paul’s desire for the Ephesians that they might know God more intimately in who He was and what He had done for them. Paul wanted them (and us) to know what was our in Jesus Christ. Paul marked out some of those things in chapter 2 including life in Christ, (saved, raised and seated with Christ), a purpose in life and the blessings of being included as God’s people. Paul wanted us to know that the spiritual riches we have in Jesus Christ are unfathomable and unmeasurable, as he states in 3:8.

In this second prayer Paul stresses having access to and applying what is ours in Christ. The first prayer had to do with being enlightened, to know what is ours in Christ Jesus, and this one to be enabled to use it. This again shows Paul’s heart as a pastor. He gives deep theology, but his desire was to give people knowledge applied in the heart, not left in the head. Paul strived to communicate the infinite truths of God to finite people so that they could live accordingly.

We have already discussed the first several verses of this section, but let’s quickly review. Paul begins this prayer in 3:14, “For this reason…”. This ties him back to vs. 1 of the chapter. Remember, vs. 2-13 of this chapter are a parenthesis explaining why the Ephesians should not lose heart even though Paul was in prison, because God was being glorified and they were benefitting. “For this reason” refers back to all Paul talked about in chapters 1 and 2. Because God is who He is, because God has made me alive in Christ, because God has established the church as His people, and because Paul is the prisoner of Christ Jesus of the sake of the gentiles- because of all these things, Paul prays for them.

Paul was being held as a prisoner of Rome waiting his trial before Caesar when he wrote this book, so he was confined and could not go wherever he wanted to go, but Rome could not restrict Paul from being in the most important place to be, in the presence of God through prayer. No one can restrict us from that either.


Paul’s says, “For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father.” Paul’s posture of prayer was reflective of his attitude in prayer, being one of humility of heart. That should be the attitude we have as well. I often wonder if the fact that American Christians most often casually sit when they pray is not reflective of what seems to be a general complacency about prayer. If you would like to get on your knees when you pray here please do so, if you cannot then that is fine too, but let’s make sure we are humble and serious about prayer.


In verse 15 Paul addresses “the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” We pointed out two weeks ago that the context narrows the focus so that the

reference to God as “Father” is meant in terms of His special, intimate relationship with believers. God is the creator of all, but in this sense He is the father only of those who believe in Him and follow Him. Those that do not believe are called the “children of the devil” (John 8 & 1 John 3:10). Our family name, the redeemed of God, is derived from Him just as much as the angelic hosts, like the Seraphim and Cherubim.


We spent most of our time two weeks ago dealing with Paul’s petition in verse 16. “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Paul desires that believers be empowered to live the Christian life.

Paul’s central request is that they be strengthened according to the riches of God’s glory. As I said before, this is according to God’s riches, not out of His riches. A guy who makes $5,000 a week and puts $100 in the faith box is giving out of his riches, but if he gives $500 that is according to his riches. The riches of God’s glory are limitless, so there is no lack on God’s part on what is available to His children. If there is a lack of power in the believers life it is not because God has run out.

Paul prays that God would strengthen them with power through the Holy Spirit in the inner man. The inner man is the spiritual side of man. The soul that once was dead but has been made alive together with Christ. It is the inner man that is to set the direction and manner of living including our minds, our emotions and our wills.

Our minds are to be steadily renewed by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit so that we are transformed (Rom. 12). Our goal is to have every thought held captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) so that we are not deceived and carried away by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14). We are not to be controlled by the desires of our flesh, mind or emotions, but rather by the moving of the Holy Spirit on our spirit (Gal. 5:23; 2 Peter 1:6). We are to no longer be slaves to sin but to righteousness (Rom. 6), and that comes from setting our will to follow Christ and do what is right.

Paul’s concern was for the inner man, not the outer man. Certainly we still pray for physical needs and such, but we should be much more concerned with the spiritual aspects of things which have eternal value than the physical things which will quickly pass away (1 John 2:16).

Why does our inner man need strengthening? First, spiritual babies need to grow. Paul commented in 1 Cor. 3 that he would give them the “milk of the Word” until they were mature enough to handle the “meat.” The immature need to mature, the spiritually weak become spiritually strong by the Holy Spirit in their inner man so they can fulfill the reason for God saving them.

Second, we need to be strengthened because our adversaries, Satan and his followers, are cunning. Peter comments that the devil goes about like a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). We must be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to face his cunning onslaughts against us, most of which are subtle temptations to lead us astray and trust ourselves rather than God, to seek our glory rather than the Lord’s.

Thirdly, we need to be strengthened because the task of proclaiming the gospel and discipling other in Christ is great and far beyond our own capabilities. We can only fulfill our commission through the working of the Spirit.


What is the purpose of this prayer? It is so that God will be glorified. Look at 17-19,” so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

To be “filled up to all the fullness of God” means to be totally dominated by God in all things. Your thoughts, emotions and will are all controlled by God because you have given them to Him. To be filled with rage is to be dominated by hatred, and to be filled with happiness is to be dominated by joy. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be dominated by Him in everything you do and when that is the case you bring great glory to God.

Notice what Paul says about this filling takes place. First, Christ must be dwelling in your hearts. The word “dwelling” is more than just living in, for every believer had the Holy Spirit living in them from the time they were saved. Each of us was baptized by the Spirit into one body (1 Cor. 12:13) and His Spirit indwells us (Rom. 8:11). “Dwelling” in this passage (οἰκεῖ) means to “dwell down”, or “inhabit a house.” The idea is to “be at home.” There is intimacy and comfort in this word. Robert Munger’s booklet, My Heart Christ’s Home, describes this well. It is not just that Jesus has gotten through the front door, but that He is being welcomed progressively into each room in the house with the consequence that each room gets cleaned up and made ready for His presence.

How comfortable would you be if your house resembled the town dump and Jesus was coming over for dinner? Yet how careful are we about the things in our life? Your study – what is your thought life? Your dining room – what do you take in for spiritual food Your living room – what occupies your time? Your recreation room – what hobbies entertain you? Your work room – what you are producing with your life? Your bedroom – who you are most intimate with? And then there is that closet where all those private thoughts are kept. Would you be comfortable to have Jesus Christ standing next to you as you went through each room of your house? Yet, if you are a Christian He is even more intimately involved because His Spirit lives within you. He knows not only where you are and what you are doing, but what you are thinking as well.

Being saved is the beginning, but Christ must also indwell you room by room. The action is taken by faith by trusting Him and giving Him control. Faith is not intellectual assent, but a belief with the action of trust. For me to allow Christ to control every aspect of my life I have to believe He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. I have to believe that He loves me and trust Him to do so. I then step forward in faith doing what He says by yielding my life to Him to do what is best. I must trust Him more than myself, but that is entirely possible and reasonable because I am to be rooted and grounded in His love. Are you rooted and grounded in Him?

Roots are vitally important to a plant because they accomplish two important functions. They absorb water and nutrients so that the plant can grow, and they anchor the plant in place so that it is not blown away. The storms of life may come, but as our roots go down deep and hold fast to His love, we are not moved regardless of how strong the winds that blow against us are, and at the same time we gain nourishment from Him and continue to grow in the midst of adversity. Psalm 1 describes the person who loves the Lord and delights in His word as a “tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

Being grounded is similar, being just a different metaphor because it speaks of the foundation for a building. The strength of a building is directly related to its foundation. If the foundation is shallow and set on sand then it is easily toppled, but if the foundation is deep and set on rock the building can withstand any tempest. Romans 5 points out that the love of God is our foundation. We can rejoice in the tribulations that come our way not just because they bring about perseverance, proven character and hope in us, but because they make us go back to the foundational issue that God has proven His love for us for all time and eternity through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. When I am bewildered by the storms that come against me, my anchor holds firmly in the fact that Jesus loves me and has already proven it on the cross. Like the house built on the rock in Matt. 7, I remain standing. The foundation cannot be washed away by life’s storms.

Christ’s dwelling in me brings me, as it does all other saints, to a greater comprehension of the immensity of the love of God: its breadth, length, height and depth. The four fold description conveys the infinite immensity of God’s love. What is its breadth? My sins have been cast away as far as East is from West (Psalm 103:12). What is its length? He loves me with an eternal love (Psalm 103:17; Eph. 2:4, etc.). What is its height? He is preparing a dwelling place for me in heaven that I might enjoy being in His presence forever (Jn 14:1-3). What is its depth? God my savior became a man and paid for my sins in His own flesh (Phil. 2:5-8).

The love of Christ surpasses the ability of the world to understand it. MacArthur described this well, “Worldly love is based on attraction and therefore lasts only as long as the attraction. Christ’s love is based on His own nature and therefore last forever. Worldly love lasts until it is offended or rebuffed. Christ’s love lasts despite every offense and every rebuff. Worldly love loves for what it can get. Christ’s love loves for what it can give. What is incomprehensible to the world is to be normal living for the child of God.”

The greater our comprehension of this great love of God then the easier it is to give Him full reign in our hearts. Our resistance diminishes and it becomes our desire to be filled up with the fullness of Him.


Paul concludes his prayer with a doxology of praise. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him [be] the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Paul cannot begin to describe the greatness of God and what He has done and will do for His children so he runs superlative on top of superlative. God’s power is not limited. He is not just able to do for us, He is not just able to do beyond what we might ask or think, He is not just able to do abundantly beyond what we might as or think, God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond what we might ask or think. There is no limit on His part, because we cannot even begin to imagine how powerful He is and what He is willing to do, and that power is to be working in us!

Let me comment about this “power” since our tendency is to think of power in terms of physical phenomena. When you think of something powerful, what comes to mind? Most likely it is something like a big engine, Niagara Falls, or a nuclear bomb. The charismatics have also pushed the idea that the power of God is best demonstrated in physical miracles – healings, signs, wonders, etc. While it is certainly true that God has and does demonstrate His power in the physical world, the truth is that power of God is most clearly demonstrated in the spiritual realm through the changed lives of sinners. A person living for Jesus Christ in the midst of persecution is a greater example of power than even a nuclear weapon. Many Christians live in Islamic and communist countries where everything is against them mentally, emotionally and often physically. Yet there are thousands and thousands of Christians that live for Christ in the midst of such circumstances.

In Acts the apostles waited for the power of God to come down on them through the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit came upon them they then fulfilled the prophecy of Acts 1:8 and were witnesses of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Three thousand being saved in one day (Acts 2:41) is a demonstration of more power than 120 speaking in a language they did not know (Acts 2:4 cf. 1:15). Greater power is demonstrated in the gentiles being included in the Body of Christ than in Paul healing people and casting out demons. Paul states in 1 Cor. 2:4 that he did not come to them with a message and preaching that were in “persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” and because of that some were saved. Paul’s power to live a godly live in all circumstances such as described in 2 Cor. 6 was a demonstration of the power of God (vs. 7).

Paul understood the power of God in both the spiritual and physical realm. He had seen God work many physical miracles through Him, yet, he understood that spiritual strength is greater than physical. Jesus told Paul in 2 Cor. 12:9 that “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Paul then said, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

Do you get the picture? Living the for Christ the way Paul did demonstrates the power of God. That same power to live in godliness is available to us as we yield ourselves to Him for His will to be done through us. It is limited only by our unwillingness to trust Him. When we decide either consciously or unconsciously that we know better than God and do things our way, then we limit God’s working in and through us. The Christian life is all about learning to trust God and then doing things His way.

Why? That we might be to the praise of the glory of God. That is the purpose for our salvation, again, that is the purpose of our very existence. So we find that Paul concludes in verse 21 magnifying the Glory of God that exists within His people, and in Christ Jesus Himself. It is a glory that will continue through all generations and throughout eternity. “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.” The Amen confirms that worthy goal – So let it be!

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