Components of A Godly Prayer - Part One
October 09, 2016 | Randy Smith
Components Of A Godly Prayer-Part OneEphesians 1:15-23
Sunday, October 9, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
My goal this morning is to talk about one of the basics of the Christian life. Even unbelievers are familiar with the practice. Young children participate in it. ItÕs something ever believer does. ItÕs commanded by the Lord. Really no spiritual discipline is as fundamental to the Christian life as prayer.
Yet for some reason when we talk about prayer, a subject that needs no explanation to any of us, we enter a domain that is filled with conviction and confusion. Conviction in that all of us probably feel we fail to do it enough and confusion in that we frequently do not know how to pray appropriately.
Sure, we show gratitude for our daily provisions, pray for ill people and ask for certain things to go well in our lives. Yet those components often define the extent of our prayers, get somewhat monotonous over time, take less than a minute to cover and encompass the content of every nonChristianÕs prayer as well.
So what does a mature prayer look like? Thankfully we have examples throughout the Bible. Two of them are found in our letter to the Ephesians. One of them we will cover this morning in chapter 1, verses 15-23. Three points today as we study this prayer of the Apostle Paul: Comprehension, Components and Content.
LetÕs start with ÒComprehension.Ó What I mean by this is that we simply need to have an awareness of certain facts in order to offer rich prayers.
For instance, if you want to pray for others, you need to be with other people. Obviously I canÕt pray specifically for people I donÕt intimately know. And oftentimes the more I get to know them, the more they trust me, the more they open up and then permit me to pray for their deepest and most pressing needs.
Even ÒThe VineÓ that we distribute weekly via email and hard copies in the church lists several prayer concerns that will give you the knowledge you on specific needs from within this flock.
On Wednesday nights at our church prayer meeting I often read unnamed Puritan prayers. IÕm impressed with the thoughts they use regarding the depth of their theology. Obviously the ability to pray that way shows the individual has a tremendous knowledge in this case of GodÕs Word.
All-in-all, youÕve got to know in order to pray. Comprehension!
Paul in verse 15 also expresses some knowledge he had regarding the churches he wrote to in Asia Minor. The verse begins, ÒFor this reason I too, having heard.Ó We know Paul was in Rome at the time writing under house arrest. News made it to him about these churches, news that informed him and motivated him to pray - specifically.
Specifically what news did he receive? Verse 15 continues, he was informed Òof the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints.Ó
No doubt Paul was excited when he heard the church was excelling in these two essential areas! He loved God and was excited that God was getting what He desired the most. This led to immediate prayer. First, they were walking by faith in the Lord. Their eyes were on Him. They were following Scripture. They were seeking to please Him. They put Christ first in all things. They demonstrated great faith in God. Second, they were as verse 15 says, demonstrating a sincere love for other Christians in the church. They cared for one another. They served one another. They were discipling one another. They held each other accountable. There was an affection for other church members. They loved the body of Christ.
They had great faith in the Lord. They loved others in the church. This is what good churches do! Does our church do these two things? Do you?
Overall, Paul received a good report about the churches and it informed him and motivated him to pray. And this is how it should work in the Christian life. Prayer becomes a natural reflex like breathing. We donÕt need to search for prayer content. We just need to love the Lord by learning His word and love others in the church in an intimate way. In following the two greatest commandments, weÕll have the knowledge we need to pray appropriately. In our love for the Lord we will naturally have a desire to speak continually with Him and in our love for others we know the best thing we can do for them is pray. You see, prayer is birthed not from duty, but from relationship - first love to God and then love to others.
LetÕs move on to the second point, ÒComponents.Ó Good prayers, not always, often contain four components. IÕve taught these to you before and they are best remembered through the acronym, A-C-T-S.
A stands for Òadoration.Ó Rather than rush into GodÕs presence, we adore Him, praise Him for who He is and what He has done. Oftentimes this is related to His attributes like His holiness or love or power or mighty actions like working creation and our salvation through Christ.
C stands for Òconfession.Ó Confession means acknowledging our sins to the Lord. ItÕs agreeing with Him that we have not lived up to His expectations. ItÕs specifically revealing with a broken heart that we have fallen short, have damaged our relationship with Him and desire His forgiveness. ItÕs also allowing Him through the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and point out areas where we have violated His Word.
T stands for Òthanksgiving.Ó This is showing God appreciation for what He has done for us. Possibly itÕs gratitude for an answered prayer or gratitude for food and shelter or gratitude for family and occupations or gratitude for our church and the Bible or gratitude for His presence that abides on us continually.
And then S stands for Òsupplication.Ó This is where we often begin and sadly what often encompasses much of our prayers. This is requesting GodÕs favor. Perhaps itÕs for a sick child, failing marriage, unsaved friend or big trip. Perhaps itÕs for the ability to overcome sin, find joy in serving, understand our Bible or pray more often.
In verses 16 and 17 Paul uses three of these components in the prayer he chose to record for the Ephesians in his letter. Can you see them? First, verse 16 he says he does Ònot cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.Ó ThatÕs thanksgiving! And itÕs thanksgiving given on a regular basis. Ò[I] do not cease giving thanks for you.Ó Then in verse 17 he says, ÒThat the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.Ó ThatÕs adoration! And then the entire section that follows is a profound theological display of supplication mixed with a heavy dosage of adoration.
So as we move to the third point, letÕs spend the rest of the time concentrating on PaulÕs supplication, the content of his prayer.
Quick footnote: Paul was a compassionate man. He often prayed for his sick friends (Phil. 2; 2 Tim. 4). However, whenever he prayed for the church, his content was always spiritual. No doubt there were sick people in these Asia Minor churches, but as we walk through this prayer; his primary focus was on their walk with the Lord and living out that walk. There is a depth that is more weighty, insightful and rewarding than surface levels we often deal with in the prayers of todayÕs church. I believe Satan has no problem if a church is fully healthy!
ItÕs helpful to outline things here. First, Paul prays that the Lord may give the church, verse 17, Òa spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.Ó
Here is a biblical prayer. It starts off with this. WhenÕs the last time you have ever prayed that those in this church would be given Òa spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him?Ó Have you ever prayed that? Do you know what it means?
A Òspirit of wisdom and of revelationÓ is a desire for other believers to understand GodÕs will for their lives. ItÕs a desire for them to comprehend the greatness of their salvation. ItÕs a desire that they be in the Word and forever through their study of the Word, growing in as Paul says, Òthe knowledge of Him.Ó Growing in their amazement of God. Growing in their love for Him. Growing in their fear of the Lord (which is the beginning of knowledge). Growing in their understanding of what it truly means to be a Christian.
The second main heading of PaulÕs prayer is found in verse 18.
Paul prays Òthat the eyes of [their] heart may be enlightened.Ó The eyes of the heart would be the ability to see spiritual things. As Christians we are now in the light (as opposed to the darkness). We have the mind of Christ (as opposed to futile thinking). We have the ability to see things spiritually (as opposed to being spiritually blind). And therefore Paul prays that we would forever be enlightened to walk faithfully as new creatures in Christ.
Specifically, Paul breaks down what that means with three sub points, mentioning three great truths that have been won for us by Christ. Again, notice that PaulÕs focus is not that the church will be given new spiritual stuff from God, but in light of the great spiritual blessings mentioned in verses 4-14, that the church will really understand what they have already been given! ThatÕs why we must study the theology in chapters 1-3 before we study the practical in chapter 4-6.
First, verse 18, ÒSo that you will know what is the hope of His calling.Ó What does that mean? Paul prays the church again realizes how great they have it in Christ. He wants them to know that their hope is in Christ and their connection to Christ was ultimately His choice of them. It is ÒHis callingÓ that gives you hope. Remember verse 4? ÒJust as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.Ó
In other words, God called you to Himself from before you were born. And then at a certain point in your life called you again and gave you the ability to see Him and love Him and believe on His name for salvation. Romans 8:30 says the same thing. ÒAnd these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.Ó We all need hope! And the greatest hope we can have is that our salvation is perfectly secure in the arms of GodÕs calling. Paul wants the church to realize that, to know Òthe hope of His calling.Ó
In the second sub point, Paul prays that we will know, verse 18, ÒWhat are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.Ó In verse 11 we learned about the great inheritance God has promised to His children. In verse 14 we learned that He even gave us the Holy Spirit as a pledge and down payment of that inheritance.
Now in verse 18 we again read about an inheritance. However here it is not what God gives to us, but rather what He has done in us for Himself. In other words, God has invested greatly in us whereby we might be the prized trophies of His grace thanks not to ourselves, but His work in us. We are His inheritance.
This means God loves you, delights in you, values you, finds pleasure in you and glorifies Himself through you! We belong to Him. We are His inheritance. He made us like Himself and now He is recreating us to be more like Him every day. We are His treasured possessions because of what He has done and continues to do in us (Eph. 2:7).
And the third sub point, that we will know, verse 19, ÒWhat is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.Ó Could you simply imagine if Christians believe the Òsurpassing greatness of GodÕs powerÓ and the fact that it is working Òtoward us who believe?Ó
Keep this in the context of what we know from the Ephesian church itself.
First of all they dealt will all kinds of occultic practices. In Acts 19 we read that the new Christians Òkept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silverÓ (Ac. 19:18-19). It took a lot of belief in GodÕs power to not only destroy something of great value, but also fully forsake their magic practices and trust fulling in GodÕs power.
Or how about the Ephesian demons, also in Acts 19 who possessed a man who beat-up some unbelievers who were trying to mess with him. The text says, ÒThis became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all.Ó Only the power of God over the forces of evil will allow one to fully be at peace. Paul talks about the believerÕs victory over evil forces in chapter 6 of this epistle.
Or what about, also in Acts 19, the riot caused by the Ephesian silversmiths, fearing their trade of making idols to the goddess Artemis was in being undermined by the Christians. What kind of power has the ability to overrule, if He chooses, the wicked intentions of man?
ItÕs the greatness of GodÕs power that nothing can overpower Him. We need not fear anything if we are on GodÕs team. Paul told the Roman church, ÒFor I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our LordÓ (Rom. 8:38-39). Remember verse 11? That God Òworks all things after the counsel of His will.Ó
ÒThe surpassing greatness of [GodÕs] power toward us who believe.Ó Not just power, but great power. And not just great power but surpassing great power! We have a tendency to love the world. GodÕs power drives you to love Jesus more. We have a tendency to love sin. GodÕs power gives you the desire and strength to overcome it. We have a tendency to live for self. GodÕs power helps us to love the Lord and others more! Do you see GodÕs power at work in your life and in the lives of others?
Now at this point I believe Paul ends his prayer, however in verses 20-23 he elaborates in his desire to fully explain GodÕs power that is available to the recipients of this letter. Lord willing, weÕll cover these passages when we resume Ephesians.
So how is your prayer life? Do you have the knowledge you need to prayer that comes from loving God and others? Do you use components in your prayer such as adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication? And regarding your content, is it rich with spiritual needs?