Components of A Godly Prayer - Part Two
October 30, 2016 | Randy Smith
Components Of A Godly Prayer-Part TwoEphesians 1:15-23
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
"If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15).
I want to tell you about my only son. After being blessed with three wonderful daughters, seven years go by and Shane comes into our world. He loves being with his family. He is happy, creative and caring. He enjoys church, school and playing baseball. He does his best to participate in our family devotions that consist of him and basically five adults.
Perhaps most of all, I am thankful for the way he obeys his parents. For instance, the other day I asked him to clean his room. He never accomplished anything, but that's beside the point because when I gave him the instructions he did such a great job looking me in the eye and listening carefully to every word I said. Sure the room is still a mess, but he did eventually go upstairs when he felt like it and moved some things around. When I asked him why nothing worthwhile was accomplished, I was so pleased when he told me that he memorized my command word-for-word. It was a touching and memorable father-son experience. Together we sat on his bed and he hoped up into my lap. I admit I helped him a bit at the beginning, but after that he was able to recite my directions to perfection. His room is still a mess, but I'm still trying to think of a fun way to reward him for the incredible respect he gives to me. I am so proud of my son.
Though that story in parts might not be far from the truth, it is obviously completely fabricated. But I created it to share a point that I'm sure all of you are now are smart enough to detect. Listening to sermons, reading your Bible, memorizing Scripture are all essential elements of the Christian life. But if you are not applying the things you are learning, everything you are doing is meaningless. Worse, it's offensive to God and places you under stricter judgment. Not doing Scripture when we are ignorant of the expectation is bad. Not doing Scripture when we are aware of the expectation is really bad. God will hold us accountable. So are you following through in obedience regarding all your heavenly Father had told you to do?
Let's find out.
Today's sermon from Ephesians 1:15-23 is "part 2." That means we had a "part 1" where I covered in depth verses 15-19. It's been three weeks since that sermon - obviously ample time for some God-honoring application. How did you do?
In his prayer, Paul first speaks in verse 15 first about the Ephesians great faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This morning I came up with this definition of faith. Faith is believing that I will be happier if I do something I may not initially wish to do.
For example, when I was on the Greek Island of Rhodes last week, I saw a diving platform about 100 yards off the shore in the Aegean Sea. When I swam out to it and climbed to the top (about 30 feet) it was a frightening sight the moment I looked down. I didn't want to jump, but faith inspired me to jump because I believed I would be happier if I undertook the experience. Faith in Christ is like this, but much more certain. Faith in Christ is built on promises in Scripture that are guaranteed to work out for my highest joy.
Now there is a general faith in Christ that I believe all of you possess. If I asked, no doubt the overwhelming majority of you would say you believe in Christ.
However, how many of you over the past three weeks expressed an active faith whereby you relied on Him simply because you took His Word in Scripture at face value when confronted with a difficult challenge that you in your own flesh didn't initially want to accept? In other words, you acted in obedience to Him despite your feelings, the outward appearance or the carnal opinions/counsel of others. Can you identify anything? Or put this way, what have you recently done that only a Christian would do simply because God commanded you to do it and you did it in faith ultimately because you wanted to honor your heavenly Father?
For example, did anyone overcome anxiety or despair or complaining because you trusted Him to work all things for your good? That takes faith! Did anyone leave their comfort zone, perhaps in evangelism, serving or public prayer because you trusted Him to provide the needed boldness and confidence? That takes faith! Did any of you develop greater commitment to the church or personal discipleship or the sacrificial love toward another because you put your faith in the strength of His grace and not your own laziness, indifference, inadequacies or self-interest? Did any of you overcome sin because by faith you saw the worth of Jesus more precious than your unrighteous ways?
You see,> this is where true faith kicks in. In the past three weeks, can you identify a situation (and I'm sure you had plenty of opportunities) where you really needed to walk by faith and not by sight? And by God's grace you acted as a spiritually changed individual and obedient believer and rose to the occasion.
Second, in verse 15, Paul in his prayer praised God for the church and her "love for all the saints." Your application? In the past twenty-one days, how have you demonstrated sacrificial love to another Christian? A note of encouragement? A hospital visit? A hand doing something? A ministry in the church? A good example of biblical living? Let's remember, biblical love is not an emotion, but an action. Is there anyone here outside of your immediate family who could say that you showed genuine Christian love to them over the past three weeks? If I surveyed the entire church, would anybody mention your name for anything? It appears Paul in his letter could have identified many Christians by name. Would anyone identify your name?
My friends, just consider these first two points - faith and love. If we are not doing both of them we have failed in the two most basic Christian responsibilities as a church. I know these things are happening at our church. But my question is - without making excuses, are they happening through you?
Is it like my earlier story? You've heard the commands. You know the commands. You have memorized the commands. But do you simply refuse to do the commands? Last week we spoke about repentance. If you have failed are you willing to promise God right now that you will repent and begin acting in a way He expects? You see, the world doesn't and can't do these two things - faith and love. Can you promise your heavenly Father that you will begin living more like a redeemed child of His?
After his two-point praise for the church for their faith and love, the following verses that we looked at three weeks ago (16-19) detail the three components of Paul's prayer. First, Paul prayed the church may be given "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him." This is a greater understanding of God that is received from knowing His Word. It's knowing Him, loving Him, trusting Him, being amazed at Him more and more.
Second, Paul prayed that "the eyes of [their] heart may be enlightened." This is the ability to see and appreciate spiritual things as opposed to those without Christ that are spiritually blind. Specifically, verse 18, to know "the hope of His calling" and the "riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" and verse 19, "the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe."
Now at this point I believe Paul ends his prayer. Yet when he says at the end of verse 19, "These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might," he feels the need to elaborate that point in verses 20-23. That takes us to our new material for today.
Back to obeying God. God has given us very high expectations. The commands on the believer are intense. Many professing Christians are unsuccessful. Some fail because they are indifferent. The rest fail because they try to fulfill them on their own strength. Remember, God never intended for us to obey Him in this manner. Our desire and strength to obey comes from us abiding in Him, whereby His power gives us the ability to follow through. To be successful, verse 19, God's "strength" and God's "might" must be utilized.
It's like to two Jehovah Witnesses that I spoke to recently. I simply asked them, "What does a person need to do or believe in order to be saved?" Their Response? "Follow the teachings of Jesus." Really? First of all we are saved not by our works, but rather His work on the cross. Second, in our own strength we can't obey the teachings of Jesus. Salvation and successful Christian living must come forth from an abiding relationship with Christ!
So after mentioning the power that is available to us in verse 19, Paul now provides for us the detail of what he means. He elaborates.
So consider God's power that is there for our ability to obey. What kind of power is it? How has God revealed that power? Paul says in verse 20 that "[God] brought [it] about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" You want to see the greatest display of God's power? Then consider this. When the world, including the disciples, thought it was over, God brought Christ back from the dead. That's power! And that power is available to you, believer!
And not only did He bring Him back from the dead, but He also (verse 20-21) "Seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."
Christ is not only raised from the dead, but He is now at the Father's right hand, the privileged position of honor, favor and victory. He is worshipped by the angels. He is in the heavenly realms, exalted to a position of authority whereby He will judge the living and the dead. All people and angelic beings (as the verse identifies) are fully subjected to Him. Ignored by most now, but soon to be realized and experienced by everyone.
You in Christ? Then you have no excuse? This power from this risen Savior, when you abide in Him, is available at your fingertips! Yet as these verses continue, Paul wants us to consider the exalted nature of Christ - His majesty, His supremacy. How can we consider that and can we call ourselves His people and then not do what He commands? So I am going to proclaim this exalted King to the world and then show the world through my disobedience that I don't honor what my King has to say? Obviously if that is the case, I have little respect for His authority, majesty and character!
So the strength available that God supplies should convince us we can obey. His exalted position installing fear and worship should frighten us to obey. Let me give you one more. His incredible love for His people should make us want to obey.
Look at verse 22. "And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church."
So we considered the surpassing power of Christ over every conceivable person, demon or force. The verse says everything is under his lordship. Now this verse says that the One who is "head over all things" as cosmic King of the universe is given in a personal way to also be head of the church.
While the whole world is in subjection to Him under His judgment and mighty power to oppose, the church is under His grace. We are not in slave-like, but willing subjection to Him experiencing nothing but His mighty power to love.
Verse 23, "[The church] is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." The church is the metaphorical body of Christ. That means that Christ as head of the church fills the church with all of Himself. It cannot get better than that! Paul also comes back to this in 3:19 of this letter, his other prayer for the Ephesian church. He prayed that the church might "know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, [so] that [she] may be filled up to all the fullness of God."
And how good is that? The all-powerful sovereign Ruler of the universe has chosen to bless the church as His very own! And bless us specifically by filling us with the fullness of His presence! No wonder Paul tells us in the very next verse from his chapter 3 prayer, "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever" (Eph. 3:20-21).
This sermon was about obeying God. It must start with an abiding, deep relationship whereby we love Him, look to Him and live our lives in and through Him. In His love for us, He gives us commands so that we might glorify Him and that it might go well for us. We follow those commands in union with Christ through depending on the resurrection strength He supplies, through respecting His majestic kingship and through understanding His great love for us. He loves us and we love Him just as He told us by doing that which He has commanded.
"If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15).