We are going to talk about prayer and spiritual battle today. There are 3 prayers recorded in the book of Ephesians, one recorded in Eph 1, another in Eph 3 and a final one to wrap up the entire book in Eph 6.
Last week, we talked about Eph 1:1-14 and how our doctrine and our destiny flow into doxology. Paul’s doxology, his praise couldn’t be contained as the words came gushing from his lips and onto these pages of Scripture as he talked about the greatness of salvation. We have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens. Paul’s doctrine includes salvation past and salvation present as well as salvation future. We were saved before the foundation of the world was laid. This is salvation past. Our salvation is a work in progress right now. This is salvation present. And our final salvation involves our final destiny. It refers to the final picture of the church, the spiritual creation, as well as the physical creation, the church and the universe being brought together under the headship of the cosmic Christ. This is salvation future.
Paul got a glimpse into eternity past–how we were elected before the foundation of the world. And he got a glimpse into eternity future–how everything in the church and the universe will find its end in Christ. And this doctrine and destiny resulted in uncontainable, overflowing doxology.
In light of God the Father who elects, and God the Son who redeems, and God the Holy Spirit who seals our salvation, Paul launches into his first prayer.
15 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.
He begins his prayer by thanking God for the Ephesians. He is thankful specifically for their faith in the Lord and their love for all the saints. Faith and love always go hand in hand. If your faith in the Lord is authentic, you will have love for the saints. And not just the brothers or sisters you click with, who look like you and dress like you, but ALL the saints.
The Ephesians are doing well spiritually. So why is Paul praying for them? We normally pray for people when they are in trouble. Isn’t that right? We pray for people when they are sick, or out of a job, or they stop coming to church, or they are committing blatant sin.
Why is Paul praying for them when they are doing well? He thanks God for them in v15-16. But beginning in v17, the tone of the prayer changes. Why does he pray in v17 for the Ephesians to receive from God a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him? Or why does he pray in v18-19 for the perception of their minds to be enlightened to the hope of His calling unto salvation and the glorious riches of His inheritance and the immeasurable greatness of His power?
Remember, he’s praying for people who moments earlier he thanked God for in terms of their faith and love. Why did the tone of his prayer shift midway through? It’s because life is a war for your soul. You’ve got to understand this. Today’s teaching, if you really understand and apply it to your life, I believe this teaching can be the difference between a vibrant, victorious life and a defeated, discouraged life. One moment, we can be on top of the mountain and experience God’s incredible presence. And the very next moment, you’re in a valley. You get a phone call and someone is sick with cancer, or you get into an accident and you’re in the hospital, or you get called into your boss’ office and you’re let go, or someone says something offensive to you and hatred grips your heart, or you are tempted and you fall. When those things happen, will you harden your heart against God and simply go through the motions and show up to Sunday and your lips move but your heart is turned off. Or, will you pray?
Whether we are on the mountain top or the valley, we need prayer. Why? Because life is a battle for your soul. To sustain our faith in God and our love for God and our love for all the saints and our joy in the Lord will take nothing less than the power and strength of God and we need to ask God continuously for that power in our prayers.
19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of His POWER to us who believe, according to the working of His VAST STRENGTH.
Whose power and whose vast strength do we need? God’s power and His strength. The verses that follow give more description about the power of God.
20 He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens—21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.
The power of God that is required in order for the Ephesians as well as all of us to maintain a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, and to keep the perception of our minds enlightened to the hope of His calling unto salvation and to look forward to the glorious riches of His inheritance is the exact SAME power that raised Christ from the dead. What is Paul trying to teach us? We need resurrection power to be born again, to begin our spiritual lives. And we need the same resurrection power to live out our Christian lives day to day. Why? Because life is a war for your soul.
Let’s examine the second prayer in this book. Let’s start in v12–
12 In Him we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. 13 So then I ask you not to be discouraged over my afflictions on your behalf, for they are your glory.
Paul is writing this letter from a prison in Rome. Consider that for a moment. He was not writing after he had just preached at a revival and he was overjoyed that he had led several thousand to Christ. He is writing with a Roman soldier literally handcuffed to him because he was under house arrest. His faith was not circumstantial. He was not overflowing with praise because he was financially well off, or his ministry was going smoothly. His praise overflowed from a deep well of God’s Spirit empowering him from within–the very same power that raised Christ from the dead.
Paul has a pastoral heart. So he’s worried that the Ephesians might be discouraged by the news of his imprisonment so he begins his second prayer for them in v14–
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, 17 and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith.
To a people whom Paul had moments earlier thanked God for their faith in the Lord, Paul prays that God would grant them strength in the inner man through His Spirit and that the Messiah may dwell in their hearts through FAITH. To a faith-filled people, Paul prays for their continual faith by the strengthening of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling Christ.
17 …I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
To a people whom Paul had moments earlier thanked God for their love, Paul prays that God would root and establish them in love so that they may comprehend the length, width, height and depth of God’s love and Christ’s love.
Why does Paul pray for the Ephesians to have faith when they already had faith and to have love when they already had love? It’s because they might have had ample supplies of faith and love yesterday, or more than enough faith and love today, but faith and love might be completely gone by tomorrow. Why? Because life is a war for your soul.
With a quick overview of the first 2 prayers in this book as the backdrop, I want to focus on the final prayer which closes out the book of Ephesians.
The context for this third and final prayer begins in chapter 4. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 are all about relationships. Relationships within the church among brothers and sisters in Christ, relationships in marriage between husbands and wives, relationships in families between parents and children, relationships in our workplaces between employers and employees.
Why do you think Paul spends 3 chapters talking about relationships in its various contexts and then he ends with a final prayer about spiritual battle? If you have no idea what the connection is between relationships and spiritual battle, then you must be a loner who never comes out of your room. Or, you probably only interact with others in the digital world of social media. In the digital world, everyone’s so happy to see you when you post on your facebook wall. How are you? Happy bday with 5 exclamation points coming from 200 friends. Great picture! Hahahahaha! Everyone is a star in the digital world. These same people might never want to hang out with you in person because they might not really like you all that much, but they might “Like” one of your Instagram photos.
When the Bible talks about relationships, it is not talking about pseudo cyber-relationships of emails, tweets and Foursquare check-ins. The Bible assumes that relationships are face to face relationships. You can’t love someone from a web cam. You can’t carry the burdens of someone else when you are sitting on your couch and the person in need is in another location. Jesus is Immanuel God, or God with us. He came down from heaven to be with us. Relationships require proximity, closeness, time spent together.
If you are a relational person and you regularly connect face to face and you spend time loving and serving others, then you know right away why Paul would close out this book with a prayer about spiritual battle. God does his greatest work in relationships–bringing redeemed and forgiven sinners together and forming communities or churches where we can love and serve and keep each other accountable in concrete ways. God does his greatest work in restoring relationships, reconciling us to Himself and reconciling broken sinners to one another.
BUT, Satan also does HIS greatest work in the very same arena of relationships. He separates, he divides, he severs relationships. Satan does his most effective and damaging work in the very same arena that God does his most glorious work–our relationships.