Prayer That Works: Praying to the Father, for the Spirit, to Fill the Church with Christ’s Manifold
In recent years, few passages have captured my imagination more than Ephesians 3:14–21. That is to say, few texts of Scripture have struck me with such a vision for the need for prayer in the church and prayer for the church, and hence my own need to pray more for the church.
In Ephesians 1–3:13, Paul outlines a glorious vision of the church created by Christ’s cross and unified by God’s Spirit. And in Ephesians 4:1–6:24, Paul instructs the church how to walk with God. But in between, he connects these two halves with a prayer for the Father to give the Spirit in order for Christ’s people to overflow with his love. In addition to being a glorious trinitarian prayer, this prayer sums up all Paul has said about salvation and sets up all he will say to the church about walking in the Spirit.
As I said, for all that I’ve read (and preached) about prayer and the church, no vision of prayer in the church has been more instructive for me than this passage. And I pray that as you study this passage, or listen to this sermon, or dive into the resources below, you too will catch a vision for what God wants to do in the church, and why prayer to the Father, for the Spirit to fill his people with the love of Christ is so vital for triune glory of God to be seen in the church. Speaking personally, Ephesians 3:14–21 helped crystallize the need for such prayer, and I pray it will catalyze you to pray as well.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
- In reading Ephesians 3:14–21, what is the first big point or question that comes to mind?
- What role does this prayer play in Ephesians? Review chapters 1:1–3:13; preview chapters 4–6. In particular, how does this prayer relate to the earlier prayer in ch. 1? How does this prayer relate to the work of Christ and the construction of the temple in ch. 2? See the “For this reason” for the grammatical connection.
- To whom does Paul address in prayer? What significance is it that he addresses the Father? What are the roles of the Son and the Spirit in prayer? See John 14:6; Hebrews 10:19–24 and Romans 8:26–27; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20.
- What are the main things Paul prays for in Ephesians 3:14–21? How do Paul’s priorities in prayer inform our prayers? Cf. 3 John 2.
- What happens when we don’t pray? What happens to the church that is lacking prayer?
- For your personally, what leads to prayerlessness? What is one truth or one action that might lead to greater prayerfulness?
- What about Ephesians 3:14–21 might spur you on to more earnest prayer?
Instead of listing multiple sermons, I will simply point to one. This message by Dane Ortlund is as close to “required listening” as I can enforce. Actually, it is a sermon written (and once preached) by Jonathan Edwards and recently (re)preached by Dane in celebration of the Reformation.
If you want to know why the Great Awakening took place under men like Jonathan Edwards, listen to this sermon and feel the power of God’s love that comes through Dane’ representation of Edwards powerful word. You cannot help but be moved.
May God grant such a revival among our generation. And may God lead us to pray Ephesians 3:14–21 for that revival.
Articles on Ephesians
- Praying for the Inner Man: D. A. Carson on Ephesians 3:14–21
- The Father Saves, The Son Suffers, The Spirit Speaks: Seeing the Trinity in Ephesians 1–3
- Ten Things Ephesians Teaches About Christ and his Church
On the love of God.
- Communion with God by John Owen
- All Loves Excelling by John Bunyan
- God Is Love: Communion Addresses by J. W. Alexander
- Amazing Love: The Parable of the Prodigal Son by John R DeWitt
- Wayward but Loved: A Commentary and Mediations on Hosea by Ray Beeley
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
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