MY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron
A heartfelt and helpful prayer is found in the third chapter of Ephesians, between Paul’s explanation of the mystery he’d been charged with sharing, and his benediction. As we pray for ourselves and for others, there are insights in this supplication (verses 14-19) that will be helpful.
Paul began the passage, “For this reason…” which refers back to chapter 2 and the wonder of salvation for all in Christ. He was amazed how he’d been called to step out of Judaism into a role to bring the Gospel specifically to Gentiles. As a Pharisee, he had been so lost in his religion (think of that!), yet Christ sought him out to bring the blessing of God’s gift to those beyond the Jewish faith.
Paul wrote of bowing his knees to the Father (verse 14) which would not be typical for one of his stature. But he was overcome with truth experienced – he knew how vast God is while at the same time realizing his destitution. He also grasped the concerns of all who would read his letter, as we all live in similar situations. He urged us to find ourselves, then forget ourselves in realizing the wonder of who God is. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
The first part of the letter was devoted to teaching, then in the passage for today, Paul prayed for the sermon to become reality. Prayer and teaching must always come together, but often more emphasis is placed on one than the other. Someone observed that we can do more after we pray, but we can do nothing until we’ve prayed.
John chapter 17 parallels the theme of praying for others. Following the Upper Room Discourses in John chapters 13-16, Jesus prayed over the ones who would be left behind. Notice that He who was to be crucified did not say anything about his own situation. Paul who wrote his letters from a prison cell didn’t either. Their prayers were not related to their circumstances, or even to the condition of folks who would later read the prayers.
Paul’s and Jesus’ emphases were similar to Nehemiah’s. When Nehemiah got news that the walls of Jerusalem had been reduced to rubble, the king could tell he was despondent. But when Nehemiah prayed, he didn’t mention broken walls. His request began, “‘Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night…’” (Nehemiah 1:5-6). The prophet Daniel walked a political tightrope with several rulers, but his greatest concern in chapter 9 was the spiritual welfare of his people.
We’re all moving toward a destiny – remember, nobody gets out of this alive. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount acknowledged that our Father knows we need clothing, food, shelter. He is concerned about health and safety, but for mortal beings that is not the primary focus. Paul models a prayer for inner strength, and that we would all comprehend the measureless love of Christ which can change lives.
As a pastor, I will continue to pray for ailing backs, knees, even distractions and despondencies – my own as well as yours. But as Paul demonstrated, a greater gift would be this prayer for fulfillment:
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:16-19).