The Content of the Prayer: Page 1 of 4 (series: Lessons on 2 Corinthians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Commentary on the Book of Ephesians
By: Tom Lowe Date: 6/30/17

Lesson 14: The Content of the Prayer (3:14-19)


Ephesians 3:14-19 (KJV)

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.


Introduction

The apostle seems to be more anxious for the believers, than for what he himself had to bear. He feared that they might become discouraged and fall away when meeting tribulation. He asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings; strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where His Spirit dwells, there He dwells. We should desire that His good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable it is to our souls to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth (18) shows its extent―to all nations and ranks; the length, that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fullness may be said to be filled with the fullness of God. Shouldn’t this satisfy any man? Must he feel the need to fill himself with a thousand trifles, thinking that accumulating “things” would complete his happiness?


Commentary

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father.”
We have no way of knowing what was on Paul’s mind at this time, but we can probably make a good guess from the context and what we have learned thus far from our study of his epistles, especially Acts. What was it that caused the apostle to bow his knees in prayer? There have been several suggestions:
1) He felt the need to pray for the perseverance of the saints, because nothing is more desirable to the ministers of Christ than that; which is the pure gift of God. It is what He has promised, and therefore we should ask Him for it; for what God has planned and promised to His people, will be sought after by them.
2) The people of God were becoming worldly and complacent; some were more interested in accumulating wealth than they were in worshiping God and participating in the rituals of the Christian faith. The apostle might have wanted to stir up these saints to pray for themselves
3) Paul observed that Christians were especially loved and blessed by God; therefore, he prayed that they would know too, and pray to Him, and thank Him.
4) He may have prayed that they would not be discouraged by the things he was suffering

Paul had begun to finish this prayer back in Ephesians 3:1{1], but he interrupted it for the magnificent digression regarding the great mystery in Christ; now he repeated the words, “For this cause,” and completed the marvelous prayer.

“I bow my knees”
We need to remember that no one specific posture in prayer is commanded. Keep this in mind when various groups try to argue that raising one’s hands while praying is a more ‘spiritual posture’ than all others (1 Timothy 2:8){2], and consider the example of Jesus in the garden―“Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39). Paul didn’t follow Jesus’ example; the position he used in prayer was bowing the knees; a man is not tied to any particular gesture or posture in prayer, the main thing is the condition of the heart; mere postures and gestures are insignificant things with God; though where the mind is affected, the body will be moved; and this gesture may be expressive of reverence, humility, and submission in prayer.
Many parts of this prayer bear a strict resemblance to that offered up by Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:1, etc.), when dedicating the temple; he kneeled down upon his knees before all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven (2 Chronicles 6:13). The apostle was

praying for the Christian church and for those blessings which should always rest on and distinguish it; and he kneels down after the example of Solomon, and appeals to Him to whom the first temple was dedicated, and who had made it a type of the Gospel Church.

One distinguished commentator takes a very harsh stance concerning the proper position to take when praying. His comment was: “The apostle prays to God the Father, and he bows his knees in this praying. What can any man think of himself, who, in his addresses to God, can either sit on his seat or stand in the presence of the Maker and Judge of all men? Would they sit while addressing any person of ordinary respectability? If they did so they would be consider very rude indeed. Would they sit in the presence of the president of their own country? They would not be permitted to do so. Is God then to be treated with less respect than a fellow mortal?”

But what does the Bible say is the proper position for prayer? Well it does have something to say, but what I have found is that the position taken is just not that important. What is Important is the condition of the heart. Consider the following:
1) Early Christians sometimes kneeled in prayer, but usually stood, with arms outstretched and hands palm upward, with their eyes raised to the sky.
2) Paul kneeled when praying (Acts 20:36; Acts 21:5). Stephen kneeled when he was stoned (Acts 7:60). Peter kneeled when he raised Dorcas (Acts 9:40). Solomon knelt in the prayer of dedication for the temple (1 Kings 8:54), and our Lord himself knelt in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41).
3) The usual, and the proper posture of prayer is to kneel; Compare 2 Chronicles 6:13; Daniel 6:10; Luke 22:21; Acts 7:60; Acts 9:40; Acts 20:26; Acts 21:5. It is a posture which indicates reverence, and should, therefore, be assumed when we come before God. It is a sad thing that the custom of kneeling in public worship has for the most part been done away with in the Christian churches.
4) Some other acceptable attitudes or postures are also indicated, such as “falling on the face” (Luke 5:12).
5) The Jews often stood to pray (Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:11-13); but kneeling for prayer is often indicated in the New Testament, although it was not unknown at all in the Old Testament.

“Unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here Paul prayed to God, not as the Father of mankind, generally, but in the spiritual sense of being the spiritual Father of his children in Christ. “In the spiritual or redemptive sense, God is definitely not the Father of all men.” This is an important distinction. It is not the brotherhood of all mankind (in the sense of having the same Creator) that blesses human relationships. It is the brotherhood of man “in Christ” that brings peace and friendship. The brotherhood of man, apart from the qualifier of their being brothers “in Christ Jesus,” is a sadistic joke. The Jewish-Arab conflict is a prime example of the brotherhood of man apart from Jesus Christ.

In the foregoing chapter, Ephesians 2:19, Paul tells the Ephesians that now that they believe in Christ, they are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. Here he goes on to tell them that they are of the family, or lineage of God, seeing that they are, along with Jesus Christ, the sons of God. Nothing could be a greater force for keeping them committed and loyal to the doctrine which he had preached to them, and which here-and-now he makes it his principal business to substantiate; namely, that they do not need to be circumcised, and submit to the law of Moses, because they were already, by faith in Christ, the sons of God, and of the same family as Christ himself.

Christians are confident that they can approach God as their Father―“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12). Jesus taught the same thing (Matthew 6:9; Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:18; Mark 14:36). The confidence of being welcomed and accepted when we go into God's presence springs from our faith in Him. We believe in Him as the Propitiation, as our Peace, as the Reconciler, and we go before God with confidence. We are never told to pray to some departed Christian, such as Mary or one of the apostles. Christianity is the religion of free and direct access to the Father. Caldwell reminds us: “He is not simply our Father because He created us. He is also concerned about us. As among men, there is a difference between paternity and fatherhood. We recognize that
We are right in praying to the Father for several reasons:
1. It is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).
2. Jesus Christ prayed to Him; which is mentioned many times in the New Testament.
3. We were created by God to have fellowship with Him, and we fellowship through prayer and worship.

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