I Want to Pray… Like Paul – John Hafner

I Want to Pray… Like Paul – John Hafner

God has blessed us by revealing and preserving certain prayers in the scriptures. These accounts enlighten and encourage those who will carefully examine them. Paul’s prayer recorded for us in Ephesians 3:14-21 summarizes many of the core ideas of the book and provides a midpoint for this letter. Paul’s writing to the Ephesians splits nicely into two sections—the first three chapters focus on the beauty of the church and the last three chapters focus on the duty of the church. Paul’s prayer can serve as a bridge, connecting our shared Christian benefits to the obligations we faithfully carry out for our great God. If we take the time to study how Paul approached the Father’s throne in prayer and where he put his focus, then we will be better able to shape our prayers. What’s more, growing faith and improved activity in the kingdom flow naturally from an improved prayer life.

Paul prayed with a submissive attitude. Several lines from this prayer demonstrate Paul’s humility in coming before Almighty God. The spiritual strengthening to be had, for any Christian, comes not from self but rather according to God’s Spirit (Eph. 3:16). He knew, as he had already described previously, the greatness of the riches of God’s glory and grace (Eph. 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8, 16). He even began the prayer noting a posture of submission, bowing his knees to the Father (Eph. 3:14). How fitting, when Paul by inspiration had just laid out three chapters detailing the beauty of God’s plan—the mystery of the salvation of mankind within the one body of His Son, which is the church. Do we today properly appreciate the masterpiece of His mercy and truth revealed to us (Ps. 8:3-4; Heb. 4:15-16)? Are we in awe of the perfect redemption our God has made available through the sacrifice of Jesus (Tit. 2:13-14; Heb. 9:12)? Towards the end of the prayer, Paul showed this focus again. Our God holds the power to accomplish all that He has promised (Eph. 3:20). Paul employed special phrasing here to emphasize this truth. God is able, not just to do all that we ask or think, but to do exceedingly abundantly above that amount. Therefore, every prayer and every action of life must be directed toward glorifying our great God (Ps. 115:1; Eph. 3:21).

Paul prayed in Christian love. We also should not miss the fact that this is a prayer of intercession. Do we have a deep concern for our brothers and sisters each day and are we moved to cast those cares upon the Father (2 Cor. 11:28; 1 Pet. 5:6-7)? Paul prayed for these Christians, understanding how they each had become a part of something so much greater in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:10-11; 2:18-20; Heb. 12:1-2). The whole family in heaven and earth wears His name (Eph. 3:15). We share not just the same Father, but also the same ups and downs of our brethren (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 10:13; 12:26-27). Also, there is rejoicing among the angels in Heaven whenever a man or woman decides to turn from sin and submit to righteousness (Luke 15:10). Consider how names speak of ownership and loyalty. We wear the name of Christian and aspire to be Christlike in every respect (John 13:14-15; Acts 11:26; Col. 3:12-17). This bond requires a greater amount of love, even as we together seek to comprehend the enormity in every dimension of the love of Christ (Eph. 3:18; 4:3-6;
1 John 4:19). The unity of Christian love provides such incredible benefits as well, it is like the root system of a mighty tree or the firm foundation of a tall building (Eph. 3:17). Together we are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). Paul prayed concerning this love, knowing that as Christians model it, we will extol our God to all generations and for all time (1 Pet. 2:9).

Paul prayed according to God’s purpose. The prayer’s opening phrase, “For this reason,” seems to refer to an idea expressed at the end of the previous chapter (Eph. 2:19-3:1). Paul went to God in prayer on the Ephesian Christians’ behalf because God had joined them together (Jew and Gentile alike), creating a house of God in the church (1 Tim. 3:15). In recognition of this high calling, Christians must always be diligent to conduct themselves properly. The church bringing glory to God is by intention, never by accident (2 Cor. 5:9; Phil. 1:27). Paul’s prayer displayed the necessity of seeking God’s will if the church hopes to be everything God designed them to be and function in the way which He has laid out. Paul prayed for the church to be granted exactly what God had promised to her (Eph. 3:16). Do we make our petitions according to His will, showing a unity of purpose shared with the Divine (Jas. 1:5-6; 4:3; 1 John 5:14)? We must also see the need for each Christian to unite his will with the plan of God (Phil. 1:6; Col. 3:1-3; 1 John 3:3). That’s why the church is granted these three key items for their benefit and use: God would strengthen them with His might (Eph. 3:16), Christ would dwell in their hearts (Eph. 3:17), and they would be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). In this way, God’s power enables the service of Christian men and women in the church, so that we may fulfill our purpose of bringing glory to His name. 

We are the workmanship of God, created in Christ for good works (Eph. 2:10). Let us demonstrate the same understanding and determination as Paul did in prayer. And may the church, by supplication and service, continue to stand as a testament to God’s wisdom, holiness, and lovingkindness!