During Fall 2017, I taught Calvary Monterey the book of Ephesians. During the series, I also wrote about Ephesians in sixty-plus short, devotionally styled posts. Each Thursday, through 2018, I will release a post. I hope you enjoy. For the entire series, please visit nateholdridge.com/united-for-unity-posts.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” (Ephesians 3:14–16).
On the night before His death, Jesus taught His disciples. He spoke to them of many things on their way to the garden of Gethsemane. One teaching spoke of their vital union to Him; they needed to abide in Him like a branch abides in the vine. The life of the vine would flow into the branch. Resultantly, fruit would grow. Jesus then said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” To Jesus, to abide in Him meant to abide in His love. He believed a deep and strong connection to His love would lead to fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. Without a connection to His love, no fruit could grow.
So it is in the mind of Paul. At this point in his letter to the Ephesians, he is ready to make a turn. He has declared the truth, and now he stands prepared to communicate the application of this truth. He is poised to write about the daily Christian life. He is ready to speak how the gospel impacts our everyday experience. But before he goes there, Paul goes into prayer. He realized what Christ had taught: if we aren’t personally and growingly connected to the love of Christ, we will not bear fruit. If the life of Ephesians 1-3 isn’t ours experientially, the life of Ephesians 4-6 will not flow from us. So Paul prayed for a deep connection to Jesus’ love to develop in the hearts of the church. He prayed for us to become united to Christ’s love. Before writing the prayer, Paul introduced his prayer.
First, he declared the motivation behind his prayer by writing “for this reason.”
His prayer had not materialized out of thin air but was related to all he’d previously written. He had a vision of the church, a body with Christ as the head. A people loved by God individually and collectively. He saw people brought near to God, but also near to each other. The wall of hostility was destroyed. This grand vision had been a mystery, but after Christ came the mystery was revealed. Paul celebrated the fact he had been brought into the work of proclaiming this mystery. So all he saw made him pray, for he had a vision that required the working of God to bring to pass.
Second, he hinted at the intensity of his prayer by writing that he would “bow his knees.”
We take this phrase as indicative of prayer — and it is — but in Paul’s time it would signal intense and devoted prayer. There is no bodily posture prescribed by the Bible for prayer, but quite often people would stand, lift up their heads and hands, and cry out to God. To bow or lie prostrate before God suggested intensity and passion. In dire straits, God’s people would fall before Him in prayer. Paul felt that intensity as he embarked on this prayer. He knew it was pressing. He knew their (and our) hearts must be affected by the love of Christ. To him, the entire mission and fruitfulness of the church hung in the balance.
Third, he wrote of the direction of his prayer when he wrote that he would pray “before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”
Paul directed his prayer to God, God the Father, the Father of every family on earth, the creator of every human who has ever lived. God made humanity in His image. God stands as the original Father; all earthly fathers merely borrow His title. He loves all the people He has made and longs to thrust them into His new humanity through the blood of His Son. So when Paul prays, he sees himself praying to a loving Father who cares for the people of the world. Jesus had said, “for God so loved the world…” Those words seemed to ring in Paul’s ears as he prayed.
Fourth, he appealed to the Father’s ability when he wrote: “according to the riches of His glory.”
He felt God was able to accomplish his request. He knew God could make the love of Christ real to the believers he prayed for. God can do the same for you today.