Sermon : “Lord, teach us how to pray for spiritual strength and power” (Ephesians 3:14-21)


Sermon Title: “Lord, teach us how to pray for spiritual strength and power”
Text:Ephesians 3:14-21

Date: Sunday, March 4, 2018

Speaker: Pastor Joseph



Summary: This is the second prayer in the book of Ephesians, which ends the first division of the book. The first prayer is recorded in Ephesians 1:17-23. This particular prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 ends with a doxology in verses 20 and 21. This is a prayer that emphasizes the importance of spiritual power, love, and faith in the life of the believer and the churches. Paul, however, begins the letter of Ephesians with a long benediction (1:3-14) followed by words of thanking and prayer in 1:15-22). Paul strategically structures the first chapter in order that he might explain the mystery of the grace of God in salvation, in redeeming both Jews and Gentiles; they are sealed with the same Spirit who have brought them together to be connected through one person (the Messiah Jesus) and united through one person: (Jesus Christ their Lord) and be placed together in the ekklesia of God, which both groups have created. The focus of this prayer is on groups and not individuals per se.

As Frank Thielman has observed, “The burden of Paul’s two intercessory prayer reports is that his readers might understand both the greatness of God’s power and the availability of that power to them (Phil. 4:13; Col 1:29) (Thielman, Ephesians, 243).

Objective: to pray for inner strength and encouragement because God has placed his power at the disposal of the churches and every individual believer in Christ. We need to stop living a defeated life as Christians.

God as Father (v.14)

  • 3: l4: God as Father of all people (see Acts 17:24-31)
  1. Paul uses the universal belief that God is the common wealth of all people as an introductory statement to his intercessory prayer. Paul is also using this common understanding to press on the need for Gentile and Jewish Christians to be united and transcend their ethnic differences (Ephesians 3:15).
  2. Both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 17:28), believers and unbelievers, affirm the universal fatherhood of God. Because God is the Father of all things, he is the source and ground of all that exists.
  3. God is the common progenitor. Paul presents God as “the originator of all” to challenge ethnic divisions in the churches in Asia Minor (3:1-3; 3:6-7)

3 Main Petitions of this intercessory prayer

  1. “that” (hina) God might give the Ephesian Christians inward strength (vv.16-17)

Agent: through his Spirit

Place: in your inner self, that is your heart

Result/production: that the Christians might receive the indwelling presence of Christ in their hearts (v. 17)

Means: through faith

Place: in your hearts

  • To be firmly established in love (v.17)

Power of God: “The availability of God’s power to believer has been a prominent theme in the letter so far. Paul has prayed for his readers to understand ‘the surpassing greatness of his power (dynamis) for us who believe’ (1:19). He has then shown how God has used the same great power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand to unify believers with the victorious Christ and give them victory over evil powers as well (1:20-2:10). Despite his position as the least of all the saints, Paul’s own historically crucial ministry to the Gentiles is also a demonstration of ‘the effect of his power (3:7-8).  He has just described his prayer that God would strengthen his readers in power so they might grow strong enough to grasp Christ’s love for them (3:16, 18-19). When Paul addresses Go as (ho dynamenos, the one who is able), then, he draws these threads together: God is the one who is powerful, and he has placed his power at the disposal of Pauls’ readers” (Thielman, Ephesians, 241-2)

  1. “that” (hina) the Ephesian Christians might be able to understand the vastness of Christ’s love for them” (vv. 18-19a)
  • “Union with Christ by faith brings personal, inner strength that allows the believes to live in a world dominated rebellion against God” ((Thielman, Ephesians, 231)
  • To have spiritual power (v.18)
  • to understand (grasp) the dimensions of the love of Christ for you (v.18)
  • to know that the love of Christ is more valuable than and surpasses human knowledge and wisdom (v.19)

–that all the Christian churches in Ephesus to have spiritual power (v.28)

  • the love of Christ is described with these modifiers: “Breath and length, “and “Height and depth.” These are the most fitting terms to reveal the intensity and dimensions of this divine love for us.
  • The characteristics of the great love of Christ is already mentioned in 2:4-5). God’s love is immeasurable and vast. It transcends God’s creation (Rom 8:39; Job 11:5-9, love and wisdom are linked or connected)
  1. “that” (hina) they might be filled with the fullness of God (v. 19b)

Various interpretations of the idea of the “fullness” of God

  1. Moral excellence
  2. His life and power
  3. His love

“God’s fullness”: “The close correspondence between this expression and 4:13, however, provides the best key to Paul’s meaning. Just as in 4:13, Paul says that the saints are on the way to becoming ‘mature’ (teleios) and to reaching the full stature that Christ already possesses, so here he probably means that his readers are in the process of becoming all that God created them to be. Just as God is perfect, so one day they too will be perfect” (Thielman, Ephesians, 238)

  • Accordingly, “Paul is concerned with the interior life of his readers. He prays that God will strengthen in power…. Because of this inner strengthening, Christ will dwell (katoikesai), through faith, in their hearts. Paul does not imply by this that Christ is absent from their hearts. They could hardly be sealed by the Spirit (1:13), united with Christ in his resurrection and exaltation (2:5-6), and incorporated into the place where God dwells (katoiketerion) by his Spirit (2:22) yet fail to have Christ dwelling in their hearts. What they apparently lack is the inner strength and encouragement they should draw from these truths” (Thielman, Ephesians, 230-1)

Vv. 20-21: the doxology

 This is a typical ending of Jewish prayer with praise and the expression ‘for ever and ever” (1 Chronicle 16:36; Ps. 106:48)

  1. The benediction affirms God’s desire and willingness to fulfill all of our (spiritual) needs)
  2. It asserts God’s undeniable power to accomplish all of his desires and plans to bless the church.
  3. It elevates God’s power and ability above human wishes and thought. God’s ability is greater than human strength and wisdom (v.20)
  4. The power of God working in us can overcome our human weaknesses in prayer.
  • The doxology centers on the glory of God, which is manifested both in the Church and Christ
  • The center of God’s glory is his church and his Messiah
  1. The goal of the creation of the ekklesia of God is to promote and reflect the glory, majesty, holiness, worth, and power of God the father.
  2. The goal of the Messiah Jesus and him indwelling in the hearts of his people is to establish and sustain God’s glory in our lives.
  3. The goal of the Holy Spirit empowering us is to exalt and magnify God’s glory in our inner beings.

The Spirit in the life of the believer and the churches

  • The work of the Holy Spirit in intercessory prayers (v. 16) or the causal effects of the indwelling Spirit in the life of the Church (vv.16-19)
  • The agent of this intercessory prayer is the Holy Spirit. This is a prayer to be in communion with the Spirit of God so the Ephesian church can receive spiritual strength and empowerment (v.16; 1:13, 17-18)

Result/production: so, you can be a temple for Christ’s dwelling (v.17; 2:21-22): The temple analogy

  • What happens when a believer or a church is empowered by the Holy Spirit?
  • What is the work of the Spirit in the life of the church?
  • The spirit will cause Christ to dwell in you.
  • He will supply both faith to continue believing in Christ, to receive obediently guidance and direction from the Holy Spirit, and to love people.
  • He will give understanding about the deep and unsearchable things about God.
  • He will assist us in understanding and grasping God’s majestic and glorious power and love manifested in Christ
  • The Spirit will cause you to “to be filled with all the fullness of God”

 Finally, the Spirit is given to the Churches; he is the indwelling presence in the churches and the hearts of the Christians. The spirit is associated with power (Micah 3:8; Zechariah 4:6).

  • He is associated with moral transformation: Ezekiel 36:27
  • He is also associated with wisdom: Ex. 31:3; Deut. 34:9; Isa. 11:2