Prayer Life: God's Plan Empowered

God's Plan Series
  • We live in a culture that constantly tells us that our identity is found in what we have or have not done; what job we have or what career we are hoping for; how we have succeeded or how we have failed. This however is not God's plan for our lives. The Gospel says that the identity we all need is one that cannot be taken away by our failure or circumstances. The identity that we need is found only in Christ.
6. Prayer Life: God's Plan Empowered (Ephesians 3:14-22)
  • God is making Himself known to the world through the Church.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance – What are the central ideas of the text?
  • God is the sole source of our power. (Ephesians 3:15, 20)
  • We can go to God in prayer expecting to secure all the requisites for empowerment, namely being strengthened in our inner being, allowing Christ to take full residence in our hearts, comprehending His great love, and being filled with His fullness. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
  • God is powerful enough and willing to do more than we even ask Him or think to ask Him in empowering us for His service to His glory. (Ephesians 3:20 & 21)
  • Implications – What questions should the listener be asking?
  • Where is only the place (or, who is the only one) we should go to receive power for living the life we are called to live in Christ?
  • What should we ask for in seeking to appropriate the power that is in us in the Spirit?
  • How and to what extent will God answer our prayer for empowerment and why?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide
  • Interpretation – What is the text telling/showing us?
  • Why do we go to God with any request?
  • Why did Paul write this prayer for those to whom he was writing (and to us)?
  • How did Paul pray? (example answer: He prayed with confidence.)
  • What were Paul’s requests on behalf of his readers (and for us)?
  • What is your inner being? Why is it important that you have spiritual strength in your inner being? How does this apply to the church?
  • What does it mean for Christ to dwell in your hearts?
  • Why is it important that Paul’s readers understand the extent of God’s love and the love of Christ?
  • What does it mean to be filled with all the fullness of God?
  • How able is God to answer our prayers?
  • Why does God delight to empower the Church to do its mission?
  • Implementation – What should the listener’s response be?
  • What is your family relationship with God and why does that matter in terms of prayer?
  • What are the riches of God’s glory and what does it mean that He answers your prayer according to His riches in glory?
  • Why is it important that you be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being? What is your inner being?
  • What does it mean for Christ to dwell in your heart through faith? Does He dwell in your heart?
  • Are you rooted and grounded in God’s love? What does that mean?
  • Why is it crucial for you to comprehend and know the love of God and of Jesus Christ?
  • How powerful is God when it comes to answering prayer? How can you access that power?
  • What does having God’s power do for you in the living of your live? In the living of the life of your church?
  •  What is the result of your living an empowered life as it comes to God?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as prepared by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation – What’s generally going on in this area of Scripture?
Paul began chapter 3 with a start to a prayer, but interrupted his prayer as he thought about his imprisonment “on behalf of [the] Gentiles” (Ephesians 3:1), and about what God has done for them through his ministry. This interruption finished at verse 13, and the prayer picks up in verse 14 with the same words as in verse 1, “For this reason …” Then Paul bows his knees before God the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” (Ephesians3:15). Paul proceeds right to the sovereign God of the universe in bold prayer n behalf the believers to whom he is writing (and on behalf of all believers, really). God is the source of all power for individual believers and for the Church. As prayer is communication and communion with God, it is based on a relationship with God. And in this awesome thing called prayer (by the way – stay tuned for the 4 week long series on Prayer that follows after this God’s Plan series!) we the Church have power that is from God, to whom we have access in Christ through the Spirit, and thus have access to power for living. Paul knows this, and therefore he does not hesitate to pray for his readers.

But what does Paul pray for that is so important as a follow-up to knowing who his readers are in Christ as he has just written in essentially all the verses leading up to this prayer? He prays for two things, each of which contain a sub-request, and together lead to the conclusion and effect stated in verses 20 and 21. First, Paul prays that believers be granted strength with power “through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:16) Note the source of this power and strengthening: it is out of the “riches” of God’s glory. God’s power and glory are beyond measure; they are limitless, and as such are more than sufficient to provide the answer to this prayer. This empowering relates specifically to the “inner being,” meaning one’s heart and soul, one’s deepest and truest person and personhood. We are to ask God, out of His unlimited power, to give us strength, spiritual strength, on the inside, as it is that strength that is necessary for the carrying out of the our mission to manifest His glory. The sub-request is that in the answer to the first request, Christ might make His home in us, might take up complete residence in our hearts, and that we be fully yielded to Him and his will so that we might be like Him in every way. We should be increasingly His as we grow deeper in our walk with Him. It is a work of the Spirit in us (Romans 8:9). It is the Spirit who produces spiritual fruit in us (Galatians 5:22 & 23) and by whom we have and appropriate the “mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2:10-16). This is the faith Paul references, as opposed to “saving” faith by which we first come to be a child of God. It is the faith walk of following Jesus whereby Christ comes to be truly Lord over all of who we are. That is the outcome of being strengthened with power; we become more and more like Christ, and that is an “inside out” thing; it begins on the inside, and issues in thought and action on the outside. Paul will write more about this in chapters 4 through 6.

Paul’s second request is that we may have strength to comprehend the limitless love of God, and thus know the love of Christ (two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Ephesians 3:18). We can get to this point as we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17) The basis of our relationship with God is in Christ and what He did for us on the cross. In that sense, we are grounded in Him. But we are also rooted in Him in the sense that He is our life. Just as to receive life and nourishment, a tree must sink its roots deep into the soil in which it is grounded where it will find water. Rooted in Christ’s love (See John 15:1-10) we will have the wherewithal to comprehend the immeasurable and limitless love of God, and know the love of Christ that otherwise is beyond knowledge. Comprehension is knowing more than mere facts; it is understanding the how and the why of things, and the very nature of things; it is grasping the essence of something, to seize upon what it is. That is how we are to comprehend God’s love. And the love of Christ is beyond knowing, yet we can know it experientially as we have been saved by His grace, and intellectually, as we begin to see His work and its effect when we come to Him. The measure of Christ’s love is that He gave up His rights as God to die an ignominious death as a human being on our behalf in order to remove the stain of our sin. The depth of that love is truly unknowable, but the sense of the verse is that knowing it in a limited way, we acknowledge it and approve of it and its effect which is that it saved a wretch like me! And the sub-request is that we would as a result of such knowledge, be “filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19) This does not mean that we become God; rather it means that as we abide and dwell on knowing Him and the vastness of His love, we become ever more Christ-like, dominated by Him in everything, being constantly filled with His mind, reflecting His attributes, and producing spiritual fruit. It is a process as well as an end. That is the walk of the follower of Jesus, and it is attainable as the result of prayer to an all-powerful God whose will is that we be like Him.

Lest the goal of Paul’s prayer seem unattainable, he closes his prayer with one of the great benedictions in all of Scripture in verses 20 and 21. Blessing to God, writes Paul, who is “able” to answer this prayer. In fact, He is powerful enough (actually has unlimited power) to do more – no, far more than we ask or can even imagine. God stands ready to answer this prayer of Paul, and our similar prayer, in ways that go far beyond we could ever ask for or think to ask for. In short, we can do the kingdom work we are called to do because He empowers us to do it, and to do it in ways that go beyond human effort. It is His power that works in us “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) God hasn’t called His Church into being and left it to its own, human devices. Instead, He has given us Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, and embued us with the love of Christ that fills us, to the end that we have the power to accomplish His will. Praise God indeed that He has empowered us! But even more than that, by so empowering us, He brings glory to Himself. As the Church is empowered to live out the work of revealing God to the world, that work points to God and gives Him the glory in all of it not only on earth, but forever in heaven. Wow! It can get no greater than that.

As stated in the prior Notes, God's plan is indeed many splendored and beautiful. And one tremendous aspect of that splendor and beauty is that He has empowered the Church to know Him and His love and to be so filled with Him that He completes His mission of bringing glory to Himself through the Church. What an amazing and wonderful God. And what an amazing thing that we can come to Him boldly with the same prayer for empowering. Oh that we would do that regularly in our individual lives and as His Church; and oh that we would grasp that He is powerful enough to do so much more than we can ever ask for and thus work through us. In this power we can go forth with confidence that His work will be done in and through us. To God be the glory “in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)