The Apostle Paul’s Prayer of Power
The prayers of the Apostle Paul teach us a lot of truth about who we are in Jesus Christ. After Paul speaks in Ephesians chapter 1, verses 3-14 concerning the great Trinitarian work of God in our salvation, he begins to pray specifically for the Ephesian Christians that their knowledge of Christ might be a powerful life-changing knowledge of God’s truth.
Pastor John Owen once said that he desired above all things not merely to know the truth of God’s Word, but truly to know the power of the truth of God’s Word. This should be the same for all of Christ’s people.
In Ephesians 1, Paul begins his prayers based upon the truth of how God has called a people to himself and the deep and precious truth of how he saved us all. In fact, Paul ends his theological praise in verses 3-14 with the profound truth that believers are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. We have a portion of the Spirit now and know Christ, but we await our full inheritance, so in the meantime, Paul prays for the Christians so that they will know Christ — better! That is, he prays that Christians may know not merely the truth of Christ, but the power of this truth in their lives.
Ephesians 1:13-23 13 In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Notice a few important things about Paul’s prayer here in Ephesians 1.
First of all, he “never ceases to give thanks and remember the congregation in his prayers”. Paul put into practice what he preached. He prayed unceasingly for others! Oftentimes we find only the time to pray for ourselves (if we find the time to pray at all). Secondly, he prays specifically for the Christians to grow in particular ways. He doesn’t merely say: “Lord, bless the Ephesians”, or “Lord, be with the Ephesians”, or other famous generic prayers for others.
Rather, the Apostle Paul prays specifically that the same Father of glory who has graciously saved them will give the believers a spirit of wisdom and revelation in their knowledge of Christ (v. 17). That is, Paul wants the Christians to know how God saved them (vv. 3-14), but also how God is saving them, or presently and powerfully making them more like Christ as he gives to them all they need for life and godliness.
Thirdly, Paul wants the Christians to know their hope to which he has called them (v. 18a), the immeasurable greatness of his resurrection power in us who believe (vv. 19-20), and the power of Christ in their lives as the Head of the Body, the Church for whom he died (vv. 20-22). There is a good weakness and a bad weakness. A good weakness is the kind Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 12, where through this weakness that God has brought into our lives, we know we can still say “though I am weak, yet I am strong”. In this good weakness, we know that it is through our weakness that God’s strength is perfected.
However, the bad(sinful) weakness that we have as Christians is to fail to know who we are in Christ. That is, it is weakness of a lack of true understanding of the power we have because of the Spirit of God who indwells us. The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells within us! (vv. 19-20). Christ has been raised above all authority defeating all of our our enemies sin, hell, and the Devil! When Christ sat down at God’s right hand he sent to us His Spirit to be with us and to transform us all.
Paul wants the Ephesian Christians and Christians today, to know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power to us who believe (v. 19). Because of the victory of Christ over sin, hell and the Devil in his resurrection and ascension, we have the same victory.
The power of Christ is given to us and we respond by faith and gratitude in the daily dying to sin, wrestling against the sinful tendencies that constantly want to lure us off the path in our walk with Christ, and knowing that we have the ability truly to resist and to stand firm in the victory of Christ over sin and the Devil (notice Paul’s development of this in chapters Ephesians 4-6, when he speaks of “walking in the Spirit”, “keeping in step with the Spirit”, “putting on our new man”, “resisting the Devil”, and “standing firm in the full armor of God”.
As Christians, we should pray for one another. Additionally, we should pray specifically for each other. Even when we do not know other’s specific prayer requests, we do know that we all struggle with “bad, sinful weakness” and so we all need truly to know the power of God’s truth in our lives. Also, we should pray this prayer of Paul for ourselves so that we might really know the power of God’s Word, the power of what it means for us to be raised from death to life in Christ.
Our greatest enemies, sin, death and the Devil have been defeated. In fact, Christ has led these in a triumphant procession, publicly showing to all the world that his resurrection and ascension has placed him high above all authority, power and dominion, not only in this age, but also in the age to come (vv. 21-22; cf. 4:8-10). Because we are Christ’s people, we can be assured that we have been raised from the dead (John 5:24) and that we have a great power of resisting sin and the influences of the Devil that lead us all to death.
We are seated with Christ in a truly victorious position (Eph. 2:5-6)! We have been seated with Christ in the heavenly places and although we do not fully see our inheritance, we have a great hope as we all await patiently and expectantly the return of our glorious Savior!
As Christians, we have so much to be thankful for! God’s immeasurably great power should be exerted toward us who are sinners, deserving only of God’s wrath! Yet because Jesus Christ took the powerful blows of God’s wrath because of our sin, in order to defeat death and the Devil, and to offer a satisfaction to God for our sins; because of this grace shown to us while we were yet sinners, God’s power is given as a blessing to help us, to raise us to life, and by His Holy Spirit he powerfully lives within us so that we can resist sin NOW, and gratefully and obediently live for Christ! This truth should lead us from a “bad weakness” of falling into sinful patterns to a “good weakness” of humility, awe and reverence because our God, who is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:28), has come to dwell within us who are united to Jesus Christ!
In Christ’s love,