(2/7) John Ė Liberty Convocation Ė PUSH Ė Pray until something happens. Coincidences happen when we pray, they donít when we donít.
I. Paulís Prayers
Paul was a Missionary but he had a Pastorís heart. He knew how to pray and began several of his letters stating that he prayed for the churches and what it was he was praying for the churches. To the Corinthians, Romans and Thessalonians, he reminds them that he thanks God for them and prays for them regularly.
It had been at least 4 years since Paul had seen the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. Since then he had been arrested and taken to Rome where he was awaiting a trial by Caesar as he sat in a Roman prison. The letters to these Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians as well as a personal letter to Philemon are referred to as his prison epistles. If you look
at the two prayers that he states in Ephesians (Chapters 1 and 3), or in his letter to the Colossians, Philippians, and Thessalonians, you will notice that his prayers are different than ours. He does not pray for anyoneís physical health or well-being; he doesnít pray for their finances; and he doesnít pray for their safety. Listen to his prayers in:
What did you hear? What does Paul want God to do for these folks?
Do you ever pray like this for your family? How about for your church family?
Since we believe that all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for everyone to benefit, we believe that Paulís prayers reflect Godís desire for you and me. That is; we believe that this is what God wants all of us to pursue. Do we agree on this? So letís look at this.
II. Paulís Gratefulness for the Church. Therefore, I also, after I heard of
your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers (vv. 15-16).
Therefore, relates back to verses 13; "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise," You heard the gospel and you believed and placed your trust in Jesus and you were sealed with the Holy Spirit like the rest of us. You are part
of the family. The universal family of God.
Paul was sitting in his jail cell one day and someone visited him and Paul wanted to know how the churches were doing. He wanted to know that they were staying strong and faithful and someone said, "Let me tell you about the church in Ephesus. These brothers and sisters have a strong faith in the Lord. They are obeying God because they trust Him. They
are living their lives according to the Word of God, and they donít just go to church on Sunday, they are the Church Sunday through Saturday. They love each other the same way Jesus loved us." I would guess that like the Church in Jerusalem in Acts 2, that they meet regularly to learn Godís word, and that they prayed for each other, and broke bread together, and remembered
their Lord with Communion, shared their possessions and their very lives with each other, as they looked after each otherís welfare and well-being." From his prison cell Paul broke out in his happy dance and thanked God for this church.
These two actions should be the goal and mark of every local church, and every believer in every church. We know from all 3 synoptic Gospels that our Lord said that loving God and loving people are the top commands upon which the whole Bible is based, and to love each other like Jesus loves us is our ID card, our badge of authenticity (John 13:34-35).
Hear Mark 13:29-31, "Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: ĎHear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.í This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ĎYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.í
There is no other commandment greater than these."
Here is a hard but honest question to ponder; do you think people characterize us as a Church that displays a solid faith in God and love for all the saints? Or would they say we are just another run of the mill meeting of Sunday morning religious people, whose lives are no different than those who donít go to church on Sunday mornings? I donít want to
be run of the mill? Do you? I want people to say, "Look at how they love one another and how they trust and obey, and love their God."
So Paul would think of this church and the first thing he would do is say, "Thank You Father for these Christ-Followers.
Let me interject here that giving thanks to God for someone or saying thanks to someone is something we donít do nearly enough. Thank you for those who have ministered to our children, and have sat in the nursery. Thanks for those who load and unload the trailer each week. Thanks for those who run the sound and visual aids each week. Thanks for the
coffee, and the flowers, and the use of homes for ministry. Thanks for those who give so generously so this little church can touch the community and the world. Sometimes before you leave on Sunday, go up to one of these people and say, "Thanks for what you have done, or for what you did, or for what you do every week. I appreciate you. I thank God for you." Be like that old
United Way commercial, "Thanks to you it works for all of us." It will put a bounce in someoneís step today. Imagine how this church felt to hear Paul say, "I thank God for you and your faith and your love to all the saints."
III. Paulís Prayer for the Church at Ephesus (vv.17-23)
A. 17" that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to
you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened;"
Permit me to touch on verse 18 first. The eyes of your understanding literally says the eyes of your heart. Not the blood pump nor the seat of your emotions as we commonly refer to the heart today, but the center of your thinking and reasoning and understanding. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart," This is the area that, before Christ, was as
Jeremiah records "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jer. 17:9) and whose thoughts and intents were only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). This is the area that defines you. Solomon said that as a man, thinks in his heart so is he (Pro. 23:7). God followers are told to; "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the
issues of life." (Prov. 4:23). The heart is the area of your life that God searches out and knows better than you. Jeremiah 17:10 says, "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways According to the fruit of his doings," which is why you should be careful what you let your mind and thoughts focus on.
It is the area of your life that was blinded by Satan before you knew Jesus (2 Cor. 4:1-3). And that is why Jesus quoted Isaiah saying, "Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they
should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them," (Matt. 13;14-15).
But when you were saved, the Holy Spirit took the blinders off, and opened the eyes of your heart, and you were able to understand Godís word and you began to see the light that you had never seen before. It is as if Paul is saying that my prayer for you is based on the fact that you are able to know wisdom and understanding; you are now able to know
God, Every Christian has the Holy Spirit and is able to comprehend the words and wisdom of God as we have seen in 1 Cor. 2:9-16 and John 16:13, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."
So here is the prayer. Paul spent the first 14 verses reminding us that our calling was entirely a God thing. It was His plan and He did it all and graced us with our calling, our adoption, our acceptance, our redemption, our forgiveness, our spiritual insight, our inheritance and the gift of the Holy Spirit sealing our lives, and our response should
be a forever hallelujah, praise the Lord. The blinders are off and you can know God, not just know about Him but know Him intimately, personally, you can have the wisdom to know and understand His word and live a totally different life than you have lived in the past Ė if you want to. There is so much available to you -if you want it. Paulís prayer is that you will want it.
He prays that God would give you a spirit of wisdom and understanding. Not the Holy Spirit because you already have Him, you were sealed by Him the moment you believed in Jesus. He is referring to an attitude or disposition towards something. Like when someone says or does something good, we might say, "Thatís the spirit." Or, "he has a good spirit."
He wants God to motivate you to seek and learn the wisdom of His Word and to see and know God. You see God doesnít zap you with wisdom. You have no space to plug in a thumb drive in your heart. You have to make a concerted effort to learn about God and His wisdom. God has given you 6 tools as gifts to help you in this, and He wants you to use them.
1. He has given you the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 1 Cor 2:9-16)
2. He has given you the Bible (Prov. 2:1-6)
3. He has given you pastors and teachers (Eph. 4:11)
4. He has given you live situations or trials or tests so you can use what He is teaching you (James 1:2-4)
5. He has given us the body of Christ so we donít have to learn alone, we have support and help (Romans 12; 1 Cor. 12, 1 Peter 4).
6. He has given you prayer so He can assist you (James 1:5)
These are why attending a Bible teaching church and being in a life group are so important. They are so you can have wisdom and know God personally.
B. He prays that you might know the Hope of His calling (v.18b). What is the
hope of your calling? Do you know? Itís not health. Itís not wealth. Itís not peace on earth. Itís not being able to retire to another state. Or retiring at an early age or retiring at all. Itís being like Jesus and being with Jesus forever. Listen to John,
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore, the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And
everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:1-3). Paul would say to the Colossians that Christ in you is the hope of glory. To Titus Paul would say, "We are looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ." Our hope or sure guarantee is that there is a life and a place and a person that is
beyond this life and what we have to look forward to is of far more value than what we have here. Our father is in the process of conforming us into the image of His Son Jesus and will complete that process when we are in His presence. Thatís our sure hope, and God, by way of Paulís prayer, is saying He wants you to know it and know it not just in your head but in your heart.
Thatís when all of life will be worth whatever you have had to endure or go through; it is when you will be rewarded for all your sacrifice in this life.
C. what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (v. 18c).
While this may be building on our hope, I believe Paul wants you to understand how rich you are now. Not with a bank account, but with all that you have because you are a child of God. You have access to the throne of God. You have grace. You have forgiveness. You have an inheritance reserved for you in Heaven. You have the Holy Spirit. You have a
Spiritual gift that can bless other people. You have a Book of Godís thoughts and words. You have the covenant promises, a marriage vow from God. You have a family of like-minded believers. You have a do-over for life.
D. 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,
according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, (vv.19-20).
Listen carefully. Something happened in you when you humbled yourself and received Jesus as your Savior and Lord. You may or may not have felt it, but it is true, none the less. You were born again, born anew, born from above, because the Holy Spirit of God joined Himself to your spirit and generated new life, eternal life in you. Romans 1:16-17, says,
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Jesus our Lord said (Acts 1:8), "You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you." Turn back to Romans 8:8-13, So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is
in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtorsónot to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
God sent his Son to live as one of us and be raised as a poor carpenter and be mistreated, tortured and killed as a substitute for us. But He did not leave Him dead. He put life, the life of God, the Spirit of God back into that lifeless body and raised it out of that tomb and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all
principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. The same power that raised and exalted Jesus as sovereign of the universe now resides in you. Do you know that? Do you really know that?
He took your dead spirit and brought it alive and came to reside in you. You now house the Spirit of the Living God. You have power to say no to sin; to stand up to injustice; to speak words of life into someone elseís life; to forgive, pray for, and love an enemy; to give grace; to break a bad habit; to change your speech; to love the unlovely; to
submit to your husband, to love your wife as Christ loved the Church; to honor your parents; to do honorable work; and to stand up against the evil in this world; to accomplish incredible things for God or God can accomplish incredible things through you. Look at Paulís benediction in Ch. 3:20; "20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or
think, according to the power that works in us," Paul prays because God wants you to know that you are capable of far more than you can begin to imagine, because He is in you.
"Perhaps the line most frequently attributed to Dwight L. Moody (and spoken by his character in the only film on Moodyís life) is the famous quotation: "The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By Godís help, I aim to be that man." (if you donít know D.L. Moody, he was the Billy Graham of the 19th Century)
In fact, Moody did not originate the line. Henry Varley, a British revivalist who had befriended the young American in Dublin, recalled that in 1873 Moody asked him to recount words they had spoken in private conversation a year earlier, just before Moodyís return to the United States. Varley provides this account (as recorded in Paul Gerickeís Crucial
Experiences in the Life of D.L. Moody):
During the afternoon of the day of conference Mr. Moody asked me to join him in the vestry of the Baptist Church. We were alone, and he recalled the nightís meeting at Willow Park and our converse the following morning.
"Do you remember your words?" he said.
I replied, "I well remember our interview, but I do not recall any special utterance."
"Donít you remember saying, ĎMoody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him?í "
"Not the actual sentence," I replied.
"Ah," said Mr. Moody, "those were the words sent to my soul, through you, from the Living God. As I crossed the wide Atlantic, the boards of the deck of the vessel were engraved with them, and when I reached Chicago, the very paving stones seemed marked with ĎMoody, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.í Under
the power of those words I have come back to England, and I felt that I must not let more time pass until I let you know how God had used your words to my inmost soul." (Recorded in Christian History & Biography January 1st 1990)
D.L. Moody determined he would be that man. Was he? I donít know. But I know that a shoe salesman without a college degree, started one of Americaís most famous churches, which became the Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, and one of Christianityís most famous training schools, The Moody Bible Institute. A Bible based printing company, Moody Press. He
traveled two continents as a fiery evangelist and influenced cross cultural missions. He is the deviser of the wordless book evangelistic tool that is used today by many organizations, (only with bracelets and beads).
What could God do through you if you committed yourself to knowing Him and His will? What could you do if you would never again say, "I canít do that." But rather, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Paul prays and God wants you to know if you would simply stop just going to church and will apply His wisdom and revelation of Him to
your life you are capable of so much more than you can even imagine.
Is your faith simply about a Sunday morning church attendance when you want to go? Or is it a passionate pursuit of the knowledge of God and to accomplish great things for God.
Is your hope to be left alone and have peace, and retire healthy and wealthy or is to be more like Jesus and anxious for the day when we will be like Him and will see Him face to face?
Letís pray about it.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman