• Tony Birkhead

HOPE IN ACTION



Prayer Allows Hope to

Achieve the Impossible!

Our challenge for today is to hopefully get an understanding and then apply that prayer is the beginning of Hope. We can take every challenge we have for this series and this month of meeting people’s needs and honestly, we could take Jesus out of that and still accomplish the same things. It is only when these Actions are covered with prayer that they become powerful to change a life for more than a few days.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (Ephesians 3:14-21)

1. If you could be strong in any area of life, what would you want it to be (physical strength, mental toughness, a particular sport, etc.)? What would that kind of strength enable you to do?

2. What leads you to believe you aren’t already strong in that area?

3. Read verses14-16. What kinds of things might believers be tempted to think they need in order to be spiritually strong? (Examples: self-discipline, power of positive thinking, a pull-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality.)?

4. In contrast, what does Paul indicate we need in these verses?

Real spiritual power is something only God’s Spirit can give God’s people. Only spiritual power can reach into who we really are. Paul wanted something to happen within the believer’s inner being (heart, spirit, true inner self) that only God’s Spirit can accomplish. The Spirit is indwelling every Christian from the time of conversion, but we may increase day by day in our experience of God’s power.

5. If you have kids, what would you like to give them? Why don’t you give them everything you’d like to give? Why is God able to give us an unlimited supply of strength? Why would He want to?

6. Read verses17-21. Why would we be strengthened to do great things if we grasped the extent of Christ’s love? How does realizing you are loved this way strengthen you?

7. What does verse 20 imply about what we can expect when we pray to God?

Paul was completely confident in God’s power to supply the spiritual strength for which he’d prayed. When Paul opened his prayer, he had acknowledged God as the Father of every family and the One who has infinite riches in glory. Now he acknowledged the powerful work of God within us. He is able to do (or to work), because He is living and active, not dead or passive. He is able to do far more, because His ways are higher than ours. He is able to do abundantly, because He has limitless resources. He is able to do all, because He knows everything and can do everything. He is able to do all that we ask, because He hears and answers His children’s prayers. He is able to do what we think, because He knows our thoughts better than we do.

MOVING FORWARD

  • What is a prayer that our group as a whole might pray together that truly is far more than we can ask or imagine?

COMMENTARY

Ephesians 3:14-21

3:14. Repeating the opening phrase, Paul resumes his original prayer which he started in verse 1. The kneeling posture (compare Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5; Rom. 11:4; 14:11; Phil. 2:10) represents humility and reverent worship in contrast to the common practice of standing to pray (Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11,13).

3:15. Prayer is directed to the Father. This Father is the Father of all fathers, for every family in heaven and on earth derives its existence and its family name from the Father. Certainly such a powerful, creative Father can hear and answer the prayers about to be uttered.

3:16. The prayer has four requests that build on each other, or that flow out of each other. The first request is for inner spiritual strength. This is not the “when the going gets tough the tough get going” kind of power. This is not self-discipline or the power of positive thinking. This is not mental renewing, or self-talk, or getting a grip on yourself, or turning over a new leaf. This is a fundamental work of God from His Spirit to our spirit.

3:17. This leads to the second request, deep faith. This is not salvation. Paul was writing to Christians, and Christ takes up residence in our heart when we accept Him (John 14:23). This is more than resident faith that comes with salvation. This is Christ’s being at home in our heart.

The third element is a prayer for abundant love that finds concrete expression in 19a. First Paul gives the qualities needed to be able to receive this prayer. Love must become the dominant quality of life, the roots of your existence, the foundation on which all else rests. Such love in your life comes from the divine love.

3:18. The strengthening of our inner man by the Spirit allows us to let Christ be at home in all the rooms of our heart. Letting Christ be at home in all the rooms of our heart enables us to know the vast dimensions of the love of Christ.

We need foundations for our experiences and relationships. We can’t handle life unless we are assured that God loves us and has accepted us—that we are dear to Him. When we know this, then we know who we are. Then we have a sense of well-being. Love gives us that. This sense of identity and being loved gives us the ability to relate to others, so we can comprehend with all the saints the magnitude of the love of God. Knowing God’s love is not an individual accomplishment. It occurs only in the loving context of the church and involves the whole church, not isolated individuals.

3:19. Paul’s request then is that the church and each of its members know in a personal, emotional way, as well as an intellectual one, this love of Christ. We measure this love only with cosmic dimensions and understand it only by seeing it expressed at its deepest, most intimate level on the cross. Praying that we can know it, we ultimately confess that it is beyond our full comprehension.

The final request is a prayer for God’s fullness. The inner strength of the Holy Spirit, which is a gift God gives to those who pray for it, leads to the indwelling of Christ, which leads to abundant love, which leads to God’s fullness in us—being satisfied with God. We all want to be filled up to the fullness of God. The only way it will happen is if we pursue Him. If we pray for Him to strengthen us with power by His Spirit by the inner man, Christ will be at home in each room of our heart. If Christ occupies our heart, we will have a confidence and security in His love for us. If we have such confidence and security, we are able to love others. This ability to know God’s love and thus love others, leads to the fullness of God in us. His presence, His power, His love, His life inhabit us. We participate fully in His kingdom on earth. That is Paul’s prayer for you.

3:20. Paul ends his discussion of the mystery of the church and his prayer for power with a spontaneous burst of praise to God. His prayer forms a great doxology to the Lord for His power and glory. We see three things emerging from this doxology. First, we see the sovereignty of God. God in His sovereignty may choose to do whatever He wills. What He can do far exceeds anything we can dream or imagine, must less ask for. God’s sovereignty means our prayers can be answered far beyond even what we ask.

Second, we see the omnipotence of God. God manifests His great power in many ways. Most obviously, He manifested it when He created the world. He used that kind of power to bring Jews and Gentiles together and form them into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. The power we see in creation and in the church is the power of God that works in us in the love relationship of prayer.

3:21. Finally, we see His glory. The power God has manifested and continues to display has a purpose—bringing glory to Him. All that God has done is to resound to His glory forever. God has done things in the church among His people and in Christ Jesus—where His people now abide and where God completed His plan of salvation. As we see and recognize God’s work in the church and in Christ, we respond in praise and worship, giving God glory.

#Hope #Prayer #Action

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