WHAT TO PRAY FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS EVERYTHING - PART 4
These are my notes for teaching the Wednesday Bible study at the Cornerstone on June 10, 2020.
Part 6 of Ephesians
What to pray for someone who has everything.
We've been exploring the prayer at the end of Ephesians chapter one. I call it what to pray for someone who has everything. The first part of Ephesians 1 declares that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In other words, we already have everything in the spiritual realm.
The prayer asks that the Holy Spirit would enable us to experience as fully as possible everything God has given us in Christ. The first request is to know God better. To know about him and to know him, experientially, personally. The second request is to know the hope of our calling; the new life in union with Jesus, life in God's Kingdom, conformity to Jesus, the return of Christ and eventually heaven. The third request is to know the inheritance.
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
REQUEST FOUR: THE POWER - v. 1:19-22
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know ... 19 ... his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
WE NEED GOD TO ANSWER THIS PRAYER
It's one thing to read in chapter one that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing: that he loves us, and has adopted us, and freed us from our sins, and forgiven us, and sealed us with the Holy Spirit. It's another thing to believe it and to live in the real, everyday experience of those things.
That's why we need God to answer this prayer. We need to know that his power is enough and we need his power to make these beautiful blessings feel real. When we don't believe they are real in our lives, we will descend into sin and make unwise choices. For example, just work with me through the blessings in chapter one:
If I don't live in the blessing, then I must find alternative ways to get blessed - the classic trio: money, pleasure, power.
If I don't live in the love of God, then I must do what it takes to find love.
If I my sin still controls me, then I'll live in defeat and despair.
If I feel guilty and ashamed, I'll live in the shadows and wear a mask and keep people at arms length.
If I don't belong to God, then to whom do I belong and what am I doing here and who am I anyway? Or maybe I belong to the devil and my life will be dominated by fear and loathing.
ALL SIN FLOWS FROM DOUBTS ABOUT GOD
It seems that we can trace all of our impulses to make sinful, unhealthy, and unwise choices to believing a lie about God, that he is holding back on us. He doesn't want what is best for us, so we must take back our lives and live on our terms, all of which leads to disaster.
That's what Adam and Eve did. Even although God had placed them in Paradise and provided for them in abundance, they interpreted his restriction related to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a sign of his rejection or lack of care. So, they took things into their own hands and made a fateful and fatal choice to ignore God and to go their own way.
(Romans 1:21) For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
So, this prayer to know the power of God to make all these blessings feel real, really matters. We need God to answer it.
CAN GOD ANSWER THIS PRAYER, OR HOW POWERFUL IS THE POWER OF GOD?
Again, it's one thing to pray the prayer, but is God able to answer it? Is his power powerful enough?
The answer is yes, God is able to answer and he has shown just how powerful he is. His power defeated death and evil by the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus. If power can do that, it can do whatever God wants. The resurrection and exaltation of Jesus are actual events. This is what makes them useful as proofs of God's power.
The Resurrection. The resurrection is probably better known to us than the exaltation of Jesus, so we won't go into great detail here. It may be enough to say that a great many people saw Jesus die, a small group buried him, Roman soldiers guarded him, and a great many people saw him alive afterwards.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8) What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also
Given the unanimous testimony of the first Christians, it is very difficult to argue against the resurrection. It happened. It happened, but what does it mean? It means that death, which despite the best efforts of science and medicine to reverse it, has only ever been beaten by God. We don't have the power. He does. Death resist us, but it cannot resist God. He totally dominated it and defeated it in Jesus Christ.
The Exaltation. Jesus not only rose from the dead, he was exalted to the right hand of God in heaven. This is the place of highest authority in the universe. It is high above ranks of rulers in the unseen, spiritual realm. Jesus himself predicted his exaltation. He told his disciples:
(Matthew 24:30) Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
He also told the high priest:
(Matthew 26:63-64) The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
These references to the Son of Man sitting with God and coming in the clouds of heaven are not about the second coming of Christ. They are about his exaltation to the throne of God in heaven. The references point back to the prophecy in Daniel 7:
(Daniel 7:13-14) In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
The disciples watched Jesus ascend into heaven:
(Acts 1:9-10) After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going ...
Stephen the deacon and evangelist from the first church in Jerusalem saw the Jesus on the throne:
(Acts 7:55-56) But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
GOD HAS ENOUGH POWER FOR US
So, we believe that Jesus has defeated death and he has been exalted to the throne of God and that, consequently, he reigns forever.
(Revelation 11:15-17) The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” 16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.
He reigns not only over what we can see, but also over the "rule and authority, power and dominion" (verse 21, see 3:10) that we cannot see.
(Ephesians 6:10-12) Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
And, so, yes, God had the power to answer our prayer to know his power at work in our lives making all his blessings feel real so we can live in the light of them.
Some Implications and Applications
On the one hand, never doubt the sufficiency of God's power in your life.
Also, never doubt the willingness of God to exert his power in your life. It is "his incomparably great power for us who believe" (verse 19a).
On the other hand, do not expect his power to always be overt and obvious. And don't expect it to give you super-powers or to make life easy. The apostle Paul discovered this:
(2 Corinthians 12:7-10) Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
God's power operates under cover to keep us in faith and persevering in Christ through all opposition, hardship, temptation and weakness. It is best seen in hindsight since at the time all we feel is weak and inadequate.