The Prayer & The Calling
By Sandy Simpson
Eph. 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father,
Eph. 3:15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
Paul prays a prayer that is a good pattern prayer for us to emulate. He starts by bowing down his heart to the Father. He recognizes right from the beginning Who is the Father of all. Now, let’s not make a mistake in thinking that God is the Father of all. He is the Creator of all, so in that sense we are born into this world because of the Father. But He is not our Father unless we come to Him through His Son and are born again in His Spirit. When we are born in the Spirit we become His children, and He becomes our Father. We become part of the family in heaven and on earth. The family in heaven is the Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the angels. The family on earth is the Holy Spirit and the Church. That Church bears His name. That name is the name of Jesus Christ. We are called “Christians” which means followers of Christ.
Eph. 3:16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
The Holy Spirit is in the inner being of every believer. From there the Spirit empowers us to live to the will of the Father. He counsels us, He helps us, He convicts us, He rebukes us, He leads us, and He causes us to focus our attention, to keep our eyes on Jesus Christ. Now some who call themselves Christians have taken to praying for “power” to come on them these days. This is not the prayer the Paul prayed. There is no place in the Bible where we are told to pray for power. Therefore this is a very dangerous prayer. We also should not summon the Holy Spirit to meetings because He is already present where two or three are gathered together (Mat 18:20). Summoning or invoking is sorcery. The Scriptures do show us what to pray for. Here are some examples:
· Pray for the people of your nation (Num 21:7)
· Pray for your city (Jer 29:7)
· Pray for peace in Jerusalem (Ps 122:6)
· Pray for your persecutors (Mat 5:43-44; Luke 6:28)
· Pray for children (Mat 19:13)
· Pray for escape from judgment (Luke 21:36)
· Pray you will not fall into temptation (Luke 22:40)
· Pray for Christians (Job 17:9; 1 Thes 5:25; Heb 13:18)
· Pray for boldness in proclaiming the gospel and for God to do miracles in people’s lives (Acts 4:29-31)
· Pray all the time, be alert, pray for the saints (Eph 6:18)
· Pray for fearless preaching (Eph 6:20)
· Pray to be filled with the knowledge of His will (Col 1:9)
· Pray for open doors for the gospel (Col 4:3)
· Pray that the Word of God may be glorified (2 Thes 3:1)
· Pray for deliverance from evil men (2 Thes 3:2)
· Pray for everyone, kings, authorities, peace, quiet, godliness, holiness (1 Tim 2:1,2)
· Pray for life for dead sinners (1 John 5:16)
There are other things we are taught to pray for in Scripture, but the point is that we need to follow the Scriptural model of prayer.
There are only two places where the words “prayer” and “power” are mentioned. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” (2 Thes 1:11)
Notice that Paul was not praying for them to get power but that God "by His power" would fulfill "every good purpose" of theirs and "every act prompted by your faith". This is by the sovereign will of God, which if followed will produce good works. If God's will is not followed, it can only produce fleshly or even demonic fruit.
The second reference is the one we are looking at, Eph. 3:16: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19)
Here again Paul is praying for the Ephesians, not for himself. He prays that the indwelling Holy Spirit will show them how much Christ loves them so they may be "filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." This speaks of empowerment to have love and faith and to understand Christ in a deeper way, not power to perform miracles or for an ecstatic experience. There is no prayer for “power” to be found in the Bible. Christians need to pray according to the will of God and leave empowerment up to the Holy Spirit in His time.
Eph. 3:17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
Eph. 3:18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
Eph. 3:19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
So this is the reason Paul is praying that the Ephesians would be strengthened by the power of the Spirit. First, so that Christ would find a permanent place in their hearts, would come to live with them. Secondly, that the saints would be rooted and established in love. Love is something that the Holy Spirit teaches us but we must also work at. Love does not come naturally. We naturally love ourselves, but to love others beyond ourselves is beyond us. Without the Spirit teaching us how to love our love will grow cold. Third, the power Paul is praying for is the power to realize fully and experience the love of Christ. The love of Christ is beyond our total ability to comprehend, but the more you allow the Spirit to teach you through the Word of God, the more you will know the love of Christ. Fourthly, Paul is praying that we will be filled with the fullness of God. When you are full of God through the Spirit you overflow. A fountain that overflows waters the surrounding fields. Paul prays that the Christians at Ephesus will overflow with the fullness of God so that many others will come to know the Lord.
Eph. 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I have always loved this last part of Paul’s prayer that is used as benediction in many churches. There is a song: “Nothing is impossible with God”. God’s ways are far above our ways, and His thoughts above our thoughts.
Is. 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
We can fully trust in God because He loves us and His ways are far beyond what we can understand. The amazing thing is that God will do amazing things “within us”. The power of God is at work in those who trust Him. God will change our lives. He will do miraculous things because He is a God of the miraculous. We simply need to trust Him, everyday and every hour. There is a famous hymn called “Channels Only” that says:
But with all Thy wondrous power
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us
Every day and every hour.
Because of the wonderful work God is doing in us, and because of our love for Him, we give him praise. He deserves all the glory and honor in the Church forever. The Church sings with the twenty-four elders in heaven:
Revelation 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."
Eph. 4:1 ¶ As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
As we have studied up to this point, God has called us. He called us, chose us, justified us and will glorify us. But we must live a life that is consistent with God’s call on our life. Paul was an example for the churches because of his stand for the Gospel and the truth, and because Paul did this he was persecuted and imprisoned. Remember, though, Paul was a willing prisoner for Christ and of Christ. Living a life that is worthy of the calling of God can only be accomplished by submission to the Word of God and obedience to the Holy Spirit.
Eph. 4:2 ¶ Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Notice that humility is the first fruit that proves God has called a person. When you see people strutting up and down on TV like proud roosters ready for a cockfight, you are seeing people who do not have a calling from God. Those who serve God are humble servants, not proud braggarts. They do no walk around in public, doing and saying things to be noticed and glorified by men. They are not like the Pharisees whom Jesus Christ rebuked and condemned. Where you see the lack of humility and gentleness, you are not seeing the work of the Holy Spirit. Bear that in mind if you begin to think that TV preachers like Benny Hinn and others are filled with the Spirit. They are not and prove they are not by their attitudes. The enemy in the churches has stirred up pride and false teachers take many people away, being deceivers who look like they are authoritative and sure of themselves.
2 Peter 2:18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.
We also need to be patient. We need to realize that God has his time for everything.
Ecc. 3:1-8 There is a time for everything, and
a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to
die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a
time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a
time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to
gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a
time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a
time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a
time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
I am a firm believer in this. Many times we rush into things, or lag behind the Lord. We need to learn to wait on the Lord.
Psalms 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
I like this verse because is repeats something the Psalmist thinks is of special importance. Wait for the Lord. Wait for His timing. Be aware that if people are slow to change perhaps the Lord is still working on them. On the other hand, be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit because opportunities are often lost because we do not have time or do not want to obey.
We also need to learn to bear with one another. This does not mean we become bears and roam around in the woods. It doesn’t mean we become nudists. It means that we are patient with fellow believers. We need to try to help people instead of getting angry with them. We need to learn to be longsuffering, putting up with people for a long time, before we lash out at them in anger. This is a time and place for even anger, but our attitude toward fellow Christian should be one of patience.
Eph. 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
An important thing to notice here is that we have to make an effort to keep unity of the Spirit. Sometimes it truly is an effort. But we need to make the effort to be in unity with those who are true believers.
Romans 14:19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
There is a balance here. While we must make every effort to be at peace, especially among our brothers in the Faith, we must, at the same time, reject heretics and false believers and not associate with them.
Rom. 16:17 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
2 Corinthians 6:17 "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."
Titus 3:10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.
The word for “divisive” is also the word meaning “heretic”. We will study about the unity of the Faith later in these lessons. We have to strive to keep the unity of the Spirit through striving for unity of the Faith. If we cannot come to unity of the Faith, then there is really no unity of the Spirit. Only God knows who his true saints are. We must be sure we are yoked to true believers, and that we are striving for unity in the Spirit with them.
Eph. 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called—
Eph. 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
Eph. 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We learn two important lessons here. The first one is unity. We are one body of Christ in the Holy Spirit. That one body has one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father. The second thing we learn, tied to the first, is that there is only one reality. There are no shades of gray in terms of truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth; His Spirit is Truth. Therefore there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father. There is no other Body. There are many religions and cults of Christianity that claim to be the way to God, but there is only one body of Christ, and it holds the keys to the mystery of Christ. There is only one hope, the hope of the resurrection and glory. There is only one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is only one faith, that of belief and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord. There is only one baptism in the Spirit, that of being born again and receiving a new self. Don’t let people try to fool you into believing that being born again and receiving the Holy Spirit are separate issues. They are not and cannot be.
God is over all, through all, in all. The God of the Church of Jesus Christ is over all as He is Lord. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the all-powerful Almighty God who created everything that exists. God is through all. This can also be translated “taking care of all”. God’s attributes will be lived out in His Church as He guides it and takes care of it. God is not everything. He is not His creation. He stands apart. But His Spirit works in the Church corporately and in individual Christians. Never forget that the Holy Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force. That is not what this means. It means that God is at work in and through His Church. God is in all. Remember this is talking about the Church, the body of Christ, not every man. The Holy Spirit is in every believer. Therefore God is everything to the Church and to the believer. How often do you think about God being over you, through you and in you? How often do we grieve the Holy Spirit by what we say and do? May we not grieve the Holy Spirit of God over, through and in us but instead walk with Him.
Eph. 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
The amazing thing is that though God is over, through and in His Church and Christians, we do not become robots. We are individuals. When people meet to fellowship together they sometimes have their different ways. God has given each Christian and fellowship grace to be and do what He wants us to do. He has given us different gifts. All Christians do not have the same gifts, and don’t listen to people who tell you that all Christians must speak in tongues, for instance. To each of us grace (charis) has been given. Why do I say that grace is talking about gifts (doma)? Look at the next verse.
Eph. 4:8 This is why it says: "When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."
God has given His followers many spiritual gifts. With those spiritual gifts we can encourage one another and build up the church.
1 Corinthians 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.
The Lord, when He has risen from the dead and spent some time preparing his disciples, ascended into heaven. But it says He led captives in His train. Who are these captives?
Eph. 4:9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
Eph. 4:10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
It is important that we understand what this is talking about. Jesus descended into the lower earthly regions upon his death. He did not descend into hell. Hell is the lake of fire. No one is in hell till judgment day. Jesus descended into Hades. The Bible indicates he went to Hades, to the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:19-31) where the Old Testament saints where waiting for Him. In Luke it is sometimes translated as “hell” but the actually Greek word is “Hades”, the holding place. Jesus then told the saints in Hades with Abraham of His death and resurrection plan (1 Pet. 4:6). He then took the Old Testament saints to heaven with him (Eph. 4:8). The Bible also states that the others, those who were in the other part of Hades (Luke 16:19-31) held till judgment day, also heard the Gospel (1 Peter 3:19) so that they would have no excuse on judgment day but would stand condemned. It was too late for them because they had no faith in God while they were alive like the Old Testament saints did.
Jesus Christ has been there, done that! He finally ascended into heaven to guarantee our resurrection and to intercede for us, His children. But what does it mean that He did this in order to “fill the whole universe”.
Actually this verse is better translated “to fulfill all things”. Jesus Christ did everything the Father told Him to do and thereby fulfilled the Word of God through the prophets. He fulfilled every type that was a picture of Him to come in the ordinances of the tabernacle and temple, in Melchisedec, and every other allusion to Christ. Everything God set out to do in Christ has or will be fulfilled. In the mind of God it has already been fulfilled. It is just a matter of history playing out, the end of this world, and the beginning of eternity. Jesus Christ has been there, done that!