… Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence
through faith in Him. Ephesians 3:11-12
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, unuttered or expressed. The opening words of James Montgomery’s hymn are certainly true of the Apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3. In fact, if you listen to the content and intensity of any person’s prayers, it will give you an idea of that which concerns them most. Read Paul’s prayer in its entirety – Ephesians 3:14-21. This prayer is acknowledged to be the most inspirational and majestic of Paul’s prayers. This can be considered his “high-priestly prayer,” in that gives us a glimpse into the inner court of the Apostle’s life. Much of what we pray in our meager prayer meetings in the church, pale in comparison to this prayer. But even more than just a noble prayer, this text reveals what God’s desire for all of His people to know about Him.
In chapters 1 and 2, out of the overflow of his heart, Paul has been explaining the spiritual revelation and commission which he received from God to announce Christ’s peace-making work resulting in the creation of a new society of Jews and gentiles. In the beginning of chapter 3, it is Paul’s intention to explain the content of his prayers; however in verses 2-13, he deviates from this intention to further clarify the revelation and commission in different terms. In verse 14, he returns to where he began in verse 1, by writing of the content of his prayer for Christ’s church at Ephesus. He prays that this glorious plan, which he has been elaborating, may be even more completely realized in the experience of the church.
One would think that Paul, in his imprisonment in Rome, had enough personal burdens without thinking of the needs of others hundreds of miles away; however, Paul’s prayer reveals his love and burden for the church. He knew that his multiple afflictions and imprisonment could become a source of discouragement for the church, which was still a new fledgling flock of Christians. This is, in part, his reason for writing to them in such an encouraging fashion. This burden comes out in verse 13 of Ephesians 3: Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. Paul wanted the church to realize that his imprisonment was no indication that the commission to the gentiles was coming to an end, but that God’s purposes of grace were actually being accomplished despite his human circumstance.
Paul wanted them to know that no matter what the earthly circumstances of life might be, that every Christian has been given access to the Father’s throne of grace. Access to the Father can be said to be the final goal of salvation. This is why Christ’s blood put away the enmity – it is why we are forgiven. Jesus put it this way, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn 17:3). Knowing God or access to the Father is the chief human purpose of our salvation. Access means that our relationship has been restored; that which was forfeited by Adam because of sin is returned to man in Christ. Though we had become unacceptable aliens and strangers, in Christ, the Father made a peace-initiative by removing the enmity, adopting us as His own children, and permitting us free an open access to Him. Knowledge of our access gives us freedom and confidence in our prayer life. Perhaps our timid and ineffectual prayers, are so because we do not truly believe that such access has been granted us.
Look at the four-fold content of Paul’s prayer for the church: verse 16) that He would grant you, … to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man; verse 17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; verse 18) that you, … may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; and verse 19) that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Compare this to the content of your prayers which reveal the burdens of your heart. If your burdens are not similar to those of Paul, ask the Father why that might be the case. Ask Him to deepen your prayer life – that the thoughts which consumed the Apostle would occupy your heart and mind as well – that your soul’s sincerest desire would be to see the church of Jesus Christ experience these four spiritual blessings.
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