Men Ought Always to Pray: The Prayers of the Apostle (2)

The Exceeding Greatness of His Power

Paul’s concern for the churches of Galatia was as intense as for any of the churches that were his daily solicitude before the Lord (2Co 11:28). While the words in Galatians 1:19 carry a hint of prayer, there is no actual prayer expressed by Paul on behalf of the Galatian saints. Often he must surely have carried them in his heart in prayer to God, but his language and sentiment expressed are never recorded. Elements of prayer do, however, appear in the epistle. The salutation of 1:3, instead of widening to include thanksgiving on behalf of the saints, concludes with a doxology to the God of Redemption. What is absent in the saints is gloriously adequate and abounding in Him.

The Ephesian letter, on the other hand, pulsates with prayer, displaying the evident characteristics of Paul’s exercise.

Salutation (1:2): The familiar Pauline inscription assumes as well as affirms the equality of the Father and the Son, hence the deity of the Lord Jesus is accepted beyond doubt. Both the Father and the Son form the one Source of grace and peace.

Benediction (6:23-24): Here are words of such rich moment and meaning as to engage our attention beyond the scope of these lines: peace, Paul desires that there will be no disturbing element among the saints at Ephesus; love, no dividing elementfaith, no doubting element; and grace, no defecting element.

Thanksgiving (1:16): Paul always lives out his own exhortative ministry when it comes to this theme. Chapter 5:4 supplies a much better exercise for the tongue: “but rather giving of thanks.” Chapter 5:20 indicates how all-embracing thanksgiving can really be: “giving of thanks for all things.”

Mutuality (1:16): The Apostle’s note of his constant remembrance is not vain repetition. He prayed unceasingly for the saints. Yet at the same time he ever had the utmost respect and placed essential value upon the prayers of the saints on his behalf (6:19-20). How striking are the words of 3:13: “Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory”! The formal use of this word “desire” conveys an asking in prayer.

Doxology (3:20 -21): Paul exults in this ascription of praise to the God of Consummation.

Prayer is an essential component of the Christian’s panoply. Paul places it along with the armory of the victorious combatant in the spiritual warfare (6:13-18).

Two prayers in the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians call for a more detailed analysis than these lines could offer: 1:17-23 and 3:14-19. They are the longest of His recorded prayers and are suited to the themes he espouses in the Epistle. Occupation with the material in these prayers will provide valuable aid in living above the depressive defeats of earth and will provide a life of mastery and victory.

Mood of the Prayer

The state of mind prevailing in the Apostle as he prays is one of praise and thanksgiving (1:3-14; 1:15-16). Paul has been occupied with divine choice, the Will of the Father (1:3-6); divine cost, the Work of the Son (1:7-12); divine claim, the Witness of the Holy Spirit of Promise (1:13-14). Each of these distinct stanzas in Paul’s song blend in a refrain of glory (1:6, 12, 14). It would be impossible to fathom the depths or reach the height of this paean of praise with which Paul begins the epistle, but in heart we surely appreciate it. This great sentence moves from eternity to eternity as he embraces aspects of doctrine we find incomprehensibly great, such as election, redemption, sonship, forgiveness, sealing, faith, gospel, salvation, inheritance, purpose, counsel, will, and grace. His added joy lies in the assurance that the Ephesians find incorporation in the purpose of God through faith. This knowledge releases prayer in a positive pleading for a serene and sublime apprehension of it all in the heart and mind of the saints.

Matter of the Prayer

The pattern in the prayer is typical. Something before it must be considered, and something after makes it really what it is, so the matter is threefold in v 18:

i. What is the hope of His calling: compare to the Will of the Father

ii. What is the riches of His glory: compare to the Work of the Son

iii. What is the exceeding greatness of His power: compare to the Witness of the Holy Spirit of Promise.

Abraham, a picture of the first, responded to the call which gave him hope. Jacob appreciated the promises of inheritance. Isaac, in figure, displayed something of the power of resurrection.

Medium of the Prayer

Person Addressed: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory” (v 17). Divine titles are always significant, deserving our attention and demanding our acceptance.

As “God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” the Father acknowledges the perfect Man Whose walk, will, and work carry unlimited and unquestioned divine approbation. As “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” God owns Him as the perfect Son Who reveals Him completely and fully. Earlier God appeared to Abraham as the God of Glory (Acts 7:2) but we in wondrous grace approach Him as the Father of Glory. We may ask: What glory? Clearly and unmistakably, it is the glory of verses 6, 12 and 14, for He is the Father of that glory. It originates in His purpose for His Own, which the resurrection makes real and recognizable (John 20:17).

Petition Asked: (i) “That He may give” (v 17); (ii) “That ye may know” (v 18). Is the medium the Holy Spirit of God or a prevailing condition in the spirit of man? Assuming that before us is a title of the Holy Spirit, He then is the medium of the prayer, for He is essentially and eternally the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation. Full integration is desired, and, though Paul often sees a merging of the Holy Spirit and the human spirit, it is frequently not so in actual experience. Eternal distinctions exist. Revelation comes first, for it is what the Spirit gives objectively. Wisdom follows, as the same Spirit is the source of wisdom subjectively. The operation produces “acknowledgment of Him” (RV mg.). The glorious purpose of God will know ultimate and eternal fruition in Christ.