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1 Bible 2James 5:16, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”

Our text – Ephesians 1:17-23

Our key verse – Ephesians 1:15, 16, “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers”

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Introduction

Prayer for a believer is a privilege and one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal.  It allows us to have access and talk to the God who spoke into existence the heavens and the earth.  There is no secretary to screen His calls.  No need for a decision on whether or not we should bother Him.  No need to leave a message so that He can get back to us later.   The psalmist reminds us, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psalm 34:15).  As believers in Christ we have been given at least one gift.  Although everyone isn’t called to be a pastor, teacher, or evangelist, the privilege of prayer is available to all who have trusted Christ as Savior.

Writer Phillips Brooks said, “If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing; it is an infinitely foolish thing.” John Wesley was convinced that the prayers of God’s people rather than his preaching accounted for the thousands who came to Christ through his ministry. The question to be asked is, “Do you believe prayer changes the lives of people”?  If not, maybe the following true story how prayer changed one person’s life will also change yours. It’s entitled”

A Prayer before Surgery”

My 9-year-old’s last-second request surprised his doctor and taught me a valuable lesson about prayer and sharing the gospel.  Last fall my 9-year-old son, Austin, had his tonsils removed.  Before the surgery, Austin’s anesthesiologist came to start an IV.  He was wearing a cool surgical cap covered in colorful frogs.  Austin loved that “frog hat.”  The doctor explained that he had two choices—he could either try to start the IV, or he could wait until Austin was up in the operating room.  In the OR the doctor would give Austin some “goofy” gas, and start the IV when he was more relaxed.  “So, Austin,” he asked, “which do you want?”  Austin replied, “I’ll take the gas.”  However, when the doctor started to leave, Austin called, “Hey, wait.”

The doctor turned.  “Yeah, buddy, what do you need?”  “Do you go to church?”  “No,” the doctor admitted.  “I know I probably should, but I don’t.”  Austin then asked, “Well, are you saved?”  Chuckling nervously, the doctor said, “Nope.  But after talking to you, maybe it’s something I should consider.”  Pleased with his response, Austin answered, “Well, you should, ’cause Jesus is great!”  “I’m sure He is, little guy,” the doctor said, and quickly made his exit.  After that, a nurse took me to the waiting room.  Someone would come and get me when Austin’s surgery was done.

After about 45 minutes, the anesthesiologist came into the waiting room.  He told me the surgery went well and then said, “Mrs. Blessitt, I don’t usually come down and talk to the parents after a surgery, but I just had to tell you what your son did.”  Oh boy, I thought.  What did that little rascal do now?  The doctor explained that he’d just put the mask on Austin when my son signaled that he needed to say something.  When the doctor removed the mask, Austin blurted, “Wait a minute, we have to pray!”  The doctor told him to go ahead, and Austin prayed, “Dear Lord, please let all the doctors and nurses have a good day.  And Jesus, please let the doctor with the frog hat get saved and start going to church.  Amen.” The doctor admitted this touched him.  “I was so sure he would pray that his surgery went well,” he explained.  “He didn’t even mention his surgery.

He prayed for me!  Mrs. Blessitt, I had to come down and let you know what a great little guy you have.”  A few minutes later, a nurse came to take me to post-op.  She had a big smile on her face as we walked to the elevator.  “Mrs. Blessitt, I couldn’t wait to tell you something exciting that your son did.”  With a smile, I told her that the doctor already mentioned Austin’s prayer.  “But there’s something you don’t know,” she said.  “Some of the other nurses and I have been witnessing to and praying for that doctor for a very long time.  After your son’s surgery, he tracked a few of us down to tell us about Austin’s prayer.  He said, ‘Well girls, you got me.  If that little boy could pray for me when he was about to have surgery, then I thought maybe I need his Jesus too.’“  She then recounted how they joined the doctor as he prayed to receive Christ right there in the hospital.

Wow!  Austin had played a small part in something wonderful.  But then, so did the nurses who prayed and witnessed.  I thought about John’s words in his Gospel, “One sows and the other reaps” (John 4:37).  Austin’s experience taught me that, although we never know which role we may be called to play, in the end it doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that we remain faithful to Him in prayer and in sharing the good news of what Christ has done for us.

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  1. Why Is It Sometimes Hard To Pray?

Have you ever been speechless before God?  Perhaps you know the frustration of being unable to find the right words to pray.  Unconfessed sin or a lack of faith could be why.  Dave Dravecky, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, said this concerning prayer. Somewhere along the journey through pain and suffering, most of us reach a point where we no longer have the strength, the will, the words, or even the thoughts to pray.  And at the same time, we long to connect with God.  We may long for Him to give us the answers we seek.  We may long for Him to reach down from heaven and intervene in an impossible situation.  We may long simply to know that He has not abandoned us in our place of pain. I know I reached that point in my battle with cancer.  I was desperate, I was scared, and I found it difficult to talk to God.

I found myself praying, God, I know you’ll never leave me or forsake me, but right now it feels like you’re gone.  But the Bible says you’ll never leave me or forsake me, so I know you’re still here.”  It was so frustrating to pray that honestly and not to receive a response that I could recognize.  Yet, somehow I knew that in the midst of it all something I didn’t understand was happening.  I know prayer gets hard.  I know what it is like for God to be quiet – very quiet; I know what it is to have overwhelming needs that seems to go unmet.  Even so, our connection to God through prayer is necessary to our relationship with Him, so I encourage you to pray.  Two months after he broke his arm in Montreal, Dave’s arm was broken again while celebrating the Giants’ National League Championship Series victory over the Chicago Cubs.  The cancer had returned, and Dave retired from professional baseball in November 1989.  Additional surgeries and the recurring cancer finally led to the drastic amputation of Dave’s left arm, shoulder blade, and left side of his collarbone.

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  1. What Causes People to Lack Confidence in Prayer?

Does it ever seem as if you can’t get through to God in prayer?  Maybe you have been praying for an individual to come to know the Lord as Savior?  Or maybe you have been praying for a particular burden or situation, but haven’t received an answer?  We sometimes forget that God may want us to be part of the answer to our own prayers.  We expect Him to do everything, and then we sit back and do nothing.  We ask Him to bless the work of our church but offer excuses when asked to serve.  We plead for loved ones to be saved, yet never speak a word of testimony to them.  We earnestly intercede for people with serious financial needs, but we won’t dig deep into our own pockets even though we have the means to help them.  We ask the Lord to comfort and encourage the shut-ins and lonely, but we never go out of our way to pay them a visit or send them a note of encouragement or we are not praying in harmony with the Scriptures and God’s will. Sometimes we may think our prayer is too big or maybe to insignificant for God, thus we lack confidence in our prayer.

Pastor and author A. B. Simpson told about an old farmer who plowed around a large rock in his field year after year.  He had broken one cultivator and two plowshares by hitting it.  Each time he saw that obstacle, he grumbled about how much trouble the rock had caused.  One day he decided to dig it up and be done with it.  Putting a large crowbar under one side, he found to his surprise that the rock was less than a foot thick.  Soon he had pried it out of the ground and was carting it away in his wagon.  He smiled to think how that “big” old rock had caused him so much needless frustration. Not every trouble or burden can be removed as easily as that stone.  However, prayer is an effective way to handle difficulties of all sizes.  Paul told us to use prayer in every situation Philippians 4:6. Sometimes when we pray, God dispels difficulty as easily as the sun burns off a morning mist.  At other times, He shows us that our problems are much smaller than we had thought.  But some obstacles are immovable, and we must learn to live with them.  Prayer then becomes the channel through which God’s wisdom, strength, and patience flow.

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  1. The Power of Prayer?

Natural gas heats our homes; electricity provides light and gasoline powers cars.  What about the power of prayer?  To illustrate the importance and power of prayer I submit to you this true account. While crossing, the Atlantic on a ship many years ago, Bible teacher and author F. B. Meyer was asked to speak to the passengers.  An agnostic listened to Meyer’s message about answered prayer and told a friend, “I didn’t believe a word of it.  Later that same day, the agnostic went to hear Meyer speak to another group of passengers.  But before he went to the meeting, he put two oranges in his pocket.  On his way, he passed an elderly woman who was fast asleep in her deck chair.  Her arms were outstretched and her hands were wide open, so as a joke he put the two oranges in her palms.

After the meeting, he saw the woman happily eating one of the pieces of fruit. “You seem to be enjoying that orange,” he remarked with a smile.  “Yes, sir,” she replied, “My Father is very good to me.”  The agnostic said, “What do you mean?”  She explained, “I have been seasick for days.  I was asking God somehow to send me an orange.  I fell asleep while I was praying.  When I awoke, I found He had sent me not only one but two oranges!”  The agnostic was amazed by the unexpected confirmation of Meyer’s talk on answered prayer.  Later, he put his trust in Christ.  Yes, my friend, God answers prayer and there is great power in it. There are so many benefits from spending time in prayer with the Lord that we really can’t afford not to pray!  God can help us solve our problems, answer our questions, gives us joy and peace, heals our heartaches, comforts us when we’re sorrowful, and encourages us to go on when we think we can’t.  Prayer clears our vision, quiets our heart and activates our faith.  Time spent in quiet reflection and listening builds inner strength that will get us through life’s toughest times.

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  1. The Character of Paul’s Prayer – Ephesians 1:15-16, “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saint, Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers”

It’s dark.  It’s cold.  You’ve been thrown into prison, and you don’t know when you’ll get out or when you’ll eat your next meal.  You bow your head to pray.  What will you pray for?  Safety?  Deliverance?  A decent meal? The function of prayer includes not only praise but also the believer presenting his or her own needs to the Lord and especially interceding on behalf of others.  We, like the Ephesian Christians need divine guidance and enlightenment so we can understand what God wants us to learn.  So, if you are the apostle Paul, you pray for something far different.

You talk to God about a group of people, some of which you have never seen.  He prayed for the Ephesian believers in an informed and intercessory manner.  His prayer was brief, but it included some big requests. Because Paul had founded the church at Ephesus, he knew many of the Ephesian Christians personally.  However, when he wrote this letter to them, he had been absent for approximately five years, and was under house arrest in Rome.  Therefore, he reported in Ephesians 1:15 that he had “heard” of their faith and was praying specifically for them.  Being informed about the needs of our fellow Christians, we, too, can pray specifically for them.

Paul’s prayer was not self-centered, but was a prayer of intercessory to the Ephesians.  He cared far more about the Ephesian believers’ needs than he did about his own needs.  Instead of whining about his adverse circumstances (like most of us would do), he thanked God for the spiritual progress of these believers, in that his work among them was still bearing fruit. 1 Timothy 2:1, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men”; Ephesians 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”.

Although the apostle Paul had many responsibilities as a missionary, he was never too busy to pray.  Even the disciples of Jesus did not ask the Lord, “Teach us to preach” or “teach us to sing,” but they asked for what was most important:  “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).  I would rather be a great pray-er than a great preacher.  I would far rather have the power of prayer to move the very powers of heaven than to have the power of preaching to move the masses of people on earth.  We can train others to become great preachers and orators, but only Jesus can teach men and women to become great masters of prayer.  More is accomplished by prayer than has ever been or will be accomplished by all the preaching in the world, for without prayer ever our preaching becomes powerless and empty.

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  1. The Content of Paul’s Prayer – Ephesians 1:17, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him

Paul made a specific request in this verse and the second half of this verse provides the key to Paul’s prayer.  The rest of this chapter also draws its support from these lines:  “That … God … may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”  What did Paul mean by “the spirit”?  Some commentators have suggested that “the spirit” means the Holy Spirit.  However, because the readers were Christians, Paul would not have prayed that God would give them the Spirit.  The Holy Spirit already resided in them.  The Bible teaches us that we should pray for wisdom and James counseled, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.”  (James 1:5)

The apostle Paul prayed that his readers would receive from God the spirit of wisdom and revelation “in the knowledge of him.”  Paul wanted them to know God more fully, and such knowledge of God would produce valuable results.  In knowing God, the Ephesians would have the eyes of understanding enlightened.  The Greek word for “understanding” suggests that this understanding would affect the Ephesians’ innermost being, the seat of their affections, intellect, and will.  To know God we must hunger for a greater knowledge of Him and a deeper understanding of what He wants from us.  The apostle Paul understood the value of knowing God, as it became his passion in life.

This is what he said in Philippians 3:8-10, Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. Jeremiah 9:24, “Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD.”  It is one thing to know about God, but it is quite another to know Him personally.  The better we know God, the better we love Him; the clearer we discern His thoughts, the more fully and gladly we obey Him.  This distinction applies when considering the thought that God:

(1) Is present everywhere is staggering.  But to be aware of His presence in times of need brings to us comfort and hope.

(2) Knows everything is overwhelming.  But to have the confidence that no detail of our lives escapes His attention is to enjoy a peace that endures through every trial.

(3) Is all-powerful makes us marvel at His greatness.  But to have Him actually work in, through, and for us encourages us to relax in His mighty arms.

(4) Never changes are a reassuring truth.  But to commit ourselves to the care of this never changing One is to know the stability of His faithfulness.

(5) God‘s love is wonderful to contemplate.  But to know Him as a loving Redeemer through personal faith in His Son, Jesus Christ brings the joy of sins forgiven.

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  1. Our Prayer and God’s Power – Ephesians 1:18-19, “That the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power

When we pray for others, we become partners with God in His work of salvation, healing, comfort, and fairness.  God can accomplish those things without us, but in His plan, He gives us the privilege of being involved with Him through prayer.  When we intercede for a grandson in trouble, a mother having surgery, a neighbor who needs Christ, or a pastor who needs strength, we are asking God to provide for that person what we can’t provide.  Prayer is not a magic wand for satisfying our own wishes, but it’s an opportunity to work with the Lord in accomplishing His purposes in the lives of other people.

The King James Version reads “eyes of your heart.”  The heart, as it is used here, means the innermost center of man.  It is the seat of the understanding and the source of thoughts, desires, emotions, words, and actions.  Whatever is in the heart rules the conduct?  Paul wanted the Ephesians believers to understand in their hearts and minds the splendor and wealth of their blessing in Christ.  Our eyes are enlightened through the studying of the scriptures and asking God for His wisdom and divine revelation. So much of what we pray for has to do with what we see with our eyes.  We petition God about car problems, a leaky roof, faulty plumbing, or the need for a new church facility, and that’s all right, because we should pray about those things.  However, when Paul talked to God about the believers in Ephesus, he asked that they would be able to see and comprehend God’s truth more clearly.  He was asking the Lord to give the Ephesians spiritual wisdom and discernment in

(1) That you may know what the hope of his calling is.  The apostle Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand all the wonderful importance of “hope” they have as a result of being “called” by the Father through the gospel of Christ.  The New Testament hope is a full assurance of what God has provided for us in His Word.  Thus (a) a believer’s hope is in the truth of God’s Word.  Our Father will deliver us from this present world and will richly supply us “an entrance … into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This hope we have is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”; (b) a believer’s hope is in our hearts; a generic hope is nothing more than wishful, pie-in-the-sky thinking.  It has no certainty and assurance of fulfillment, or of becoming a reality.  Such hope often leads to dashed dreams and crushed feelings, to despair and certain discouragement.  “I hope I get a tax refund” fall into that category.  To live by this kind of generic hope is pointless and foolish.  However, a believer’s Hope is in Christ Victory, in His Sufficiency, in His Righteousness, in His Resurrection and lastly in Eternity with Him

Romans 5:5 says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  Philippians 3:20-21 puts it this way, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.  Moreover, when we trust and obey, our confidence in Him grows, and hope triumphs over dread and despair.  If Christ lives in your heart, you have a living hope that can never be taken away

(2) In the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.  All saints, and here the Ephesians specifically, are “His inheritance.”  God looks upon believers as a treasure of incomparable worth.

(3) In the resurrection power, God showed enormous and awesome power, in creating the universe.  He showed great power in bringing the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, but the power He showed in redemption is the greatest demonstration of His power.  This power is available to you and me today as believers in Christ.  If we can comprehend the power that God displayed in Christ’s resurrection and ascension, we can comprehend the power that God displayed in our salvation.

These areas are significant because the better we can see with the eye of faith into the visible, spiritual realm of God, the better we will see the visible world for what it really is.  Understanding our hope of eternal life and realizing the wealth of our riches in Jesus Christ will enable us to maintain a proper perspective of this visible world.  It will also keep us from being too focused on all the stuff this world has to offer.  Our prayer should be for the Lord to show us those invisible things we need to see and know which are so much more important than the things we can see.

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  1. The Greatest of His Power – Ephesians 1:20-23, “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all”; The apostle Paul mentions four ways in which God’s power was shown in Jesus Christ, which includes

(1) The resurrection of Christ (v. 20).  If we reject this central doctrine, we may as well throw away the entire Bible.  If Christ has not risen, He has broken His promises, failed in His prophecies, and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  The power that raised Christ from physical death is the same power that raises a believing sinner from spiritual death.  Only the all-powerful God could raise Christ from the dead, and only He can raise a spiritually dead sinner to spiritual life.  This is proof positive that He will one day complete the redemption we have in Jesus Christ when He will raise our bodies from the dead and glorify us as He did His Son

(2) Seating Jesus at His right hand in “the heavenly places” (v. 20).  The “right hand” signifies a place of honor and authority.  Christ sits in the heavenlies, in a place of honor “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion” (v. 21)  Not only did God exalt Christ above the innumerable multitude of angels, but He also exalted Him above “every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (v. 21)  “Every name that is named” includes every title and every name of excellence and honor, whether prince, king, ruler, monarch, or any other distinguished authority.  Christ ranks higher than every member of humanity in this present age and in the age to come.  He will always be highly exalted above all others

(3) Giving Jesus Christ rule over everything (v. 22).  Everything, angelic beings, saved mankind, and lost mankind, is subject to Christ.  The unregenerate may defy God and rant and rave at Christ, but someday when He exercises His authority over all the earth, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord, “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11)

(4) The head over all things to the church (v. 22).  Christ functions as the supreme ruler of the church.  He is its ever-present source of direction and power.  The church is Christ’s body.  As such, it is to be under His lordship.  The Body is made up of many members, but all must work together in harmony for the good of the whole and must be subject to the Head.  Paul further taught that the church “is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (v. 23).

Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and He fills it with the fullness of His presence.  On the other hand, the church is the fullness of Christ because it is the instrument He uses to perform His will on earth.  The power seen in Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and appointment to be head of the church is the same power God manifested on our behalf at our conversion.

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Closing thoughts:

Jesus Christ, the Master of all, never left the basics in His relationship with His heavenly Father. Time alone with God was an essential part of Jesus’ life. Mark 1:35 says, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed”. He also spent whole nights in prayer while He lived on earth.  In those night-long encounters, Jesus communed with His Father.  His prayers were not just petitions to get something.

The highest purpose of prayer is to deepen our relationship with Him.  Prayer does involve petition and intercession, but it also includes communion.  In petition God does something for us, in intercession He does something through us, and in communion He does something in us. When we pray, how much of our time is spent communing with the Lord?  Our prayers will become less self-centered and more God-centered as we draw closer to Him, seek His glory, and subordinate our petitions to His will.  Communion is the line that connects our soul with the battery of God’s power. I don’t know about you but His pattern challenges me to ask some searching questions, and you may do well to ask the same

(1) Am I beginning each day alone with God?

(2) Do I long to do His will in everything?

(3) Do I depend on His power?

(4) Do you pray for what you want, or for what God wants

Have you spent time lately talking to the Lord not only about your trials but have you thanked Him for those times He has answered your prayers? My friend, He knows how to meet your every need, whether through His direct intervention (Psalm 34:17) through the comfort of His presence or a kind word from a brother or sister in the Lord. Trust Him today with your whole heart, mind and soul.  Austin’s experience taught his mother that, we never know which role we may be called to play, in the end it doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that we remain faithful to Him in prayer and in sharing the good news of what Jesus Christ has done for us.

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Daily prayers are the best remedy for daily cares.

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