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This powerful series will challenge you to understand your role in the body of Christ. Through the book of Ephesians, Pastor Philip will remind us of the joy and blessings God intends for believers to experience in the church as they live as a united family in Christ.
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Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians 3:14–21. Stand in honor of God’s Word, which is a tradition here at Kindred, as we read. I’m going to begin a three-part sermon on this prayer of Paul, and you’ll see why. There’s just so much to understand and so much to learn and so much that will enrich our prayer lives as we trace over the thoughts and the thinking of the apostle Paul. It’s a message I’ve called “The Big Ask.”
Here’s what Paul says, Ephesians 3:14, from the New King James translation of Holy Scripture:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 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; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
You may be seated.
We’re looking at Ephesians 3:14–21. “The Big Ask.” Just recently, I was reading the story of a lady who got locked out of her own car in a pretty rough neighborhood. She tried several ways to get back into the car but to no avail. In her desperation, she kind of quickly prayed that God would send someone to help her. And within a couple of minutes, this rather rough looking guy who belonged to this rough looking neighborhood came by and offered to help. He was all tattooed up, and he was wearing a biker’s skull rag. She was a little apprehensive, but she was out of options. So she said, “I would be grateful.”
Within a jiffy, he was into the car, and she was into the car and out of the neighborhood. But, before she left, having opened the car for her, she reached up and gave him a hug and said, “You’re a very nice man, and I’m thankful for you.” To which he replied, “Lady, I’m not a nice guy. I’m just out of prison today. I served two years for auto theft, and I’ve only been out a couple of hours.” She thanked them nevertheless, and then she looked to heaven and said, “Lord, thank You for sending me a professional.”
I don’t know if that story’s true, but I’ll tell you what’s true. God does delight in answering our prayers. He really does, and He delights in answering them big. “Lord, thank You for sending me a professional.”
God, at times, loves to surprise us with surprising answers to our prayers. I’ve always enjoyed Jeremiah 33:3, where God says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you . . . mighty things.” In fact, earlier in chapter 32, Jeremiah acknowledges that he prays and looks to and worships before a God who has stretched out the heavens like a scroll and for whom nothing is too difficult.
In fact, in the words of the text we are about to look at, the God we pray to is a God who can “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” God’s ability to do what we ask always exceeds our imagination in asking. We can’t begin to comprehend what God can do and His willingness to do it. You need to remember this little statement. I think it was Archbishop William Temple of the Church of England who said that “prayer is not the overcoming of God’s reluctance but the laying hold of God’s willingness.” God delights in answering our prayers, and He delights in answering them big.
It’s a tragedy, isn’t it? It’s something that embarrasses me and I’m sure embarrasses you. How short of God’s glory our prayers fall, given how big He is, given how loving His disposition is, given His willingness to answer our prayers, that our prayers are so moderate and temperate and unbelieving. We ask God to give us something, and He often gives us more than we ask. We need to start praying with a “how much more” attitude. Remember the story of Jesus regarding prayer? Having taught His disciples how to pray in answer to their question “Lord, teach us to pray,” Jesus went on to say in Luke 11:11–13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children”—listen—“how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” We need to add that “much more” into our praying, into our approach, to God.
- L. Moody once said, “With God, make no small plans.” Can I kind of rework that? With God, make no small prayers, because He can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think. We need to stop being surprised at God’s greatness and generosity in answering our prayers.
You know the story. It’s there for our edification, and it’s there for our chastisement. In Acts 12, Peter’s in prison. The church meets to pray that God would release him from prison. God releases him from prison. He goes and wraps on the door of the building in which they’re offering the prayers for him to be released, and when the young girl opens the door and runs back in to tell the crowd that Peter’s there, they’re going, “You’re kidding me! It must be a ghost.”
Listen to the words of Adrian Warnock, an English evangelical on that passage and in this thought: “Too often prayer is simply worrying out loud. We rehearse our woes to God, then feel a bit better for having done so. Like the early church praying for the release of Peter, we are often shocked when our prayers are answered! Peter standing there knocking at the door whilst intense prayer is going on inside has always seemed humorous to me.” Well, of course, it’s laughable, especially when the gathered saints in great faith tell the door girl, in fact, “Don’t be silly. It must be a ghost.”
When we ask God to do something, we should not be surprised when He does it. And Paul’s going to help us with that here in Ephesians 3:14–21.
I know your heart. I think it’s my heart. I want my prayers to be more than worrying out loud. I want my prayers to be something more than some Christian version of therapy. I want my prayers to be a laying hold of the willingness of our great God and all the promises of the gospel. Our prayers are often thin and emaciated because they’re starved of the vision of the glory of God. They’re confined by the small spaces of self-concern. Our prayers are thin and emaciated rather than fat and weighty and bloated with a sense of God’s compassion and mercy and power and willingness to withhold no good thing to those that walk uprightly (Psalm 84:11).
So, let’s come and begin to look at this text. I think it’s going to take us two to three weeks or sermons to work our way through this because Paul’s praying is big and bold. That’s why I’ve called the message “The Big Ask.” One scholar says of this prayer and other prayers of Paul that Paul’s prayers are marked by “blatant extravagance. . . . superlatives become the lingua franca” of Paul’s praying. Paul may be in prison, but his praying to God knows no boundaries.
Now, let’s put the text in its context quickly. There are a few things, just to get our bearings in the text and become a launching pad for this sermon and the ones to follow.
Number one, this is the fourth prayer of Paul. Now, if you read commentaries on Ephesians 3:14–21, I think they fall into the trap of believing this is Paul’s second prayer. They’re measuring up against the prayer he prays in chapter 1:15–23. But if you go back to chapter 1:2, he’s already prayed that grace and peace from God the Father will fall on them. He’s already prayed, in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s one, two. Then, you’ve got a third prayer in verse 15 and following. And when you get to chapter 3:14–21, you’ve got a fourth prayer. Also, know this, that later he’ll ask them to pray for him. In Ephesians 6:18–20, he’ll ask, “And for me, [pray] that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly.”
I love that, don’t you? Pulpit, pew. Pastor, people. Leader, congregation—each in need of the other’s prayers. Let’s just mark that down. Very simple thought. We’re all in need of prayer and praying for one another. We need to scratch each other’s backs through prayer.
Number two, he brings the doctrinal half of the letter to a close with prayer. Remember our introduction to the letter to the Ephesians. You have gospel indicatives in chapters 1–3 and gospel imperatives in chapters 4–6. In chapters 1–3, we have doctrine. In chapters 4–6, we have practice. In chapters 1–3, we have the story of what God has done in Christ for us. And in chapters 4–6, we have the story of what God wants to do through Christ in us. And the thing to notice here is that Paul marries exposition with intercession. Right at the end of these three chapters—which are rich in theology and gospel insight—Paul prays. He served Him with his mind in exposition and teaching. Now he serves Him with his heart in prayer and intercession. We need to remind ourselves: what God has joined, let no man pull asunder. And what God has joined is preaching and praying, exposition and intercession.
Now, if you’re a teacher, if you’re an elder, if you’re involved in any Bible exposition ministry, you need to take note of this—because preaching without prayer ends up as a cold lecture. Prayer keeps the preacher from preaching without heart at his people. Prayer allows the preacher to preach truth and love to his people.
When we were doing our study in Psalm 23, John Piper, in a sermon on Psalm 23, gave us this insight. And if you look at David in Psalm 23, you’ll see this pattern. He talks about the Lord, but then he talks to the Lord. And Piper’s thought is this. You shouldn’t talk about the Lord for too long without talking to the Lord, because God’s not just a subject to be explored. God is a person to be loved and experienced and entered into conversation with. David says, “He,” third person, “leads me, makes me lie down, fills my cup, takes care of me in the presence of my enemies.” But then, in verse 4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.” We’ve gone from the third person, “he,” to the second person, “you.” He talked about the Lord, but not for too long. He talked to the Lord. And that’s why preaching and prayer, exposition and intercession, ought to always be married lest the preaching becomes cold and becomes a lecture, lest we speak about God as if He’s a subject to be explored rather than a person to be known.
Number three, having celebrated the union of Jew and Gentile positionally in chapter 2:15–16, he now prays that they may be united experientially. He has spent time unfolding the doctrine of reconciliation. He has talked about the cross work of Christ and how the ground is level at the foot of the cross and the church—this unique, distinct body in this dispensation—is made up of Jew and Gentile. And as he rejoices in that reality positionally, he wants them to unite experientially. He wants them to grow in their knowledge of the love of Christ and put that on display in community.
So, that was text in context. For the balance of the time, two thoughts. There are six actually. We’re going to look at the prompt, the posture, the passion, the patriarchy, the petition, the praise. But just these first two.
The prompt. Let’s jump right in. Verse 14: “For this reason . . .” Here, he’s acknowledging that something has prompted him to pray. He’s got a reason to bow his knees to the Father. We want to get into that for a few minutes. Now, remember, this is the prayer that was almost not prayed. Remember what we said when we were studying the opening verses of chapter 3. Verse 1: “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles . . .” And that should have gone on to say, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I pray that you would be strengthened in your inner man, that Christ would dwell and swell in your life and that you would expand your knowledge and experience of the love of God.” But he doesn’t. He gets onto a rabbit trail. He gets pulled back into chapter 2, because it’s so exciting that this entity, the church—which is distinct from Israel, a new phase in God’s unfolding plans—is now a platform for the wisdom and glory of God, both the angels and demons.
And so, Paul kind of goes back to go forward, and he’s excited about this redemptive reality in the church. But once he’s kind of got that off his chest, so to speak, he’s now back to actually pray the prayer he intended to pray in verse 1. Can you imagine the loss if this prayer had never been prayed? But what prompts him is theological revelation and theological recognition. That’s what lies behind this little phrase: “For this reason.” All the verses that precede it are backed up behind this idea. Here’s why I’m praying. And certainly chapter 2 is what he specifically has in mind.
And we’re not going to unfold that. If you’ve been with us in the series, you know we have worked our way through chapters 1 and 2 and 3, and we have marveled at the election of God and the adoption of God and the forgiveness of God toward us in Christ. We have marveled at the fact that we were once dead, and we’ve been made alive by the grace of God. And God’s mercy is great, and His love toward us, unmeasured. Chapter 2, this idea of this entity, the church, this new phase in God’s plan for mankind, this body of Christ made up of Jew and Gentile.
So, Paul has been swimming in gospel truths. Paul has sounded the depths of sovereign grace. Paul has marveled at the plan of God in the distinct program of the church. Paul has celebrated the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ. Paul has anticipated future glory and God’s eternal purposes. Theological revelation lies behind this little phrase, “for this reason,” and one other thing, theological recognition. As you’ll notice, again, there’s a Trinitarian element to this. In verse 14, he speaks of the Father. In verse 16, he speaks of the Spirit. In verse 17, he speaks of the Son.
Now, you can pray to the Son, and you can pray to the Spirit, but if you look at 1:13–14, 2:18, 3:4–5, you’ll see that there’s a Trinitarian form and flavor to Paul’s thinking. And, frankly, I grew up among Irish Baptists in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and I think I was trained well. I was trained, and I followed the practice of good and godly men. As I listened to my pastor pray, as I listened to my father pray in public prayer meetings, I began to notice something. There was a little formula that was always on the front end of their praying. They would always begin in some form of words close to this: “Our Father, we come to you through your Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.” And there was that recognition, that in prayer we come to a loving Father, and we pray with a praying Son, and we pray with a praying Spirit. How glorious is that?
That’ll put a shine to your prayer life, but here’s the point I want to get at: the prompt. Paul is prompted by all the theological reflection and the knowledge of the triune God that precedes this. So, here’s my practical takeaway. Exposition, application, illustration. That’s what we’re always about here. Big truths lead to big prayers. Hang with me. Big truths lead to big prayers. You want to pray like Paul. I look at this prayer and go, “I want to pray like that.” Well, you’ll notice that he was moved by the magnificent. There was nothing small about his prayer because there was nothing small about the things he was thinking about. Big truths that are alive to us, that are real to us, that have been experienced by us lead to big prayers.
We read here in chapter 3, verse 1 that he had been focused on the eternal purposes of God accomplished in Christ Jesus. That’s what drove him to his knees: the gospel, the love of God, the amazing nature of grace. Not his needs. Not that there’s anything wrong with praying to God about your needs, but I want you to notice something I don’t want you to soon forget. Paul’s mind was filled with the glorious works of God. That’s what stoked his prayer life. Read it for yourself. Write down Psalm 111 and write down Psalm 45:5. But listen to the opening words of Psalm 111 as this man prays to God and praises God:
Praise the Lord!
I will praise the Lord with my whole heart,
In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation.
The works of the Lord are great,
Studied by all who have pleasure in them.
You want to make sure your prayer life is alive and dynamic? Study the great works of God. Then, pray to the God who did the great works and rejoice in His work of redemption and providence, His work of regeneration and adoption. That’s where Paul’s at. His prayer life was not stoked or sustained by the fleeting, the small, or the individual need of the moment but by the eternal, the stunning record of God’s providence, provision, preservation, and progress—the wonder of God’s grace, the glory of God’s Son. Here’s something I want you to remember. The vitality of prayer lies largely in your vision of God.
If your prayer life is at a standstill, if your prayer life is spluttering to a halt, I’ll guarantee you—if you get under the hood—something’s wrong with your vision of God. See, Paul’s able to pray, and Paul’s able to sustain a dynamic prayer life because he begins his prayers with gospel truths and eternal purposes and the grandeur of God who lives in triunity—who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, who has accomplished redemption at the cross, who’s putting together an entity called the church throughout history made of Jew and Gentile, allowing the church to be a platform upon which His wisdom is put on display.
Those are glorious things. The vitality of prayer lies largely in the vision of God. Let me qualify that and quickly move on. God is concerned about the small details of your life. Don’t get me wrong. There’s no prohibition here, by implication, for you praying about your daily bread or your physical needs. Right? Jesus taught us in the model prayer that you can pray, “Lord, give us this day our daily bread and deliver us from evil.” Would you take care of me and mine? God cares for us. That’s a wonderful reality, but here’s the problem. That beautiful thought, which ought to be part of our praying, in too many cases becomes all of our praying. I’ve lived in the United States since 1994, and that was one of the things that struck me very quickly about how evangelicals pray here. There wasn’t the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit form. There wasn’t that reflecting on God’s works. It wasn’t that spending initial time and prayer just worshiping and hallowing God’s name and praying that His kingdom would come. It was straight to Uncle Bob and Aunt Jane. Is that wrong? No, but it’s a misplaced priority, isn’t it?
There’s nothing in this prayer about Paul and his needs. That’ll come later. He’ll ask them, “Hey, would you pray for me?” But even there he is not praying that his life would be made easy. He’s praying that his mouth would open boldly. So, if you go back to The Lord’s Prayer, don’t ever forget you’re halfway through before you get to talk about yourself. Maybe make that a little measuring stick anytime you pray—or at least the majority of times you pray. There’s always the place in an emergency and the burden of your heart to get straight down to what you need. God will hear that. But as a basic measuring stick, as a basic baseline, make sure you’re about halfway through your prayer before you start talking about yourself. And, by the way, if you do that, when you get to talking about yourself and your need, you’ll be bolder and you’ll be more confident because you’ve just spent time recording the wonderful works of God.
I love that, and it’s important that we do that. Listen to this statement by Eugene Peterson on prayer: “The reason that we who pray need a theologian at our side is that most of the difficulties of prayer are of our own making, the making of well-meaning friends, or the lies of the devil. . . . We get more interested in ourselves than in God: we get absorbed in what is or is not happening in us. . . . But prayer has primarily to do with God, not us. . . . And the theologian’s task is to train our thinking, our imagination, our understanding to begin with God, not ourselves.”
That’s good. He’s saying, you know what? Before you pray, make sure you’ve got a theologian beside you. That’s not physically possible unless your dad teaches at The Master’s Seminary or something—or your dad may be a pastor. There are some benefits there. But, metaphorically speaking, as you get down to prayer, make sure that a theologian has reminded you of the Trinitarian form in which you ought to pray and has reminded you of the great works of God that you ought to concentrate on and has reminded you that prayer is not getting your will done in heaven. First, it’s getting God’s will done on earth. And that’s what’s going on here. And I love that. The prompt was theological. Everything that proceeded in terms of gospel indicatives fed his prayer life.
I’ve told you the story about the young man who was in China doing missions work, but he had kind of helped an oil company from the United States kind of navigate their way locally and politically. He’d been at several of the board meetings. He was polished, and he was good at what he did. In fact, he had an engineering background before he got into missions, and this company was so taken by him they tried to hire him. And they offered him the moon. Given his missionary wages, given his circumstances, that must’ve been a temptation—but not really. He refused, and when he refused, they asked, “What’s the matter? Isn’t the salary we offered you big enough?” To which he replied, “Oh, the salary’s fine. The job’s not big enough.”
The job’s not big enough. And that is where I want to live—in that sense of the bigness of God, the bigness of His kingdom, and the bigness of what God promises to do in the light of what He’s already done in Jesus Christ. Stay there. Make sure that you’ve got a big vision of God and His kingdom. It’ll produce big prayers. It will help sustain your prayers. Yeah, you can pray for kitchen issues, but make sure that you pray for kingdom issues. Our prayers are emaciated and thin, starved of a vision of God, confined to the small spaces of self-concern rather than big and fat and bloated with a sense of God’s mercy and kindness.
Okay, for a few minutes, let’s get to the posture. We can always pick some of this up next time, but we’ll get into this a little bit. The posture, right? The prompt. The posture. “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus.” Now, the normal position of a Jew in praying—and you’ll see it to this day in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, as some of us have—is standing. The normal position for a Gentile in praying was kneeling.
I wonder, given Paul’s fascination with and celebration of the beauty of the body of Christ and the Jew and Gentile together . . . Do you think, as a Jewish man who would normally stand, that he knelt in identification with his Gentile brothers and acknowledged this sweet fellowship in the church? Maybe, but I can’t be definitive about that because if you have read your Bible, there are several positions and postures in prayer that the Bible sanctions. You find Abraham standing in Genesis 18:22. You find David sitting in 1 Chronicles 17:16. And you find Jesus flat on His face in the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26:39. Here, we find Paul kneeling. So, there’s no set pattern. There’s no official position or posture when you pray.
Although, saying that, I’m going to read you a quote that has challenged me. It’s a quote from Ian Hamilton—who is, I believe, a Scottish Presbyterian. I’ve got a wonderful little commentary in Ephesians that a kind brother in the church bought me. And, in this book on Ephesians, speaking of this verse, he says something that just really struck me—because we’ve already acknowledged here that you can stand, you can kneel, you can lie flat. Here’s what I’d say to that: but don’t slouch. Don’t be so casual, so indifferent in your physical position in prayer that you don’t show the respect and the reverence that God deserves.
Listen to these words by Ian Hamilton. See if you don’t agree. “While there is no more intrinsic excellence in one prayerful posture than another, our bodies are not incidental to the life of faith.” Let me say that again. “Our bodies are not incidental to the life of faith.” How we dress, the positions we take—they communicate. We talk about what: body language. Doesn’t your body have a language in prayer? Isn’t it sending a signal to God? That’s a challenging little statement. “While there is no more intrinsic excellence in one prayerful posture than another, our bodies are not incidental to the life of faith.”
We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. It matters what you and I do with our bodies. How we use them and dress them will affect something of how we see ourselves and see God. A small group sitting in seats in a circle, eyes closed, and your slouched back on the seat, just talking to God about your needs. Nothing more, nothing less. You think that’s getting close to where Paul’s at? There’s an intensity here through his physical position and posture that’s sending a message about how he views God and his place before God. He’s an enfleshed Christian, and he believes his body’s got a certain language. And he likes the message that kneeling sends.
So, let’s run with that, just for a couple of minutes. While we have said there’s no sanctioned posture, I think we’d agree, Paul has chosen this posture for this moment because there’s symbolism attached with it. That’s good.
I grew up in a free church. I grew up in a Baptist church where there wasn’t much liturgy. Well, we thought there wasn’t much liturgy, but our liturgy was not having liturgy. That was our liturgy, and we didn’t break from it very often. Then I go to my first Church of Ireland worship service with my Aunt Anne, and you know what? You’re on your knees on these little cushions praying to God. First, I kind of reacted arrogantly; I sat in my seat while they were all on their knees. Until, in a moment of self-realization, I got down on my knees and acknowledged, you know what, there’s a place for this. Oh, there’s always the danger of empty form, for sure, but there, on your knees, is a good place before God.
James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus, was called “camel knees” because he was so often on them that they got flattened like a camel. Is that true of you and me? Have we got camel’s knees? When’s the last time you and I literally got on our knees or prostrate before God? Now, if the heart of love doesn’t come with it, it’s empty and meaningless, but can’t there be both? Can’t our outward position be an expression of our inward disposition?
I don’t have time to develop this. I’ll just throw it your way. I think kneeling symbolizes the spirit of submission. Psalm 95: “Oh come, let us . . . bow down . . . kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Just like a servant before a king. That’s why every knee will bow, literally, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. If that’s going to happen in the world at the end of history, shouldn’t it be happening in the church within history? It’s an act of devotion. It’s an acknowledgement that we kneel before someone greater than ourselves. It’s an acknowledgement that we’re here because of who they are. It’s an act of humility and homage.
Number two, it’s an act of desire. In Ezra 9:5, you’ll find Ezra on his knees in an act of prayer, demonstrating earnestness and emotion because the nation has forsaken the ways of God. Him down on his knees is communicating to God the degree and the depth of feelings he feels about this and the brokenness that he wants to express to God. Nothing casual or laid back. Kneeling keeps us from that.
John Bunyan said, “Better your heart be without words than your words be without heart.” And sometimes, on our knees crying out to God is an act of not only devotion but desire. It’s showing God the depth of our feelings and our desire for Him to do something. Psalm 130:1: “Out of the depths I have cried to You.” And if that’s where we’re at in life—down in a pit and down—maybe getting on our knees before God is kind of demonstrating that’s where we’re at. We’re down here, Lord, and we’re crying out to You from the depths of our trouble and our heartache.
Finally, an act of dependence. Isn’t that what kneeling demonstrates? Isn’t it a good symbol? Maybe it’s something we all should incorporate in our praying and our devotion to God. Don’t be embarrassed if God moves you on a Sunday morning. Just get down off your seat where you’re at, if you can, and kneel if God moves you to do so—because it’s an act of dependence.
It’s a symbol of need, like the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17. He comes and approaches the Lord, and he gets on his knees. He said, “Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I’ve got a need, and on my knees I’m demonstrating to you that need. It’s throwing yourself before and upon another for mercy and grace to help. You can read about that in 2 Kings 1:13. See, the strength of prayer lies in the acknowledgement of our weakness. Let me say that again. The strength of prayer lies in the acknowledgement of our weakness.
I read a good book on prayer by Ole Hallesby. I believe he was Swedish or Norwegian. It’s a wonderful little book Dr. Rosscup had us read at The Master’s Seminary, and the whole thesis of that little book is that helplessness is the qualification for prayer. Your greatest qualification for prayer is your helplessness and acknowledgement of it in humble prayer on your knees before God. Prayer is the voice of a beggar, the language of a man in need.
Leonard Ravenhill, who’s worth reading, said this: “The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, and the self-righteous cannot pray.” The reason some people don’t pray is because they believe, “I’m enough, and I have enough, and I’m good enough.” But the righteous, we kneel in prayer because we know, “I’m not enough, and I’m not good enough, and I don’t have enough. But God is enough, and from the depths I will cry out to Him, in dependence upon Him.”
Let me finish with this little poem about posture and position. It’s “The Prayer of Cyrus Brown”:
“The proper way for a man to pray,”
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees.”
“No, I should say the way to pray,”
Said Rev. Doctor Wise,
“Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes.”
“Oh, no; no, no,” said Elder Slow,
“Such posture is too proud:
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
And head contritely bowed.”
“It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front.
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground,”
Said Rev. Doctor Blunt.
“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkin’s well
Head first,” said Cyrus Brown,
“With both my heels a-stickin’ up,
My head a-pointing down;
“An’ I made a prayer right then an’ there—
Best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standing on my head.”
It’s out of our need and out of our desperation that we come to the One who’s able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think.
Father, we thank You for this beginning study in one of Paul’s prayers. We thank You for these prayers. Your Word has sample prayers for us to pray. We can trace our lives over these prayers. We can find an answer to the question “Lord, teach me to pray.” In these prayers, they will teach us the attitude. They will teach us how. They will teach us the form. They will teach us or give us ideas on posture. They will show us the priority of prayer and its constituent elements. Lord, we thank You for this glorious prayer. Help us to learn to pray.
Forgive us for our prayerlessness. Help us, indeed, to pray like Paul. Help us to realize that the key to prayer is a sustained and glorious vision of God. Help us not just to talk about You in public worship and in Christian conversation but to make sure in private or together we pray to You, lest You become a subject to explore and not a person to know. Lord, thank You for this example of Paul kneeling. We realize that’s not the official position, but it sure is a good one to emulate at times, as it demonstrates an act of devotion and desire and dependence.
O Lord, we thank You that when we pray, we pray with the Son; when we pray, we pray with the Spirit; when we pray, we pray to the heavenly and loving Father. And we just thank You for these privileges and these truths. Make us a praying church. Make me a praying man. Help us to engage in this blood-bought privilege that Jesus Christ has opened up, and You, in a living way, whereby we can come boldly. And we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.