The Intimacy of Prayer: A sermon based on Ephesians 3:14-21
Have you ever experienced someone come up to you, and say, “How are you doing, I’ve been praying for you?” How does that make you feel when a friend or maybe even an acquaintance or stranger, tells you that they they’re praying for you? For me, its got a similar effect as someone picking up the bill at a restaurant. You weren’t expecting it, but you’re super grateful because you know they care about you. When someone prays for you, they’re saying they care so much that they’re willing to take time out of their day to bring you before God. And if that’s not a powerful way of showing love, I don’t know what is. One of the ways I know that Michelle loves me is the way she prays for me. Praying for someone says, “I love you” just about as much as making them a gourmet dinner, or giving them flowers, or cleaning the bathroom.” Praying is intimate. Because in prayer we’re talking to the the one that who is most intimate with us in all the world. God.
When you pray for a person, your relationship with them changes. Its impossible to pray for someone without having your relationship change. Because look at who you’re praying to! Look at who Paul says you’re praying to, We pray to ,(Slide 1) “the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” We pray to the Father. And when we pray to the Father on behalf of somebody, we’re praying to Him believing our heavenly Father cares way more about the person than we do! So when we pray, we’re believing that our Father in heaven is just as much of a Dad to the person we’re praying for as He is to us. We’re expecting God to be a good and loving and kind Dad to the person we’re praying for.
So prayer invites us to recognize the way that we’re in relationship with others. Through prayer, God invites us to see that person as he sees them. God is the loving Father of all people, and when we pray for someone, we’re saying, “Father, I want you to be as good a Father to them as you are to me.” If you believe what you’re praying, that means you need to acknowledge that the person you’re praying for is your brother or sister! That kind of changes the way you hear Jesus when he asks us to pray for our enemies. We can’t pray for someone without recognizing that they’re part of our family tree!
And its almost as if Paul knew I was going to make this comment about the family tree, because Paul starts praying that his friends in Ephesus become “rooted and grounded in the love of Christ.” Paul is praying that his friends in Ephesus become a part of his family tree by being rooted in the love of Jesus. And I daresay, Paul’s prayer is one of the most powerful prayers we could ever pray. Let’s listen together to this prayer. Paul prays, (Slide 2) “Out of His glorious riches may God strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That is what it means to be part of God’s family tree. That is how God relates to us as His children. God strengthens us with His Spirit. God moves right into our heart, and gives us strength and power through His Spirit. As He does this, Jesus makes a home in our hearts. So of course prayer is a love language. In prayer, we’re asking for God to be a Father by filling our brother or sister with the love of Jesus.
Let’s continue to listen to Paul’s prayer. Paul prays that (Slide 3) we might “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.”
Can we ever fully grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ? How wide is Christ’s love for you? Do you think there’s something that you could do that would put you just beyond Christ’s reach? How long does Jesus love you? Maybe the first few times you walked away from Him he could still love you but you’re wondering now if there might be a limit. What is the height of Jesus’ love for you. Could you ever see over top of it? Do you think it can reach past your doubts? How deep is Jesus’ love for you? Can it reach the secret places of your heart and your mind? How could we ever hope to grasp the vastness of a love that surpasses knowledge itself. Do you know the insurmountable vastness of God’s love for you? The love that is immeasurable. Humans have an amazing ability to measure things. The other week I read an article saying that astrophysicists believe the universe has expanded ten billion, billion, billion fold. (Slide 4) That’s almost mathematically indistinguishable from infinity. Astrophysicists have nearly measured infinity. As humans we have an incredible ability to measure. But Paul is saying that the love of Jesus is immeasurable, and he prays that we can grasp how immeasurable it is. (Slide 5) How can we grasp how wide and long and high and deep that the love of Jesus is for us? We only grasp this love by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we pray for all of our brothers and sisters, that God infinitely expand their mind, that the Spirit would exponentially expand their heart by the love of Jesus. That is prayer. Prayer is growing deeper in intimacy, its growing in the knowledge that we are asking our Father in heaven to treat the person we’re praying for as a child of God. We’re saying, “Father, will you be their Father too? If so, Please send your Spirit to empower my brother and sister to know how wide and and long and high and deep that is your love for them.”
(Slide 6) Paul prays all this so “that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Again, look at what he’s asking for. Paul is asking that God fill us up with His fullness. We’re dealing with impossible dimensions. Asking God to fill my bathtub with all the water in the Pacific Ocean is a small prayer compared to what Paul asks. Paul asks that God fills us with His Fullness! His Fullness! King Solomon once said to God, “Behold! The highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this Temple that I have built!” God will you fill us with your fullness? God, will you let the fullness of the Bulkley River fill this cup? Paul somehow has the audacity to pray for us to be “filled with the fullness of God!” What would that look like? Would we look like an overstuffed beanbag? No, it would mean that we look like Jesus. It would mean that his character would just spill out of us. Being filled with God’s fullness means that our actions began to look more and more like the actions of Jesus. That’s what will happen when we’re filled with the fullness of God. Does this prayer ask too much? Paul doesn’t think so. In fact, he says that God has the ability to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine! Paul somehow thinks that God could go beyond answering this prayer. Paul somehow thinks that his prayer is small compared to the enormity of God’s ability and desire to love His children well.
C.S. Lewis said “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us. We are like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” God’s imagination for us his children is immeasurably high and wide and long and deep. Let’s ask God to stretch our minds and our hearts so that he can share with us his vision for this world and his love for his people. That’s one of the things that happens in prayer. God invites us into his love and his desires for his world. He invites us to see and know that those he places in our lives are our brothers and sisters in him. He invites us into his desire that they may know Him as their loving Father.
That what happens in prayer. So let’s repent of small prayers. Let’s ask “God to just burst our seams with His love.” Let’s ask God to “fill our sister and brother with all of his fullness. To be their heavenly Father. Empower them to grasp the ungraspable the measureless love of your Son, Jesus. Let them be so full of Your Jesus, that Jesus just shines through and in everything they do.”
(Slide 7) As bold and beautiful as this prayer is, “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” There is no limit to what we can ask. More often than not, I ask for far too little.
I am far too easily pleased. But I don’t want to be. I want my prayers to be characterized by asking the fullness of the immeasurable love of Jesus. I want my prayers to expect that God would be a Father to my brothers and sisters I pray for. I want to expect that through my prayers, God will fill my brothers and sisters with the unsurpassable knowledge of the love of Jesus. I want to expect that through our prayers God will fill our brothers and sisters with His fullness, so that they just brim over with Jesus. This is the powerful intimacy of the love of God.
So let’s pray this. Let’s not spend all our time talking about prayer, because the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power. Let’s pray for each other. What would happen if we as a church made it a practice of spending way more time praying for this immeasurable love of God rather than just talking about God? What do you think would happen? Do you think we’d become each others brother and sister, more so than we ever dreamed possible? Do you think that we’d begin to get an enormous glimpse of the love jesus has for us? Do you think that we’d begin to see Jesus spill out from our life into the lives of others?
So let’s pray. Choose someone or a group of people that you want to pray for. In your bulletin I’ve written a paraphrase of Paul’s prayer. If you like, you can pray that prayer for the person your praying for, or you can just say a prayer of your own. God hears both types of prayer.
If there is someone hear that you’d like to pray for, maybe you want to go up to them and pray for them directly.
In any case, use this time of prayer however you want. God is here, and He is listening.
Dear Father, we know that you give way more than we could ever ask or even imagine. We could never imagine the amazing and impossible ways that you answer our prayers. So I pray for name , I ask that you would strengthen name with power through your Spirit. Jesus, I ask that you would make your home in their heart. Father, I pray that you would let name be rooted in your love so that they can grasp with all of our sisters and brothers in Christ, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus. I ask that you would help name to grow in their understanding of your love, which is totally beyond all knowledge. I ask that you would fill name with your Spirit, so that may have all the fullness of You God, dwelling in their soul. And as You have filled them to the brim with yourself, that name would look like more and more like Jesus in all of their life.
You are able to do more than we can ask or imagine, and we ask all of this in Jesus’ strong name. Amen.