I couldn’t think of a better passage of scripture to bring our community series to a conclusion than the one we’re looking at today…it is Paul’s spiritual equivalent of what my rugby coach in Te Awamutu would “encourage” us with before a match: “fire-up” boys, “fire-up”…
You may note they key verses we’re discussing today are printed on the front cover of this year’s Annual Report, because I believe they form a key part of our collective vision and strategy moving forward.
My hope is that as we engage with and apply this text it will further turn up the gas on the prayer culture of our church, shape and underpin our mission.
“The immeasurably moreness of God” is a phrase you’ve heard me use a couple of times…see, as Christ followers we belong to God, the church belongs to God, this city and nation, are in his hand…if that is true (it is!) then it follows in what we do, and how we pray, our belief and our faith are buoyed, lifted…by WHO, he is.
Why, you might ask do I have a picture of a grasshopper on the screen, and what, might be the relevance to today’s passage?
Cast your minds back to the account of the Lord asking Moses to send 12 spies into the PL. (Paraphrasing) ‘Go and check it out Moses says, see what the lands like, the people, the agriculture and be sure to bring back some fruit…’
…4o days later they come back to the camp, carrying their massive cluster of grapes…“Moses the land is awesome, it flows with milk and honey, and look here’s some fruit…but Moses “the people, they’re huge, the towns are large”…Caleb steps up “let’s go, we can overcome it” but the other spies continued to bring a negative report… “They’re too big, we’re like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them”
…Caleb, and Joshua, were the only ones, not to be intimidated by the mission in the PL.
Did John Wesley see himself as a grasshopper when he trained teams of preachers, sending them out on horseback, and pastoring several churches at a time at the start of the Methodist Revival?
Did Dietrich Bonhoeffer see himself as a grasshopper in his opposition to Hitler?
Did the people who met ‘illegally ‘and prayed prior to the 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall, see themselves as grasshoppers? No!
One thing I want to suggest Paul was asking the church at Ephesus is this: ‘do you want a small vision of yourselves…or do you want a big vision of yourselves in Christ?’
The Immeasurably Moreness of God draws our attention to God.
Today’s passage is Paul’s prayer for the church at Ephesus. But it can also be universally applied as our prayer to. It is a prayer that underpins and gives momentum to, all of the aspects of community we have discussed these last 4 months. It is a prayer that engages us to the depth, breadth and fullness and majesty and glory of God. Our discussions about community matter little if our focus is not Christ-ward, if Christ is not the source of all we do, or if giving him glory is not our only and key motivation.
It is worth reminding ourselves that of all Paul’s letters, this was the only one that wasn’t provoked by a particular issue in the church.
It is rather, an exploration of the glory of God, of Jesus as the head of the church, and therefore creating a template for the unique identity of the church. Notwithstanding the person of Jesus himself, this prayer is a fulcrum on which church and mission can revolve around and evolve from.
When we read Ephesians we don’t do so with the desire to be like that church…even this church went on to have issues (read 1 Tim and Rev. 2)…in fact when we look at Rev. 2 alongside Ephesians we see this church was the first to be addressed. They’re commended for their perseverance and endurance in hardship, but then Jesus immediately goes on to say: “But this I have against you, you have forsaken your first love”.
No, it would be missing Paul’s point, to want to be like this church. When we read Ephesians we see the emphasis is less about what we do as church and more about what God does, through us and in us when we are submitted to him. It doesn’t diminish our humanity – Paul never does that at all – but neither does it diminish the greatness and glory of Christ. It gives us a sense of what a mature church looks like when Christ is the head and the Holy Spirit is working in the heart of it; that’s the emphasis!
One thing I love about Paul’s prayer is that it models a way of praying that transcends our human-limiting-tendencies.…will he really? Does he really? Can he really?
We are provoked to a new level of audaciousness through such prayers. How so? There are four adjectives Paul gives us that “measure” the love of Christ: wide, long, high and deep. Though his love is without limit, it is beyond measure.
And because it is, my ability to courageously pray such prayers in faith is only muted by my belief. Thankfully God is not limited by our limitations, and this prayer cautions us in many respects to the language of our prayers that might do so.
The language in Paul’s prayer is similar to that of Isaiah 55:8 – 9: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine”
Ross you’re talking about a way of life that isn’t real, one that I could never attain. Paul was as human as any of us. But he had learnt what it was, to live his Christian life in the depth and breadth of God daily; to live daily in the resurrection power of Jesus. That’s church. That’s community. This prayer is him passing on that posture. So, absolutely we can learn to live this way.
Therefore Paul’s intercession for the church at Ephesus, has relevance for us today.; and like the Lord’s Prayer, is a template through which to pray our own prayers, prayer for the church, and prayer for others.
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
I’ve spent a bit of time backgrounding Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians, and now I’d like to move into what it looks like for us to , not only pray such a prayer but to enact it, to live out this prayer…what does it look like for this prayer to have a central focus in our praying and our worship.
I’ve selected 4 areas I want to briefly cover today…that will help us apply this prayer…firstly…
- The Posture of our prayer
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
“For this reason…” refers to all Paul has spoken of about the person of Christ in the lead up (you read 1 &2)….his point, we ought to be so “wowed” by Jesus, the only right response is to drop to our knee’s!
That speaks to the physical posture for prayer…but there’s another aspect to posture Paul is emphasising…the attitude we bring to prayer
….what’s in us…what’s in me, what’s motivating me, what’s down in “my well”…effects our communion with God, simply because it can be more about what I want to get from this and how I benefit, when, our ‘posture’ is skewed and misguided.
Both the physical and attitude are important as prayer is an act of reverence. We know when we come before God he sees and knows our hearts. When we come to God in prayer we do so with open hearts, vulnerable, real. On our knees is a posture of submission to the Father, it is setting aside self, it is setting aside my agenda for the agenda of God…there are passages all through the bible, complimentary to these verses that help us bring, adopt or develop the right posture for prayer
Here are two passages… (READ 1 Cor. 6:19 – 20; Gal. 2:20)…
Similar to the posture of prayer, is…
- The Exuberance of our prayer
There is a time and place for prayers of lament, prayers where we cry out to God, prayers of petition;
…but here for me, Paul brings another dimension. Not only does he model an excitement and an enthusiasm we can pick up on for our praying (that is not fake or superficial…)…he reminds us that it is the abundance of God, the fullness of God, the moreness of God that undergirds our prayer and intercession…
Now I want to say that Paul was not indifferent to the needs and the care of people in the church, he would never condone invalidation of need…I said earlier Paul was as human as any of us…
Christ himself was fully man, yet fully God…yet we’re all, out of our humanness, called to pursue Christlikeness… “Christ will be exalted in my body” Paul said “whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). Paul knew how to live humanly, but IN Christ, which conditions the exuberance of our praying.
I referred earlier to the four adjectives Paul gives us that are a measure of the love of Christ: wide, long, high and deep. Paul wanted Christians to grasp the full dimensions of Christ’s incomprehensible love (v. 18)…we cannot comprehend it, but not comprehending doesn’t change who God is, so it’s best we believe it, and allow that truth to change the way we pray and worship!
Another writer reflecting on these verses had this to say: “Prayer is the practice of shifting pre-occupation away from self towards attentiveness and responsiveness to God”
…note some of the words Paul uses here: “power through his Spirit…that Christ may dwell in your hearts…that you may have the power together…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”…
Can I pick up briefly on this last one…“Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (v. 19). Paul also wrote to the church at Colossae “you have been given fullness in Christ” (Col. 2:10)
What is the measure of the fullness of God we might be filled to? FULL!
What happens when this becomes the common language of our prayers and the impetus behind where the Lord is leading, what happens when we pray this prayer for this church, for and over each other?
…we are encouraged, the Holy Spirit is in such prayers, our spirits are lifted, our eyes are focussed on Christ, our faith rises…it fuels and drives and directs our prayer, away from self, toward Christ.
- The Priority of Prayer and Worship
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen
The concluding words of Paul’s prayer/ the doxology invite us to pause, and worship and meditate on the glory of God; this – to glorify God – ultimately is the core mission of the church.
We take Him being glorified out of the church, what do we have? We are only church because of Christ and Christ in us, we are only church when he is the Head, so it’s best we be church and give Him that place of glory.
These are words designed to stretch us beyond ourselves to who and all that God is. “It is a call to realise God’s unanticipated power to effect change in us”
God did not cease to be able to do immeasurably more when the final full stop was put on the last letter or epistle written…if that is the case how should that affect our praying? How should that affect the intensity and the posture of our worship?
Paul has concluded his prayer with these words of worship but his intent is that when the church understands what has been and what can in faith be, accomplished through Christ, authentic worship and transformation follows.
The immeasurably moreness of God…when Moses sent out the first group to the PL, apart from Joshua and Caleb, no-one else, saw what they saw…so it wasn’t until an entire generation of doubters had died that Joshua had his opportunity
What was different between the first mission into the PL and the 2nd? Was the same people, lands and cities…the difference was the faith and vision of Joshua…
That God is able to do immeasurably more is the fuel in the tank that motivates our prayer and our worship
- Pray according to his Immeasurably Moreness
- Pray according to his Power
- Pray according Jesus Glory
 Peterson, PR, 162
 NIV Eph Comms