First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, January 17, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Four Prayer Requests!” #1
Jeremiah 17:5-8; Ephesians 3:14-21
This morning we start a 4-week sermon series that I titled, “Four Prayer Requests!” This series of messages is based on Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. Paul was big on prayer. As you know, Paul wrote more than half of the New Testament Books and it’s almost impossible to find one book without some sort of a prayer. I think the prayer he prayed in Ephesians 3:14-21 is the jewel of his prayers.
Two main reasons have encouraged me to share these four messages with you. First: generally speaking, we are not good at prayer. Our prayer life is not great. So as we look at the Prayer of Paul in Ephesians 3, we get to remember how central prayer is to the follower of Jesus. Writing to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” No wonder that Paul prayed always and in all circumstances. In addition to that, there is another important reason. Second: Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 should be a model of our prayers. One of the best ways to learn how and what to pray is to study the prayers of the Bible. As we examine this prayer, we learn a great deal about the content of biblical prayer and the intensity with which we should pray.
So as we look at Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, it’s so easy to get lost in the details. At first reading, it appears to be a complex arrangement of phrases piled one on top of the other, all leading to a very powerful doxology in verses 20-21. Yet, when we carefully examine the prayer, we will see that Paul prayed for four things in Ephesians 3:14-21. (1) Paul prayed for inner strength to believers through the God’s Spirit. (2) He prayed for Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith. (3) He prayed that we would be rooted and grounded in love. (4) Finally, he prayed for our hearts to grasp the greatness of Christ’s love. What a prayer!
I am excited that we will be unpacking this wonderful prayer over the next few weeks. This morning we will cover the first part of the prayer in which Paul prays for inner strength through God’s Spirit. In Ephesians 3:16 Paul says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” There is so much that we can say as we reflect on the first part of the prayer, but let me highlight a couple things for us today:
First: A Prayer for Strength
The first section of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is a prayer for inner power. Paul wrote, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power.” This is extremely relevant because we are exhausted. We are tired. We are drained. It’s been extremely difficult year. There are so many things that can sap our strength: discouraging circumstances, monotonous routine, physical weakness, personal failure, unwanted interruptions, unfinished responsibilities, and unresolved conflicts. Any one of those things could knock us out of commission, but often two or three of them hit us at the same time. And then we are knocked to the floor and find it hard to get up and get back in the fight.
This first part of Paul’s prayer is a prayer for something most of us desperately need every day—spiritual strength. Paul says when you are on the verge of giving up, pray for strength. Take this prayer to heart before you throw in the towel, Paul would say to us today.
The word that Paul uses for “power” here is the Greek “dunamis,” from which we get the English words dynamic and dynamite. When you are made strong in the inner being by the Holy Spirit, there will be power to blast out the unbelief, and power to overcome despair, and power to rise above anger, and power to keep going when you would rather quit.
Second: Power from Within
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Did you notice that this power is put to work in the “inner self” or the “inner being”? It’s a power that originates from within. This is the place where we need the most help. Paul faced countless hardships in his life. It amazes me how Paul never prayed for change in his circumstances, rather, he prayed for spiritual strength to endure the race the Lord set before him. There is nothing wrong with praying for God’s intervention in our circumstances, but Paul invites us to a different and greater type of power. It’s our inner power, our spiritual power.
When God strengthens our inner being with power, the spirit becomes strong even when the flesh gets week. I like the words of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 where Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Over the years, I have seen the outwardly deterioration of so many wonderful followers of Jesus, nevertheless they become more and more steadfast and radiant. Their memories may be fading; their arthritis may be nearly unbearable; cancer sucks all their energy, though their outer being weakens, their inner being runs from strength to strength.
Friends, with awareness of our spiritual weakness and our need for Spirit-given strength, let us continue to pray for one another. Let’s continue to pray for God’s “dunamis,”, for God’s power and energy to strengthen our inner selves, so that when our bodies break, deteriorate, fade, or spoil, the interior life will shine forth the glory of God. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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