First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, January 24, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“Four Prayer Requests!” #2
Exodus 29:44-46; Ephesians 3:14-21
This morning we continue our four-week sermon series looking at Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. It’s one of the greatest prayers of the Bible. When we examine this prayer, we get to know that Paul prayed for four basic things. So there are four prayer requests in there. (1) Paul prayed for inner strength to believers through 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.
Prayer is so central to Christ’s followers. In fact, it was central to Jesus Himself. The words “prayer” and “pray” are used at least twenty-five times in connection with Jesus. His praying is mentioned by each of the four gospel writers. Jesus was a man of prayer. He prayed before facing the big things in His life, such as the cross, as well as the simplest and commonest events of everyday life such as before eating a meal. One could say that every step of Christ’s life seems to have been accompanied by prayer.
Paul’s prayer in Ephesians chapter 3 is a reminder that a powerful prayer life is needed today as much as it was needed two thousand years ago in Ephesus. No wonder that as Paul penned his letter to the Ephesians, he paused at least a couple times to pray for them. It was tough to be a Christian in the Greco-Roman world as it’s tough for us today. It’s only by God’s grace and a vibrant prayer life that we can stand our ground and follow in the ways of Christ. That’s way Paul began his prayer to the Ephesians by asking God to strengthen them with power through His Spirit in their inner being.
This morning we get to look at the second prayer request. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 3:16-17, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” So at the heart of today’s prayer request is Christ’s dwelling in our heart. It’s a prayer for this deep union and this unbroken communion with Christ. Let me tell you something very important. From the very beginning, God desires to live among His people. In Exodus 29:45 God said, “I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be their God.” John describes the incarnation of Christ by saying, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” John 1:14.
The Christian faith is nothing less than Christ dwelling in the believer’s heart. There is no Christianity without Christ. Christian faith is not a philosophy; it’s not a set of doctrines and beliefs; it’s a relationship with a living God who graciously accepts to dwell in our hearts. So as we carefully examine this second prayer request, please allow me to underscore two brief observations. The first has to do with the heart of Paul’s second prayer request and the second is an application for us today.
First: What Did Paul Pray for?What is Paul praying for here? What does it mean that Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts through faith? What does Paul mean by that? Well, this request seems perplexing at first because Jesus already dwells in believers’ hearts. We have to remember that Paul is not praying for unbelievers, but for the saints at Ephesus. By definition, a believer is someone in whom God’s Spirit lives. That’s what Paul says in Romans 8:9. So how can you pray that someone who is already in your heart dwell in your heart?
I think at the heart of Paul’s second request is more of Christ in our lives. Basically, Paul was saying, “Lord, keep on dwelling in our hearts and don’t forsake us.” I don’t think Paul was praying for the initial indwelling of Christ when we first encounter Him in salvation, instead, he was praying for advancement in our sanctification. Paul is praying for growing up in Christ. We never reach a point in this life where such a prayer becomes unnecessary. John Calvin writes: “Believers have never advanced so far as not to need farther growth.” In faith and through faith, let’s ask God to grow deeper in our relationship with Him.
Second: What Does it Mean for us Today?So, practically, what does it mean for us today that Jesus dwells in our hearts as followers of Christ? It simply means to live like Jesus and to love like Jesus. It means to like what Jesus likes and to hate what He hates. Christ’s dwelling in our hearts means to value what Christ values and prioritize what He prioritizes. It means seeing the world through the eyes of Jesus. It creates in us a holy desire to change, to do better, to make amends, and to be humble just like Jesus. When Christ truly dwells in our hearts, it will reflect in our decisions whether they are big or small.
A little girl, on the way home from church, turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher’s sermon this morning confused me.” The mother said, “Oh! Why is that?” The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” “Yes, that’s true,” the mother replied. “He also said that God lives within us. Is that true, too?” Again the mother replied, “Yes, honey. That’s true.” “Well,” said the little girl, “If God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”
Friends, yes, if God lives in us, He will definitely show through. It all depends on who or what is in your heart. In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Out of the abundance of the heart, our life flows. Friends, let’s examine ourselves to see if Christ truly dwells in us. Moreover, let’s covenant to pray for each other “so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.” So come, Lord Jesus, and fill our hearts. We are desperate for your presence. Come, Lord Jesus, steel our hearts with your grace. We are desperate for your presence. May your Kingdom come in power, Lord. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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