prayer and the power of God

“God I know I have not studied like I should for this test, but by some miracle help me to pass.”

“Father, I want to ring my sisters neck. If she says that one more time I will explode. Make her stop.”

“Father it would be really nice if you could come through with giving me this before I die.”

We are all guilty of making prayer a cosmic shopping list or a desperate 911 call to God to come to the rescue in our crisis. God is not Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Magic Genie, EMT or an Easy Button. Every wish is not granted or guaranteed. Would you march into your boss’s office or call on your parents for the things you ask of God?

Prayer is an amazing privilege. We can treat prayer like a broken gadget that hasn’t work for years, which we pawned off for chump change. Instead of praying, it has been substituted by worried wishes or momentary freak out. Seldom do people pray.

Prompted to Pray [Ephesians 1:15-16]

What prompts Paul to pray? What two things did He hear about the believers within Ephesus? Paul observes how the Ephesian believers are living out their faith in Christ with one another. There is nothing more excited than hearing about people they know love God and others. Nothing fires your parents, friends, or pastor up like living your faith out loud for all to hear. What do others hear about you?

Your upward relationship [“faith in Christ”] with God is also seen in your outward relationship [“love towards all believers”] with other believers.

This is How to Pray for Each Other [Ephesians 1:17-19]

Paul prays that God would give believers “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Even though believers inherit all the spiritual blessings upon salvation, it is not assumed that they cease needing to grow in wisdom and understanding of God. If Warren Buffet or Bill Gates gave you everything they own would that mean you would cease to learn about life? God does not give believer’s omnipotence or omniscience, nor will He ever. Throughout eternity we will be learning and growing in our understanding of God. Paul prays that we would keep praising and thanking God for all His spiritual blessings. As one commentator says,

God has already been praised for having lavished his grace upon us with all wisdom and understanding by making known to us the mystery of his will [vs.8-9]. Now the apostle takes up this language and asks that his readers may be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him [i.e. God] better. [1]

I find it interesting that Paul does not pray that they would have more spiritual blessings or fresh ones. He understands that they already have all the spiritual blessings in Christ. People today are obsessed with the notion of receiving additional blessings. Some pray to God, “Father bless me.” It is as if we say to God, “These spiritual blessings in Christ aren’t enough. Gimme, gimme, gimme, I need, I need, I need.” We have equated blessing with an excess of material possessions, emotional happiness, health and wealth, and lack of suffering. That is spoiled rotten Christianity. You should not crave or pray for more spiritual blessings, you have all you need and more in Christ. Be thankful.

Many believers have heard the message of the gospel various times in various ways. The gospel has become common, and what becomes can become callus or cocky. We can become like a collegiate math major who has forgotten the joy of elementary building blocks like 1 + 1. To which the student replies, “Yeah, give me something I don’t know.” What does Paul pray as a cure for the common spiritual callousness? He desires them to know “the hope to which God has called them,” “the rich inheritance,” which He possesses in them, and “the immeasurable greatness of His power” by which He energizes them. Each is an aspect of the mighty salvation, which has been championed for you in Christ. Paul is overwhelmed by the glory of salvation and He wants you to be too, therefore that is his prayer for you.

Plugged into the Power of God [Ephesians 1:20-23]

Paul prays that the believers in Ephesus would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power. How is God’s power immeasurably great? Paul’s prayer exalts the supremacy of God’s power, which is shown particularly in Christ’s resurrection and current position of authority [“seated at God’s right hand”] over all things. Since God has superior power there is no longer any reason for the readers to fear.

One cannot calculate or measure the power of God in kilowatts, amps, volts, or energy waves. It does matter how many pounds He could lift on the bench press or putdowns He would have in an arm wrestling competition. God’s power is immeasurable. In other words, He is omnipotent. By the word of His power He created all things and holds them together, and by His power He raised Jesus and gave authority over all things then, now and forevermore [cf. Colossians 1:15-20]. God has given Christ as head over all things for the church. God’s power in Christ is available for those who believe [v.19], and Christ’s rule over the universe is for their benefit [v.22].

The power of God that we are plugged into brings an immense amount of comfort. I do not have to struggle in my sin anymore; in Christ, I am free. I do not have to worry or fear the future. I don’t have to fear the bully at school. I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will lose my job or home. I don’t have to lose sleep about the safety of my children. God is powerful. Christ is seated high on the throne. He is in control.

Prayer is a mighty vehicle for the believer to praise God and encourage the saints. When considering our salvation we cannot help but pray that others would hear how great is our God. Probably some of the people God has burden you to pray for are members of your family or close friends. Why not share together what you have been praying with them?


Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 131.

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blessed

Your Blessed Life Now

  • “We are a blessed.”
  • “We live in a blessed nation.”
  • “Count your blessings.”
  • “God bless you.”

These are a few of the praises we hear as anthems in our personal arenas. I am so blessed that I don’t even know what being blessed means anymore. Blessed has become as shallow as the word love. As we enter the book of Ephesians we see blessing defined.

EPH 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,

Paul begins his letter by blessing God for pouring down on His people every spiritual blessing in Christ. The word blessed [Εὐλογητὸς, eulogy] simply means praise. “Blessed” in the NT always refers to God as Creator and Father [Rom. 1:25; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31]. Ephesians 1:3–14 is one long sentence, but in one breath Paul empties rich praises from the caverns of his soul praise for God’s grace. It should be noted that there are no commands in this passage telling us how to live only a praise song showing us how to lift up Christ.

Eulogy to Praise a Living God

This sentence is a eulogy for what God has done and giving Him the glory He is due. Normally a eulogy is for someone who is dead, but God is not dead. This eulogy is an enormous and extremely humbling list of all “spiritual blessings” God has blessed His followers “in Christ” [x11 in 1:3-14]. I am the beneficiary of a blessed inheritance now and later that is literally: out of this world.

One can also observe how the Trinity works together in our salvation, as seen in this chart:

Who gives the spiritual blesses? What is the spiritual blessing? How is this a spiritual blessing?
FATHER [vs.3-6] chose us in Him before the foundation of the world” [v.4] Before we were created God chose us to be His children. Blessed are those who respond to His grace.
“predestined us for adoption” [v.5] God invites us to become His sons and daughters. We become children of the King with all the benefits of the kingdom. God lovingly rules and reigns as our Abba Father. He willed it.
What is to be our response? “to the praise of His glorious grace” [v.6]
SON [vs.7-12] redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” [v.7] Christ purchased our salvation through His blood—the perfect sacrifice for sin [cf. 1 Cor.6:20; Gal.3:13; 4:5].  My sin had a debt I could not pay and Christ paid the ransom with His life.
makes known to us the mystery of His will” [vs.8-9] Through Christ we have the capacity to understand and know the will of God. Jesus made God’s plan visible to the entire world.
“we have obtained an inheritance” [vs.10-11] Through Christ I am an heir of all that God owns. What does God own? Everything. You cannot put a price on everlasting life—it’s priceless.
What is to be our response? “to the praise of His glory” [v.12]
HOLY SPIRIT [vs.13-14] sealed” [v.13] At salvation the Holy Spirit declares that we are beneficiaries of all the above, right now. We do not have to wait for it. He has given us His stamp of approval as a guarantee.
inheritance” [v.14] There are some things we cannot have just yet, but the Holy Spirit let us know we can bank on Him [cf. 1 Peter 2:9].
What is to be our response? “to the praise of His glory” [v.14]

Think about the lengthy list of blessings we have in Christ. It is infinitely better than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet dumping their wills in my lap. How do you respond to God’s grace? Are you amazed?Are you caught up in a chorus of praise with Paul? Does the Almighty God who has masterminded your salvation move you? This melodic eulogy that sounds a mountainous symphony of my salvation stuns me. God is blessed for revealing His gracious redemptive plan. Syntactically and structurally, the mystery God is revealed and summed up “in Christ.” Jesus gives meaning to the mystery because He is the mystery [cf. Colossians 1:20-22]. Therefore, the crescendo of this eulogy trumpets glory to God because He is:

EPH 1:9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Blessed Predestination

Paul reaches back before creation, before time began, and into eternity-past when only God Himself existed. Election is described with different facets of God’s gracious, saving purposes: “will” [1:5, 9, 11], “mystery” [1:9], “purpose” [1:9, 11], “appointment” [1:11], and “plan” [1:11].

What does it really mean that God has predestined and elected man? Does this mean man has no responsibility before God? What did He choose us to be? He chose “us” [i.e. saints, believers] to “be holy and blameless before Him,” [1:4] “predestined us for adoption as sons,” [1:5] and “be to the praise of His glory.”

Predestination is to a relationship with God the Father through his Son Christ. Election is always and only in Christ. God chose “us” in connection with Christ and our response to His work of redemption. God chose the believer for His glory and redemption is only accomplished though Christ. Being adopted into God’s family as sons [and daughters] is an incredible privilege, since we were at once “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath” [cf. 2:2, 3].

Think of election and predestination like being given a special assignment at school or work. What does it feel like to be chosen for a special assignment? Election and predestination do not take away man’s responsibility in fact they enhance man’s responsibility. Election does bring privilege, but it also carries with it weighty responsibility. The divine purpose in our election was not simply to repair the damage done by sin but also to fulfill God’s original intention for humankind—to be conformed to the likeness of Christ [Rom. 8:29–30]. Therefore, I am responsible to respond to God’s gracious redemptive plan and praise Him for His glorious grace [1:13].

Marvelous Mystery Revealed

Think about the list of blessings we have in Christ. How do you respond? Are you amazed? Are you caught up in a chorus of praise with Paul? Does the Almighty God who has masterminded your salvation move you? This melodic eulogy that sounds a mountainous symphony of my salvation stuns me. God is blessed for revealing His gracious redemptive plan. Syntactically and structurally, the mystery God has revealed in Christ is the crescendo:

EPH 1:9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The mystery of life, everything and the meaning of our existence are solved in Christ. Through Christ I can be a child of the King, live eternally with Him, and have the hope to live holy and blameless before Him. This plan of God revealed in Christ put into poetry makes me what to shout with Paul, “To the praise of God’s glorious grace. To the praise of God’s glorious grace. To the praise of God’s glorious grace.” [1:6, 12, 14]

entering Ephesus

What is an Epistle?

The Title to Ephesians commonly says, “An Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians.” What exactly is an epistle? Well we know that Ephesians is not a term paper, newspaper article, fictional short story, or inspirational allegory. It is an epistle, in other words a letter. This is important to understand because 21 of 27 NT books are letters. Like most letters, even ones that people write today, the letter to the Ephesians has a opening greeting [1:1-2], personal words [6:21-22] and closing benediction [6:23-24]. Letters are like sandwiches—the opening and closing is like bread, while the message is like meat. The meat of Ephesians has two main parts: instruction in doctrine [1:3-3:21] and application on how living it out [4:1-6:20].

EPH 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who wrote the letter to Ephesus?

The author of the letter to Ephesus is clear from the very first word. The apostle Paul penned this letter [apostle = messenger of Jesus Christ]. Paul knew the people at Ephesus like family. The Bible records Paul visiting the Ephesians on a few occasions [Acts 18:18-21; 19:1-41; 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 1:3-11].

When did Paul write the letter to Ephesus?

Paul wrote this letter while in prison [3:1; 4:1; 6:20], probably in Rome about 60AD. He did not slack off while he was in prison. He deeply cared for these believers, therefore, while in chains he poured out his heart to these churches encouraging them to endure for the cause of Christ.

Who did Paul write the letter to in Ephesus?

According to verse 1, Paul wrote to the “saints in the churches around Ephesus” [cf. Acts 19]. The word “saint” brings different things to mind to different people. Some people define a saint as a particularly good or holy person [lit. ἁγίοις = holy one]. Others use the term to describe someone who is exceptionally kind and patient in dealing with difficult people or situations.

I grew up in a Catholic church and a saint was a dead person who did extraordinary things for God and His people [miracles, teachings, humble, etc.], but did not become a saint until long after their death. My Grandfather’s patron saint was Francis of Assisi. Francis was a man who loved nature and animals—commonly pictured with a bird in his hands. My great grandmother also had a medallion of Christopher in her car who is the patron saint of travelers. The Catholics have catalogued 1,400-10,000 saints.

Paul calls his readers as “saints” [cf. 1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18]. These saints were alive, not dead. The word saint is simply one of the many terms used in the New Testament to describe a person who has a living relationship with Jesus Christ. They are a saint not because of what they do, but whom they faithfully serve [God].

Why did Paul write the letter to Ephesus?

Paul purposes in his letter to demonstrate to the Ephesians the scope of God’s eternal plan for all humanity. There does not seem to be any one issue that Paul is addressing, however, the theme of walking in the grace of God in Christ’s glorious work seems to be a golden thread throughout the entire letter.

There is a distinct flavor between the first and second half of the letter. Chapters 1-3 focus on what Christians should believe, unfolding the glorious riches of God’s grace in Christ. Chapters 4-6 explain the implications of walking in God’s grace for the church, for believers, and for specific relationships. Therefore, this study on Ephesians will be called: Watch The Way You Walk. Not to be mistaken with the title of the popular song by RUN DMC summarizes the theme of Ephesians: Walk This Way.

what does the Trinity teach us about relationships?

Within the Trinity there is both unity and diversity: unity without uniformity, and diversity without division. This unity and diversity is at the core of the great mystery of the Trinity. Unity without uniformity is baffling to our finite minds, but there are demonstrations of this truth all around us; like a symphony, the human body, ecosystems, the church, the human race, a delicious meal, or a sporting event. Unity and diversity are woven into the fabric of the world by multiple images of the One who made it with unity and diversity.

Our human relationships uniquely and divinely reminisce the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. This is no mistake, since man’s Maker stamped each man in His image. Most people never consider where this similarity has originated, but God has innately marked His creation with creative features that mimic Him—including our relationships. Today we will look at three distinct relationships that the Bible demonstrated both the unity and diversity of the Trinity:

Marriage is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 5:22-33]

Marriage is a wonderful picture that God uses to demonstrate His character as an unconditional, faithful, and sacrificial Lover. From the beginning of Creation God made man equal in His image [Genesis 1:26-27]. Though man and woman are quite diverse in appearance and God-given roles [Genesis 2; 1 Peter 3:1-7], they are both equally made in the image of God. If only man and woman within marriage would consider one another images of God, much of the conflict and chauvinism would dissipate.

The unifying love that Jesus has for His church is a beautiful demonstration of marriage [Ephesians 5:22ff]. Marriage is pictured in Christ sacrificing Himself for His church and the church submitted to Christ, which is paralleled by the husbands love his wife, the wife submitted to her husband, and both out of reverence towards Christ.

Church Body is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 4:1-16]

There is a glorious union between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Biblical Christianity stands or falls with the doctrine of the Trinity. Within the doctrine of the Trinity there are practical Implications. First, the Trinity makes God known in Christ [John 1:18; Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16]. Second, the Trinity makes the salvation possible [Hebrew 9:14]. Third, the Trinity is fully dependent upon Himself [Acts 17:25]. Fourth, The Trinity provides the ultimate model for relationships within the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 11:3; 12:4–6; Ephesians 4:4–7].

When believers enter into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ they are adopted into God’s family—the church. The church body is made up of members who are all equal in the eyes of God. God in His divine purposes designed the church to function locally as a means for each member to grow spiritually through mutual relations and gift-oriented ministry with one another. Within His Body, God has given all a diverse role in order for the church to be unified in its display of God’s glory. God gave to the church offices: elders and deacons from the membership who are equal, but the elders are supposed to lead, the deacon’s serve, and the membership minister. When each one is doing their part the Body is a beautiful reflection of God’s unity and diversity.

Leadership (i.e. parenting & governing authority) is a relationship that demonstrates the Trinity’s unity and diversity [Ephesians 6:1-9]

The Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit—one God, three persons, all equal but submissive. God the Son submits to God the Father and recognizes Him as the leader. There is leadership within the Trinity. This is called relational subordination.

Jesus, though He is equal with God, willfully submits Himself to the Father. He submits to the Father out of love [John 4:34; 14:31; 15:9-10], reverence for His divine authority [1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:25-28; John 3:16-17; 10:36; 6:38], and reliance upon the Holy Spirit for power and direction [Luke 4:1-2, 16-21]. Likewise, it is marvelous how the Father shines His spotlight on the Son as He purposes all things to be subject to Jesus [Psalm 2:7-9; Ephesians 1:9-10; 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Revelation 5:1-5, 8-9]. Likewise, the Holy Spirit pours forth the message of Jesus in the Word of God [2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21, Luke 24:24-27, 44, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 23, 2:2, Galatians 6:14].

Submission to leadership practically plays itself out in two ways: through parenting and governing authorities. In the government of a home: mom, dad, and the children are equal made in God’s image, but dad’s are supposed to lovingly, humbly, and sacrificially lead [Ephesians 6:1-4]. Also, God appoints government leaders and bosses, and our response is to joyfully submit as if we are laboring for God [Ephesians 6:5-9; Romans 13:1-7]. This can be difficult especially in a world that is filled with crooked politicians, unreasonable employers, and passive fathers, but we have an awesome example to follow in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the Trinity gives us a multifaceted look at relationships. Whether, in a marriage, church, home, business or nation God has demonstrated to us unity within diversity. Imagine if in each arena of your life you were to embrace the diversity rather than run from it, what unity could there be?