Prayers of Paul - God, Hope, Power — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Prayers of Paul – God, Hope, Power — A Christian Growth Message

A series untangling some of the Prayers of the Apostle Paul by Simon Manchester of Hope 103.2's Christian Growth and pastor at All Saints in Woollahra.

By Simon ManchesterSunday 12 May 2024Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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Heavenly Father, you’ve said in your word that we can come to you for mercy and grace in time of need. We ask that in your mercy and grace, you would help me to speak well, faithfully and for us to hear humbly, profitably and that these minutes would be not only pleasing to you but helpful to us and we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

Now, my friends, we’re doing some heartwarming passages from the Old Testament and the New Testament and it’s my privilege to look at some New Testament prayers specially prayed by the Apostle Paul. Why is this important? Well, because our help comes from the Lord and there are many times, even on a Sunday where I’m talking to somebody after church and they’re telling me the difficulties that they’re going through, or I think about my own hopeless occasional situations and I say to myself, or I say to the person – I wish I had a magic wand. I wish I had a magic wand that I could just wave and make your problems disappear.

And the privilege of the Christian is that although we do not have a magic wand we speak to somebody who does have a magic wand, and that is the Lord God, which doesn’t mean, of course, that we can command him to do things or that we can control him. But it does mean that we’re in touch with him, and we know that he has complete ability and compassion, and he also has the wisdom to know how to answer.

And therefore, if you pray to him because you belong to Christ, you will not be ignored. You’ll not be dismissed. You won’t be put on hold. The question is, what will we say? What will we say when we speak to God? What would be a wise thing to say? You don’t have to be clever to pray.

You can just be yourself. But what would be a wise thing to pray? And this is where the prayers of the New Testament are a help to us. And we’re thinking about the first of these prayers in Ephesians 1:15-23. And as we’ve been told, the prayer is on page 1741.

I have three simple things to say this morning. First, a very quick word to you about prayer itself. Second, about progress, we need progress and the third one is priorities which the Apostle Paul shows us in this wonderful prayer, something on prayer, progress and the priorities that are in this prayer in Ephesians 1.


Well, first of all, a word on prayer and I want to say to you first of all, do not despise the gift of being able to pray. There is a story from the 19th century of a man who was walking through the fields on one occasion, and he bumped into a visiting evangelist, and the evangelist said to the man in the fields, Will you be coming to my meetings? And the man said, No, I won’t.

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And the evangelist said, do you ever go to church? And he said, no, I don’t. And the evangelist said, do you ever pray? And he said, no, I don’t. And the evangelist said to the man in the field, well, I’ll give you $100 if you’ll promise me that you’ll never pray.

And the man said, well, I never do pray and I’m not planning to pray. So he took the $100. Over the next few days, he began to think to himself. I have just given away the opportunity that may come and the need for me to pray. I won’t be able to pray for my family if they’re in trouble. I won’t to be able to pray for myself if I’m on my sick bed or my deathbed.

And he started to get quite stressed. He went off his food. His wife noticed that he was not himself. She begged him to say what had happened. He told her about the deal. She told him he must go straight to the town and find the evangelist and take back the deal. So the man went back to the town, and he found the man speaking in one of the tent meetings on the text. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?

After the meeting, he went to the evangelist and he said, we’ve got to take back the deal. The evangelist was glad to take back the deal and led the man in his first prayer, which was a prayer to be saved. And I say to you don’t despise the gift and the privilege of being able to pray.

The prayer to be saved is the first vital prayer we pray. The Bible says the one who calls on the Lord will be saved.

But we also need to pray when we’re God’s Children. And it should be more my friends than just remembering a prayer from childhood. It’s not a bad thing to remember a prayer from childhood. Now lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep if I should die before I wake. I pray the Lord my soul to take.

You know, if that’s the best, it’s not nothing, but we should do better than a childhood prayer. And we all also should do better than a prayer that’s printed on a service sheet when we’re in the church building. Because prayer needs to be real, it needs to be engaged. It needs to be a person talking to a person.

So we need help, and you can see how God helps us in Ephesians 1:17, because we’re told that we can speak if we belong to Jesus to God as father and Jesus has opened access to the father because when he died on the cross, he took the barrier of sin and guilt away. And we now have access to God as Father and access to him in prayer. And of course, the Holy Spirit we’re told as well carries our words to God. So that’s how God helps us. The way we can help our prayer is to plan to pray, find a time, find a place, think about what you’re going to say. Think about what you’re going to thank him for, what you’re going to confess, what you’re going to ask for and get some good ideas from the New Testament, which is what we’re doing in our little series. Because praying is not easy. I don’t think any of us find prayer really easy. Of course, we find prayer easy the night before surgery. You know what to pray that night and the night before an exam. We know what to pray, but when it’s just the normal day, we can struggle to know what to say. Speaking to one another can be much easier than speaking to God. I was at a at dinner last night and the conversation never stopped. But there can be times where we’re thinking, what will we pray? And this is where the New Testament helps us. So this is my first point this morning Value prayer plan to pray with thought, try and be engaged as you pray.

The second thing to say is that we need progress. Little Children who ran down the front. We’d be surprised, wouldn’t be if in five years’ time they looked exactly the same. And we should be surprised, shouldn’t we if a person who calls himself a Christian doesn’t make some progress and change developing in faith and faithfulness. And this letter which is, the letter to the Ephesians possibly a global letter begins with praise to God that these people have become Christians. Paul describes them as chosen, adopted, forgiven. They have God as their father. They have Jesus as their Saviour. They have the Holy Spirit as their resident in their heart. And you could imagine the Apostle Paul at this point saying, Well, that’s great. Let’s stop there. But he doesn’t. He prays for them to grow. He prays for them to grow, so he spends half of chapter one giving thanks that they’re believers and then the second half praying that they will grow, make progress, he says in verse 16. I’ve not stopped giving thanks. That doesn’t mean I’ve not done anything else. I haven’t eaten. I haven’t slept. I haven’t gone to the shops. He doesn’t mean that. He means I have not given up thanking God for you. And then he prays for their progress.

Now, friends, how does Paul know they’re Christians? I mean, he doesn’t live in Ephesus. He doesn’t go to the church. He probably doesn’t know all the people there. It’s a long time since he’d been in Ephesus. How does he know they’re Christians? And, I think the answer is in verse 15. He’s got two clear proofs or signs. One verse 15. They have faith in the Lord Jesus two. They have love for God’s people notice he doesn’t say they have belief in God. Lots of people have belief in God who are not Christians. Muslim people have belief in God, but they’re not Christians. Nor does the apostle say are these people believe in Jesus in some intellectual way. Lots of people in Jesus. They believed in him. They saw him. They heard him. But they wanted nothing to do with him. Now these people have their faith in the Lord Jesus. They’ve put their lot into his hands. They are depending upon him for forgiveness. They’re depending upon him for the future. And faith means that you hand yourself over like you hand yourself over to a surgeon. I’m in your hands. You hand yourself over to a pilot, I’m in your hands and a believer, a Christian is a person who’s handed themselves over to Jesus Christ.

The second reason that Paul is confident that they’re believers is because they’ve got love for God’s people. This is a miracle. Many times I’ve taken Christian explained little basics course, and people come, and they sit around the table and they listen and they listen. And sometimes they sort of get something, but nothing changes. And so four weeks later, I ring them, and I say we loved having you at the course. We’d love to see you again and they say Yes. Yes, yes. And another four weeks go by and I ring them again. Are you OK? We’d love to see you. Yes, and then they drag themselves back because they try to keep the minister happy and then they disappear again. But when a person comes to know Jesus, there is a new love in their heart for God’s people, and the minister doesn’t have to drag them to the building to meet with God’s people. They want to meet with God’s people. There’s been a miraculous change, and these are miracles, that you would put your faith in Jesus because the average person has their faith in themselves.

And it’s a miracle that you would have a love for God’s people because the average person doesn’t want to have anything to do with God’s people. But when God is at work, you see he makes me see my guilt and the grace of Jesus. And when God is at work, he changes my heart so that I have something that I am deeply attracted to about the people of God. So no wonder Paul is thrilled to hear that these people have come to faith in Jesus and have begun to love the people of God. And we should be thrilled, too. When we hear of people coming to Christ and beginning to love the people of God.


So that’s my first two points this morning, a word on prayer and a word on progress. We need to make progress. And now we’re going to look at the brilliant priorities in the prayer of Ephesians one. So what does Paul pray?

He prays in Ephesians 1: 17. This is what he says. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father may give you spiritual wisdom and illumination so that you may know him better. This is the first thing he prays that the people of Christ will know God better. We need to know God better. Bon Carson, a great theologian, still alive and well and, has written a mighty book on the prayers of Paul, he says in his chapter on this particular prayer. If I was to ask you what is the most important need in the church today, what would you say? Would you say that it’s love or truth or power or growth or faith or repentance or inclusivity or revival or joy? And this is what he says, without a doubt the greatest need in the church today is that the people of God would know God better because everything flows from that and all the people in the Bible like Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Paul. When they came to know God better, everything fell into place. Now, before that can really happen. You’ll see. In verse 17, Paul prays that God will remove what somebody has called spiritual cataracts. And the reason Paul praises like this is because we think we see pretty well. But you will know that if you’ve ever been to have an eye test, the doctor can show you. Sorry, the optometrist can show you that you’ve actually are not seeing as well as you could. And of course, if you ever have cataract surgery, you are amazingly helped to see more clearly. And so Paul prays that the Holy Spirit will help us to see clearly.

We need the Holy Spirit in order to believe in the first place. The famous story of, William Wilberforce in the 18th century, William Wilberforce was a politician, a very keen Christian, and he led the abolition of the slave trade, and he’s gone down in history as a mighty man now. He was a keen Christian, and he wanted his friend William Pitt to also become a Christian. And William Pitt was a brilliant man who became the prime minister of England at the age of 24. And so William Wilberforce begged his friend William Pitt to come to church with him. And, of course, William Pitt kept putting off the opportunity. Eventually he said he would go. So they went to church and they listened to a preacher, a man called Richard Cecil, who was a very great preacher. And he preached a great sermon. And at the end of the service, William Wilberforce walked out absolutely ecstatic, thinking to himself that was as good as anybody could explain things. And as he was walking out before he said a word to William Pitt, William Pitt turned to him. And do you know what he said? William Pitt said to him. You know, I concentrated as hard as I could. I have not the slightest idea what that man was talking about is that unusual? It’s not unusual. People are in churches all over the city, all over the country, all over the world, and they are not getting hearing anything because the Holy Spirit needs to open the eye, open the ear illumine to get the message of Christ. And then, of course, the Holy Spirit helps the believer to see more clearly. And that’s what Paul is praying for. He’s praying that the Holy Spirit will help these belief to see more clearly because cleverness, my friends, is not enough. And even regular church going is not the answer. And even having theological degrees doesn’t solve everything. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to see more clearly and make progress, and that’s what Paul is praying for.

Now, when we do see more clearly, it isn’t just to get more information, it’s to have a warm relationship with God himself. Imagine I was to ask you this morning, would you just wave your hand if you’ve ever met the archbishop of Sydney and imagine somebody waves their hand and says something like this. I’ve met him and I don’t really know anything about him, but I got the impression that he’s very clever and he’s probably very aloof and distant and impersonal, and he wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me and my friends, you would be completely wrong. Because if you ever spend time with the archbishop of Sydney, you’ll discover that he is a very warm, friendly, approachable, impossible not to like person. We need to know the archbishop better, and Paul prays that we would know God better. Some here, of course, may need to know him for the first time. You may need to meet him by receiving Christ, but when you become his child, we need to grow in knowing him better. Could we do with knowing God better? I could. Could you do with knowing God better? Yes, you could. It’s a great thing to pray. Praise God that Jesus died so we might know. God, praise God that Jesus died so we might know him better.

The second brilliant priority in Verse 18 is that we might know the hope better or the inheritance. If we were to grasp what we are moving towards as Christ’s people, it would totally change us in the present. Now, unfortunately, the word hope in secular thinking has got uncertainty built into it. You know, I say I hope it won’t rain. I hope the results will be good uncertainty is built into the word in secular usage. But in the biblical usage of the word hope, certainty is built in because God has promised because God has guaranteed. So I might talk about the future and say, I hope I pray. But God talks about the future and says, I promise, I guarantee. And the Old Testament believers. As you know, they had a hope of the promised land, and God promised a promised land and they got into the promised land. It was pretty ordinary. And believers in Christ, we also have a hope. We have a future. We have a promised land, and the Bible describes it as glorious and perfect and forever. And that’s what we’re travelling toward. Now Does that come easily to you to believe that doesn’t come easily to me? I understand the promises, but I’m a natural unbeliever. I’m a natural Doubter. So could I do with some help in grasping the hope which is up in front? I could and my friend so could you. We must praise God that Jesus died that we would have a hope.

Well, we could do with a better grasp of it. Couldn’t we, And if we do get a better grasp of the hope, it won’t make us impractical in the present. No. People with a big hope become very joyful and very useful and very clear and often very fruitful. So that’s the second thing. Paul prays. He prays that they might know God better, know the hope better and third. And lastly, he prays to verse 19 that we might know God’s power. And this is a brilliant thing to pray because we don’t just want convictions. We need help in the present to live a faithful Christian life. The power is not power to be rich or power to be successful or power to be impressive. It’s power to be faithful to keep going, and you’ll notice how Paul describes the power in Ephesians 1:20 he says it’s the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Isn’t it interesting? He doesn’t say it’s the same power that God created the world with. It’s the same power that he defeated all his enemies with. It’s the same power that did all the miracles in Jesus day, he says. It’s the power that raised Jesus from the grave and seized him and put all his enemies under his fate. Because it’s the power which is available to us to live a brand new life. Here are three things that Paul praises to know God better to know the hope better and to have power to live faithfully in the present.

Now, how are you gonna remember this this morning? Well, you’ve heard of BHP, the largest mining company in the world. These three things are GHP to know God better to know the hope better and to know his power. And over the morning tea, as you see me coming towards you, it will be to check and see what GHP stands for. So get ready to avoid me at morning tea. I will walk towards you with that look GHP to know God better to know the hope better and to know his power. Now, can you imagine you’re praying this this afternoon for a missionary off in a distant part of the world. You don’t know what’s happening for the missionary, But God knows what’s happening. And you say heavenly father, I’m paying for so and so. And I’m asking that you would help them to know you better, and I’m praying that you will help them to know the hope better. And I’m praying that you’ll help them to have power for the present. And as the missionary lives their life today and God answers the prayer, the missionary suddenly thinks God is much greater than I realise I can do this. And the hope in front of me is so great I can keep going. And the power for the work in the present is sufficient praise God, this is a wonderful thing to pray. It’s a wonderful thing to pray for church leaders who are in danger of getting very dry and discouraged. This is a great thing to pray for churches that are feeling the pressure of, secularism and inconsistency and weakness.  And this is a great thing to pray for us as well that we would know God better, that we would know the hope better and that we would know his power. So, my friends, you may not have a magic wand, but you know who has a magic wand? Let’s bow heads and pray.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this great prayer that we see in your word. We especially thank you for our Saviour who’s made it possible to know you and made it possible to have a hope and made it possible to have risen power. And we ask this morning that you would help us and your people in so many parts of the world and the leaders of the present that you would help to know you better to know your hope better and to know your power to persevere, trust, rejoice, obey. We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.