Prayers of Paul - Great Explorations — A Christian Growth Message - Hope 103.2

Prayers of Paul – Great Explorations — 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 19 May 2024Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute

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We thank you, Heavenly Father, for this morning, we thank you for giving to us your word that you’re a speaking God. We pray that you would help us to be good hearers. This morning, we pray that your Holy Spirit would do that wonderful work of bringing home your word to our hearts. And we ask it in Jesus name, Amen.

I noticed that, uh, the Time magazine for this month is listing the 100 most influential companies and the companies are promoting everything from energy to space travel, chess games and nappies for Third World countries. There is an amazing range of these companies.

I wonder, however, whether Time magazine would ever ever recognise that probably the most influential company in the world is the church around the world. Because it’s the church around the world that is praying. And when the church prays, God answers and does very wonderful things more influential in the important things than all the companies of the world. The companies of the world are like little ant hills as far as God is concerned. And when we pray when God’s people pray, he does most amazing things. Now, in the Sundays, of winter. We’re actually looking at some of the ways that the Apostle Paul prayed in the New Testament and, uh, interestingly, he tells us how he prays. I wonder if you’ve ever said to somebody I’ve been praying for you this week, and this is what I prayed.

Uh, Paul tells us his prayers partly because he loves us and partly because he wants to teach us good things to pray. And so I want to say to you this morning, uh, this is my question. What do you pray about?

And I’ll answer the question for you. And I picked this up from one of John Stotts books. You pray about what concerns you.

So if I was ever to listen in the window of your prayers or you were to listen in the window of my prayers, you would know what concerns me, and you would know what doesn’t concern me. And this is a very convicting thing. Um, there is a strong link. Of course. You see between what we ask as God’s people and what God does and we want to do more. Don’t we than just pray that God would bless everybody. It’s not a bad thing to pray that God would bless everybody, but it’s vague and Paul models for us, some very specific things to pray. Now there are two of his prayers in the letter to the Ephesians. We looked at 12 weeks ago, where he prays that people would know God better, know the hope better and know his power. And I suggested we could call this the GHP prayer, as opposed to the BHP power, the GHP God Hope Power.

The second of his prayers in Ephesians is in Chapter three, which we had just read for us a minute ago, and I want to walk into the prayer with you, and I want to help you to see what an amazing thing it is. If you do look up the passage, I think it’s on page 1743 in your Bibles. Ephesians Chapter three, Verse 14. He prays, he says, for a reason, and the reason is that he’s been describing the Plan of God to bring people out of sin and out of death and into life and into hope and into the family.

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And Paul’s enthusiastic about the plan of God. And that’s why he gets down to pray. He’s praying that the family of God will be mature.

He also prays because God is his father. We see that in verse 14 I kneel before the father, the father of the global family. That’s God. God has his people in heaven, says Paul. We call them the church triumphant.

They’ve arrived home, and God has his people on the earth. We call the church in the in the world the church militant because the church militant is fighting the good fight.

And we must get it into our heads as Paul has it in his head that if you have Jesus as your Saviour, you have God as your father, you cannot put your faith in Jesus without suddenly and immediately having God as your father and God has decided to listen to his Children. In fact, he’s more interested in the things we say in our sleepy prayers than we are.

I think I’ve told you before that sometimes I’m talking to a young mother, and, um, I’m saying incredibly interesting things, as you can imagine to this mother, you know, fascinating. I could go on and on riveting stuff and I see her completely switch off. And the reason she switches off is because she has heard a squeak from her child, and so she’s completely stopped listening to me, and she’s utterly attentive to this child. We might say her ears are attentive to their cry, and the Bible says that God, the father’s ears are attentive to the cry of his Children, and sometimes we don’t even know what to pray. And sometimes we’re so grieved we don’t really even know how to express it.

But he is attentive, understanding, listening. And that’s why Paul gets down to pray. Now if you read the prayer, as, uh, we just had it read for us, I want to say this reverently. To you, it looks like a can of worms. As you listen to this prayer, it’s very hard to stay with it.

I’ll just read you the four verses again and see if you see what I mean.

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, and I pray that you being rooted and established in love 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. And to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. It’s like a if I say it again reverently. It’s like a can of worms, but there’s actually two strands in the can. There’s two strands of spaghetti, we might say, and you could work this out for yourself if you took some time through the week past to study the passage. But as you know, the pastors here are set aside to do some work in studying the passage so that we might say something profitable to you.

And I want to help you today, if possible, to see the two strings of spaghetti or the two strands. The first one goes like this. Paul prays that Christ may fully occupy your heart. Verse 16. I pray that he God may strengthen you so Christ may dwell in your hearts.

Now, my friends, I’m sure you know this, but, um, every Christian has Christ dwelling in their heart by his spirit. Every Christian, by definition, has Christ dwelling in their heart. You you cannot be a Christian unless God is your father. Jesus is your Saviour, and the Holy Spirit is in dwelling your heart. So why would Paul now pray that these Christians who are Christians, Why would he pray that they would have Christ dwell in their heart when they have Christ dwelling in their heart?

And the answer is that in this particular passage, he’s not asking that Christ enter their heart. Christ has already entered their heart. He’s asking that Christ would fully occupy their heart. In other words, he’s praying that Christ would settle in, would permeate, would run through the place, would transform the place, would put his stamp on the place.

Just as we might watch a person buy their own flat or unit or home and they settle in, and pretty soon they put their stamp on the place. That’s what the TV shows of building the block are about. I think I’ve never watched it, but I think that’s what it is, transforming the place, and every Christian you see is in need of Christ’s influence on every part of us. I don’t think there could be a more practical thing for us to pray. Imagine we’re using the prayer diary for this church and you come to my name and you say, Lord, that man definitely needs you to fully occupy his heart. There’s so many bits of him that are just in need of transformation.

And I have to say to you that there are some times where I’m looking at the name on the prayer diary. And do you know what I’m praying Lord, enter their heart. If you’ve not already entered their heart, please enter their heart. And then there’s other names on the prayer diary. And I’m saying this Lord occupy fully their heart, move through their heart, transform them completely. Interestingly, at this church we sing a song which has as its opening verse these words Oh, great god of highest heaven occupy my lowly heart Own it all and reign supreme Conquer every rebel power Let no vice or sin remain That resists your holy war You’ve loved and purchased me Make me yours for evermore. That’s exactly what this verse is all about.

Now it is a brave thing to say, Lord occupy my heart fully. It’s a brave thing to pray because we are deeply resistant to his takeover.

I know myself well enough to know that I’m deeply resistant to him, taking over every part of my heart, and you’re deeply resistant to him taking over every part of your heart. We like to have secret corners, don’t we? We like to have secret cupboards. We like to have secret commitments. And that’s why Paul, in Verse 16, begins by praying that God will give us strength. In other words, Lord, give them strength to Co-operate to submit to this, to bow to this, to bend.

I think this is a piece of genius. On the Apostle Paul’s part, he lifts up his voice to the father, and he says, You’ve got all the resources. Heavenly Father. Give them strength so that Christ will fully occupy their heart and they will cooperates. Peace of genius. I can’t think of anything more important than to pray for a non-christian person that Christ would enter their heart.

Nobody has got any hope. Nobody’s got any future unless Christ enters their heart. And I can’t think of anything more wonderful to pray for the Christian than Lord fully occupy their heart, transform everything. And so this is the first strand in the prayer that Christ may fully occupy your heart, the sections of your heart, the pride in your heart, the fear, the stubbornness, the anger, the doubt, the aggression, the immorality, the greed, the restlessness, the temptation to play God and have him serve us the confusion. What a wonderful thing to pray, Lord occupy my heart and make it peaceful and joyful and godly and useful.

And the person who owns you, Christ and who loves You, Christ and who has the best taste and plan for you. Christ knows what to do so that Christ may fully occupy your heart as the first strand in the prayer. Incidentally, as an aside, do you notice the apostle Paul says I kneel. What an interesting thing to say because we know that we can pray when we’re walking sitting, lying down on the train, cleaning our teeth. We can pray wherever, but he says, I kneel and it seems that the Apostle Paul is really involved in this prayer during the week. Um, Cathy and I were watching a movie about Winston Churchill.

And there came a time where the young troops were about to land on a particular shore. And and Churchill was terrified for these young men.

And, uh, he got down in the movie beside his bed and he prayed and he asked God or in Churchill’s style, he kind of ordered God to make it weather circumstances That would be so terrible. They wouldn’t land on the beach. A And this is just anecdotal. This is just personal for me. But I I was quite moved that he got down on his knees to pray by his bed, and I thought to myself, It’s a long time since I’ve got down on my knees and prayed beside my bed because I tend to pray in a chair.

Anyway, I decided that I would get down on my knees and pray beside my bed, and I actually had to go that day to quite a challenging meeting. Um, but I sensed as I was kneeling down beside my bed that this was a time of really saying to God, I’m totally dependent.

And, uh, he he most wonderfully answered that prayer had an absolutely amazing opportunity occasion and, uh so I just say to you, you might think, Of course, How will I pray? You pray any way you want to. It’s more important the heart than the position.

But Paul, he does kneel down as a sign or a symbol of complete dependency on God. So that’s the first thing. The first Strand is that Paul is praying that Christ may fully occupy your heart. And the second strand, the second string in the can, is that you may fully appreciate Christ’s heart.

OK, first strand in the prayer that Christ may fully occupy your heart. Second strand that you may fully appreciate Christ’s heart. Chapter three, Verse 17. I pray that you may have power together with all God’s people, to grasp how wide and high and long and deep is the love of Christ and to know the love and to be filled. This is our problem. We don’t see the love of Christ properly.

We just don’t see it. We’re short sighted. Of course, the non-christian doesn’t see the love of Christ at all. But even the Christian is not very impressed by the love of Christ. We’re not as impressed and clear as we could be and should be. Some years ago, I was in, uh, Toronto, giving some talks, and there was a little break in the afternoon and, uh, one of the men said, Would you like to see Niagara Falls and, uh, my wife and I said, That’d be great. So we hopped in the car and we drove to Niagara Falls. And as you probably know, there is an absolute ocean of water coming over that fall on a regular basis.

Now imagine if I had turned my back on Niagara Falls and gone straight to the gift shop and taken a postcard and a little postcard of the falls and said, Well, that’s it.

It seems to me that I would be missing a great deal, and that’s the problem that we have. We don’t get. How great is the love of Christ? For one reason or another, it maybe inadequacy or foolishness. Whatever it is, we see the postcard, not the reality. It’s like getting a postcard of a blue whale, and you say, Oh, there’s a blue whale, very different, isn’t it? From being in the ocean and having a blue whale just swim past you.

And so Paul prays in these verses for Christians who are planted in the love of Christ Verse 17 and are grounded in the love of Christ that we will get the love of Christ because we don’t get it.

And so Paul praise verse 17. May God give you strength to grasp it. Why do we need strength to grasp the love of Christ? Well, because it’s going to humble us,

and it’s going to change us, and it’s going to shame us, and it’s going to comfort us, and it’s gonna grip us when we properly see it. And so he talks about the dimensions of the love of Christ in Verse 18, perhaps one of the most wonderful verses in the whole of the scriptures, Ephesians 3:18.

And this is what he says. I’m praying that you will see how wide is the love of Christ. I’m praying, says Paul. That you’ll see the plan of God is bigger than you thought. That the family of God is wider than you thought, that God has room for people in the world who you didn’t think he had room for, who can be changed by grace. In other words, I’m praying that your vision for the width of the love of Christ will be revolutionised.

And then he says, I’m praying that you’ll see the love of Christ is longer than you thought it was that he doesn’t give up on us, that he doesn’t give up on people that we give up on that. His love goes further, that he’s got more plans down the track for us than we thought, that he’s going to take us into eternal joy.

And then he prays that we will see that the love of Christ is higher. That is, it’s more impressive than we thought. It’s going to carry us not only just up to God’s presence but into God’s likeness. One day, the plans of the world, my friends are so microscopic compared to the plans of God, which the span of God’s plans is unreachable. Incredible. We only are just beginning to explore them, and then he prays. And this is very good news that we’ll see The love of Christ is deeper than we thought that is.

We’ll see that there’s room in the love of Christ for people who have sinned badly and who sin often. And just when you think you’ve gone too low, you discover the love of Christ comes underneath you and scoops you up, and you find there is hope for you and hope for everyone.

So I’m not pretending that I can describe the dimensions of the love of Christ to you. But what I’m saying is that Paul prays that we’ll get them more clearly than we do and that we’ll appreciate them.

You see, in verse 19, he says the love of Christ actually surpasses knowledge even when we get to heaven. If you ever thought that heaven was gonna be boring, we’re told here that we’re gonna keep exploring the love of Christ for eternity. One writer puts it like this. Even in the life hereafter, God will never say to his people. Well, now I’ve told you all there is to be told about this love. I’m gonna close the book says God for the last page has been read. No, says the writer.

There will always be more to tell of the love of Christ. And so we get to the end of the prayer. You see, there are the two strands that Christ may fully occupy your heart. What a wonderful thing to pray and that you may fully appreciate Christ’s heart. What a wonderful thing to pray can God do this versus 2021? He’s got the power to do it. He’s got the ability, He’s got the love and he will get the glory.

So I’m reminding you this morning, my friends of the privilege of praying. We’re not as God’s people standing outside Buckingham Palace, yelling through the gates and being ignored because of Christ. We are the Children of the king, and when we call, he is attentive to our cry.

And then we ask, Well, what’s a good thing to pray? And, uh, the Apostle tells us in this wonderful prayer that he prays that Christ will fully occupy the hearts of his people and that his people will fully appreciate the love of Christ.

If you want to put it into two very simple words, it’s two infiltrations that Christ will infiltrate your heart and make every part of it beautiful and that you will infiltrate his heart and see that every part is beautiful.

Let’s bow heads,

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the Lord Jesus, who’s made it possible to come to your throne without fault and with great joy because of the cross.

We thank you for the great privilege that you have told us that when we speak, even when we’re not listening to ourselves, you are listening to us. And we thank you for this simple but profound prayer asking that you would in your goodness, cause Christ to occupy full our hearts and that you would also help us to fully appreciate his heart.

We ask that you do this for Jesus sake and that you would be glorified in our lives in Jesus name, Amen.