Sundays: 9 & 11am LATEST MESSAGE

Empowering Grace

Charlie Boyd - 10/3/2021

​​I think you would agree with me that the focus of most of our prayers is that we are asking God to do something for us “out there.” “Lord, change him, change her, change my kids, change my spouse, change my boss, change the people I work with, change my money situation, change my health, change politics, change America.” The primary focus of our prayers is asking God for help with the things we want to change “outside” of us—most of the time—to change things so our lives can go back to whatever we define as “normal.” The problem is, when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we hoped he would, we can become discouraged and disappointed with God. So, the question is—When God doesn’t change your circumstances—when God doesn’t answer your prayers the way you asked—what do you do? Maybe, you should change the way you pray. That’s one of the things we learn from Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in Ephesians 3:14-21.

Paul has been in jail for some time now, and the Ephesians have no doubt been praying for God to rescue him from the terrible suffering he has to endure. So, Paul writes to them to encourage them. He doesn’t want them to be discouraged—3:13—“I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is really for your highest good.” Paul knows that he is in jail precisely because he’s been preaching that b/c of what Jesus did on the Cross, he has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, two groups who had a long-standing history of hatred and hostility toward one another. Paul knows that God has always wanted this earth to be populated by diverse peoples who live together as one people under the headship of Christ, and he’s begun the process of bringing all people together as one people in the church of Jesus Christ. That’s the truth he wants them to see, and that’s what lies behind his prayer in verses 14-21. 

READ 3:14-21. In a very real sense, Paul is praying for one thing in this prayer: he is praying that the Ephesians would be strengthened with power in their innermost being (or said another way, that Christ would dwell (be at home) in them by faith)—which results in—the limitless love of Christ being manifest in and through them—which results in—them being filled up with all the fullness of God. Most of all, Paul wants them to “know” experientially in their daily lives with one another what they came to know at the moment they trusted Christ for salvation. For there to be a change in “us” (to embrace and love people different from us), there has to first be a change in “me.” So, Paul is praying that God would do a deep work in them as individual Christians so that Jesus’ love and grace flow through them to others.

What we need most is to experience the truth we already know. There’s a huge disconnect between what we believe to be true and what we experience as true in our daily lives. The only way to know God’s truth and love experientially is through prayer. In this prayer, Paul makes two important assumptions. First, the Christian life is not automatic. Second, we need to refocus the priority of our prayers. How so? From simply asking God to change our circumstances to asking the Holy Spirit to change us. There is no more important prayer for us to pray for ourselves and others than this prayer right here. Because, if you’re praying to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in your inner being, and God is working the limitless love of Christ into the deepest part of who you are, then in your heart you will be solid, confident, and calm no matter your circumstances. The key to experiencing the life-changing power of God in our innermost being is experiencing the limitless, 3-dimensional love of God in your relationships. We need to reflect and meditate on how long, how wide, how high, and how deep the love of Christ is in the Gospel. Even the benediction (verses 19-20) makes this same point about the power of God working within us as the focus/priority of what God is doing in us and wants to do through us to bring God glory in this divided world in which we live.

So, what’s the application? What’s the take-away today? It’s simple. Pray this prayer. Pray this prayer for yourself. Pray it for others. Pray it for our church. Pray this prayer. Paraphrase it. Put it in your own words. Personalize it. Prioritize it.

*We are a church located in Greenville, South Carolina. Our vision is to see God transform us into a community of grace passionately pursuing life and mission with Jesus.