Most people who are at least slightly familiar with IHOP-KC would probably recognize this passage as one of the Apostolic Prayers. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I would suggest grabbing a Bible and reading it. Basically, the Apostolic Prayers are passages in scripture where an Apostle writes out his prayer for the church (hence, Apostolic Prayers). Now that we have that down, we can start this post.
One thing that tends to bug me about how people pray the Apostolic Prayers is that it is very easy to forget that that prayer is a short passage that is in context to a chapter, and that chapter is in context to a book. Now, that doesn’t mean that if you want to “get” the Apostolic Prayers you need to do an inductive study of the entire book… but at least looking at some of the surrounding scripture will change your understanding pretty quickly. That being said, I want to discuss the prayer found in Ephesians 3. For those who are unfamiliar with it, here it is for your reading pleasure…
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. —Ephesians 3:14-19
Now, that’s a heck of a prayer from Paul. Just reading it, you can appreciate a little bit of the meaning. After all, who doesn’t want might in the inner man through the Holy Spirit? But once again, we need to ask what is driving Paul to write this prayer down in this letter. The answer is found in Chapter 3 of Ephesians itself.
In the first 12 verses of this chapter, Paul spends quite a while explaining about the “Mystery of God”. According to verse 6, the mystery being spoken of is that the Gentiles and Jews should be equal participants in the promises of God through Christ. Inherent in this claim is that Christ has become a man (the Incarnation) and that Christ suffered and died (Crucifiction and resurrection). Push pause right there.
After taking great pains to explain this mystery, its purpose, and his role as a minister of it, Paul makes a radical claim in verse 13… “Therefore, I ask that you do not lost heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” Now. That is a loaded statement. Consider: Paul is communicating the church in Ephesus that his tribulations (read: suffering) for the church was their glory. The principle is that what you suffer for, you glorify. Consider now that the man Jesus Christ came and died for as many as would come to him. Every time Jesus was beaten, every time the whip took flesh off his back, every hammer stroke on the nail… it was a resounding statement of the value of individual men to God.
So now we continue with our previous line of thought. Paul has explained the mystery of God (albeit in condensed form) to the church in Ephesus, and has said because of this that he does not want the church to lose heart at his suffering for them. It is here that we pick up the actual prayer. It is for this reason (Paul’s suffering for the church) that he bows his knees and asks that God would give them might in the inner man. However, the prayer itself isn’t even the end of the story. Take a look at verses 20-21…
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. — Ephesians 3:20-21
Remember how what you suffer for you glorify? Directly after asking God to give the church might in the inner-man, Paul then asks that God would have glory in the church. The entire context of this prayer is that we would have might in the inner man so that we could suffer for Christ. Ouch.
I remember reading a book called “Heavenly Man” by Brother Yun. He said something in that book that gave me pause and almost brought me to tears. In this book he was describing the Chinese underground church and was talking about the reaction of most Western Christians to his tales of persecution… specifically, how many say that they are going to pray for God to give them peace. In this particular chapter, Brother Yun said that his reaction to this sentiment is, “Don’t pray that the persecution will stop. Pray that we would have stregnth to endure it.” As I’m writing this, I’m feeling that sting of how little faith I actually have. I’m kind of out of things to say, but I think you get the picture of where my mind is at right now.