Pray, Pray, Pray
Ephesians Lesson #097
March 21, 2021
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we’re so thankful as we come together to the Scriptures that we are to be refreshed, encouraged, strengthened, instructed and challenged. For Your Word is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is through Your Word that You sanctify us by means of the Holy Spirit. Father, we are thankful that we can focus upon Your Word.
“Father, in this nation in the previous 300–400 years we have had great opportunities to learn the Word. But Father we live in a world now that is filled with a lot of hostility to Christianity, a lot of hostility to evangelicals who preach the truth.
“Father, we pray that we might be firm and steadfast and that our preaching of Your Word may shine as a light, and that it may be known to those who are seeking truth that there are churches that still stand on Your Word.
“Father, we pray that as we open Your Word today, that we may come to be challenged and understand all that we learn. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. “
Open your Bibles with me, continuing our study of Ephesians 3:14–19, which is the next paragraph. Last week we did an overview of it, and this morning we will start looking at it in terms of its various component parts. The focal point in this passage is to pray, and how we should pray.
I think that it is important for us as we read through the Scriptures—and I hope that you are reading through a chapter or two or three every day—that you note various prayers that are found in the Scriptures.
A lot of Paul’s prayers are sprinkled throughout his epistles. We have the Psalter, the 150 psalms, most of which are designed to focus us in terms of prayer, and we can learn a lot about prayers as we have just by studying the psalms. But in this passage, I’m going to bring out some things that Paul prays for the Ephesian believers.
This is to be applied to all believers and should be understood that it’s not just for those Ephesian believers in the first century, but it has application direction for believers throughout the Church Age. We should think about this and figure out how to incorporate the language that we find here to apply it and use it in our own prayers.
Last time we covered the passage beginning in Ephesians 3:14, “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.”
The first point of content in the prayer: what Paul is primarily praying for, Ephesians 3:16, “that He would grant you—He being the Father—according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.”
Ephesians 3:17 gives us the result of that, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted—literally it’s having already been rooted—and grounded in love …”
The next result, Ephesians 3:18–19, “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.”
Today we will be focusing on the first three verses. All of this passage is one sentence in the original.
The opening verb, “I bow my knees,” is basically an idiom, though it may be literally true that he got down on his knees and bowed his head, but it is also idiomatic for just praying to God.
He is asking the Father, first of all, “that” introduces the content, “that He would grant you …”
“… to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man …” The focal point is to be strengthened spiritually, “the inner man” being parallel to “in your hearts” in Ephesians 3:17; talking about our spiritual strengthening.
I laid it out in a different visual: why is Paul praying, and for what is he praying?
1. He lays the foundation in the first verse: He’s praying to the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We ask, why is he praying? For what is he praying?
2. He is praying that the Father would use the Holy Spirit to strengthen them in their spiritual life.
We ask, why does He want us to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit? You see these “that” clauses are result and purpose causes are not. Four different equal clauses that build together. So what the result is saying is the answer to this question.
3. The first result is so that Christ would make His home in them that Christ would dwell richly in us. This is similar to what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 that the Word of God would richly dwell within us.
Why does Christ want to be at home in us?
4. The purpose: so that we can begin—not totally, but it’s going to be a process that begins now and goes into and through eternity—to comprehend the immensity of Christ’s love for us.
We will always be finite and every aspect of God’s character is infinite. We will never have an exhaustive knowledge of the love of Christ. We will never have an exhaustive knowledge of God. We will spend eternity, and a billion years from now we will still be learning more about the love of Christ for us, and we will still be learning more about the Father.
Why does he want them to know the love of Christ?
5. Ultimate result stated in verses Ephesians 3:17b–19: so that they and we might be spiritually mature, reflecting the love of Christ in our lives.
That is the progression.
Beginning with the first verse, Ephesians 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ …”
The main clause: I always like to state them even if we only look at one verse. I don’t want us to lose the forest for the trees. We take a lot of time looking at the leaves and the branches, then the trees, and we want to make sure we keep a good balance between the details and the synthesis of the passage.
The main clause, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” then skip down to Ephesians 3:16, “that.” Why is he praying that He would grant you to be strengthened in the inner man? The focal point: he is praying that we are spiritually strengthened, and this is through the Spirit.
I was going to cover Ephesians 3:14–16, then I realized that we need at least just one whole independent message on what “through the Spirit” means, so we need to understand some things about prayer.
Ephesians 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“For this reason” takes us back to what he has said previously, not in Ephesians 3:1-13, but previously in Ephesians 2. Remember Ephesians 3 started off “For this reason,” and then he goes off on a secondary line of thought. Ephesians 3:1–13 is actually a parenthesis in the whole flow of what he is saying, so when he says, “For this reason,” he’s taking us back to Ephesians 2:12–22.
I want us to be reminded of what he is saying there because that’s really the foundation, the reason, the motivation for what he is going to say in Ephesians 3:14–19, and why he is praying this. Why does he pray for us to know the love of Christ in this rich way?
To understand that we have to keep in mind that when the audience that he’s addressing and the audience that this is ultimately directed to is the body of Christ, which is now composed equally of Jew and Gentile. They are equal before God, which means all ethnic, racial, cultural boundaries are null and void in the body of Christ.
This is so important for us to take to heart in terms of our biblical theocentric worldview. In the context of what we’re facing in this world, we need to understand what the Word of God says about these things, because the whole concept of racism and cultural distinction is being abused terribly.
Someone said yesterday that they really appreciated the book that we have in the back—if you don’t have it, there’s a stack on the right going out. It is We Will Not Be Silenced by Erwin Lutzer, the pastor emeritus of Moody Church in Chicago, a Dallas Seminary graduate and there at the same time as Charlie Clough.
If you are still bewildered, confused, not quite sure that you could explain social justice, Critical Race theory, Marxism and cultural Marxism to someone else, then this will help you. We have to advance our vocabulary a little bit in order to understand what is going on, and why these people are saying what are saying, and why it appears to us that things are just so fractured in our culture.
In the Judges study on Tuesday night I talked a little bit about the background of this, but today we have basically four worldviews that are at odds with each other in this culture. I don’t know of another time in history where country has had such a plethora of worldviews. We have those who are mostly older and who have been taught well by older people who are not believers, but who have a modernist worldview.
Modernism passed from the scene, as it were, in terms of the academy, of the intellectual drivers of culture by the end of the 19th century. It was seen as being bankrupt, not being able to answer the basic issues of life and not being able to provide hope. It still held on and was a dominant force in the culture because these things change at the upper level of the so-called intelligentsia about 50 to 75 years before they get down to the level of the man in the street.
Modernism ended about 1900 followed by postmodernism, a term most of us didn’t pay a lot of attention to until probably the 80s or 90s as we began to see its impact. But actually, in the history of ideas this shift occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. It started really being felt in our culture in the 1960s in terms of a lot of moral relativism and the antinomianism—that is the rebelliousness against absolutes, especially moral absolutes by the baby-boom generation. Many pick 1963 or 1964 as the transition time.
I’m still trying to find on the Internet a statement I read by the intellectual architect of Critical Race theory, who said this is the next evolutionary development from postmodernism.
A lot of you are still trying to figure out what Critical Race Theory is. That’s why you need to read this book. Andy Woods talked about Critical Race Theory at the Chafer Conference. He did a great job, but we’ve got to make these terms a little more user-friendly.
So, an older generation that’s primarily thinking in terms of modernism. Postmodernist people think that modernists don’t have a clue. These are opposed to one another. Worldviews that are both pagan, both opposed to one another.
Now postmodernism is developing into something new, characterized by social justice and social Marxism and Critical Race Theory, which is opposed to the other two. Part of the nation is thinking and living as modernists, another part are thinking and living as postmodernists, and another part are living and thinking as this new group, bundled together as Critical Race Theory.
Against all three of those are Biblicists—those who hold to a biblical worldview. The problem with all of us who hold to a biblical worldview is we all came out of the same culture as these other people, so we have a lot of bits and pieces of those worldviews that have already invaded and infected our souls.
That’s why Romans 12:2 is so important, that we are not to be conformed to the world, pressed into its mold, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. That verse indicates that over against these three different worldviews that are clashing with each other in our culture, we have a biblical worldview that is at odds with all three of those.
The issue is you’re in the middle of the battlefield; the battlefield is where? Right between the ears. That’s why Ephesians 6:10 and following talks about spiritual warfare. That’s where the battle is fought for us: it’s fought between our ears. We have to learn to think differently!
That’s one reason we go through so much Scripture, talking about things like the grammar, the exegesis of the passage: to really come to understand, what is the Word of God actually saying to us?
Part of the problem today, if you haven’t noticed it, we’ve seen elements of this in the previous hundred years as things have gradually developed. But in postmodernism every statement needs to be deconstructed, and that means you destroy it basically. You take it all apart and you recognize that there’s all these different elements there that really ought to mean something else. Then you put it back together, and you’ve discovered it all has ultimately some relativistic meaning.
Now they’re teaching you don’t even need to know grammar. Everybody can make up their own rules for language. What’s the question that we need to ask? “Sorry, sir. I didn’t really understand what you just said. Everybody needs to make up their own language. You’re not speaking my language, so I don’t have a clue what you’re saying.”
The irrationality of their position is they do not want their statements deconstructed. They don’t want their statements to be meaningless. In order to communicate that all statements are meaningless and everybody can make up their own language, they have to assume that the language they’re using is understandable to everyone and appeals to a higher standard for meaning and understanding. Like postmodernism, it is still inherently illogical and irrational and you can’t live on the basis of its assumptions.
We have to go to the Word of God in order to understand what is going on, and that means we have to understand the grammar and the structure of the passage. It takes us back to this passage that is at its core at complete odds with the current view of race, ethnicity, and culture. Because what we learn here is that those factors are no longer relevant in the church. The church is the only solution to the fragmentation that has occurred as a result of this abuse of racial and ethnic distinctions.
Paul reminds the believers in Ephesians 2:12 that formerly as Gentiles, they didn’t have the same privileges before God as the Jews. That’s not inherently wrong. Today’s world would say “Oh that’s wrong!” But this is how God is working things out in history so that we can understand Him.
Gentiles were alienated from the blessings God had promised to Israel, so they did not have a Messiah, no messianic promise. They were alienated completely from the political entity, the Commonwealth of Israel. They were strangers to the covenants of promise: the Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant. They were outside, had no future hope, and were without God in the world.
But Paul says, “Now”—now in this Church Age, that barrier between Jew and Gentile has been removed at the cross. So that in the Church, at the instant anyone believes—whether they are Asian, European, African, whether they’re a blend, whatever they are—everyone is united together without barriers in the body of Christ.
They are said to be a new man, a new body, a new household of God, and a new temple. That is the focal point because Paul says Christ is the One who is our peace in Ephesians 2. As a result of the fact that He is our peace—meaning there’s no barrier between Jew and Gentile; that Christ removed the barrier and has reconciled both of us, Jew and Gentile, to God—there’s this new entity, the Church.
Unfortunately, a lot of people think that churches are just filled with racism. That’s why you have Blacks meeting one place, Hispanics someplace else, Asians someplace else, and you don’t really have too many churches that have blended ethnicities. That’s for a lot of different reasons. I have known of churches that have spent a lot of time reaching out to different ethnic communities and have had success. I have one in mind, I won’t mention who, that has had quite a bit of success.
But all of those different ethnicities, just like Caucasians, come with a load of human viewpoint baggage. So when they come into church, this church discovered that the reason they basically differ in the way they worship on Sunday morning—some of it’s neutral—but most of it is just because they have this other baggage. And they don’t want to deal with that baggage, which is the result of their human viewpoint thinking on a Sunday morning and submit to the Word.
So over time these groups would come then they would leave and start their own congregation. Some of that is fine, there’s nothing wrong with it; it might or it might not be for bad reasons. It is extremely complex.
I’ve been looking at this stuff for 30 or 40 years, and it’s just because every person is different. We all have different mixes and combinations of human viewpoint and divine viewpoint in our souls.
Paul is saying for the reason that there’s this new man, new body, new household of God, and new temple, “For this reason—of the existence of this new entity of the church—I bow my knees …” he is praying for them. They have to understand this, and it has to be part of their thinking in the congregation in Ephesus.
At this point when he says, “I bow my knees,” we have to understand the significance of what he is saying. This Greek verb used here is KAMPTO. It is only used four times in the New Testament, and it means to bend or to bow, and it is used in a way to express worship and submission to the authority of God.
Used once in Romans 11:4, a quote from 1 Kings 19:18 about the 7,000 faithful believers in Israel, the Northern Kingdom, at the time of Elijah. God says, “For I have 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” He is saying there are 7,000 who are not worshiping Baal; they’re not submitting to the pagan worship.
The second and third places where this is used, it refers to approximately the same thing:
Romans 14:11 says, “For it is written as I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me—it’s worship, it’s submission to the authority of God—every knee shall bow to Me and every tongue confess to God.” What are they confessing?
Philippians 2:10, “that at the name of Jesus—this refers to the future when He is the King—at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and those under the earth.”
It is submission to the authority of God and worship of Him. So, the bending of the knee conveys worship or submission to a supernatural power, to God specifically in this passage, and it thus is an expression of Paul’s desire to prayer.
We need to take a look at a few things about prayer. First, I just want to comment on this word because literally it means to bend the knee, but it is not necessary to pray in a specific posture.
People get odd ideas about prayer; there are a lot of misconceptions. One is that if you assume a specific posture, it’s somehow more impressive to God. Yet in Scripture people assume many, many different postures.
Bowing the knee is one posture: phrases such as “those who bow the knee” in Ezra 9:5, Psalm 95:6, and Daniel 6:10. In the New Testament, Luke 22:41 and Acts 7:60.
Lying prostrate before God, stretched out on one’s face: Numbers 16:45, Joshua 7:6, Ezra 10:1, and Matthew 26:39—where the Lord lies prostrate in the Garden of Gethsemane.
1 Kings 18:42, a position I don’t think anyone here has probably taken, he put his head between his knees. You don’t need to admit it if you have.
Then standing: My favorite time to pray is when I’m stretched out flat on my stomach about to go to sleep, and I’ll pray for about 10 minutes. All other distractions are out of the way, I do that. Or when I wake up at any time during the night, I just go through my prayer list.
There aren’t any specific postures. However, I do think that sometimes we are too informal in our prayers. I’m not prescribing anything. I simply want to give you something to think about.
I have read a lot of Church history and biographies, and I have been impressed over the years with how many men and women who take a posture of praying. They get down on their knees by the bed or somewhere else in the home and pray together. There’s nothing wrong with that.
To me the most amusing posture of prayer in all of Church history is that of Susanna Wesley. She was the mother of two who became pastors and hymn writers, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, who were among two of the three founders of what we refer to today as Methodism. She had 15 or 16 kids; she had no peace in her home.
Yet she needed peace to pray to God, so she would go into a corner. That was the day when women would wear several different slips under their dresses, and she would just pull the outer one up over her head. That told her kids, “Leave me alone. I’m praying to God.”
There are a lot of different ways to do this, but it’s important to do it, and it’s important to develop that habit in our lives, to pray consistently, if we can, the same time every day, the same way.
We’re all different, and that’s why I’m not prescribing anything. But it impressed me recently, as I quoted this not long ago that I was reading a biography of Major Dick Winters, Biggest Brother. If you’ve seen Band of Brothers or read the book, he was the commander of the Easy Company, and then later was promoted up to Battalion.
In the middle of this story it’s talking about June 6, 1944, D-Day. For those of you who may be young, D-Day has another name, “the longest day,” and the name of a film based on the book The Longest Day.
June 6, 1944, for Major Winters actually began late the night before between 8:00 and 10:00pm as they got into the C-47s and prepared for departure. We all know that takes a lot of time to get everybody at the right place and get it done, so they didn’t get any sleep the night before.
Probably during the day before, they were spending their time checking, double checking all of their equipment, making sure their parachutes are all packed correctly, going over the maps and everything else that they needed to have in their heads for their parachute jump into Normandy on D-Day.
That’s how the day before went. He’s pulled an all-nighter to begin with, and it’s one that is loaded with adrenaline pumping, you don’t know what’s going to happen, you have to focus, and you’re using a lot of mental energy. So they loaded up on the plane, and they departed somewhere around midnight that night to fly across the English Channel and to be dropped into Normandy.
When they landed in Normandy, they were scattered all over the place, and by the grace of God they were able to find each other, but only part of the company was able to reassemble. Likely, the company commander was dead, so Lieutenant Winters had to take command, and they had to get to their objective, which was about 8 km away, so they had to go on a little hike that morning.
They got to their objective about 9:00 am—Brécourt Manor where the Nazis had established three areas where they had their 88s, their main artillery round. Winters’ men had to take the Nazis out. That was a three-hour battle that was quite complicated. Sometime later Winters was put in for a Medal of Honor, which was downgraded to a Distinguished Service Cross, and many of his men were also given Medals of Valor for their behavior in that battle.
It’s been a long couple of days, but this is still in the middle of the afternoon, so they had to go to a couple of other objectives and take care of enemy soldiers. Finally, that night they found a place in a hedgerow where they could bed down and finally get a little rest.
At that point his biographer, Larry Alexander, says, “Winters settled down and tried to sleep, exhausted by the day’s exertions, both physical and mental. The German infantry in another hedgerow across an open field kept firing their weapons into the dark and shouting.
Unable to sleep Winters decided to get up and make a personal reconnaissance. He walked quietly along the footpath in the dark, and he heard the approaching clatter of hobnailed boots and froze. “Krauts,” he thought.
“Dropping into a ditch, he huddled there quietly as a German patrol walked by, then he was able to get away and got back to his company. He lay on the ground by another soldier named Welsh, having no blanket to cover himself—his stuff was still lying in some farmer’s field inside of his lost leg bag. He took some newspapers he had liberated earlier in the day and formed a small tent over his face and upper body. This was less for warmth than it was to keep away the mosquitoes he could hear bouncing off the newspaper.”
That gives you a little context, because we complain of such minor things. This is a day and a half, he’s exhausted, and he’s got nothing to give him any creaturely comfort.
“Before closing his eyes that night Winters realized he hadn’t said his prayers, so he rolled over and got to his knees. Welsh—the guy next to him—watched somberly, “Dick,” he said following Winters’ amen, “I’m Catholic and when I get back home I’ll go to church every Sunday and pray, but I won’t pray here.”
I got to thinking about that. What brought that about? What’s going on in the background? I got interested in reading his biography after having read about him, but nobody ever touches on this. To have that discipline, that habit pattern so deeply ingrained in him, that in the middle of all of this, at the end of the day that is hard and harsh and he’s got a thousand distractions that we will never approach, he recognizes before he goes to sleep he needs to pray, and he pulls himself out of his bed and gets on his knees to pray.
This has to be something that his parents drilled into him, and I don’t mean in a legalistic way. I mean just teaching from childhood. This has to be ingrained in a young child from the time they’re first able to kneel and pray that they need to do that.
Just because they are not a believer doesn’t mean you don’t do it, because you’re forming a habit pattern at this stage. You are not necessarily teaching them doctrine yet, you’re just starting to help them develop a habit pattern.
I remember that I would say prayers “Now I lay me down to sleep” with my parents when I was very, very, very little, but informed that habit pattern, and then I was saved when I was about six. It’s all part of developing God-consciousness in your kid. But his parents must have drilled that into him. He did this through boot camp. He did this through everything. This was who he was. I haven’t forgotten that image.
Too often we who are in Bible churches and Baptist churches and other churches that are loosely referred to as “low churches …” That’s not a derogatory term. “High church” worship is very ritualistic, and it has a lot of protocols and discipline and rigor, and they are very formal. “Low Churches” are informal. That’s all that it means.
But sometimes I think we take our informality too far toward God. I talked about this a lot in the worship series that I did in the middle of 2 Samuel. We need to have a higher view of God and maybe a higher view of our own personal time with the Lord, our own prayer life, and having a little more discipline in some of these areas.
Again, I’m not saying you need to kneel every night, but just praying every day at the same time. Maybe get up a little bit earlier in the morning, read your Bible and pray. You can be sitting in your comfortable chair. You don’t have to go lie down on a dirt road in the middle of France at 11 o’clock at night with artillery shells going off around you.
But you get my point that we find excuses to not do these things or roll over in bed and say, “Lord, you know I’m exhausted; I’ll pray tomorrow.” This example of Major Winters is something to really think about. What built that into his character? Then I said what his parents do? Parents, grandparents, this is an example of what good parenting did.
Let’s look at what the Bible says about prayer.
You get some very strange views of prayer today. Some prayers today are influenced by eastern mysticism and by the contemplative monastic mysticism that developed in the early Church. If influenced by Eastern mysticism, it’s the idea of emptying your mind, and for others it is may be reflecting or rehearsing Scripture. You have these other ideas that are focused on not necessarily biblical things. Then others think that they are just reciting certain religious sounding phrases to God or they’re reciting a prayer they’ve memorized.
But prayer is communication; it is our communication to God. We communicate to Him; we talk to Him through prayer. He talks to us through the Scripture; God doesn’t talk to us apart from the Scripture. He doesn’t give us some little vibration in our stomach, a little liver quiver to get us an idea of what we ought to do. He talks to us through the Scripture.
We’re supposed to take all that we’ve learned from the Scripture and pray to God for wisdom to apply it correctly, and then apply it to our situation. It’s our communication link to the heavenly Father; it is talking to Him.
You’ve heard me say many times it’s talking honestly with God. A lot of Christians just try to blow smoke at God. But God is omniscient, He knows what you’re really thinking. When you’re mad at God, you ought to say, “God, I’m mad at you. Why did you do this? I don’t understand. Help me to understand.” That’s part of our prayer, part of the Christian life.
2. Elements to prayer, I use the acronym of CATS:
C Confession; we are very familiar with that concept. We to admit to God our sins.
A Adoration is praise to God. We praise Him, we worship Him; we adore Him because of all that He has done for us.
T Thanksgiving: our thankfulness toward God for all that He has done for us and all that He has provided for us. We are to be thankful, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, for all things, and in Ephesians 4 we are to be thankful in all things.
S Supplication is another word for making requests of God. It involves two areas:
Intercession for others and petitions for oneself.
You don’t have to take every step in every prayer. You may need to confess in every prayer, but you can confess your sin and pray for a situation you’re facing right then and now. If you keep close accounts with God, you just shoot a bullet prayer to God, just a quick prayer, “Lord, help me with this situation.” “What do I say here?” That kind of a thing.
Prayers can be where you start off and you jump to thanksgiving, or you jump to a petition for yourself, or you jump to intercession for others. You see a situation and you pray for them. You don’t have to go through all of the steps.
Someone recently asked me, “I just don’t understand it when you talk about a bullet prayer, how I can go through all those steps.” Well, you don’t have to; they’re mixed up.
These are the different kinds of prayer.
3. All prayer is to be directed to God the Father.
This is an important point because a lot of believers, a lot of Christians don’t understand that. There’s a lot of sloppiness, actually, within Christianity about this. You have people who pray to Jesus, and you have people who pray to the Holy Spirit. We have to look at the Scriptures to see, “what does the Scripture say?” “What examples do the Scriptures give us?”
We pray to the Father; we do not pray to Jesus. We do not pray to the Holy Spirit. We will see in the next sub points why.
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a. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, He began with, “Our Father.” This is how you are to pray according to Matthew 6:9, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
I’ve heard people teach this where they’ve gone to some of Jesus’s prayers where He prayed to the Father. Well, who else is He going to pray to? That’s not really good evidence to the fact that we should pray to the Father, but when Jesus is teaching His disciples how to pray, He tells them they should address the prayer to the Father.
b. Jesus instructed the disciples to pray to the Father in the upper room discourse.
Remember the upper room discourse was after they had the Passover meal the night before He went to the cross. We’re not sure when, but some time along the way they left the upper room, walking to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Along the way, Jesus continues teaching them, and part of what He’s teaching them is about the fact that He’s going to send the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will dwell within them. He also teaches them about the spiritual life, and he teaches them about prayer.
John 16:23, “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give to you.” A great promise!
What’s the first question you need to ask when you read that? What is “in that day?” Because sometimes you read that in the Old Testament, that’s referring to the “Day of the Lord” at the end of the Tribulation. So, you have to ask, what does that mean?
In John 16:22, Jesus says, “Therefore you now have sorrow—talking about the fact that He’s getting ready to be arrested, taken to the cross, and they’re going to witnesses His crucifixion and His death.
“Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again—three days three nights He’s going to rise from the dead—I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
John 16:23. “And in that day— He is saying Resurrection Sunday and from that day forward—you will ask me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you whatever you ask the Father …” He’s talking about what’s going to happen in the Church Age. You address your prayers to the Father.
John 16:26 also, “In that day you will ask in My name and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you.”
We’re asking the Father in the name of Jesus, which doesn’t mean you have to end every prayer in the name of Jesus. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what this actually means is we’re coming to the Father on the basis of Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross.
c. Jesus is our high priest. You don’t pray to the high priest. The purpose of a priest is to take the people to God; that’s the role of the high priest.
Hebrews 4:14–16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.”
This is looking back to the ascension when Jesus passes through the universe and arrives at the right hand of the Father.
Hebrews 4:15–16, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace …” Whose throne is it? The Father’s! “… let us come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
I’ve pointed out that one element of prayer is thankfulness; it is gratitude, expressing our gratitude to God.
d. We are to give thanks to the Father. We don’t give thanks to the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Colossians 1:3, “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”
Colossians 1:12, “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Ephesians 5:20, “always giving thanks to God the Father for each other in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:17, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work …”
I went through every use of the word “Father” in the New Testament to break this down and I looked at a large number of verses related to the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, when Paul writes his letters, he says, “I write to you, you’re blessed by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” “I write to you because God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” He never mentions the Holy Spirit in the salutations. I thought that was interesting.
Prayer is always to the Father. It’s never to the Son, it’s never to the Holy Spirit. Every time we’re given instruction, it is always to pray to the Father, give thanks to the Father. It is through the Spirit in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ: those are distinctive.
I’ve heard people say, “Well, I’ve heard that we’re only supposed pray to the Father, but I can’t find that in the Bible.” Really? We have to understand these things.
The other reason is because the other role of the Son and the Holy Spirit is that they are interceding for us. We do not pray to an intercessor for us. We pray to the same one they are interceding with.
In Romans 8:26-27 we are told that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, “Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
I’ve heard some charismatic say, “Well, you know, I’ve grown a lot in prayer because those are the groanings that can’t be uttered.” Well, if you could hear them they were uttered, and they weren’t groanings that cannot be uttered.
This is saying that we just are left speechless. We just don’t know how to pray or what to pray or what to ask for, and God the Holy Spirit is going to be the one who basically formulates our prayers.
We can’t use that as an excuse. Sometimes people just say, “Well, I pray for this person, I pray for that person.” Well, what you praying for? You have something specific to pray for that person. That’s important. Sometimes when we say that we don’t really know what to pray exactly for, and we’re just leaving that up to God the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks, but don’t do that all the time.
We should pray for specifics, following the example that we have in Scripture. But the specifics that we find in Scripture are not always related to the logistical needs that we often pray for life. The prayers in Scripture are for the spiritual strength to handle whatever logistical situation they’re in.
Because as Paul said, “I can do all things …” In context it is, “I can handle abounding or I can be without anything.” “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” is not saying I can pass that chemistry final through Christ Who strengthens me.
Romans 8:27, “Now he who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
Our prayers go through the Holy Spirit who cleans them up and passes them along.
Romans 8:34, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, and the Son intercedes for us.
Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
This just is a reminder, we need to pray a lot more often. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” That doesn’t mean that that’s your primary focus. We all have our jobs to do, and if you have a dangerous job, you want to focus on that and not cut your hand off.
But that means we are to pray continuously. Not every second of every day, but this should be our habit pattern to pray continuously. They can be short bullet prayers or they can be intentional lengthy prayers.
Sometimes you might try exercises of writing out your prayers based on Scripture formulating your thoughts as a training exercise to deepen your own prayer life, your own understanding and articulation to God. This has been done by many people in history; writing out a prayer is not easy.
We don’t have write out every prayer. There is time for spontaneous prayers, and there are times for giving serious thought to how you’re going to build or articulate your case to God as to why you want Him to intervene in some particular situation.
Conclusion on Prayer
We need to learn to pray. We need to emulate that to our families, to our children, to our grandchildren.
If anything at the end of my life, I would like for people to say he was a man of the Word, and he was a man who prayed. To me that would mean I’ve done it right, if that is how people think. We must learn to pray, we must teach our children to pray, we must make prayer a habitual, non-negotiable practice in our lives.
That’s the example of Dick Winters. It was non-negotiable. It was the longest day. He had every physical, logistical excuse in the world to say, “Lord, I’m just too tired; I’ll pray tomorrow.” He got up and got on his knees and prayed. That’s what I mean by it’s a non-negotiable reality in our life.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to get into Your Word, to be reminded of the importance that we come to You in prayer, that we communicate with You, that we make You through prayer a vital link in every aspect of our live. And that prayer is just one of many ways in which our walk with You deepens and intensifies.
“Father, we pray that we might not take what the Word says lightly but be challenged to increase our prayer lives. We thank You for Christ who intercedes for us as our High Priest, for God the Holy Spirit who also intercedes for us, and for His ministry in strengthening us in our spiritual life.
“Father, we pray for those who may listen to this lesson who have never trusted in Christ as Savior, may have never gotten to the point where they really understand that the gospel is for you. If you’ve never trusted Christ, it is for you to take the time to evaluate what you believe and to believe the gospel.
“Sometimes people have heard it all around them for many years, but they’ve never said, “I believe that!” They’ve never reached that mental point where they are trusting Christ alone for salvation. That’s all that’s needed. You don’t need to walk an aisle, you don’t need to raise your hand, you don’t need to pray a sinner’s prayer, you just trust. God in His omniscience knows what you’re trusting in for salvation.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge us, that we keep these things on our mind. In Christ’s name, amen.”