May 7, 2023. Sermon Title: A Prayer for Spiritual Growth

First Mennonite Church

May 7, 2023

“A Prayer for Spiritual Growth”

Text: Ephesians 3: 14-21

There are a couple of things that prayer reveals about ourselves when we pray. When we pray and especially when we do so for others, it reveals our concern for their wellbeing. Praying for others, therefore, reveals the love that binds us with those we are praying for. In the case of praying for our children, our prayer reveals the deep sense of obligation we have for them before God. Implicitly, then, prayer reveals we are mindful that there are aspects of our lives and our children’s well-being that are beyond our ability to provide or to secure. It is true that God provides us with everything: food, clothing, transportation, shelter, etc., but often when we pray, especially when praying for our children, we pray for their safety, for their ability to do well in school or work, for their health, for wisdom, and for guidance in the choices and daily decisions they make.

And the reason we pray for these things, even at the hearing of our children, is because we as parents know that there are many things we cannot do for our children regardless of how much we love them. In that sense, prayer reveals we acknowledge our limitations; prayer reveals we cannot control everything in life. Through prayer, we entrust our life and the lives of those we love. That’s because we believe God’s love for others is far greater than ours. God’s comfort is deeper than the deepest sympathies we can give to those who are grieving. God’s healing power is better than the best medicine we get. We believe that only God can transform the heart of our loved ones and our friends.

Therefore when we pray to God for our loved ones and dear friends, first we give testimony of our love and concern for them. Prayer reveals that we understand we have limitations. And lastly, prayer shows we believe in a God who can do all things and especially the things we cannot.

When we pray out loud we reveal what is our understanding of God and what we believe is his will for our lives. Oftentimes, I am asked to pray for others, before meals, at the closing of meetings and gatherings, etc. There are also times when I am not asked to pray, I listen to how others pray. I have not told you this before, but every time I call Estella and at the closing of my phone call, I offer to pray with her. But after I finished praying with her, she always offers to pray for me, my family, and the church. And most often, when she is praying, I only listen to her prayers, affirming her words with “Amen,” and “Yes Lord.” And this morning, I want to invite you to eavesdrop on Paul’s prayer.

Paul’s Prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 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, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Despite being a great missionary, teacher, and theologian, Paul still pleaded with the Holy Trinity on behalf of the people he dearly loved. Paul was constantly on his knees before the Father, pleading that his loved ones would be strengthened in their inner being by the Holy Spirit and that Christ would dwell in them. Paul had a clear vision of the purpose of his prayer for the Ephesian church. Paul’s prayer shows his understanding of the progression there should be in the life of faith. From the moment of conversion, Christians should see as their final goal: to attain “the measure of all the fullness of God.” What does it mean to have “the measure of all the fullness of God”? Paul writes to the Colossians, For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness” (2:9, 10a). To have the fullness of God in us then means to allow the spirit of Christ to be in us.

Transformation of the heart, mind, and soul

Paul understood clearly that Christian conversion is only possible by the working of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. This is very important for us to understand. There is nothing in the world nor in religion that will ever produce a Christian convert. Only the Spirit of God can change the soul, heart, and mind of a person. God’s Spirit is the only one who can illumine our minds to understand the word of God. It is only the Holy Spirit of God who can transform the heart. We can go to church Sunday after Sunday, we can sing all the hymns in the Christian repertoire, and we can participate in every church activity, but if the Holy Spirit has not shone the light of the gospel to reveal to us our need for God and to bring us to repentance before God, transformation, conversion, the new birth will not happen. That is why Paul prayed “that out of his glorious riches [God] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

Paul understood that a fruitful and spiritually mature Christian life is only possible when God’s Spirit empowers the inner being of the person. By “inner being” Paul had in mind the heart, as the seat of the human will; the mind, which is the cognitive engine for thought processes, and the human spirit, which is open and sensitive to the spirit world, including God who is Spirit. Therefore, when the Spirit of God empowers you and me from the core of our faculties, we are given the power to believe in Jesus Christ and Christ begins to dwell in us. I believe we should make Paul’s prayer our daily prayer for those we love and especially those who have not given their lives to the Lord.

Oftentimes, adult Christians and church leaders express their sadness over the fact that many young people are not staying in the church. Some wonder if churches would only have good programs and social activities the young people would not leave the church once they become young adults. Programs and activities are good, but they do not guarantee that young people will stay in the church. What will certainly keep our young people in the church is if the Spirit of God is dwelling in them. Even if these people move elsewhere, they will seek to be in fellowship with other Christians. For that reason, I want to urge you to pray for our children that God’s Spirit would lead them to Christ and that Christ would dwell in them through faith.

Once again, Paul was an extraordinary teacher, minister of the gospel, and missionary, but he knew that none of his abilities could guarantee that the Ephesian believers would remain stable and growing in the faith, except if the Holy Spirit of God has transformed them from the core of their being.

If you want a personal relationship with God in Christ, as the Spirit of God to help us understand

In Paul’s second prayer request for the Ephesians, he uses very mysterious language. Listen to how he prays: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 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, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Paul was very ambitious in his prayer for the Ephesians. God’s love is unfathomable, unsearchable, and measureless. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. One of Job’s friends said this about God:

“Can you find out the deep things of God?
    Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?

It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
    Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth,
    and broader than the sea (Job 11:7-9).

Although we may never get to know the fullness of God’s love, yet as we come together to worship, as we continue to pray for one another, as we keep seeking each other’s wellbeing, as we continue to admonish each other with the word of God, as we continue walking together in this journey of faith, our understanding and experience of God’s love will increase. As we continue to remain in God, we remain in his love. It is a love that unites and empowers us for God’s service. It is a love that sustains the fellowship. May we all pursue to grow in the love of God.

Let us commit ourselves to pray Paul’s prayer for one another. Let us begin by praying that the Spirit of God would empower each of us from within. Let us pray that each one of us would experience a transformation of our spirit and inner being. Let us pray that each of us would experience spiritual renewal to grow in the love of the Lord. Let us pray that as we come together in fellowship we would be able to experience the love of God. Amen! 

Pastor Romero