A Study on Ephesians (Chapter 3)

The Messenger 10

As we come to the final section in our reflections on the first three chapters of Ephesians, we turn our attention now to Paul’s prayer in chapter 3. Verse 14 begins with the words “for this reason”. So profound were those things Paul had shared with his readers that it was inevitable that he would have been moved to pray for them. He wanted them to grasp the spiritual depths and implications of his message. Instinctively Paul turned to the only source of spiritual revelation and understanding – God Himself.

The contents of Paul’s prayers
It is not difficult to understand why Paul would have wanted to pray for the people to whom he had addressed his letter. But why did he feel he had to share the actual contents of his prayer with his readers? Why didn’t he just say in his letter that he was praying for them? That, very likely, is what we would have done.

Whatever Paul’s motives were in sharing with his readers the precise contents of his intercession, we have some very important things to learn from verses 14-21 about prayer. FOUR things in particular stand out.

a. Praying is our connecting-point with God
What we have looked at thus far in our reflections on the first three chapters of Ephesians has brought home to us the incredible depths of all that God had planned in Christ for His Church and for those who put their trust in Jesus. That plan, we are told, was conceived in the mind of God before the world had even begun. What amazing grace, what astounding wisdom on the part of God. But for God’s plan in heaven to become God’s plan on earth three things had to happen. Firstly, Jesus had to come to this earth. He has! “The Word became flesh” says John “and made his dwelling among us.” Secondly, the story of the good news about Jesus had to be told. It has! It is found in the Scriptures. But for His will in heaven to be done on earth one further thing is needed. Prayer! And Ephesians 3:14-21 underlines that for us. Prayer is the connecting-point between God’s will conceived in heaven and God’s will expressed on the earth. Called to be co-workers with the Lord in the outworking of His will on earth, there is no greater thing we can do in this life than pray. Prayer, to put it simply, is the conduit through which heavenly realities become earthly realities.

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed” wrote A.J. Gordon. “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer” was something John Wesley believed and practiced.

When we pray we are not tying to persuade God into doing something He is reluctant to do nor are we trying to draw God’s attention to something He has overlooked. Prayer is God’s way of allowing us to co-operate with Him so that His will in heaven can be expressed on earth.

b. An important key to effective prayer
For prayer to be effective, however, we always need to begin by discerning God’s will and then pray according to that will (1 John 5:14-15). “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” is a principle Jesus sought to instil in His followers when, at their request, He taught them how to pray.

In that great letter to the Ephesians we have caught flashes, glimpses of heavenly realities as we have “peered through the mist.” How Paul must have longed for those heavenly realities to become earthly realities in the lives of the believers. Motivated by what the Spirit had revealed to him of God’s will and purpose for everyone who is in Christ, Paul not only shared the good news, he got on his knees and prayed to the Father. He called on the Father to take those heavenly realities and make them real in the lives and experience of the believers. In sharing the contents of his prayer to the Father with his readers, Paul has left us with an example to inspire our own prayers and intercessions.

George Mueller of Bristol, England was one of the mightiest men of prayer in his time and raised several million pounds through prayer for the orphanages he founded. Like Paul, Mueller knew that the key to effective prayer was praying according to the will of God.

“When it was laid upon George Mueller’s heart to pray for anything, he would search the Scriptures to find if there was some promise that covered the case. Sometimes he would search the Scriptures for days before he presented his petition to God. And then when he found the promise, with his open Bible before him and his finger upon that promise, he would plead that promise with an open Bible before him.” (The Power of Prayer by R.A. Torrey).

c. A right attitude in our approach to God
When Paul speaks of his “kneeling before the Father” he is expressing an attitude of the heart. It is an attitude of humility. His action of kneeling was not simply an outward conformity to tradition. While it is true that in Christ we have been given a confidence and a boldness in our approach to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16), ”boldness does not mean brazenness, confidence does not mean easy familiarity. Boldness at the throne of grace is not presumption. Confidence is not cheek” (DM Lloyd-Jones). In approaching God in prayer, confidence and humility always belong together.

d. An earnestness in our requests
“One of the best ways to discover a Christian’s chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the contents of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. We all pray about what concerns us” (John Stott).

The more deeply we are committed to serving God’s purposes for our life, the more we shall uncover those things that are close to His heart. His love and compassion will impact our own life and will ultimately be reflected in both the contents of our prayers and the earnestness with which we bring those needs before Him. Effective prayer is prayer, as we see from Ephesians 3:14-21, that has been impacted by God’s love and concern both for His children and for those who are still outside the Kingdom of God. There will always be a passion, an intensity, reflected in the prayers of those who have been deeply affected by God’s love for the world. It is something unmistakable in Paul’s intercession for his readers.

Four vital things we learn about prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21. May they motivate us to become more actively engaged in effective prayer in the future. I close this reflection with these words from a hymn by William Cowper:

What various hindrances we meet in coming to a mercy seat! Yet who that knows the worth of prayer, but wishes to be often there? Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw, prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw, gives exercise to faith and love, brings every blessing from above. Restraining prayer, we cease to fight; prayer makes the Christian’s armour bright; and Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.


If you have a question or a comment about this series please feel free to write to me, Brian, at


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Posted in Bible Studies, Ephesians, HIStory - 52 Week Challenge.