Preaching Through Prayer
That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Have you ever been in a prayer meeting when someone sneaks in some preaching into a prayer? I have, more times than I'd like to count. I think, for example, of a time when two members of my leadership team were not getting along well. But, rather than deal directly with their conflict, they used a prayer meeting to make their case. One prayed something like, "Father, we are your beloved children. Help us to know how much it hurts you when one of your children hurts another. Help us to feel your pain when we sin against each other." Then the other responded, "Yes, Father. Help us know how much gossip is wrong. Teach us that we shouldn't say things behind other peoples' backs." And so it went, as each one preached to the other in the guise of prayer.
As we move into the final portion of Paul's intercession in Ephesians 1:17-23, we might be tempted to accuse him of preaching through prayer. He prays in verse 19 that we will know God's incredibly great power for us. Then, he spends the next four-and-a-half verses–which are still grammatically part of his prayer–elaborating on the power he has just mentioned. This is preaching in prayer, no doubt about it.
But, of course, Paul is not trying to co-opt prayer for some personal vendetta. Rather, as we'll see, he is elaborating on the strength of God so that we might understand it more truly and experience more fully. This moves him to consider the superlative authority of the exalted Christ and our relationship to Christ as his church. Thus, Paul's prayerful appendix serves as a preface for what is to follow in Ephesians.
Paul's exercise of preaching through prayer reminds us that God's power is not some amorphous force, some unknown and impersonal energy, some spiritual power that we can tap into for our own agendas. Rather, the power that is for us is God's own power, power exercised according to God's own wisdom, power that has been revealed to us in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. Thus, if we want to experience the power of God, we should not look into ourselves or some generic spirituality. Rather, we should look to Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced someone preaching through prayer? If so, when? Have you ever done this? As you read Paul's example of preaching through prayer in the last verses of Ephesians 1, what impresses you?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, as I begin to reflect on Paul's "preaching prayer," I thank you for the working of your power in my life. I thank you, also, for helping me to understand your power and to experience it more fully. Please open my eyes to see your power as it has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Amen.
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