Paul continues his opening of this letter by moving on from the glorious things he has been saying about our redemption into giving thanks for it. Yet as we continue reading this section, I’m sure that you, like me can’t help but notice the contrast this prayer of thanksgiving has with the ones we usually hear today.
It would be useful for us to notice here that things aren’t going particularly well in Paul’s life; at least not on the surface, for he is sitting in prison as he writes. So, there he is, a prisoner, and do you see a single word about his situation?
No, not a single word; Paul is giving thanks for the Ephesians and their growth in the faith.
Beginning with verse 17, he tells us of his prayers that the Ephesians will grow in their understanding, that they will know God better, that they will know the riches of “the hope to which he has called you.” As he continues his thought, Paul does an amazing thing; he brings it all back to the church, His Body.
He mentions the “riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” and how, by the same great and mighty power with which God raised Jesus from the dead, the power that not only raised Him from the dead, but that placed Him in authority above every power, is being used for the benefit of His people both now and in times to come. How does God do this? He does it by using that awesome power not just to put Jesus over every authority and power, but to make Him the “head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. “
Did you catch “for the church?”
Why was Jesus placed above every power and authority? For the benefit of the church; His Body.
Think about that… Here is this guy Paul sitting in jail awaiting trial because he preached the gospel. His trial will take place in front of Nero of all people, and he is boldly telling the Ephesians about this hope that Jesus is above all authority “for the church”.
Paul understands, as most today do not, that what becomes of him is of little account, for God Almighty is fully engaged to accomplish His purpose through the church and no matter how things might appear on this earth, He does not intend to fail. Thus, the very same awesome power that raised Jesus from the dead and elevated Him to the highest of all high places will ensure that our inheritance in Christ will be realized; the issue is not in doubt.
Indeed it shames me when I think about the prayers I hear today, prayers for this and that little thing, prayers for comfort and ease, prayers for an easy life, and it shames me even more when I think about how often the voice I hear praying these prayers is my own. Just think, dear reader, of the power that would be unleashed if we approached prayer with the same attitude as that of Paul, who focused his attention on the purpose of the church, rather than upon his personal situation, who focused his thanksgiving and prayer upon the redemption and spiritual understanding of others, rather than upon his own relief.
I can’t help but think that if we allowed ourselves a more mature orientation, that God would do even greater things through us for His purpose in the here and now.