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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Praying With Confidence" Eph. 3:14-21

“Praying With Confidence”
Eph. 3:14-21

For too many Christians, praying is like playing the lottery; they think they have about as much chance of getting their prayers answered as they do winning the lottery. What are the chances of winning the lottery? About 120 million to 1 in a multi-state lottery; 18 million to 1 in a single state game. And without faith when we pray, the odds are even worse. In fact, James says,

*“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

I want to help all of us become stable in all our ways, trusting God, taking Him at His word, knowing that He hears us, and since we know (or will know after this morning) that He hears us we can know that we can have what we ask for in accordance with His will.

None of us can afford to be shy when we approach the throne of grace.

TEXT/TRANS: Let's turn in our Bibles to Ephesians chapter 3, Eph., ch.3, and we'll begin with v.14. After praying this past Monday about this morning's sermon, this is what came to mind, this word on praying. And I believe it is what we need at this moment in the life of our congregation.
Eph. 3:14-21.

TRANS: I'm going to make several observations from this passage, concentrating on verses 20-21.

And the first of this three-fold foundation we might even say spells out the reason for the hope that is in us. This is how we can answer those who ask us for the reason for that hope. Peter wrote in his first letter, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Beginning in ch. 1:3 and continuing through ch. 2 this is that foundation for confidence:
      1. Blessed with every spiritual blessing
      2. Chosen before the foundation of the world in love to be His holy ones
      3. Made acceptable to God by God's glorious grace
      4. Adopted as His sons
      5. Redeemed through Christ's blood
      6. Heirs with Jesus
      7. Sealed with the Holy Spirit
      8. Guaranteed an eternal inheritance
      9. Empowered by the Spirit
      10. Made alive by His mercy
      11. Raised up with Christ seated in the heavenlies
      12. Brought near by the blood of Christ.
      13. At peace with God
      14. Under grace and not the law
      15. Reconciled to God
      16. Members of the household of God
      17. We are the holy temple of God, a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
      18. Enabled to know the unknowable

Look at 3:12, with what? “Confidence.” After recounting God's tremendous blessings of grace to us, now Paul says we can have boldness and confidence in our approach to our heavenly Father.

*Hebs. 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

TRANS: We've just seen what God has done for us. Our coming to Him confidently in prayer isn't based on who we are or what we've done, but solely on what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. That's the first fold. The second fold is found in 3:20. And what is it?

v.20 “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think.”
    That says it all, doesn't it? But we know this, don't we?
    It's enough to say that *God “is able.”
*The most common ailment among believers that prevents us from praying in faith is our self-imposed inability to see what is possible with God.

Listen to what the late Leon Morris wrote concerning this passage in Ephesians, *“Our praying is apt to be limited by what we think is possible. Even though we do not consciously set a limit to what we ask from God, yet being finite beings we pray as finite beings do. We have no conception of what almighty power can do.”

This is faith. It is the faith of Abraham, believing that God is able to do what He has promised to do and then acting on it.

*”He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”

Have you ever had the thought when you were in need of something, anything, “I know God can but I don't know if He will?” How do we get to the place where when we pray we can pray in faith? I want to suggest *five truths to remember when in doubt.
      1. Remember that God has made you in Christ absolutely acceptable and your prayers hearable. We have God's ear! We are “raised up with Christ Jesus, seated in the heavenlies, at the right hand of God.” We have God's ear; our prayers are hearable … and He hears.
      2. Remember that God never answers our prayers because we're good people. He answers our prayers because He has adopted us unto Himself by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
      3. Remember that unless we are praying for something that we will spend on our own lusts, God will hear and answer.
      4. Remember to asks with thanksgiving.
      5. Never let your circumstances limit your faith in God to answer your prayers.
Abraham and Sarah were old; David was an adulterer and a murderer and at times a coward. He disobeyed God and it cost the lives of 50 thousand of his men. No, I'm not saying that we can commit adultery or murder. But David is an example to us of the mercy and grace that are ours at the throne of grace.

God is able!” ----- “we are enabled.” V.20, “according to the power that works in us.”
There is power in prayer and there is power for prayer for those who know Jesus Christ.

ARGU: What does Paul mean by “according to the power that works in us?” Don't miss the connection with what Paul says in the beginning of this verse. Listen, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” And how does God do this exceedingly abundant above all that we ask or think work? “In accordance with, or, according to the power that works in us.”
There is a connection between us and our Father that can only be described as a “power connection.” And what is that connection? The Holy Spirit. It is the “resurrection power” that Paul prays will fill the church (Eph.1:19-21).

The normal Christian life is supposed to be a life of power in the Holy Spirit. Turn back to ch. 1, and v.19-20. And this power is available to every believer. This is power to witness to Christ, to witness about Christ, to bear witness to His life changing resurrection power, to bear testimony to what He has done and is doing in our lives, the power to do what God would have us to do. And it can be a life of Holy Spirit empowered prayer.
Mind you, this is power that is experienced; this is power that is felt. Make no mistake about it. “According to the power that works in us” tells us that if our prayers are dull and lifeless, we should continue in prayer until we know this power.

AND FINALLY, and here is what I see Paul saying in Ephesians, *“PRAY WITH GREAT EXPECTATIONS” Verses 20-21.
Learn to pray with great faith.
Learn to pray with great expectations.
Do what Spurgeon did, *”I believe that when we cannot pray, it is the time we prayed more than ever. And if you answer, 'But how can that be?' I would say, pray to pray. Pray for prayer. Pray for the spirit of supplication. Do not be content to say, 'I would pray if I could.' No, but if you cannot pray, pray till you can.”

Prayer is a discipline. It often isn't easy to pray. We can, however, practice praying. Prayer, like faith, is an area in the Christian's life that can be built up. (Jude 1:20).

Two essentials in one's prayer life are knowledge and faith. We need to be, we must be, and we can be convinced that God hears our prayers when offered according to His will and that He gladly gives His children what we ask.

*1 Jn. 5:14-15 says this, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”