As we continue in our conversation about prayer, keep in mind that this is all leading to Paul’s climatic conclusion in Ephesians 3:20, where he says, “Now to Him [God], who is able to do far, abundantly beyond all that we can ask or imagine.” Consider how different the world would be if, as we pray, we recognize that we are inviting the favor of the Lord to work in our lives. Dream of how different the church would be if, as we pray, we confidently believed that God not only hears us, but that He will answer with abundance.
One of the things that makes this noteworthy is because in the Jewish way of praying, it was customary to stand. In the book of Luke, Jesus tells His disciples a story where a Pharisee stood in the temple and prayed and a tax collector stood in the temple and prayed (see Luke 18:9-14). Both men, regardless of their spiritual or social state stood in prayer before the Lord. Justin Martyr, Origen, Jerome and Augustine each wrote of standing during prayer as a sign of respect to the Lord. Yet in Ephesians 3, Paul makes it a point to emphasize that he bowed before the Father. The act of bowing might suggest a few things that were present in Paul’s prayer life:
First, it may suggest that there is an earnestness in his prayer. A half-hearted prayer does not pray. It is ignorant for us to believe that if we come before the Lord distracted and lethargic that it will lead to abundance. When Paul gets down on his knees, it is a signature of submission and earnestness as if he is saying, “Lord, I am coming to You, determined and dialed in. I am getting down on my knees and getting a hold of God!” Earnestness is boldly saying what is on our mind. In James 5:17, it speaks about how Elijah also prayed earnestly. The idea is that he pray-prayed; he doubly prayed. He prayed with intensity. If we desire to see the power of God working in our circumstances it is important for earnestness to be staple in our prayer life.
Second, it may be a sign of humble dependence on the Lord. When we pray it should neither be a performance for others or a recital for God. Despite what other people may think of us, we ought to have a humble dependence on the Lord. We are nothing without Him. We are not created to be insecure or self-belittling, but the very bottom line is that we have to have God. When we try to earn favor based only on our own merit, we are placing a handicap on our own success... The Lord is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine... Powerful prayers require earnestness and a humble dependence on the Lord.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, Jesus answered, “When you pray, say Father,” (see Matthew 6). Jesus didn’t see the Father as indifferent or distant; He saw the Father as merciful, loving and ready for conversation. John 1:12, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” If you feel like God is always disappointed with you, then perhaps you are not serving the God of the Bible... because the God of the Bible is absolutely delighted with His children. 1 John 3, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us!” The love the Lord has for us is overwhelming and heart empowering.
We tend to allow our view of our earthly fathers influence our view of the Heavenly Father. For many of us, this is something we need to work through. Martin Luther said, “When I pray the Lord’s prayer I struggle with the first few words: ‘Our Father’ because my own father was a harsh, unrelenting man.” God is the Father in the best sense that we could ever have a Father. Understanding our relationship with God is absolutely fundamental to powerful prayer.
John Owen said, “Just remember that He is our most loving Father. Every other discovery of God without understanding this will make our soul fly from Him.” If you or I were to really understand the holiness of God...His justice, His power... but not also understand the relationship of a Father; our souls would cower from Him in fear.
When a child is born, they learn how to love because of the love shown to them through their parents or their grandparents. “We love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 It is because our relationship dynamic with God as a Father that we are able to come before Him at all.
He is God to be respected; a Father to be revered.
Director of Student Ministries