by The Rt. Rev. Daniel R. Morse
In this passage, the Apostle Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that he is praying for them, that he ceases not to give thanks for them, making mention of them in his prayers to God. We have already remarked on the fact that his prayer is divided, as prayer always should be, into thanksgiving, which includes general adoration and worship, and then petition. We now come to consider how the Apostle offers his petitions to God. We have here a great object lesson in this respect. There is perhaps no aspect of our Christian life that so frequently raises problems in people’s minds as prayer. And it is right that such should be the case, because prayer is, after all, the highest activity of the human soul.
Of course, those who “say their prayers” mechanically are not aware of any difficulties; all seems so simple. They simply repeat the Lord’s Prayer and offer up a few petitions and they imagine that they have prayed. But such a person has not started praying. The moment you begin to face what really happens in prayer you find inevitably that it is the profoundest activity in which you have ever engaged. It is not surprising that disciples of our Lord turned to him one day and said, “Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught his disciples” (Lk. 11:1). But they were probably not only thinking at that moment of John and his disciples; they had also been watching their Lord himself and the way He repeatedly withdrew for prayer.
The Apostle takes the trouble to tell us exactly what he prays and why he prays as he does. The first thing we observe is that the Apostle prays to God the Father. It is interesting to observe that the Bible, speaking generally, teaches us to address our prayers to God the Father.
I pause to make this point for one reason only, namely, that I have sometimes gained the impression that many Christians seem to think that the hallmark of spirituality is to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ. But when we turn to the Scriptures we discover that that is not really so, and that, as here, prayers are normally offered to the Father. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Mediator, not the end; He is the One who brings us to the Father. We go to the Father by him; He is the great High Priest; He is our representative. Normally we do not pray to him, but to the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second matter which we observe is the way in which the Apostle prays to the Father. Let us pay close attention to his terms and ask ourselves why he said certain things, and expresses his thoughts in the way he does. It is good to talk to the Scriptures, to take every phrase carefully and ask, “Why did he say this, why that?” The Apostle pauses to remind himself of certain things. He has been reminding them of the riches of God’s grace, and of his rejoicing in the fact that they have experienced it. On their behalf he desires to thank God, but before doing so he pauses to remind himself of the One to whom he is going to speak.
He prays, he says, to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Why does he begin his words about prayer in this manner? Why does he not start with his first request? The answer is that he deliberately says he is not praying to an unknown God. He is going into the presence of God Who is known to him, the God who has made himself known by Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament we find that the Psalmist and others prayed to “the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.” It is difficult for us to realize what such a phrase meant to an Old Testament believer. Their tendency was to be afraid to approach God. But then they remembered that this God was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and this caused them to feel that they were praying to a God whom they knew.
The Apostle, however, does not pray to “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob”; he prays to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ”; and he does so because there is a new covenant in the Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul reminds himself that he is praying to the God of our salvation, he is praying to the God who has originated and brought to pass all the things we have been considering from verse 3 to verse 14 in our chapter. He is praying to the God who has, before the foundation of the world, planned his glorious purpose in Christ for our final complete salvation. What a difference it makes to prayer when you begin in that manner! You no longer go to God with doubts as to whether He is going to receive you. You realize that you are approaching “the God of peace that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20).
St. Paul, however, goes even further, for his words remind us that God is actually the God of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Do we realize what that means? The Lord Jesus relied on God for everything; it was God who sustained him. Nothing is so obvious about our Lord’s life as his complete reliance upon God the Father. He received strength and power from him. So Paul says that he is praying to the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who sustained him, the God who never forsook him. Even the terrible moment on the Cross when Jesus asked why God had forsaken him, was immediately followed by “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). It was God who raised him from the dead, who did not forsake him in hell or “leave his soul to see corruption.” This is the God to whom I am praying, says Paul, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But even beyond that, He is the God in whose presence the Lord Jesus Christ is at this moment. He is seated at the right hand of the Father, “ever living to make intercession for us.” In the light of all this we can go with assurance to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
We can sum it up by saying that our God is the God who cannot be thought of truly apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, because we cannot know God without him. “No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him” (Jn. 1:18). I enter into his presence in one way only, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says: “Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). I am only admitted into the presence of God by the life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Whenever we pray to God we should always remind ourselves of these things. We should approach God with full assurance of faith, and full assurance of hope, because of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But the Apostle adds even more; he describes the God of our Lord Jesus Christ as “the Father of glory.” Remember the words spoken to Moses at the burning bush: “Take off your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5). “The Father of glory!” There can be no doubt but that this means, partly, that God is the source of all glory. Glory is God. The ultimate characteristic of God is glory. He is that in and of himself. We can only stand in amazement before this expression, “the Father of glory.” And this is the One whom you and I approach in prayer.
Moreover, everything God does is a manifestation of his glory. We recall how Paul ended his description of the plan of salvation in the words “unto the praise of his glory”, in verse 14. Paul says in the Epistle to the Romans that Christ was raised from the dead “by the glory of the Father” (6:4). “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19:1). Everything He does is glorious, perfect in its beauty and in every other respect. I speak with reverence when I say that the greatest thing the Lord Jesus Christ did was to manifest the glory of God.
But Paul’s expression can also be read legitimately as “the glorious Father.” It is a form of expression frequently found in the Hebrew language. In that case it means that God the Father is not only glorious, and the source of all glory, and the summation of all glory in himself, He is also prepared to impart that glory. He is a Father, and as a Father He gives glory. He did so with the Son, and so we find our Lord saying in the seventeenth chapter of John’s Gospel: Father, I pray that you would give me the glory I had with you before the foundation of the world (17:5). He had laid aside that glory for the purpose of the Incarnation, and now He asks that He may have it again. And the Father gave it to him.
The Apostle Peter writes, “Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God” (1 Pet. 1:21). The Father glorified the Son while He was here on earth. He gave him power to perform miracles, He gave him words to speak, He enabled him to raise the dead; He glorified him in his death, He glorified him in the resurrection. He is the glorious Father, the Father who gives his glory to the Son. This is a thought which staggers us because of its immensity, but it is true to say that, because He gives his glory to the Son, He is ready to give it also to us.
We are in the Son because He is our Lord Jesus Christ. So the glory that is in him becomes ours; and we go to the Father who is giving us this glory. Paul is about to pray that these Ephesians may have “the spirit of wisdom and of revelation” in the knowledge of this glory, so that, the eyes of their understanding being opened, they may see this glory and receive it fully.
Our Lord said, “Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory” (Jn. 17:24). When we go in prayer into the presence of God we should do so expecting some revelation of this glory. “We all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image, from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18). The process of our glorification has already started; it will eventually be perfected, and we shall be glorified even in our bodies as well as in our spirits. We shall stand in the presence of the Father of glory and see him.
Let us never again attempt prayer without reminding ourselves that we are going to speak to “the Father of glory.” We need not be terrified; we must go with reverence and godly fear because of his glorious character; but at the same time we can go with confidence and assurance, because He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in him and through him our Father. So we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name.” And if we start in that way we cannot go wrong.