Notes on the Prayers in Paul's Epistles

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In the Epistles of the Apostle Paul we may find five prayers for the saints, which follow in remarkable order.
PH 1:15-1:23"That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him." The soul is here led into immediate association with His glory present and future. "The Father of glory." We being now united with Him in glory, having been already quickened: yet how few are alive to all this!
"The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
Wisdom, revelation, and understanding, connected with knowledge, are needed, in order to enter into all this. The Ephesians were addressed as in a lower standing than the Thessalonians. They were " in God the Father." But here it is that "the Father of glory may give," etc. Paul asks these two things, wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that they may be enlightened to comprehend not merely the God of Christ, but of our Lord Jesus Christ, thus blending the two; and know " the hope of his calling": this does not mean our salvation, but our association with God, All that the Lord inherits now is the saints. What power we should have, if we realized that we are "His inheritance"!
19, 20. "And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised him from the dead, and set him at His own right hand in the heavenly places."
Here we find another step-resurrection; but peculiarly with reference to a present thing: the present power of God put forth not merely in quickening, but in raising up, and seating in heavenly places: the same mighty resurrection-power which raised His Son is now exercised to lift up our souls to Himself But man is so utterly dead, that who can realize thus being set so far above!
21. "Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come."
Paul here is tracing Him from higher to lesser glory. How ought such a view as this to lead us to a true estimate of forms and ordinances down here. What have we to do with such?
22, 23. "And hath put all things under His feet, and gave him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."
The glory which fills the church as an empty vessel" the fullness of Him that filleth all in all."
PH 3:14-3:2114-16. " I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man."
A prayer in association with the Father. Remark here, a distinction between this and the previous prayer 1:3, 17, " The God and Father," etc. Here it is " the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," shelving a distinct. realization of Christian association with the family.
17-19. " That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be. able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God."
Every day we need to learn more of this height and depth of love. In the first prayer, the apostle's desire is that we may know the position of the church as so set in the heavenlies; for the more we know of God's glory, the more we are fitted to understand His love who brought us into such a place. Therefore this wondrous mystery had been hidden so long because the church was not prepared to receive it until now;-"Strengthened with might by His Spirit" that they " might be filled with all the fullness of God." He first prays that they may know what the church is, and then that they may practically learn this, and enter into it. In the first prayer, he asks that they may have the kno. w-ledge of God; in this prayer, that they may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. We may find here a sevenfold blessing supplicated, closing with asking that we might be " filled with all the fullness of God," beyond this the apostle cannot go, therefore he casts us on Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (20, 21): and who will have glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
HI 1:9-1:11" And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."
Paul here prays for practical blessing, that their love may abound, and that they may be filled with the fruits of righteousness.
First, he prayed that they might have the knowledge of the Father; secondly, that they might know the love of Christ, and here that their love may abound. Beautiful order in all this, in accordance with the character of each Epistle. The one to the Ephesians is addressed to them as revealing their position, and the love of Christ in bringing them into that high place. Here it is from servants to servants,-and that they may act like Christ the perfect servant. See Paul's service in chap. 1, Christ's service in chap. ii.; also the service of Timothy; and that of the Philippians, who were not only standing in the same blessing and grace as the Ephesians, but they had " fellowship in the gospel" unitedly seeking God's glory. We ought to watch opportunities for serving one another and for fellowship. What a depth of joy there is in Christian fellowship-in realized union -we ought to seek to cultivate this.
"Love" abounding "in knowledge" should be in the intelligence of the mind of God. Our love may not be true, because not in consistency with God's love. God always punishes a fault, and never passes it over: I might exhibit false love to a saint, and do away with God's discipline.
Paul prays that their love may be of such a high character, because they were in such a high place that he could thank God upon every remembrance of them (ver. 3).
We should ever be willing to receive any chastisement of our Father. " Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions" (Psa. 99:88Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions. (Psalm 99:8)).
Suppose we are acting in any way contrary to God, He punishes but forgives (see David, etc.) We ought to love as God loves, "in all judgment," that is true love. "By this we know" that we love the children of God, when we "love God" and "keep His commandments"; but we must never go on in evil with our brethren. God's love is a perfect love; and our love to one another should be like His.
"That ye may approve things that are excellent." A quick sight and sense to take up what is excellent-a fine sense of spiritual discernment.
Refinement of spiritual sense is alone known by that heart who is walking with and in the Lord.
In passing through a world of evil, we ought to touch only those "things that are excellent," and thus seek to "walk worthy" and "without offense." "That ye may be sincere"-we fail most here; it is the last thing we attain: we are made up of deceit to God and to man.
Look back at a past day, and see what failure. But let there be full acknowledgment and confession, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin; but there must be a true and hearty desire to turn away from everything that is insincere, that we may be " without offense till the day of Christ." We should earnestly seek to be no stumbling-block to others, causing no scandal, but exhibit Christ in our walk. If we thus closely tested our hearts, blessing would surely follow.
"Abound" in love,-approve things excellent, and be sincere and without offense till the Lord's return. Everything we do now should be with reference to that day when we shall be acknowledged openly by Him, and all so done will be gain to us as done to the Lord, and will have a future reward; all will be loss if we are walking in the flesh.
" Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.". Marvelous words! What condemnation to each -how are our fruits manifested? Are any of us filled • with the fruits of righteousness? A few may show forth a little fruit here and there; but no words can express more fullness even to excess than these. All fruit will be to the praise of God's glory and that by us! He gets glory by us! Oh, who would not desire to give it to Him? Every act goes back to Him and He remembers all! First, abound in love; second, approve things that are excellent; third, be filled with fruits to the glory and praise of God.
OL 1:9-1:14The various characters of these prayers are founded on what the apostle had heard of their condition (ver. 3, 4, 8); they had faith and love to all the saints in the Spirit: this was not mere natural affection. What we see of Christ in each other that alone will stand.
Here he prays " that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be par:- takers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Paul asks that the Colossians may be strengthened with all might, and "filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding"-wise in spiritual applications. Many gather up much of God's word and wisdom, etc., and yet have not spiritual intelligence and comprehensiveness.
He first prays that they may be filled with the knowledge of His will; and then follows the exhortation to walk worthy: the will being known, then comes the walk "worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing"; and then being fruitful in every good work, going on increasing in the knowledge of God. Know and then act. Lastly, he prays that they may be strengthened unto all patience and long suffering with joyfulness, and give thanks for being made fit for the inheritance of the saints in. light, as also for being delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of Christ.
All this is shown to be a present thing-secure-"hath delivered from the power of darkness," "lath translated us into the kingdom," etc., "have redemption," etc.
If, in suffering, we contemplate the greatness of the inheritance, the trial sinks into insignificance. Let us note the remarkable order in which these prayers follow each other.
TH 1:11-1:12" Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
This church was in the highest standing; therefore we find a deeper order of truth in this prayer, and a closer application. " We are bound to thank God always for you-your faith groweth exceedingly-charity aboundeth," etc. Paul entreats for the Colossians, that they might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, giving thanks for the love manifested by them; but here he asks, that " God would count them worthy of this calling." How? By putting suffering on them-such honor!
They had received the word in much affliction at the first (1 Thess. 1:66And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost: (1 Thessalonians 1:6)), and now Paul says, " we glory in you in the churches of God," for your patience in " persecution (4, 5) and tribulation that ye endure," " counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer." Like old John Bradford, thanking God at the stake for the honor of suffering for Him.
The Thessalonians were " in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"; then note their conduct, " faith groweth exceedingly," and charity aboundeth, patience in persecution, thus " counted worthy" to suffer (see 1-5). But, alas! how little our hearts estimate this honor.
The Galatians and Hebrews were not fit for this; but the Thessalonians had evidenced a true testimony (ver. 10); and in the second chapter, Paul can say, " we are bound to give thanks always to God for you. Therefore they were to rejoice that they were counted worthy of this calling, knowing that " the Lord is faithful to stablish and keep" them.
Paul desires that they may not only be counted worthy to suffer, but "fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power" (ver. 11). That is the power of faith in endurance; "the good pleasure of his goodness," that the name of the Lord may be glorified; your sufferings to minister to His glory! Marvelous place to put the creature in! "Ye in Him."
Works failed to glorify Him in creation (see Rom. 1), so that the only way God gets glory is in the walk, and ways, and sufferings of His people I