From the pages of the Herald of Holiness, September 1941.



From the pages of the Herald of Holiness, September 1941.

Note: All scriptures are from Ephesians.

The prayers of St. Paul in this epistle are like a Scala Santa, in which the apostle not only prays but leaves us a record of his prayers at each level of spiritual attainment. In the “Prayer for Spiritual Progress” (1:15-23), the apostle was brought to a view of Christ as an Intercessory Presence at the right hand of God. With this enlarged view of Christ as Mediator, there comes the possibility of entering into sufferings with Christ for the salvation of others.

All through these two prayers there are new visions of Christ, and consequently “new departures” in the life of grace. We may add that the first prayer appears to have been offered at the altar of incense, the second before the blood-sprinkled mercy seat in the holy of holies.

The First Step: Intercessory prayer is crushed out of us by heavy responsibilities. “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (3:14). The preceding verses reveal something of the heavy burden under which the great apostle labored to “preach to the Gentiles,” and “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery.” The weight of responsibility placed upon him brought the apostle to his knees in intercessory prayer, and it is a like burden for the salvation of the lost that brings us to our knees. Intercessory prayer is crushed out of us.

The Second Step: The fading of the boundary lines. “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (3:15). Here there is a fading of the boundary lines between our present state and the spiritual realm which lies out before and above us. The real communion of saints lies in this, that both those on earth and in heaven form one spiritual family. “Part of the host have crossed the flood and part are crossing now.” We never pray an intercessory prayer until we reach out beyond the things that are seen and lay hold of the spiritual forces in the realms above us. We must come to the throne of grace in the celestial temple—we must let loose of all earthly trusts and rely fully upon the spiritual power supplied by the Holy Spirit if we are to become true intercessors.

The Third Step: The strengthening of the Spirit. “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (3:16). With this deeper insight into spiritual things comes a fresh incursion of divine power. St. Paul prays that God will give us—it is a divine gift, not a human acquisition—of His might and power, on a scale and in a manner which accord with the wealth of His glory; and this through the Holy Spirit, the Gift of God to the Church at Pentecost.

The Fourth Step: The consciousness of the indwelling Christ. “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” (3:17-19a). Here St. Paul prays that Christ may take up His lasting habitation in the hearts of His people by faith, coming in a sense so great and deep as to constitute a continuous consciousness of His presence. In the earlier stages of Christian experience, we must learn to walk by faith in the absence of all feeling; here faith has so triumphed that Christ continually abides in consciousness, not as a guest, but as the Master resident in His own habitation.

The Fifth Step: All the fullness of God. “That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (3:19b). Here is a knowledge marvelously developed, and yet a love which gloriously transcends it – forever inviting and alluring us on in what we call knowledge, for it is infinite. Whatever is grace in the Giver can become grace in the receiver. Here love is likened to a pyramid—the height depending upon the base laid in the breadth of our love for others, the length of our love in patience and forbearance, the depth of our love in suffering – all contributing to the height of divine love possible to man.

The entire prayer culminates in a gracious ascription of praise: “Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (3:21).