So far, we've looked at Paul’s introduction to the letter, in which he drew us towards the wonder of God with us and for us, in Christ. He spends the next stretch explaining and expanding on those first verses. I’d encourage you to read through the rest of chapter 1, and chapter 2, as well as the first part of chapter 3, because today we’re going to jump to Ephesians 3: 14.
This is possibly my favourite part of possibly my favourite book in Scripture. I just love this section, which is a prayer offered by Paul, on behalf of the congregation that he’s writing to. Because I believe that the Holy Spirit continues to speak through these words, I believe that this prayer is for us, too, continually being offered before heaven’s throne.
Before we get to the content of the prayer, I want to say that I appreciate that having explained the things of faith, the mystery of God’s good will for us and all things, Paul doesn’t just leave us with information. He prays us into a new reality. Paul knows that faith comes alive not when we have the right information, but when we are completely immersed in a relationship with the God who made us, knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us beyond measure.
And that’s what prayer does. It’s not mostly about getting things, or getting God to do things for us. It’s about drawing near to the One who has drawn near to us. Prayer is the way that we move from our heads to our hearts, which is an essential movement if we’ll experience all that God has promised—every blessing heaven has to offer, like we were promised earlier.
In prayer, we spend time intentionally in God’s presence. God doesn’t go anywhere, but we tend to wander off. Prayer reorients us to God, and helps us to be shaped in God’s good will. We bring our whole selves—good, bad, and ugly—to the One whose love enlivens us, and whose grace will heal and make us whole. Prayer is the space where we can throw off every weight that weighs us down, every chain that binds (as Paul puts it elsewhere), and rest or run (whatever we need to do) in the broad space of God’s grace.
So Paul begins this prayer by addressing God intimately. This God—whom we know in Jesus—is the God who is intimate with us, who gets close. He says this: “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.” That’s today’s verse.
“Father” is the most widely used name for God, in the Christian tradition. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he told them to say: “Our Father in heaven…”. What’s important to understand is that this name doesn’t conform to our understandings of gender and sex. God is not a man in the sky. God transcends our ideas of gender and sex. When God creates humanity in the divine image, God creates male and female—both in God’s image.
But Father is still an important name for a few reasons: First, it confirms our intimacy with God. Remember, we are adopted into God’s family, brought fully into God’s household. We are part of the family business. It’s God’s name that defines us, and nothing less.
And we have access to God, in a way that we couldn’t have imagined—analogous to the way that we ideally have access to our earthly parents.
And this is the Divine Parent who knows how to give good gifts to his children. No matter whether we have the best earthly father, or the worst, our true Father is our heavenly one, whose love for us is perfect. That’s the reality we’re learning to live in.
What’s more, this Father image reminds us that Christian faith is about more than an individualistic belief system. It’s about being brought into a community of co-conspirators for the sake of God’s kingdom. We have a countless number of siblings—a great cloud of witnesses—with whom we are now in relationship, for God’s purposes.
And the way that Paul begins this prayer reminds us that this God isn’t just worried about a select few. This is the God who has bound his name to every family in heaven and earth, in love. This is the God who will gather up all things in Christ, when it’s all said and done.
I love that. I want to share it. And I want to learn to live in the wild truth of it.
May it be so.