Ephesians 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,”
As a young boy, growing up in Kansas and attending church with my parents, usually multiple times a week, there was a certain reverence for the things of God. My memories of all the dear men and women in the church I grew up in include them being dressed in what used to be referred to as the “Sunday go to meetins.’ Everyone was dressed up for church. My Dad always wore a jacket and tie, my mother always wore a dress, as did everyone else. I distinctly remember when I was in junior high a family in our church began letting their boys wear shorts to church. This was not looked upon favorably by my mother and I’m sure by others in the church. Why did we dress up? What was the purpose in putting on nice clothes and going to church? The point of this exercise was that we were going to God’s house, we were going to worship God, and we want to then worship Him by wearing nice clothes, by appearing our best. I never felt that my parents were doing this to show-off in any manner. They did this and they expected us to do this because it demonstrated a certain reverence for God. I fear that to some extent we have in large measure lost this in the church today. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying: I do not believe what one wears, or does not wear to church determines their love for God. I do believe that our culture has changed and that in our modern context we can indeed worship and have reverence for God in cowboy boots and Wranglers. As Paul begins this prayer which we will be looking at over the next little while, the first thing that he mentions to the Ephesians is that he is bowing his knees in prayer.
Paul begins this prayer with “For this reason.” So what is “this reason?” It is found in chapter 2. Christ makes us spiritually alive (2:5), we are “His workmanship” (v.10), “no longer strangers and aliens, but…fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (v.19), “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (v.20), and “are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (v.22). “For this reason,” means that our new identity makes us the dwelling place of God. Paul then prays for the Ephesians to use the power that their now great status in Christ provides. So often, in fact too often, we forget of our status now that we are in Christ Jesus. Because God’s power is in the Ephesian believers and in all believers, Paul prays that God would enable them to employ the fullness of that power. You see, as believers we are the habitation of the triune, all-powerful God of the universe, Paul prays that their unlimited energy from Him would be manifested. This is our prayer as well!
The truth that the omnipotence of God dwells in the impotence of man is so majestic, so magnificent, so elevated that we would expect the apostle Paul to address God as the eternal King of glory or by some other exalted title. But instead he says, “I bow my knees before the Father.”“Father” is the same name that Jesus always used in His prayers, and the one He used when He taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6. Because God is our heavenly “Father,” we do not come to Him in fear and trembling. We do not come to Him afraid that He will reject us or rebuff us or that He will be indifferent to us. We do not come to God to appease Him as the pagans do to their deities. We come to a tender, loving, concerned, compassionate, accepting “Father.” Just as a loving human father always accepts the calls of his children, even when they have been disobedient or ungrateful; how much more then does our heavenly Father accept His children, regardless of what they have done or not done? Paul then approaches the “Father” with boldness and confidence, knowing that He is more willing for His children to come to Him than we are of going to Him. Paul knows, as we should know, that God has been waiting all the while with a Father’s heart of love and anticipation.
Paul says, “I bow my knees before the Father.” Now it is important for us to understand that Paul is not prescribing a required posture for prayer. Paul did not always pray while kneeling, and Scripture tells us that God’s people prayed in many different positions. But in Scripture, bowing the knees signifies several things that may have prompted Paul to mention that position here. First of all, getting back to my original point, kneeling represents an attitude of reverence and submission, the recognition that one is in the presence of someone who is of much higher rank, dignity, and authority; we must never forget this. Psalm 95:1-6 says, “O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God and a great King above all gods, In whose hand are the depths of the earth, The peaks of the mountains are His also. The sea is Him, for it was He who made it, And His hands formed the dry land.” Then verse 6, “Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
Secondly, we see references to bowing the knee before God in times of intense passion and emotion. Ezra fell to his knees heartbroken over hearing of the intermarriage of Israelites with their pagan neighbors. He fell to His knees and stretched out his hands in confession on their behalf in Ezra 9:5-6. When Daniel heard that King Darius had signed the edict devised by the jealous commissioners and satraps forbidding the worship of any god besides the king, it says in Daniel 6:10, “he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God.” Daniel knew that his continued worship of the true God would result in his being thrown into the lion’s den. As Paul met one last time with the Ephesian elders at Miletus it says in Acts 20:36, “he knelt down and prayed with them all.”
As Paul prays for the Ephesians here, he feels led to bow his knees before the Father on their behalf, not because the position or any other is especially holy or sacred, but because it spontaneously reflects his reverence for God’s glory in the midst of his passionate prayer. Let us pray in the same way as we pray for one another. That each of us will grow in Christ and that we will understand that Christ is in us and therefore the saving power of the Gospel is in each of us as well.