For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,…
For this cause 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; 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. In the whole passage we have Christian philanthropy and prayer. The apostle, who was a philanthropist of the highest type, here prays, not for himself, but for others; and prays, not for mere secondary and non- essential blessings, but for blessings paramount and vital. Let us attend to this intercessory prayer of his. A true minister is a true philanthropist, and will, like Christ, not only vicariously suffer for others, as we have seen, but will ever make intercessions for others. Intercessory prayer is the rarest and highest type of prayer. In answer to objections that are raised against it, four facts are ever to be kept in view.
1. It is an instinct of social love. Self-love urges a man to pray for himself, social love prompts the soul to address Heaven on behalf of others. What more natural than for a loving mother to pray for a suffering child, a loving pastor for his people, a loving citizen for his country? What is natural is Divine.
2. It is a soul discipline. Nothing exerts a higher influence upon the soul than the realization of the Divine presence in prayer; this quickens and hallows it. In intercessory prayer, however, there is this, and some- thing more; there is the taking of the soul out of the circle of itself, and expanding it with earnest, loving sympathies for others. Intercession lifts the spirit into fellow- ship with that God who careth for all.
3. It is a manifest Christian duty. We are not only commanded in Scripture to pray for others, but we have the highest examples - Moses, Abraham, Paul, Christ.
4. It has been crowned with wonderful success. The Bible abounds with examples. "Peter ... was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod .... And he came to the house of Mary ... where many were gathered together praying." This is only a specimen,
"For what are men better than sheep or goats,
That nourish a blind life within the brain,
If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer,
Both for themselves and those who call them friend?" Observe in this intercession -
I. THE GOD INVOKED. Who is he?
1. He is a Father. "I bow my knees unto the Father." In the New Testament the fatherhood of God is revealed. Christ speaks of him as the Father, and in his ideal prayer he is addressed as "Our Father." In this character Paul here addresses him. We see good reason for this.
(1) It makes the Object of prayer intelligible to the mind. Infinite Creator, universal Sovereign, absolute Proprietor, and Disposer; what finite mind can understand these characters? But a Father all know; paternity engaged the first attention, excited the first feelings, started the first thoughts. A child understands what a father is.
(2) It makes the Object of prayer attractive to the mind. Creator, Sovereign, Judge; are these attractive? By no means. They overawe, confound, repel. But fatherhood is attractive. The child joyously leaps into the arms of its father. Instead of cringing fear, there is filial love and boundless confidence.
(3) It makes the object of prayer transformative to the mind. Who has such a transformative power as the parent? Fatherhood moulds all characters, fashions history. Children naturally imitate the father they love. Are not these good reasons why we should look to God as a Father, and address him as such?
2. He is the Father of all holy intelligences. "Of whom the whole family." Or every family, every race in heaven or on earth. The expression must be limited to the intelligent creation, for he could not with propriety be called the Father of the irrational; we must go further, and say that the expression must be limited to the holy races of his intelligent creation, for he would not be the Father of the rebellious and the profane. A family relationship exists between all the holy intelligences, and God is the Father of all - Father of all unfallen angels and redeemed men. And although "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" may be out of its place in this passage, still it expresses a fact everywhere else revealed, that God is the Father of man's Redeemer, as well as of all other holy ones in the universe. What a family is God's! - loving, immense, ever-multiplying, harmonious, and ever-blest.
3. He is the Father possessing boundless bountihood. Paul speaks of the "riches of his glory." What is the glory of God? Not his power, not his wisdom, not his wealth, not his dominion, but his goodness. When Moses prayed, "I beseech thee show me thy glory," what was the answer? "I will cause all my goodness to pass before thee," as if he had said, "My goodness is my glory." And this goodness of his is inexhaustible. "The riches." It is higher than all heavens; it is deeper than all hells. Its majestic billows roll under all Gehennas.
II. THE GOOD INVOKED. What blessings did he seek?
1. Divine strength of soul. "To be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man."
(1) Every man has an "inner man" - the moral ego of his being. It is this inner man that interests humanity in God, duty, immortality.
(2) This inner man wants moral strength. It is enfeebled, it is crushed by sin. It is the slave of the appetite; it is "carnally sold unto sin." It wants strength to rise to its true lordship over the body, and to its rightful relation to God and his universe. How morally weak is the "inner man" - the very stamina of humanity!
(3) This moral strength must come from God. He who quickeneth all things must quicken this inner man, now dead in trespasses and sin. It can find help in no other way; its cry is, "O wretched man that I am! who can deliver from this bondage and death?"
2. The indwelling of Christ. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." There is no mystery about the indwelling of Christ. The heart that loves him supremely holds him as its constant Guest. As the author lives in the loving student, as the parent lives in the loving child, so in the same way, but in a higher degree, Christ lives in his loving disciples. His thoughts are their thoughts, his Spirit is their inspiration, his character is the very sun that quickens, lightens, and beautifies their being.
3. Stability of love. "That ye, being rooted and grounded in love." There is a love for Christ which is not rooted nor grounded; it is a passing sentiment, which, like a bubble, is thrown up on the stream of circumstances. The love of genuine Christianity is a rooted love. Rooted, not in something that can change and decay, but in the immutable excellence of God. Oh, to have all the fibers of the inner man struck into the Divine character, and rooted in God! Then, and not till then, will the soul be as the tree "planted by the rivers of water," etc. A religion whose love is not rooted is without
4. The comprehending of love. "That ye 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." Christ's love is intellectually immeasurable; "Who by searching can find it out?" And yet, though it passeth the knowledge of the intellect, there is a sense in which it can and must be known - known as a matter of consciousness, known as an all-controlling power. "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge," etc.
5. The reaching of Divine perfection. "That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God" - that ye might be filled up with the fullness of God. The idea is that you may "be perfect even as God is perfect." This is the standard set before us; we are to be holy, even as God is holy. Infinitely high as this is, nothing lower will meet the cravings of our moral nature or the full unfoldment of our endlessly advancing being. Heaven has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of God (Romans 8:29). Such was Paul's intercessory prayer. Let us seek that Divine philanthropy which made him such a mediator between God and man. The priesthood of this philanthropy is what we want. Avaunt to all others! They are impious impostors, profane intruders. The priesthood of Christian philanthropy is the only Divine priesthood in the universe. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,