Paul’s second prayer in Ephesians (3:14-21) isn’t a causal or simple prayer—it is an intense and focused prayer for the fullness of Christ in the lives of Paul’s readers.

While we often don’t place much significance on the posture of prayer, Paul emphasizes that this prayer is done on his knees before the Father.

In this expositional message, Nathan Johnson talks about the biblical posture of prayer, why Paul is emphasizing bowing his knees, and what this practically means for our own prayer lives.

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Key Passage: Ephesians 3:14

Ephesians 3:14-21For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

A Simple Bible Study Resource

Biblically there are a lot of different postures of prayer

  • 1 Timothy 2:8 [uplifted hands] – Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
  • Luke 18:11, 13 [standing] – The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” … But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”
  • Mark 6:41 [eyes lifted to heaven] – And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.
  • Daniel 6:10 [kneeling] – Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.
  • 1 Kings 18:42 [face between knees] – Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees.
  • Ezekiel 9:8 [falling face down] – As they were striking the people and I alone was left, I fell on my face and cried out saying, “Alas, Lord GOD! Are You destroying the whole remnant of Israel by pouring out Your wrath on Jerusalem?”
  • 1 Kings 1:47b [bowing down in bed] – … And the king [David] bowed himself on the bed.
  • Psalm 63:6 [in bed] – When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches …
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17 [at all times] – … pray without ceasing …

Warren W. Wiersbe – You have noticed, no doubt, the emphasis on spiritual posture in Ephesians. … when we trusted Christ, He raised us from the dead and seated us with Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:4–6). Because we are seated with Christ, we can walk so as to please Him (Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 8, 15); and we can stand against the devil (Eph. 6:10–13). But the posture that links “sitting” with “walking” and “standing” is “bowing the knee.” It is through prayer that we lay hold of God’s riches that enable us to behave like Christians and battle like Christians. Whether we actually bow our knees is not the important thing; that we bow our hearts and wills to the Lord and ask Him for what we need is the vital matter.

Bowing the Knee Emphasizes:

  1. Humility
    • Humility (Greek) – Seeing/judging yourself low to the ground
    • 1 Peter 5:5b – … all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.
  2. Submission & Loyalty
    • Coming under the authority of
    • Bowing before a King
    • Giving loyalty
    • Exodus 23:24 (ESV) – you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.
    • 1 Kings 19:18 – Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.
    • Also see Romans 11:4
  3. Honor/Reverence
    • A sign of respect
  4. Weakness
    • Knees buckle in weakness
    • Sign of brokenness and helplessness (I need God)
  5. Worship
    • Hebrew “worship” – literally: to bow down
    • Psalm 95:6-8a – Come, let us worship [bow down] and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts …
  6. An intensity of emotion
    • Luke 22:41, 44 – And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, … And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
  7. Focus/Intentionality in prayer
    • Kneeling brings focus and intentionality to our praying

Leonard Ravenhill – Edward Payson, better known as praying Payson of Portland, was another great prayer warrior. He used to kneel at the side of his bed and pray, and pray, and pray. When they washed his body for burial, they found great big pads on his knees like a camel has. Tradition says that James had camel’s knees, but it’s a living fact that Payson had them. When they were washing him, somebody said, “What abnormal knees. They’re heavy with callouses.” That’s because he used to pray at the side of his bed with energy—and he wore two grooves about six or seven inches long into that hard floor where he used to pray and make intercession.

Other Scripture passages mentioned:

  • Isaiah 45:23 – I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
  • Philippians 2:10 – so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth …
  • Isaiah 57:15 – For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

In Our Next Study Together …

I invite you to join me on this journey from the book of Ephesians to discover God’s eternal purpose, His plan for your life, and learn how to practically live out an abundant and fruitful Christian life. 

  • The focus of our next study: Ephesians 3:14
  • We will examine the importance of names in Scripture and what it means that we derive our name from the Father, as found in Ephesians 3:15.
  • I encourage you to read through Ephesians a couple of times this week and focus specifically on Ephesians 3:14-21.

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About The Deeper Christian Bible Study Series

The Deeper Christian Bible Study Series in Ephesians is a Christ-centered practical in-depth verse-by-verse study of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Join NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) as he expositionally preaches from this incredible book – which will help you grow in your faith, gain greater intimacy with Jesus, and understand how to study God’s Word.

Many Christians feel frustrated because they don’t grow spiritually. Deeper Christian equips Christians to understand the Word of God and cultivate a passionate love for Jesus that turns the world upside down.

About NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson)

NRJohnson (Nathan Johnson) is a Christian who has an overwhelming passion for Jesus, the Gospel, and Studying God’s Word. He is a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps Christians discover and experience a passionate love for God and His Word so that they can grow in their faith, live victorious lives, share the Gospel boldly, grow in their intimacy with Jesus, and transform the world through the indwelling life of Christ.
Read more about him here.

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