“to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21)
Not surprisingly, Paul concludes his doxology in Verse 21 and the prayer itself with a tribute to God both contextually (“in the church and in Christ Jesus”) and range of scope (“to all generations forever and ever”).
As is the case with most of Paul’s New Testament letters containing his prayers, this one has a dual nature: impacting believers both individually and corporately through the Body of Christ. Each request expressed by Paul in his prayer here is a godly means to the same end: glorifying God. Such an attitude is nothing new for Paul, having already referenced God’s glory five times in this letter’s opening chapter alone.
If so granted by God from “the riches of His glory” (Verse 16), the recipients of Paul’s prayerful requests will have received much more than they could ever hope to give in return. For nobody can out give God. Yet, while God’s spiritual blessings infinitely help individual believers—and entire congregations—grow and mature in their faith, the goal remains to give God acknowledging glory—just for who He is—as well as the glory He deserves for whatever those blessings produce in accomplishing His will.
Paul once again reminds us with the closing words of this doxology of just how far the extent of God’s glory reaches—even beyond anything we can possibly measure—extending to “all generations forever and ever.” Therefore, believers should consider eternity for those around them now and for future generations. Doing so means setting a godly example for each new generation whenever possible. Believers are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” as Paul later wrote (Ephesians 5:1) and of his own example: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). In other words, be genuine imitators… not merely cheap imitations.
Again, keep in mind that Paul is writing to “the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus” representing those on whose behalf Paul is praying to the Father. Yet, each element of Paul’s prayer applies to them collectively, as well. Similarly, prayer itself encompasses both environments of personal relationship with Christ and the broader-scale mission of the body of Christ. Consequently, prayer should not be limited primarily to just one or the other, thereby creating an unhealthy balance. A healthy body of believers is evidenced by spiritually-healthy individual members who themselves are building upon the solid foundation of Christ.
Prayer fulfills many roles and purposes. Of course, communicating directly with God stands out the most, as through the advocacy of the Holy Spirit and Jesus believers can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16). We have seen God at work through prayers lifted to Him by believers for temporal/eternal health needs—both of physical/spiritual nature—for believers and unbelievers. Prayer also offers opportunities to encourage fellow believers in their faith walk. Sometimes we may struggle knowing how to encourage another believer unless we ask them the question “How can I pray for you?” But Scripture is already packed with so many things that we could be asking God to grant them from His vast storehouse of love, grace and mercy. Things that only God can provide to sustain us and to empower us through His Spirit. For example, we can pray the prayer of this series or any number of Paul’s other prayers that focus on eternal things and that also help us to endure the temporal.
Prayer provides a way of showing God respect; humbling ourselves before Him; worshiping Him in spirit and truth; acknowledging who He is as Almighty God, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… and the list goes on; and simply praising His holy Name. Praising God’s Name is another way to give Him glory and honor. As mentioned early on, Paul’s thankful heart and attitude following his Damascus Road conversion helped to shape his ministry efforts going forward.
Having grown up through the Pharisaic ranks, Paul quite possibly knew of, learned from, recited or even sung from the Book of Psalms. Therefore, Paul was well versed in the Old Testament’s many references to God’s faithfulness. Paul could draw upon his recollection of God’s faithfulness to all generations by virtue of Christ fulfilling the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. Perhaps, Paul may have recalled Psalm 145:1-4:
“I will extol Thee, my God, O King; And I will bless Thy name forever and ever. Every day I will bless Thee, And I will praise Thy name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Thy works to another. And shall declare Thy mighty acts.”
To extol God means to praise Him enthusiastically. King David’s words of Psalm 145 may not have been on Paul’s mind when he wrote this prayer’s doxology, but, there can be no question that Paul was enthusiastic in his ongoing praise for his Lord and Savior Christ Jesus, likely resulting in a heart-felt Amen.
When we pray to God and bring our conversation to a close with the word “Amen,” we are effectively saying “until we meet again,” through God’s word or prayer. In other words, “Amen” doesn’t represent a final farewell for a believer. However, physical death for an unbeliever instantly becomes just that—a final farewell—separation from family, friends and, most importantly, God… for eternity. Therefore, praying for the eternal things of one’s life takes on immense proportion when compared to anything else.
Our first reaction to learning of the passing of somebody we know is often, “Did that person know the Lord?” A possibly devastating answer should prompt us to change that question from one of “past tense” to “present tense”. Instead of waiting too long to ask “Did that person know the Lord?” turn it around by asking “Does that person know the Lord?” This, of course, means building a relationship with that person while we are still alive, and through that process, finds out where they stand with the Lord. The process begins with prayer.
By definition, “Amen” is more a statement of confirmation than punctuation. “Amen” represents a pause or a comma, instead of a period, in the prayerful conversations we have with God.
Part Seven of this series challenges us to apply this prayer both personally and collectively. Is Amen the end?
All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
Alan Summers, GBC Elder