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Prayer and Perseverance

Date: 21 January 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan Sermon Text: Ephesians 3:14 - 21

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Blessed Sunday morning to everyone both here in Henderson and those participating online.

As Ps Luwin has shared, we are going through a mini-sermon series on Trellis and the Vine. Today, we will be focusing on Prayer and Perseverance.

How many of us work on our core muscles in our body?

Our core muscles are around the central part of our body. It includes our pelvis, lower back, hips and stomach.

Our core muscles work in harmony to give us better balance and steadiness. Enables us to have stability.

Good core muscle strength is not just necessary for playing sports.

It’s essential to get you out of bed in the morning, to bend down to wear your shoes, to carry your precious grandchild and to just walk unaided up and down the stairs.

I’ve taken this for granted until about 15 years ago when I discovered that the spinal discs in my lower back were fully dehydrated. That caused me back muscle spasms and electric currents going down the back of my legs.  

These last few years, I still get around 2 to 3 episodes of such attacks per year and I think this usually happens when I forget the good medical advice, to keep strengthening my core muscles.

In our study of the Trellis and the Vine, 4 core elements are offered for us as we seek to move people to the right. As we seek to move people into God’s kingdom and to be more like Christ.

Last week Ps Luwin began with the pre-eminent core element, that is Proclamation. It is the word of God that forms, informs and transforms.

Consider with me, between informs and transform, there is a significant jump right?

I know that my core muscles need to be strengthen yet, why is it so hard to strengthen it consistently?  

Could it be due to laziness or insufficient conviction?

May I submit for our spiritual core muscles, to move from inform to transform is even harder. But God has given the solution – it is prayer.

Because of our sinful nature, we all will love the darkness and not God’s light. Because of sin in our hearts, we seek the love of self and not God’s love.

It is not just difficult to live as a Christian. It is impossible.

Thus, something outside of ourselves needs to be present so that God’s Word can transform us.

Transformation only happens through the catalyst of prayer.

Quoting from the authors of the Trellis and the Vine – “Vine work is personal and requires much prayer. It requires us to depend on God and to open our mouths and speak God’s word in some way to another person…. it’s a ministry of the Word leading to growth in conviction, character and competence.”

Paul does not mince words when he tells us of our terrible state before knowing Christ – 

Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

As we are dead in our sin, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can recognize and receive God’s saving grace in Christ Jesus.

And once we become a believer, it is through prayer that we appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain us in our journey to be more and more like Jesus.

As we look into today’s passage on the 2nd half of Ephesians 3, I pray that we will find that it addressed both the issue of prayer and that of perseverance.

Perseverance in the faith, meaning that we allow God’s Word to keep transforming us till the Lord calls us home.


The privilege of Intercessory Prayer 

Our 2024 focus is Re-connecting as disciples of Christ Jesus. As Hermonites, this means as believers, we seek as disciples to follow and to become like our master Jesus.

Well, what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? We can look no further than that of the apostle Paul.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was written when he was in prison in Rome. He was guarded and awaiting trial before the Roman emperor.

Paul endured beatings multiple times, was nearly lynched by a religious mob and faced many imprisonments, all because he was a witness of the crucified and risen Christ.  

How many of us would still think of others when we have been beaten and are facing trial before the highest courts of the empire?

Yet we see in Paul’s letters (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon) which he wrote from prison, his intercessory prayers are found all over them.

If Paul found it necessary to intercede for others, it means we should too.

In marriage counselling, one method of rekindling the affections between spouses is to ask them to remember to say one nice thing to each other every day.

Studies have shown that though it might start out as mechanical, yet if the couple keep at it, soon it because natural and that affections do get rekindled.

The couple will eventually look at each other with much kinder eyes.

I submit that intercessory prayers can work the same way in the spiritual family.

If we want to re-connect with our fellow Hermonites, if we want to re-connect with our mission partners, intercessory prayer is the way.  

Church, let’s follow the example of Paul. 

In the midst of our busy schedule, when all we want to focus on is our interest and our concerns, let us deliberately seek to intercede for our fellow Hermonites before God’s throne of grace.

Yes, it goes against our natural tendencies, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to tear our eyes away from our navel and look around to our beloved family in Hermon.  


So, why did Paul find it a privilege to intercede for the Ephesian Christians?

He begins verse 14 with:

Eph 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.

What is this reason that Paul is referring to? It’s everything that Paul has mentioned in the first 3 chapters of Ephesians.

In summary, it’s about the gracious gift of salvation that we have received:

Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

It is about unity of the church for both Jews and Gentiles:

Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.

Paul says, we need to realize the preciousness of salvation in our fellow brothers and sisters.

God loved them so much that His Son died for them.

And now, in Christ, all believers, regardless of tribe, language and tongue are one.

Rev Nat encouraged in our first sermon of 2024, what would we give up for the unity of the church.

Could we give up some me-time so that we can intercede for fellow Hermonites?

And because we are fellow sons and daughters of God, we come with a humble attitude and posture when we pray.

Paul says, I bow my knees before the Father. 

There is this common phase, ‘brought to our knees’. It’s an idiom to mean that a person has been completely defeated or overwhelm.

When we are on our knees we can only look up in desperation and total dependence.

In intercessory prayer, we are not forced upon our knees, instead we willingly bow our knees in humility as we come before God.

Because we have this humble attitude, we will come to God not with the demands that God be our genie and fulfil our every wish.

Because we have this humble attitude, we will come to God not asking for fire and brimstone to befall our enemies but that His will be done.  

As we humbly intercede for others, let’s model after Paul in the 3 areas which he prays for:  

Eph 3:16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith— (Christ guards & rules our hearts)

We are incentivized to intercede for others because God’s glorious riches are never diminished. We don’t have to worry that it will ever run dry.

Not only is God’s riches unending, we know that He is a generous and wise God who does not withhold from His children what is best for them.

Incentivized, we pray that we be strengthen with power through the Holy Spirit in our inner being.

This power is not for military might, not for the ability to influence public opinions nor to display specular gifts of the Spirit.

No, it is for our inner being so that we can resist temptation, overcome sin, testify of Jesus with courage and forgive and love people like Jesus.

It is so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.

Now, Christ already dwells in our hearts when we first believe. So, what Paul means here is that Christ may rule every area of our lives.

Basically, we are praying about the Lordship issue for each other.

As we re-connect with fellow Hermonites, let’s pray that God will permeate more and more of our moral conduct, our attitudes towards others and our earthy affections.

To the first listeners, they were challenged, If Christ is Lord, then Caesar is not.

What about us today? Is Christ Lord? Or are there idols in our lives?   

Let’s pray for one another that because Christ is Lord, then our marriage vows are sacred.

Because Christ is Lord, then my talents and time, are for His glory.

Eph 3:17… that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. (Know the limitless love of God)

Secondly, can we intercede for one another that we will know God’s love.

Paul gives us 2 images. One of a tree – ‘rooted’ and another of a foundation of a building – ‘grounded’.

A rooted tree reminds me of Psalm 1. The blessed man who meditates on God’s word constantly:

Ps 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

When someone is rooted, then his leaves do not wither.

When a human life withers, it is not fruitful, instead I submit it becomes bitter.

When a life is bitter, it is unable to forgive, unable to be long suffering.

But Scripture says, to prevent bitterness, be rooted in God’s love. Your soul will be refreshed from the fountain of life. God’s love will enable you to love like Jesus.

We can say, with conviction, Lord forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

What if we are bitter with ourselves because we have listened to the lies of Satan? That we are too far gone for God to still love us.

When we truly know God’s love, we will sing with conviction instead:

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free

For God the Just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me

The second image is that of a strong foundation. And Jesus has given a relevant  illustration –


Mt 7:24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

When someone has a good foundation, we will be able to withstand the strong storms of life.

I don’t know how 2024 will be for all of us. But I’m quite confident that we will experience death, diseases and disasters. Not that I’m a pessimist but because we live in a sin-stained world.

But here is why we should intercede for one another.

When we are grounded on the solid rock of Christ’s love, the rain of challenges will not erode our confidence in Christ.

The earth shattering moments of fear will not collapse the walls of our lives.

No matter what life throws at us, we are comforted because we know the limitless love of God.

We have come to experience the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love.

One significantly thing in Paul prayer is that they are to comprehend God’s love not as individuals but as a community of believers – comprehend with all the saints.

It is within the context of the church that Paul wants us to experience and comprehend God’s love.

The Christian journey is never meant to be a solo walk. No, God has designed us to journey in a community.

There is no better way to understand loving servanthood than when we wash one another’s feet. And we do so with total disregard for our social economic status.

There is no better way to live out loving forbearance, then when we are patient with others. Even with those who hold different perspectives towards ministry or have idiosyncrasies that we find trying.

Church, there is no better way to re-connect with fellow Hermonites than when we intercede for one another to know the love of God, in and through our community.   

Finally - 

Eph 3:19 … That you may be filled with all the fullness of God (growing in spiritual maturity)

Paul intercedes for them that they will know the love of God in Christ to the end that they might be all that God wants them to be.

He desires for them that they be spiritually mature.

Elsewhere, Paul says: 

Col 2:19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.

Christ is the fullness of God and so to be filled with all the fullness of God as Paul prayed in Ephesians is that Christ be all and in all.

Again, because Paul is writing to the church, Paul is saying, in order to experience Christ to the fullness, we do so within His body.

To re-connect with God in the fullest sense, God has ordained that it will be through re-connecting with fellow Hermonites.

A very practical application to strengthen our spiritual core muscles and to flesh out our 2024 theme of Re-connecting as disciples of Christ Jesus is our weekly prayer focus.

As we pray about our weekly prayer focus, we will be re-connecting with God and because we are all praying about it together in our CGs, our families, our ministries, we will be re-connecting with one another.

Thus, may I encourage us all to participate in this weekly prayer focus. Yes, it may feel mechanical at the start, but I’m quite certain if we keep at it, it will be internalized.

The power for Persevering Faith 

Recently I had a conversation with Darren Thomas, our fellow Hermonite and my favourite guitarist.

He was sharing about a mountain hike that he did in Indonesia. He mentioned that because the terrain was of loose soil, it was very trying and tiring to make it to the summit.

Because of the loose gravel, it seems like you are walking 3 steps forward and then sliding 2 steps back.

Following Paul’s example, after we have saturated one another in prayer, we might expect that the transformation to Christ-likeness is like taking a Changi airport travellator to the top.

A smooth forward journey in aircon comfort. That is what we all wish for.

However, we know that it is more like climbing the Indonesian mountain with Darren.

In the first 3 chapters of Ephesians, Paul presents us the glorious and gracious picture of who God is and how we graciously become part of His Kingdom.

In Ephesians 4-6, Paul then paints for us the implications as to how we should then live as a result of who God is.

And for those of us who are familiar with these latter 3 chapters, we might realize that it is like climbing a slippery summit.

It will be impossible to be transformed to live as such if not for the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, to link right thinking to right conduct, Paul gives us this Doxology. A prayer of praise to God, giving Him glory and honour.

And this prayer of praise to God teaches us how God enables us to walk worthy of our calling.

Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

I like what one commentator wrote about this phrase:

  • To do above [but that’s not all!]

  • To do above and beyond [but that’s not all!]

  • To do above and beyond all that we ask [but that’s not all!]

  • To do above and beyond all that we ask or think!

Paul’s prayer reminds us, we pray to a Sovereign God whose riches in glory is undiminished.

Who is able to do more in response to one prayer than we can do in a thousand years of effort.

He can do far more because God is our creator and sustainer.

He can do far more because he has done the impossible in reconciling us back to Him. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God has removed the sting of death.  

He can do far more because He has done the unimaginable to reconcile Jews and Gentiles. Once enemies, now siblings-in-Christ.  

He, who can do far more, whose power raised Jesus from the dead, now places that power within us.

By the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, God’s awesome power is made available for us to walk worthy of our calling as disciples of Christ Jesus.

Church, and it would take our lifetime to fully grasp this reality!

Scripture says that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

That means in the faith community here in Hermon, we have every resource needed to persevere in our spiritual walk.

So, church, to persevere in this long road of obedience to God, let us yield to the Holy Spirit prompting to draw from God’s resources in His Body.

Testimonies of fellow believers are a great encouragement and the bible is full of testimonies of saints who have walked by faith.

This year as we go through Genesis, may we be encouraged by the grace of God in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and the many others we will encounter.

Paul ends his doxology with - To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Reminding us that the church is called to radiate God’s glory.

If you want to travel fast, you go solo, but if you want to travel long, we do it in community.

The calling for every church, for us here in Hermon, is for us to help one another persevere in living faithfully for Jesus. And thereby as a church, magnify His Name and give God the glory.

Church, let’s never forget, the power that is within us, will enable us to be faithful in our generation.

Yes, it may feel like we are taking three steps forward and sliding 2 steps back. But in the end, we can persevere because God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.



Last year, the church gave me the privilege to have a sabbatical over 6 months. I thank all Hermonites for your gracious gift.  

In one of my personal reflection times, I realized that intercessory prayer was how the Lord sustained me in ministry.  

As I look back at the 10 years of pastoral ministry, during challenging times, the Lord supported me through Hermonites. Hermonites who would text or call me to ask how they can pray for me.

It seems the Lord always knew the appropriate timing for you all to text or call me to offer prayer support.

And it fills my heart with thanksgiving and encouragement, when many of you would follow up 3 to 6 months later to ask about the status of the issue that I had shared.

I thank God for His sustaining grace through your prayer support.  

I began the sermon suggesting that Prayer is like a core muscle that we should exercise for our spiritual maturity.

Due to my physical back pain, I’ve acquired 2 back supports which have been helpful. And they have been a tremendous help whenever I have attacks.

May I suggest that when we pray for one another, we become a spiritual back support for our fellow Hermonites. We support the core muscles of our brethren so that they can continue to walk worthy of their calling.

As we seek to glorify God by being and making disciples of Christ Jesus, let us exercise our spiritual core muscle of intercessory prayer for that is the solution to perseverance.

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