I’ve written two My Prayer posts in the past: Wisdom and Abounding Love. It’s incredible what we can learn from a few verses, not only about prayer, but also about how we are to live.
Last week, I wrote about the importance of submitting our thoughts to Christ, and how filling our mind with the truth of God’s Word is part of doing so. So let’s dig into another “prayer passage”, and see what truth is unearthed, what treasure is discovered:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
First, let’s get a little background on this passage: Paul, a man who went from hating and persecuting followers of Jesus, to following Jesus and preaching the gospel, is the one writing this, praying this. He is writing to the Jesus-followers in Ephesus. These followers are Gentile, which was a term used to describe anyone who was not a Jew. So these people did not have a background of serving the one true God, of reading and learning the Old Testament Scriptures, of following God’s laws and waiting and hoping for the Messiah (Jesus). They probably worshiped many false gods through there own rituals and laws. Yet they have come to know Jesus, and Paul is writing to them to teach and encourage them in their relationship with Jesus.
"For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name."
In previous verses, Paul describes how God appointed him to preach the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles, the good news that they too are “heirs together with Israel and members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:1-7).
Even though the recipients of this letter were not Jewish, through Jesus they became part of God’s family. They took on His name and all that comes with it: the persecution and the promises. Paul does not want them to be discouraged by the suffering, but have confidence in Jesus (Ephesians 3:12-13)
We also are members of God’s family. God is our Father, we are His children. We bear His name. The name of the all-powerful, all-knowing, not-bound-by-time-or-space Creator of all. The Name above every name. The Name which causes knees to bow and tongues to confess Lordship.
In looking at the rest of this passage, we will see what bearing this Name means for the sons and daughters of such a King.
"I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being…"
The strength and power God provides are different from what is found in the world. They are not based on physical ability, or possession of control or influence. God strengthens with power through His glorious riches, His joy, love, peace and grace, which He gives to His children.
God brings strength to our inner being, our spirit, by His own Spirit. It is a deep, intimate strengthening that comes when we live in dependance on Him. God’s power is made perfect in weakness, in giving over the rule of our life to the Sovereign One, in relinquishing control to the Almighty. When we are weak in the will of our selfishness, then strength inhabits the spirit, the dwelling place of the Holy One (1 Chronicles 16:27, 1 Corinthians 12:9-10).
"… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."
The reason Paul prays for a strengthening with power isn’t so the Ephesians will become some sort of superheroes, but so Christ may dwell in them. So their relationship with Jesus may thrive. This happens through faith. Fully submitting the spirit to the Holy Spirit is an act of trust in Him. When we place our trust Him, trust that He will be our strength, our provider, our shield, Jesus abides in us.
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…"
A tree’s roots burrow into the dirt and draw nutrients up, gaining life. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches rooted in Him, dependent on His life-giving love. To be rooted and established in this love is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling. It is an obeying of Jesus, a cutting away of death and growing into life, a bearing of fruit to bring glory to the Father (John 15:1-10). This is to be our being, not just something we do.
The power that comes with Jesus’ inhabitance in our hearts enables us “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
Grasp means “to seize upon and hold firmly”. Instead of the word grasp, the New King James Version uses the word comprehend, which comes from the greek katalambano: to eagerly lay hold of something, so as to possess it. So the prayer could read, “may have power to eagerly lay hold of, seize upon, hold firmly and posses how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
Paul is praying the Ephesians not just feel, not just ponder, not just experience every so often, not just have a vague idea of the magnitude of the love of Jesus, but that they would grasp, would lay hold of and keep holding onto, would posses a knowing of this unsurpassable love.
If we were to comprehend the love of Jesus in the way katalambano describes, our fears, discouragements, insecurities would melt away. We would no longer take for granted the love of Christ while at the same time living as if this love does not exist.
The prayer is that we would know this love that surpasses knowledge. Our human minds will never have full understanding, full knowledge, of God’s love. When we think on it, it should always be mind-boggling, leaving us wondering, How? How could God so perfectly love imperfect me?
But we can know Jesus love. This know comes from the greek ginosko, and it indicates a relationship between “knower” and the “known”. We are the “knower” and Christ’s love is the “known.” In coming to realize Jesus’ love for us, we are born into relationship with Him, and our knowing of His love should grow as our relationship with Him grows.
We must lay down our selfishness, acknowledging our need for Jesus’ love, and lay hold of that love, striving to know Him more and more.
"… that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
Paul gives the reason he prays for this “knowing”: so that the Ephesians may be completely filled with God. By the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ love drives out sin, fear, regrets, insecurities, shame, blame and guilt and brings in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:25), the glorious riches of God.
We depend on God’s power, we strive to grasp Jesus’ love, not so we would feel good or be comfortable, but so we may imitate Jesus and exemplify Him to the world.
"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen."
God is able to do immeasurably more. What God has power to do cannot be quantified. It is unimaginable, unfathomable. But there is a key phrase in this verse: according to His power that is at work within us. God has given us free will. We have choice. A choice to believe in His Word and trust Him, or to take control ourselves. We will not see the immeasurably more happen in our lives if God is not allowed to work in our lives. He will accomplish His purpose whether we cooperate or not, yet we will miss out on the unimaginable if we choose to not.
But if we choose to trust Jesus, if we strive to know His love, if we let His power work in us and through us, we will experience love and power in abundance, and the unfathomable, eternal glory of God will be revealed. That is the prayer and the promise, the prayer of those who bear the Name of the immortal God, and the Father’s promise to His children.
How has God strengthened you? When have you been able to “grasp” Jesus’ love for you? Is there a passage of Scripture you’ve made your prayer?
The post My Prayer: Power and Love first appeared on The Overflowing.
Photography from Unsplash, edited by Jessica Faith
Greek origins and definitions from:
The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong, Copyright 2010