We now come to the second part of chapter 3, which contains Paul’s prayer to God for the Ephesians. It is a devout prayer that shows his love for them.
In this prayer, Paul asks for three great gifts for the believers. They are: The infusion of spiritual strength, The indwelling of Christ and The establishment of their hearts so they can be ‘rooted and grounded’ in the love of God. Let’s take a look at his prayer.
Ephesians 3:14 – For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
Obviously, bowing his knees before the Father signifies a traditional position of prayer. Do you kneel every time you pray? Most people that I know do not. The truth is, you can pray standing up, sitting down on your couch, laying flat on the ground, even driving your car, as long as you are reverencing God in your heart. However, I came across a scholar who had a rather interesting insight. He said “Posture affects the mind, and is not therefore unimportant”. In other words, if you believe or feel compelled in your spirit to kneel in prayer, then by all means, do so! If you feel that at certain times you need to lay face down on the floor and pray, then do so! If you have an overwhelming unction to stand straight up and raise your hands to heaven as you pray, then do so! Sometimes, your posture may be important. Listen to the Holy Spirit and do as he asks you to do.
The reason for the prayer is found in verse 13, where Paul ends by saying “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering”. He is saying that he does not want the Ephesians to faint or lose heart during tribulation, and so for that reason, he prays for them.
What a loving and beautiful picture of intercession. How often do we intercede for the brothers and sisters of our own fellowship? When we know they are suffering, do we intercede for them that they do not lose heart? Let’s take a closer look at the specifics of the prayer that Paul prays for them because it is a prayer that we should be praying for ourselves and others.
Ephesians 3:15-16 – …from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
The above quote is from the English Standard Version, but in this case, I feel the King James Version is little clearer. It says, “of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named”. The whole family means all God’s children; it includes Jews and Gentiles from every nation as well as believers on earth and those in heaven. The Greek word for ‘family’ denotes a clan all descended from a common stock. So, we are ONE family; we are all children (common stock) of our heavenly Father.
Paul prays that the Ephesians will be strengthened “according to the riches of his (God’s) glory”. How much strength is that?
Think of it this way: Suppose there was a noble person who had performed a great act of courage for his country. Everyone in the country honors this person by bringing a gift. First comes a peasant and he brings a very small gift indeed, perhaps a small loaf of bread. His gift is accepted as proper, because his gift is based on what he posses.
Next in line comes the king of the land. If he gave the noble person a small loaf of bread, would it be accepted? No! There would be outrage! The gift would be considered an insult, because based on what he possesses, the king is able to give an astronomically bigger gift, right?
So, here in Ephesians, Paul is praying that they will receive an amount of strength that is equal to the abundance of God’s glory. Since the amount of God’s glory is inexhaustible, so is the amount of strength that they will receive! (Throughout his writings, Paul frequently uses the word ‘riches’ to mean abundance.)
What does this mean for you? It means that God will always be able to supply as much strength as you need. Are you currently suffering through a loss? Maybe you feel like you can’t go on? That is not true – God can and will supply you with all the strength you need to get through that adjustment period. Are you overburdened right now? Is your job or your ministry taking all of your strength? Are you facing an overwhelming problem right now? You can conquer that period in your life, because God has enough strength to get you through. Maybe all is well with you right now and you are in a period of rest. Maybe you don’t require a whole lot of strength at this time. Well, praise God for that! But when the time comes, you can be confident that God has more than enough strength to carry you through!
Habakkuk 3:19 –The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like deer’s feet, and he will make me walk upon my high places.
Isaiah 40:29 – He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength.
2 Corinthians 12:9 –And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
God is not going to put more on you than you can bear, because he will always be there to strengthen you as much as you need! Be confident! Be courageous! You have been made a victor through Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior! Praise him for that strength.
Now, Paul further prays that believers will be strengthened “with power through his Spirit in your inner being”. Your inner being refers to your heart and mind. Just as you strengthen your body each day with food, your heart and mind need to be strengthened every day by the Holy Spirit so that you can be victorious in your trials, so you can resist temptation and so you can perform all of the good works that God has planned for you. You are a very busy and valuable spiritual person – you need to be strengthened each day!
Ephesians 3:17 – So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
Rooted in love refers to a mature tree, whose roots extend deep and far into the soil. Likewise, the love of God should be rooted in our hearts, extending deep and wide into our being.
Grounded in love means essentially the same thing. Here, reference is made to a tall building which is based on a firm and solid foundation. Paul wants us to be firm in the love of Christ just as a tall building stands firmly on a solid foundation.
What is the greatest of all things? It is love! We must exemplify the love of Christ to our brothers and to the world; in order to exemplify it, we need to have a handle on it ourselves.
Ephesians 3:18-19 – (that you) may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
So, if “Christ dwells in our hearts by faith,” we will be “rooted and grounded in love,” and as a consequence, we will be able to comprehend spiritual things. We should be able to understand and appreciate the wonders of redemption.
The apostle goes on to give us some dimensions. These dimensions represent the vastness of God’s love.
BREADTH: The breadth of His love is seen when Divine Mercy reaches out to sinners who are far off from God. “Breadth” suggests the world wide extent of that love, for God died for ALL people – not one is excluded.
LENGTH: The length of His love reaches from eternity to eternity. It was not an afterthought or a whim. It was not a spur of the moment decision to later be regretted. (God did not experience buyer’s remorse after he purchased us). Rather, it was established before the foundations of the earth were laid. We will never see its beginning or its end.
DEPTH: The depth of His love is seen in raising sinners from condemnation and hell. Never could we have done this for ourselves! It could only be accomplished by Jesus, the perfect lamb of God who suffered in the lowest regions of Hell in order to save us.
HEIGHT: The height of His love consists in making sinners heirs of God and bringing them finally to glory. Jesus desires that we should be with him in the highest heaven for all of eternity.
Wow! That is some kind of love, isn’t it? The Bible says in Philippians 4:8 that our minds should dwell on “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”. The breadth, length, depth and height of the love of God qualifies as something we should be thinking about!
We are to comprehend a love that surpasses knowledge. That may seem a bit contradictory at first glance, but there is a difference between knowledge and comprehension. We do not want simply to know about the love of Christ in an intellectual manner (we could never understand it anyway), but we want to experience that love, to possess it for our own. It may be too vast for us to understand with our intellect, but it is not too rich for us to enjoy!
The purpose or end result of our experience of this love is that we can be filled with all the fullness of God, or rather, it means to have as much of God within us as our vessel can contain. The fullness of God is all the gifts and graces which he has bestowed on man and which he dispenses to the church. For example, mercy, peace, hope, meekness, joy, justice, holiness, redemption, a knowledge of God’s will, etc.
When we are filled with the fullness of God, we are manifesting the attributes of the divine nature.
Let’s give this some further consideration. The more we are filled with the fullness of God, the less room there will be for self. There will be less room for unforgiveness, less room for bitterness, less room for pride, less room… you get the idea. Also, if we are filled with the fullness of God, then we can spill that fullness out onto the others we come into contact with. We can give a word of encouragement, a prayer for healing, a helping hand, an act of comfort, a word of wisdom, etc.
Ephesians 3:20-21 – 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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen.
Paul closes his prayer with thanksgiving and praise. Remember, praise not only gives God the glory he is due, it affects us as well. When we praise him, we realize how big and powerful he is and at the same time, our problems become smaller and smaller.
No matter what we can think or imagine, God can and will do much, much more. His grace and mercy are inexhaustible. No matter how much we ask for in prayer, we can never drain him dry. Our needs can never overtake his bounty.
Paul desires that God’s praise may resound in the church ‘throughout all generations, forever and ever’. That praise has continued on and on from the time of Paul until our present day and it will continue to abound until the end of time. Then it will ring throughout all eternity, for we can never give him all the glory he is due!
What things is God filling you with? How have you been able to share these with others? How has God’s strength allowed you to overcome trials and obstacles? Please join in the conversation and share with us!