Martha's notes on Paul's Prayer

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I kneel before the Father, [15] from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.[16] I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, [17] so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, [18] may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, [19] and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. [20] 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, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The authority of Paul's prayer life was his (1) close relationship with Christ and the (2) knowledge of God's overall purpose--which he called the "mystery"--what God had done in Christ. Paul said "for this reason I bow my knees before the Father". Here the substance of Paul's prayer for the believers in Eph. 3:14ff is a staircase of 4 steps up. A great goal for each of us here:

  • Fullness
  • Knowledge
  • Love
  • Strength

1. Strength "That God may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Doesn't it seem strange that Paul is praying for believers and asks that "Christ may dwell in your hearts"? Isn't Christ already in our hearts? Yes! But the Greek word here for 'dwell' means to settle down as master in an abiding full-control way

  • this becomes a relationship of trust and safety
  • of drawing on His strength
  • of resting in Him.

2. Love The next stair step is "to be rooted and grounded in love." Paul wants us to have deep roots and firm foundations -- the cause of this depth and stability is love. The source of a daily vital prayer life is a love relationship with Christ which is so personal and so real that you can not imagine ignoring Him. When you have nurtured and developed an intimate love relationship with your loved one it is a daily delight to spend a lot of time communicating with him or her---so it should be with Christ--a growing love relationship.....which leads to the next step.

3. Knowing Christ's love---that we may "comprehend the breadth, length, height, and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" We need to know the love of Christ is 'broad' enough to include all people from all ages of all races; know the love of Christ is 'long' enough to last for all eternity ; know the love of Christ is 'deep' enough to reach the most degraded sinner; know the love of Christ is 'high' enough to exalt Him to heaven. This knowledge of God's love is a matter of personal involvement with Him in His Word and prayer--as He deals with us and as we trust Him we establish a relationship with Him. Jesus Himself prayed "that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ who You have sent" (Jn. 17:3). As we meditate on the extent and the greatness of Christ's love, it's good to remember a parallel passage in Rom 8:37-39. To know whether you go up to the heights or down to the depths, or whether you go backwards or forwards--nothing will separate us from the love of Christ. Paul also says that only "with the saints" i.e. the Body of Christ, can we experience this all-inclusive love. We need to be in the Body to comprehend the whole love of God--and even then God's love surpasses our knowledge. The full depth, height, length and breadth of Christ's love is unknowable and His riches are unsearchable. We will spend eternity exploring His inexhaustible riches and experiencing His grace and love.

4. Fullness "That you may be filled up to all the fullness of God". This is a characteristic word of Ephesians and Colossians. Paul says in Col. 1:19 "In Christ we have come into fullness." At the same time in Eph. 5:13 we are to go on "being filled with the Spirit". Growth into fullness is Paul's theme. Just what does he mean? Consider Rom. 8:29, that we are to be 'conformed to Christ'---become more and more like Him--this is God's plan for us and will be ultimately true when we are with Him in eternity, but we are to "press on" toward that goal right now. God expects us to grow daily as we are being transformed into Christ's image, from one degree of glory to another. Needless to say we have to be looking into the mirror of the Word of God and allowing the HS to do whatever is necessary in our lives to transform us into Christ's image (IICor 3:18). Our own stubborn wills need to be submitted to God and as the Holy Spirit disciplines us we will be broken over and over again in our self-life, our 'outer man', so that the 'inner man' may grow into the fullness of Christ.

After these 4 stair-steps Paul returns to God's ability to answer prayer and he expresses this ability in a composite expression of seven stages:

  1. He is able to do i.e. He is not inactive or dead
  2. He is able to do what we ask i.e. for He hears and answers prayer
  3. He is able to do what we ask or think i.e. He reads our thoughts and imaginations
  4. He is able to do all that we ask or think i.e. for He knows all and can perform it all
  5. He is able to do more than--hyper-beyond all that we ask or think i.e. for His expectations are higher than ours
  6. He is able to do much more or more abundantly than all we ask or think i.e. for He does not measure out His grace little by little
  7. He is able to do very much more far more abundantly than all we ask or think, i.e. for He is a God of super-abundance. This adverb is one of Paul's coined 'super-superlatives'--he's just saying that there are no limits to what God can do. The infinite ability of God to work beyond our prayers, thoughts and dreams is "by the power that works within us". It is the power of the resurrection--the power which raised Christ from the dead--that is the power which is at work within each one of us in the Body of Christ.

Paul's prayer here in Ephesians is for us today, that we may be 1. strengthened to 2. love and to 3. know the love of Christ through this surpassing knowledge up to the 4. fullness of Christ. But then he turns from the (a) "love of God past knowing" to the (b) "power of God past imagining, from the (a) limitless love to the (b) limitless power. Paul then closes with his praise to God "to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever Amen"