God can achieve the impossible with your prayers!
Through our prayers, God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask, imagine or hope (according to Paul, Ephesians 3:20).
This is great news which should motivate and “galvanise” us! God is not only able to respond to our prayers, he can also do immeasurably more than we ask, imagine or think! Paul’s affirmation should encourage us, “boost” us and propel us into fervent, persevering and joyful prayer. Paul is in prison and awaiting his sentence. He could easily have become discouraged but, instead, he asks Christians at the church in Ephesus not to become discouraged! Surprising, isn’t it? Paul prays for them with precision and profoundness. Paul’s prayer is interesting because it gives us important information about the motivation behind and fervour of his prayer life. Note the object of his prayer: Christians. And how does he pray for them? He requests three kinds of plenitude: to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit; to have Christ live in their hearts; and to know the fullness of God. What depth !
To pray, we need to be fully motivated. Praying should not be a legalistic duty or a burden. No, praying should be a desire which springs from our hearts when we think of what God has done for us. The Reformer Calvin spoke of prayer as an affectionate reaching out or impetus towards God.
In Ephesians 3:1 and 3:14, Paul reveals the source of motivation when he says “for this reason”, in other words God’s plan, this wonderful fresco which he has just painted, the accomplishment of God’s plan which began with the creation of the world and which continues forever and ever. In Ephesians 1, we discover that, through Jesus, he chose us before the creation of the world, through him we have received forgiveness and an inheritance, through him we have life and are integrated into a spiritual family. We are no longer strangers, homeless orphans but fellow citizens with the saints! We are no longer controlled and manipulated by the devil but filled, directed and animated by the Holy Spirit. We were dust but God made us into living stones placed upon a solid foundation: Jesus Christ who is at once the architect, builder and cornerstone of this building, his Church.
This is why Paul is transported, overcome by waves of God’s infinite riches, his unfathomable and incomprehensible work which is now available to us. Paul launches into a fervent and rich prayer for Christians. What motivates him? He has an in-depth knowledge of and complete confidence in God’s ability and the unlimited resources he has to respond to our prayers! Motivation to pray and my knowledge of God are closely linked – it’s the spring board for a rich and profound prayer life.
So let’s pray that God renews your confidence in his ability to respond to our prayers!
Who does he pray to? God the father
The heavenly father, the great God who knows and sees all is not only our heavenly father but also the affectionate father who leans closer to his children to listen and respond to their prayers: “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice” (Psalms 116:1). As Corrie Ten Boom said, the important thing in prayer is not having great faith, but having a little faith in a God who is GREAT.
The object of his prayer: Christians
The priority of his prayers and those of Jesus is Christians. Why Christians? Because, as Christians, we are the vehicle for the evangelisation of the world and the vehicle has to be in good condition!
1. Strength (v.16)
“strengthen you with power through his Spirit” where? In your inner being. What is our inner being? It is the part of us which perceives God (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) and which needs to be renewed every day. It is the part of our being where our intelligence (our emotions), our feelings (our private thoughts) can be found. Why does Paul focus on our inner being? Jesus answers this question: “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder… (Mark 7:21). This is where all the battles are fought. The devil aims his fiery arrows at our emotions, thoughts and desires to destabilise our inner being. He sows doubt, accuses us and makes us feel guilty. His aim is to spread discord in our hearts! Paul calls upon the Holy Spirit to strengthen our inner being.
So let’s stop for a moment and ask God to fortify your inner being through the Holy Spirit. At the same time, pray for a brother or sister in the church in this way: with power!
2. A constant presence: “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts” (v.17)
It is Christ’s constant presence in all the nooks and crannies of our hearts which makes all the difference – to our thoughts, words, attitudes and behaviour. So let’s pray that we can let Christ reign in us, take up all the space and be the master in us.
3. Depth and stability: “being rooted and established in love” (v.17)
The word “rooted” evokes agriculture. It evokes the idea of a tree or a rich, fertile, strong vine which bears fruit. Then “established” is linked to the architecture of a building which makes us think of a building with strong and solid foundations. So let’s pray that all our actions have their roots in the love of Christ. It is this love which allows us to bear the fruits of the Spirit (with their nine qualities: Galatians 2:22). Let’s also pray that we can find real stability, an anchoring, security in Christ and be unwavering when the day comes – the day of temptation, the day of discouragement, the day when the storm rages!
4. Comprehend Christ’s love (v.18)
The word comprehension, in Latin, is “prehendere”. A monkey’s tail is “prehensile”, a tail which is able to grasp a tree branch on the move, to cling to it. Paul prays that the Christians will grasp and comprehend the love of Christ. It is beyond us because divine love has four dimensions: width, length, depth and height.
Wide to embrace all of humanity.
Long to last for eternity.
Deep to reach the person furthest from God, who is at the bottom of the abyss, at the door of hell!
High so that we can reign with Jesus in the heavens.
It is not what I do for Jesus that is important in Christian life, but what he has done for me. It is when we understand God’s love for us and Christ’s love that it ‘clicks’ and everything begins to make sense. When Count von Zinzendorf realises what Christ did for him he falls to his knees before a painting of Christ on the cross. Because he comprehends Christ’s love for him. He becomes a Christian with unfaltering zeal. Through prayer, he brought about the greatest missionary wave, reaching the ends of the earth, in the world’s history!
5. Living in the fullness of God
Paul not only requests knowledge, but also that Christians might be filled with “all the fullness of God”, filled with God’s love: it is in Christ that God’s fullness resides (Colossians 2:9). So we need to receive the words of Jesus, listen to him, obey his voice, speak to him, walk with him, and this is how we can experience the fullness of God.
Speak Lord because your servant is listening. Help me to draw close to you today, no matter what the circumstances!
Notice the list of God’s abilities in Ephesians 3:20, they should encourage us!
God can do all of that?
- He can do what we ask
- He can do what we ask or think
- He can do all that we ask or think
- He can do beyond all that we ask or think
- He can do immeasurably beyond all that we ask or think
You get it: there is a direct link between my fervour in prayer and God’s capacities when responding. God is capable of accomplishing great things, delivering us, saving us from falling, meeting our needs. How? Through his power which acts in us, an active power (Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:29). It is the same power which resurrected Jesus from death! Praying becomes a joy when we trust fully in God and his abilities. The riches and resources of God are immense, inexhaustible and available to us right now.
My prayer for you
“Lord, I pray for those who read these lines: give them your strength today to be inhabited by Christ, to comprehend and dive into God’s love, and know the fullness of God. Give them a new conviction that you can do, through your power which acts in us, immeasurably beyond all that we think and ask. I ask you this in the name of Jesus our Saviour and Master. Amen”
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Pray for me as well in my ministry encouraging others in their prayer life. At the moment, my wife and I are on the ship O.M. Logos Espoir in Malaysia to teach for two weeks. Pray for Françoise and me as well. From now on, we are going to dedicate all our time and energy to encouraging Christians to cultivate their prayer life. What a privilege! I pray that God gives you the joy of his presence: “Cling to God!”