Prayers are how we talk to God and, if we’re listening, one way He talks with us. The Bible contains several example prayers that can give us a guide, including many we don’t often think of. I’ve noticed that Paul tells people he’s writing epistles to that he’s praying for them, but before last week’s post I hadn’t thought much about using those as model prayers. In that post, we talked about the first prayer Paul records for the Ephesians. In this post, we’ll talk about the second.
To give some context, Paul has been talking about his role in preaching “the unsearchable riches of Christ” and ministering to the Gentiles. These riches include the fact that the Father now offers salvation to all men. Because of His work through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can boldly access God’s wisdom and revealed mysteries. With that discussion in place, Paul writes,
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph. 3:14-15, KJV)
Last week, in examining Paul’s earlier prayer in Ephesians, we looked at the work God is doing in us through Christ and the monumental importance of Jesus’ role. But in focusing on Jesus, we must never forget where it all starts. The Father directs Christ’s work, leads the family of which He made Jesus the Head (Eph. 1:22), and is directly involved with the work being done. Asking the Father to work in believers is the focus of this prayer.
Where God Dwells
Paul’s prayer begins with bowing to the Father and recognizing His supreme authority. Then, he asks God to fulfill His promises of generosity to those who follow Him.
That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (Eph. 3:16-17, KJV)
There are riches to be found in the Lord’s glory. We have the right to ask Him to grant gifts from that richness to help us walk in His ways. The Father will “give good things to those who ask Him” (Matt. 7:11), including the His holy spirit (Luke 11:13). He’s eager to listen to those who come before Him through Jesus’ name (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23, 26-27).
The Father can, and will, strengthen us with His mighty power and ability to take action (G1411, dunamis). This blessing is coupled with Christ dwelling in our hearts. I was puzzled at first because the Greek word translated “dwell” (G2730, katoikeo) here is not the same as the one used in John 14-15 for dwelling and abiding (G3306, meno). Apparently, there are two ways for Jesus to dwell inside us.
Meno refers to lingering a place and choosing to stay instead of leaving. Katoikeo is about settling down and inhabiting a place. When Paul talks about Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith, he’s talking about Jesus making a home in us. The same word is used of God dwelling in temples (Matt. 23:21; Acts 7:48; 17:24). It’s an incredible blessing that triggers incredible Christian growth.
Love Leads To Understanding
As the prayer continues, Paul draws of a picture of understanding the full extent of something — the width, the length, the deepest depths, and the fullest heights. Those who are holy to God (that’s what “saint,” hagios [G40], means) can understand things at an otherwise impossibly comprehensive level.
that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19, KJV)
Before we can understand at this level, we must be rooted and grounded in love. That means firmly established (G4492, rhizoo) on a stable foundation (G2311, themelioo). This topic is so vast we could launch a whole study talking about Jesus as the foundation (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20) and love fulfilling the law (Rom. 13:8, 10; Gal. 5;14), but there isn’t time now.
Becoming acquainted with Christ’s love far surpasses and exceeds (G5235, huperballo) having knowledge about our religion. We should all be praying to know that love and for others to experience it as well, because that’s how we become filled with all God’s fullness. Knowing Jesus is how we know the Father and are brought into a relationship with Them that completes us (Col. 1:19; 2:9-10).
Praying For Others
As I’ve been reading Paul’s prayers to the Ephesians, two main thoughts stand out:
- These prayers give us goals to strive toward as we grow spiritually.
- Paul’s prayers for his brethren show us how to pray for our brethren.
I have prayed for brethren in this way, but I’m ashamed to say it hasn’t been all that frequent. It’s easy to pray God would open your own eyes, work in your life, and send Jesus to dwell inside you. But we should never forget to pray He would do all that and more for our fellow believers as well. We should be just as fervent, perhaps more so, in our prayers for others as for ourselves.
In Philippians, Paul writes, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” That leads directly into the admonition, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:4-5, KJV). Jesus gave up equality with God and then lived and died as a human being to serve His brethren. And He tells us to love others the exact same way He loves us (John 13:34). If our prayer is to know the love of Christ, we start by loving other people.
Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21, KJV)