“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 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,” (Ephesians 3:14-16).
This is one of the most majestic prayers to be found in all the Bible. It comes from a man who believed very deeply in both the need for prayer and the power of prayer. Paul, in many of his writings, as here, breaks into prayer or relates to his readers that he prayed for them and what he prayed in their behalf. His prayers are not forced, artificial contrivances, but genuine, fitting appeals to God for what he perceived was needed by those to whom he wrote. They flow naturally from a heart filled with love for his brethren and from concern for what was best for them. We would do well to study and emulate the prayers of the great apostle.
His first request in behalf of these Ephesian saints was “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” (v. 16). His prayer is expressed in terms with which present day Christians are not very familiar. The riches of God’s glory? What does this mean to us today? The riches of His grace are boundless.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—(Ephesians 2:4-5).
God’s glory consists of every aspect of His character. He is “rich in mercy,” has “great love” (Ephesians 2:4), and is the “God of all grace.” (1 Peter 5:10). He is a God of “goodness and loving kindness” (Titus 3:4). Our very being is dependent on the goodness of God “…for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28). It is in view of all these qualities of God – and probably much more – that Paul offers this prayer. He had no doubt that God was able to do what He asked.
In a similar way, we are told that when we pray to God that we are not to doubt that He can and will answer our prayers. James says that when one prays to God asking for wisdom, or I presume for anything else, he is not to doubt that God will answer.
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6).
We have the assurance that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14).
This means also that God will not grant every request we raise up to Him because we pray for things that are not according to His will for us. We do not always know what is best – only He does. And He supplies what we need, not every frivolous whim.
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).
All too often we go to God with our “want list” as though all prayer is about is getting what we want. “Lord, gimme this!” “Lord, gimme that!” We seldom give any thought to praising Him for His goodness and grace or thanking Him for all He has previously done for us. In prayer as in all things, God should come first.
Paul’s request in behalf of these Christians was that they might “be strengthened with power through his Spirit in [their] inner being.” To be strengthened with power or “might” indicates that they would be enabled to do things – things like enduring persecution, to perform works of service, and to glorify the name of the Father in heaven. Christians have Spirit given “gifts” bestowed on them to enable them to carry out various works in the body of Christ (Romans 12:6-8).
This strengthening in the inner being would be done by the Holy Spirit. Many Christians are reluctant to speak of the Spirit dwelling within us because there are afraid that they will be looked at as believing in present day miraculous works or as being some kind of charismatic. They hold to the idea that the Spirit only works through the scriptures – which He inspired. But there are just too many passages that speak of the Spirit dwelling in us to conclude anything other than that He dwells in us.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Far too many Christians go through life without ever knowing the power that is available to them. They struggle from one crisis to another, depending on their own failing strength to get them through. They rely on their own finite perception of their abilities without ever realizing that there is unlimited power to live successfully and victoriously. The cry of these people is “I can’t!” rather than “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). The power is there! All we have to do is ask for it!
The reason Paul gives for wanting them to be empowered by the Spirit was in order was…
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 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. (Ephesians 3:17-19).
As Christians, we need to be able to comprehend the scope of that in which we are engaged. Too often we look at Christianity and the church from only a human perspective. We do not look at as engagement in a project of cosmic proportions. We are involved in something far bigger than any one of us – even bigger than all of us combined. We are involved in matters of life and death – of heaven and hell – of time and eternity – of principalities and powers far exceeding our feeble abilities. That is why we need strength – power to comprehend and power to engage in this great adventure. The ultimate end for us is, as the apostle says, to be “filled with all the fullness of God.” That is, to become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).
Think this is impossible? Not according to the apostle. He says God’s power is already at work in the Christian and that He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” Nothing is too hard for Him. And with His help, nothing is too hard for us!
“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.” (Ephesians 3:20-21).