“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV).
This is the way in which Paul prayed for the brothers and sisters from the church in Ephesus. Today, for some it may be surprising that this prayer does not include, say, a petition for a larger home for the church, more income from offerings and tithe, or even those prayers by name for the ones from the church who are sick or have other urgent material needs. On the other hand, apostle Paul may be well surprised at the prayers we say when lifting up our brothers and sisters before the Lord. What is different about Paul’s prayer? How can we also pray in a similar way, and why is it even important to pray in this way? Read along for more information answering these questions.
If you listen carefully to your words when you pray for other Christians you will most likely notice that often (if not always) the physical and material needs occupy the first place in your prayer. Then comes the church building or the like, and only towards the end you happen to quickly mention the spiritual needs of your brothers and sisters. But that’s only if you get that far. Often the material and physical needs are so many that there is hardly any time left to pray for the spiritual condition of our family in the Lord Jesus. There is no doubt that the needs for healing and material provision are important, but what we should learn from Paul is that they are not more important than our relationship with God (or our brother or sister’s relationship with Him). This is why Paul begins his prayer namely with these needs – the spiritual ones… and in this particular case he only addresses them directly. This is how God remains in the center of the prayer.
But what exactly does Paul pray about? Firstly, he prays that according to God’s glorious riches and His Holy Spirit the believers might be strengthened. This is, that God will give them endless strength (for his riches are endless), so that they can continue to grow in their faith and at the same time sustain the pressure of the society against them, the persecutions they will face, as well as the attacks of Satan. For through God’s strength alone we can grow in faith and devote our lives to Him more and more.
Apostle Paul continues by praying that the Ephesians will remain rooted in the love of Christ and together will all other believers will grasp how immense this love is – the love with which Christ loved us. By this way alone today we could overcome the divisions and hatred among believers. But if we continue to pray only for financial or similar needs then we have given up on Christ’s love. Moreover, we are not anymore rooted in that love. In other words – we live our lives not driven by love… and we turn to God only to ensure that He provides us with a comfortable life.
At the end of his prayer the apostle finishes not with a word or two about the spiritual condition of the Ephesians, but with a praise to God, who notice – can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. The end of this prayer is at the same time a declaration of how much God can do when the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Without His Spirit we would also not be able to either know what to pray for, nor how to do it. As for the reach of God’s abilities – you yourself can surely testify of times when God has provided you with what you’ve needed already before you’ve prayed for it. Sometimes we just need to be more patient with our physical and material needs and through this show that we are fully dependent on God and also that we have surrendered our lives to Him entirely. But not on the larger building or the quick healing of the broken arm, so that we can go back to work as soon as possible.
This is the way we ought to pray not only for our brothers and sisters, but also for ourselves. Only then will we be able to keep God at the very center of our lives and become witnesses of His love and power before all other people.