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Paul's Prayer for the Ephesian Saints
Ephesians 3:14-21

by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com

Paul now comes to the great prayer that both summarizes and completes the powerful thoughts found in this first half of the book of Ephesians.  He has revealed to us the spiritual blessings of being a Christian and a part of Christ's great family called the church.  Now he prays for our comprehension and understanding of these truths, and more importantly, that we might fulfill and practice these truths in our everyday lives.

I.   He Prays for Holy Riches  v. 14-15

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  15  Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 

For this cause...  In this phrase Paul looks back over the entire text of this epistle.  He has shared glorious and powerful thoughts that could never have entered the mind of humankind without divine revelation.  The church, in all its beauty, was in the mind of God before the worlds were made.  The gentiles, so long maligned by the Jewish religionists, now have a place in the divine plan of God.  The riches of Heaven are available to every member of God's family.  What great truths !!!

I bow my knees unto the Father...  The practice of kneeling was not a Jewish custom.  In the Old Testament, we find Abraham, Solomon, and others standing when they address God.  In the story of the publican and the sinner, the publican stood before God.  But Paul is saying that this great message of the church and it's riches has overwhelmed him to such an extent that he must bow in humility and honor to God.  Notice that he bows not for the sake of man or for a show.  He bows unto the Father.

Of whom the whole family...is named  We are identified with Christ.  In the Europe of World War II the American soldiers were respected above all others in the Nazi occupied countries.  Not because of some special abilities on their part, but because of the nation they represented.  They were identified with something greater.  It is the same with the church.  We are not special because of some great ability or grand beauty, but because we are identified with Christ.

What are the holy riches that we find in the beginning of this prayer?  First, there are the great truths that have preceded us in this book.  Then, there is the privilege of prayer itself.  And finally, there is the fact that the church is identified with Christ, which is the secret of our power and blessings.

II.   He Prays for Heart Riches   v. 16-17

16  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;  17  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 

We now begin to examine the actual prayer.  Paul asks God to grant to the believers three things: 1) Strength of Heart,  2) Presence of Christ, and 3) Depth of Passion.  The word grant means to supply or to furnish. Notice, too, that this granting is according to the riches of his glory.  God does not give from his riches.  For one who has infinite riches, to give according to his riches is a wonderful statement.   This means that God gives to us in relation to what He has.  Since God has an infinite amount of riches, then he grants to each of us an infinite amount of those riches.

Strength of Heart  He asks the Lord to strengthen us with might. The word strengthen is an ascending word, meaning to grow in strength.  The Christian life is to be a growing experience.  We are to grow in spiritual strength.  As a bodybuilder builds his muscles through repetitive exercise, the believer is to build his spiritual strength.   But how can we do this?  The verse tells us: by his Spirit in the inner man.  We must put our flesh in subjection to our spirit through the Holy Spirit.  The inner man is the place of man's spirit, the seat of the human will.  It is there that the battle is fought with the flesh.  We must yield to the Spirit and allow God to live through us.  Our exercise is a spiritual exercise, involving prayer, bible study, meditation and worship.

Presence of Christ   The next statement says, That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.  We know that Christ dwells in our hearts from the time that we first believe on Him for salvation.  What does this mean, then?  The key is found in the word dwell.  It literally means to make oneself at home.  When I visit a home, I am careful to be respectful of people's privacy and belongings.  I sit and wait for the hosts to lead me in the activities of their choosing.  As a younger man, I would often visit my grandmother.  I grew up in her house and felt at home there even though I had not actually lived there for years.  When I would visit, I would make myself at home.  I did not wait to be offered a glass of tea, I would just go to the refrigerator and get it.  Christ wants access to our hearts in the same way.  Does Christ feel at home in you?

Depth of Passion  The third request of Paul for the Ephesian believers was that they would be rooted and grounded in love.  He wanted them to be established and stabilized in the superior love of God.   Many of us are rooted and grounded in doctrine, in service, or in the proper lifestyle.  But love is the basis of our fellowship with God.  The deeper the love of God goes in your heart, the higher you can soar in your service and labor for Him.

III.   He Prays for Head Riches   v. 18-19

18  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  19  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 

Christianity is a religion of the heart and not the head.  So it may seem strange that I would say that verses 18-19 deal with head riches.  I make this claim because of the words Paul uses in the text.  There is a place for head knowledge in Christianity.  It is head knowledge without the accompanying heart knowledge that is so dangerous.  We must have a mental understanding of a truth before that truth can affect the heart. 

Comprehension   Paul prays that the believers may be able to comprehend.  This means to lay hold of, to make your own.  As a child, I was told I must learn things by heart.  That is the thought here:  to comprehend  a thing so fully that it affects you deeply.  The phrase with all the saints adds another great truth to the thought.  This seems to be speaking of worship service, where the believers are gathered together.  And what are we to comprehend?  We must lay hold of the breadth, length, height and depth of His love.  What a challenge!  We must seek to understand more deeply the great truths of God's love by observation, by study, and by the testimony and preaching of others.  Think of this truth while you sit in your next worship service.

UnderstandingAnd to know...  Paul wants the believer to come to an intimate understanding of the love of Christ.  The word know was used in the Old Testament to denote physical intimacy.  Here it means a spiritual intimacy.  The next phrase is a giant paradox.  He tells us that this intimate knowledge that we are admonished to gain  actually surpasses human knowledge.  (passeth knowledge)  We now move into the supernatural.  This perception is impossible to gain in any human way.  It is only gained through the Holy Spirit.  Though it is God's work, Paul tells us that we must make a human effort to gain it.  He will then supply it by His grace.

FulfillmentThat ye might be filled with all the fulness of God  There is no real fulfillment outside of God's perfect plan for your life.  The word filled means filled to the top, a full supply.  Every human being in the world seeks fulfillment in various ways.  Christians know that true fulfillment comes in Christ.  The fulness of God is the completeness that God offers each of His children. 

IV.   He Speaks of Hopeful Riches  v. 20-21

20  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,  21  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

As we reach the end of the prayer, Paul is ecstatic.  These verses make up the benediction to the prayer.  Paul has petitioned God on behalf of the Ephesians for the great spiritual riches that make up the Christian's birthright.  Now he puts the finishing touches on a great masterpiece of supplication by emphasizing God's vast power and might.  These words describe the indescribable.  They touch the untouchable.  They give us a glimpse of the unknowable.  God is able.  Those are three little words.  But they are words that carry great power, the greatest power of the universe.

The Powerful Supply  Unto him... Though Paul has been doing the interceding, he now steps back out of the way and emphasizes God's rightful place.  Thus begins a great mountain of superlatives describing God's power.   ...that is able...  He has the resources and the ability.  ...to do...  He is the One who produces, brings to pass, constructs and appoints. ...all... that we ask or think...
It is impossible to catch God by surprise by pondering or aking for some new thing that God has not considered.  Someone once said, "Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occured to God?"  ...ABOVE all that we ask or think...  This word carries with it the meaning of a river or lake with a water level that is above capacity, or at flood stage.  ...ABUNDANTLY above all....The flood of God's power is over and beyond all reasonable limits.  ...EXCEEDING abundantly above...  Another superlative is heaped on top of all the others. 

A five year old boy tried to describe to his grandparents the Grand Canyon that he and his parents had seen on vacation.  "It was big," he said.  "Way big!  Way, way, way big!"  His limited vocabulary was strained as he tried to make them understand the enormity of the sight.  This is the same problem that Paul has.

The Personal Work  ...according to the power that worketh in us...  Now we enlarge upon the earlier truth.  This great power that God possesses is the same power that works in us.  The phrase that worketh is the word in which we derive "energy."  This power operates and is active in us.  Our energy for service and perseverence comes from His power.

The Pre-eminent Christ  Unto him be glory in the church...  Jesus Christ is to receive the honor, praise and majesty in His people.  His glory rests within and upon the church.  ...throughout all ages...  Each succeeding generation of the church has the glory of Christ resting upon it.  We sometimes lament the fact that "times" are so different from the olden days, but the Church of the Living God continues on revealing the glory and splendor of God to the world!  ...world without end...  This means that there will be no time period or age in which it will not be so! 

...Amen... What a fitting close to Paul's prayer and the first section of Ephesians.  The word Amen means "so be it," or "may it be so."  There is nothing for the child of God to do but to agree with God and add our assent to it. 

The power of the Christian life comes from God.  It is a limitless power that energizes God's people for service, worship and enduring.  Paul's prayer reveals this power to our hearts and invites us to partake of it.  May each of us become all that God has decreed that we can be!

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