Throughout the years there have been several questions asked repeatedly, but none so often as this one: “What is God’s will for me?” While there are many answers to this question, some based on specific tasks, others based on relationships, I believe Paul’s prayer in this section of Scripture gives us a tremendous template for living the Spirit-filled Christian life.
Read: Ephesians 3:14-20
Having already written to the Ephesians in chapter 2 about God’s miraculous gift of forgiveness and redemption, not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, as well, Paul now states, “For this reason . . . .” In other words, because you have been given the gift of redemption, made alive in Christ, this is how I am praying for you.
I suppose the first thing we can take from Paul’s comments is his posture in prayer: “I kneel before the Father” (v. 14). While kneeling in prayer seems commonplace to us, we should note that in Jewish worship the more common stance of prayer was standing. Kneeling, although seen as a stance of prayer in the Bible, was usually in terms of homage, such as to a ruler. This picture of Paul praying combines the reaching out of a child to the parent and the humility of homage to one who is far greater and more powerful.
How do you reach out to God? Is your approach that of a beloved child, reaching out for you parent’s strength and restoration after a fall? Do you, as I often do, especially when I am alone in the car, speak freely with God as a trusted friend or ally? When you approach God, is it with fear and awe, considering all that God is and does? All of these approaches to God are valid, and all are necessary in a strong relationship with God. There is a time for kneeling in humility, recognizing our own weaknesses and sinfulness, and recognizing God’s greatness and power to save. Likewise, there is a time for speaking to God as a beloved parent, confident in God’s love, compassion, and mercy. And there is a time for standing with arms upraised in praise and thanks for God’s presence in our lives.
“From whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (verse 15)
Where Paul talks about family, it is very possible he is speaking not of physical, bloodline families, but rather of individual congregations. As in Christ God becomes our Father, adopts us into the family of faith, thus each individual congregation becomes a family, brothers and sisters together, heirs of the same Father. Why emphasize the local congregation? Perhaps, as Paul identified in the previous chapter, he wants to once again emphasize that we are ALL God’s children, that is, those who have been redeemed by the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This, then, precludes discussion of race and gender, age and education. We are, literally, the people of God on this earth, bearing God’s name.
This being the case, how, then, should we live? What is God’s will for us? In this prayer, Paul gives us not a “to do” list, but rather a “to have” list, a list of things that, through a living, vital relationship with God, will identify us as God’s children and glorify our Father.
“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” (vv. 16,17).
Power. A big advertising word. Cars have more power. Vacuum cleaners have more power. Even our dishwashing detergent has more power! But the individual believer, does he or she have more power? Paul prays that God will strengthen the Ephesian believers with power by the Spirit.
The power comes out of his glorious riches. The power of the believer does not come from jumping “faith” hoops, in other words, through works. We cannot earn God’s riches. The power of God comes to the individual believer first through salvation, as the Spirit of God comes to dwell (literally, live) within us. More devotional books have been written about gaining power in the inner person than I have had time to read, but the only formula for having power in the Christian life is to open ourselves to God, to allow God’s Spirit to fill us.
How much of your “inner being” is open to God’s presence? Do you segment your life in little pieces, reserving a section for God/church, a portion for employment, a portion for friends, a portion for family, etc.? Are you “many-faced,” presenting a different person depending on the place where you stand? Paul prays that Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith, not just visit when we are in church or at night when we are ready to pray before bed, to literally allow the Spirit to be our source of strength in every situation in our lives. We give no glory to God if God is not obvious in us wherever we are.
“I pray . . . that you may have power . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (vv. 17b-19).
“Knowledge is power,” so the old adage goes. This truism applies, as well, to the Christian life. While no skill is learned in a moment, likewise discerning and living God’s will in our lives occurs in a process of growth. When a tree is small, its roots reach to a limited area of the ground and can be more easily plucked out of the ground. However, as the tree grows, its roots go deeper and wider, giving it stability and strength to withstand even the strongest storms.
Like that tree, it is God’s will that our roots go down deep into the soil of God’s love for us. Studying God’s Word, spending time in prayer and in fellowship with God’s people enables our roots to go deeper and wider, literally “establishing” us in that “love” relationship.
Sometimes I am amazed that I can type so quickly. When I first started to learn to type, I could barely type 25 words per minute (wpm). After high school I reached 65 wpm, and I thought that was really fast. Today, after practicing and working for years, I can type almost 100 wpm. It has become commonplace. I have moved past knowledge, and the skill has become a part of every reaction I have.
So it is with knowing God’s love. It takes practice, reminding ourselves of God’s love for us, reminding others, and living that love in the world. Time with God and with God’s people who are striving to know Him better, will make our roots grow deep into the ground, so that living like Christ becomes a part of us, a natural reaction that glorifies God in all we do.
A final word: “To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (v. 20). Paul turned his readers over to God knowing that whatever God willed for them would be best. Not getting the answer in prayer you had hoped for? Spend some time in prayer. Ask what God wants rather than what you want. Ask God how you can grow or change in order to better serve. And finally, keep seeking God’s love, to live in it and to live it out in a world so desperately needing it. You will find in the end that, looking back, God knew what was best all the time.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church
PO Box 393, Greenfield, MO 65661