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“I pray…so that…”

Posted by Carol on March 4, 2008

This past weekend, I went away to the annual Women’s Retreat with my church.  It was my privilege to lead morning devotions on Sunday.  I thought I’d post the devo here, both to save it as part of my blog, and to share it with whomever might be interested in reading it out there in Blogsville. It is a bit on the wordy side. Sorry.  I had 30 minutes and I talk fast, so I can say a lot in a half an hour.  To save words, I linked to the posts of some of the stories I used in the devo. I realize this is a little dry. Hopefully, it’s better when actually presented.

Ephesians 3:14-21

14) For this reason I kneel before the Father,
15) from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

16) I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

18) may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

19) and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

 20) 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,
21) to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

A few weeks ago, I was dealing with some on-going issues with my daughter and her school.  I was very frustrated and confused.  So, I put on my pink fluffy slippers, grabbed a pillow and a blanket, put on some soft Christian music, and spent some time with Jesus on my couch.

I thought back to this past summer when God sent some friends to cheer me up and comfort me just when I needed it. I told Him how sad, and frustrated, and tired I was from dealing with this situation with my daughter.  I told Him that I just needed to know that He loves me.  I know He loves me, but I just needed to “hear” it.  As I prayed and read the Bible, He did give me a reminder of His love by leading me to this passage in Ephesians.

These verses spoke to my heart immediately about how much He loves me.  In verses 17b-19, He said to me, “You have no idea how much I love you. It is beyond your ability and comprehension to understand how much I love you.  But trust ME, I love you.”  And He loves you, too.

That reminder was all I needed that day to be comforted and reassured that He was with me and in control of the situation.  As the following days and weeks passed, those verses stayed in my heart and in my mind. So much so that I decided to really dig deep into God’s Word and study this passage to share as a devotional.

I called this devo “I pray…so that…” because Paul is praying and making a couple requests to God on behalf of the Ephesians and all Christians, so that we might experience the benefits and blessings that come from our new identity in Christ. So let’s look at Ephesians 3: 14-21 together. 

Verse 14 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father,” – for what reason?  The reason is found in chapter 2 of Ephesians. 

The reason is our salvation.

The reason Paul is praying for us is that our new identity in Christ makes us the dwelling place of God, the all powerful Creator of the universe! He wants us to realize what “benefits” come with our new identity in the family of God.

Paul had two main prayer requests in this passage.  The first one is found in verse 16 – “That out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”

“Out of his glorious riches” – we are talking about the Creator of the universe. For God to give according to the riches of His glory is absolutely staggering because His riches are limitless. But that is the measure Paul asks God to empower the Ephesians and US – out of His limitless riches.

Paul is not asking that God give theses riches to believers, but that He would use these riches that we already possess to strengthen us.

There is a story of an eccentric Englishman who liked to dress like a homeless man every day.  He would go door to door selling razor blades, soap, and shampoo.  Then, at the end of the day, he would return to his beautiful mansion, change into a custom made suit, and have his limo driver take him to an exclusive restaurant in London for dinner.  Some days he would have his private jet fly him to Paris for the evening.  So many Christians live like that man.  We live our everyday lives in spiritual poverty and only occasionally enjoy the riches of His glory that God has given to us.  It is tragic to walk around in the tattered rags of our own inadequacies when we could be living sumptuously in the super-abundance of God’s unspeakable riches.

When we as Christians live like that Englishman and don’t live like Whose we truly are, individual Christians suffer, the church suffers, and the world suffers.  You might think that is a drastic statement to make, but to whom was the Great Commission given?


If we are walking around living in our own inadequacies rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit, how effective are we going to be making disciples of all nations?

These next two verses have been called “the bookends of faith”.  John 15:5b says, “Apart from me, you can do nothing”. Yet Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  A person living apart from God may accomplish a lot by the world’s standards, but it is nothing compared to “all things” they might have accomplished if they had allowed Christ to do it through them.

Here is the reason for Paul’s first prayer request in verse 17 – He prayed for us to be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”.

When we are living in the Spirit, then Christ can truly dwell in our hearts.  You might be sitting there saying, “What? Christ is alreading living in my heart”.  And you’d be correct; He is – if you are a Christian.  But Paul is not talking about salvation here.  He knows that all Christians have the Holy Spirit within them.  That is the reason he is praying for the Ephesians in the first place.  He is talking about allowing Christ to truly dwell in our hearts.  That is sanctification or the process that starts at salvation to make us more like Christ.

The Greek word here has the same idea as to dwell in a home.  It means not simply being inside the house of our heart, but being AT HOME there.  The difference is treating Christ like a welcomed guest in our heart versus the ruler and owner of His home – our heart.

How much reign does Christ have in our hearts?  Is He free to move right in and take over? Or are there places and parts of our hearts and lives that we would rather keep to ourselves?  When we keep parts of our hearts to ourselves, we limit the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We need to ask God to examine our hearts and to show us what we need to get rid of or add to make Christ be truly at home there.  He begins this work in us at salvation, but His goal is to make us like Jesus by changing us from the inside out.

Being make strong inwardly by God’s Spirit, and allowing Christ to be at home in our hearts, leads to love that is incomprehensible.  This is the second prayer request Paul prayed for us.

Look at verse 17b – this is supernatural love and is beyond human understanding.  It is a paradox that we are to “know” something that surpasses knowledge.

We are to be rooted and grounded in love – love is our foundation.  When we have this foundation established, not that we are perfect, but we submit to the fact that we are commanded to love one another and we realize that loving each other – even the unlovely – is an act of obedience to Christ, then we may have the power to comprehend the love of God.  To love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbor as our-self is the greatest commandment.

Christ’s love takes us beyond human knowledge, because it is from an infinitely higher source.  Love is the supernatural attitude of the Christian because love is the nature of Christ.  Love is the main identifier the world has to tell that we are Christians.  Jesus said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

And the reason for this request? “So that – you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (verse 19)  If love is the very nature of Christ, then Paul prayed that at the least, we would be filled with the love of Christ.

To even grasp the magnitude of this truth, we must think of every attribute and characteristic of God.  Think of the fruit of the Spirit, think of His power and majesty.  John McArthur said, “This is a small picture of what God wants to do for His children.  His supreme goal is to make us like Himself by filling us with Himself, with all that He is and has”.

Therefore, to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God means to be totally dominated by Him.

If we are filled with rage, rage is dominating our words, thoughts, and actions.  If we are filled with worry, then we are being dominated by worrisome thoughts.  And if we are filled with the Spirit, then we will be dominated by Him.  Whatever we allow ourselves to be filled with will dominate us.

Verses 20-21 are probably very familiar to us.  They are often used as a benediction at the end of church services.

When the Holy Spirit has empowered us, Christ has indwelt us, love has mastered us, and God has filled us with His own fullness – or dominated us, then He is able to do immeasurably more (or as the KJV says, exceedingly, abundantly more) than we can ask or think.

Until these conditions are met, God’s working in us is limited and we are living in our own inadequacies instead of His power.  When they are met, His working in us is unlimited. 

How do we best meet these conditions so we can be used to the fullest?

1.  Spend time daily in God’s Word and in prayer.

2.  Really let Christ dwell in your heart. Let Him move in and take over.  Ask Him to do some housecleaning. 

3. Love – receive God’s love and share it with others.

4. Be filled with the Spirit and let Him dominate!

When by our yieldedness God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or think, then He is truly glorified.




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