Missionary statesman and theologian E. Stanley Jones told of browsing in a bookstore and seeing a set of books on a table with a sign reading: SECOND HAND THEOLOGY FOR SALE. Jones said that upon seeing that sign he vowed never...
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power 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, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
In this brief series of weekly eVotionals we are sitting with the apostle Paul in the school of prayer. The great saint will be our tutor as we explore some of the depths of his prayer written at the end of Ephesians 3. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians he is not praying for the spiritual elite or exceptionally gifted people, but praying for ordinary Christians (if there is such a thing!). We do not know the names of Paul’s readers or anything about them, but he prays for them extraordinary spiritual riches leading to their being “filled with all the fullness of God.” Paul teaches us to ask big!
Paul’s first request for the Ephesian Christians is introduced by the word “that”: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit”.
Paul is not praying for their outer life and circumstances, but for their “inner being”. Paul knows that what we are on the inside, in the control center of life, governs what we are and do (see Jesus in Mark 7:20-23). In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians he hits on the importance of what goes on in our innermost self: “We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) Though we might often pray for the needs of the outer person, Paul leads off by praying for the inner person to be strengthened.
Paul prays that his readers be strengthened with “power”; the Greek word is dunamis, from which we get our words “dynamo” and “dynamite”. It is in our inner being that we need God’s transforming power. Jesus promised His disciples that they would be filled with dunamis, with power, when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:8). The ‘dynamic’ power inside a Christian is far more than principles, values and ideas; the power is God alive in us!
Paul amps up his praying by asking God to strengthen his readers in the inner being “according to the riches of his glory”. Grammarians delight in pointing out that Paul is not asking God to strengthen them “out of” the riches of His glory, but to strengthen them “according to” those riches. Here is the difference. Imagine you ask a billionaire for money, and he gives you $100. He has answered your request “out of” his riches. But if he gives you one hundred million dollars, then he has answered “according to”, or, in keeping with his riches. So Paul teaches us to pray for God’s strengthening in the inner being “according to”, in proportion to the vast resources of His glorious perfections!
The old Scots preacher Alexander Maclaren put it like this: God “lets us come into the vaults, as it were, where in piles and masses the ingots of uncoined and uncounted gold are stored and stacked; and He says, ‘Take as much as you like to carry.’ There is no limit except the riches of His glory.” (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture)
Paul teaches us to pray big prayers, to pray “according to” the infinite riches of God’s glory. We can never ask too big! And lest we think we might be asking God for too much, a few verses later Paul reminds readers: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish far more than all we can ask or imagine…” (Ephesians 3:20). God can do far more in us than even Paul knows how to ask or imagine.
Perhaps you are facing something in your life and you don’t know how to pray. Be assured as you pray that God longs to fill you with Himself, to strengthen you at the very center of who you are and what you do. God desires to strengthen you will all the dunamis of His infinite power. But God wants you to ask Him. He wants to be wanted. So let’s pray this week for ourselves and those whom we love this first petition in Paul’s prayer:
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit….
Grace and peace,