Coming in April – Lord, Teach Us To Pray, daily reflections on The Lord’s Prayer

Inspired Prayer: Day 12

“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…”
Ephesians 3:19

Do you ever look up at the night sky and wonder about God? Do you consider a gazillion stars and try to imagine such a Creator? Does your mind reel and stagger as you try to take it all in? What must such a God be like to create such glory!

Between December 18 and 28, 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope orbited the earth some 150 times focused on a dark patch of sky, empty of galaxies and stars. But in that void, Hubble photos revealed a breathtaking sight as that dark patch teemed with an inestimable number of galaxies like our Milky Way. Scientists were agog.

The latest analysis of those Hubble photos in early 2021 led scientists to estimate that there are at least 200 billion galaxies in the univers, proving yet again that God does things in a big way. When God creates, He goes big! When God loves, He goes big. Just look at God making Himself a baby in a manager or God dying for us on a cross!

In Christian theology there is a rich tradition called “apophatic theology”

(Greek: apo “away from” + phanai “to speak”). Apophatic theology seeks to balance what we can know and say of God with what we cannot know and say of Him. Saint Augustine said of God: “Since it is God we are speaking of, you do not understand it. If you could understand it, it would not be God.” (Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 117.5) Contemporary theologian John Frame concurs: “He transcends our language, so anything we say about him is utterly inadequate.” (John Frame, The Doctrine of God) We might wonder if this was Paul’s experience when he “was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to speak” (2 Corinthians 12:4).

Apophatic theology seeks to speak of God by saying what He is not. God is wise, but not as mortals are wise. God is powerful, but not like human beings are powerful. And, God is love, but love far transcending anything we know of human love. “For God can be loved, but He cannot be thought.” (Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing)

Paul prays in today’s scripture to know something that can’t be understood: “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” It sounds like an oxymoron, but the love of Christ always exceeds our knowledge or understanding. We can only skim the surface. If a zillion galaxies boggle the mind, how much more the love of Christ for you and me! We become aware of the sheer immeasurability of His love, like an uncrossable sea for us to contemplate.

And yet, we can experience a love that we cannot comprehend. We can live daily in God’s love and wonder. Look at a baby held tenderly by their mother. The baby can feel the mother’s love but not really know the depth of it. What does a baby understand of a mother’s heart or love? Paul prays excitedly for that which cannot be known! He wants believers to be rooted deep in “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.”

Trevor Francis stood on the Hungerford Bridge looking into the dark flowing waters of the River Thames, ready to end his life. Then he remembered the love of Jesus he had learned as a child, and stopped himself. Later he wrote these words about the love of Jesus:

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus!
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me,
is the current of thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward,
To thy glorious rest above.

– Trevor Francis


“This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ.” Karl Barth


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