Do you remember going to church when it was common for men who were leading prayers and even the people in the crowd to get down on their knees to pray? When someone came up at the invitation to ask for prayers people gathered around the person and got down on their knees to pray for them. I suspect the thing which changed us from doing that has been microphones. When we either grew large enough or just wanted to have a sound system like other places, it became necessary for the person leading the prayer to stand behind the mic and pray so people could hear them, When the leaders stopped kneeling to pray the people in the crowd followed the same pattern. Personally, I think we’ve lost something along the way.
One of my favorite recorded prayers of all time is found in Ephesians 3:14-21. It is the third time in this book that Paul has been moved to prayer and recorded for us what he was praying. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you being rooted and firmly established in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think – according to the power that works in you – to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Imagine Paul down on his knees inside a Roman prison, praying for the church in Ephesus and all over the world. Even better, imagine him on his knees praying for the church today, especially the church where you attend and work. He isn’t praying for all the sick folks in the congregation or even about some problems going on between families. Instead he is praying that the whole church may be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit in the inner man. Now that is a prayer that needs praying! It is forever the case that too many come to Christ but never grow up or become mature in their faith. They go through life as a weak and struggling part of the body, often angry, often complaining and seldom doing anything that will help anyone else. Even their prayer life is all about self and those closest to them. God help by strengthening each Christian by your Spirit inside us. Notice he doesn’t bother explaining how the Spirit will accomplish such a work. He just trust that the Spirit will do it.
After praying for the Spirit to strengthen us, he notes that the reason it is so important is that it leads to Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith. The Spirit is making the way for Christ to live in us. He then prayed that we would be firmly established in love. A church that loses it’s love is in deep trouble. Think of the fact that some thirty years later the Lord will write to this same church through the pen of John to say that “You have left your first love.” Also remember that Jesus said the way the world would know we were really His disciples would be by the love we have for each other. We certainly need to be praying all along that God will multiply the love in the church.
Notice that in this prayer Paul ties the being strengthened by the Spirit and being filled with the love of Christ with our being able to comprehend with all the saints the full measure of God love and the love of Christ so that we may be filled with all of God’s fullness. Just think if this is the case and it is, then our lack of love will prevent us from knowing fully God’s love and the love of Christ which will keep us from being filled with God. God help us be more loving for you and toward each other.
Just in case anyone doubts God’s ability to answer such a prayer, Paul adds that he is able to do far more than anything he or us may ask or even think, “by the power working in us”. That is a vitally important statement because we often think that all the power was reserved for the first century. But God’s Power for the church hasn’t lessened in any age.
Praise God, in the church, through Christ forever. What an amazing prayer! Let’s start praying it for the church where we worship on a regular basis. I’ve never seen or heard of a church that doesn’t need this prayer.