Inner Strength and Immense Power
My bookshelf is lined with prayer journals covering the years of my life beginning with childhood. Rereading them brings both joy and heartache, but most of all an overwhelming sense that I have had the privilege to bow my knees before my heavenly Father and cry out to Him in the midst of sin, suffering, and service. I’m so grateful that Scripture teaches us how to pray. I especially appreciate Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians for their inner strength and his praise for God’s immense power in Ephesians 3:14-21.
Prayer for Inner Strength
Paul bows his knees before the Father to pray for the saints in Ephesus (3:14-19). This is the Father of all the redeemed, regardless of whether they are Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. And believers can only bow before Him because of “Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (3:11-12).
Such truth should bring us to our knees in prayer. Our hearts should be warmed to the triune God. Our lips should be moved to petition and praise. Our ears should be open to hear the Word of God and to use it in prayer. And our hands should be raised in adoration of our Father, Savior and Comforter.
Paul’s main request is that believers will be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit in their inner being (Eph. 3:16). He wants Christ to dwell in their hearts by faith. Of course, Christ already dwells in their hearts or Paul wouldn’t have been able to speak of the riches these believers have in Him (1:3-14). But Paul wants his readers to understand that there’s a difference between welcoming Christ as a visitor in their hearts and asking Him to take up permanent residence as the owner and manager of their hearts. In other words, he wants believers to be controlled by the love of Christ.
Paul emphatically states that we are rooted and grounded in Christ’s love (Eph. 3:17). These two images come from agricultural and architectural work. Christ’s love is the soil in which our love for Him and our love for others grows. And Christ’s love is the foundation in which our love for Him and our love for others is built. It cannot be the other way around. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). But we need strength to comprehend Christ’s love. Paul is at a loss to describe what is immeasurable, yet he resorts to using terms of measurement—“breadth and length and height and depth” (Eph. 3:18). We need God’s strength and God’s saints to comprehend it, and even then we will comprehend it truly, but not fully; for all of eternity we will continue learning more and more of Christ’s love for us.
Paul’s greatest hope in praying for these believers to be strengthened in their inner being is that they will fully become what God has created them to be—Christlike (Eph. 4:13). Paul knows that the greatest motivation for our striving by God’s grace to be Christlike is Christ’s love for us. If we are going to love God by doing what He commands we must recognize and relish the immense love Christ has for us. It is His love that will, by God’s grace, ignite our love for Him and His people, and in turn strengthen us to trust and obey.
Praise for Immense Power
Paul’s prayer climaxes in a declaration of praise for God’s goodness and glory (Eph. 3:20-21). In this doxology, he builds a strong case for God’s power, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (v. 20). The same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is at work in us (1:19-20). Furthermore, from one generation to another, and from one age to the next, God will receive praise in Christ and His church as His manifold wisdom is displayed to all (3:21).
Think of it! God’s resurrection power is in us. God’s glory is on display through the church. And all this is generational. This means we have work to do and we have the power to do it. As the Spirit opens our eyes to the enormity of Christ’s love and gives us power, we will be eager to make disciples of all nations by proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about our beloved Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The more overwhelmed we are with God’s love, the more we will pray. By God’s grace we will be eager for Christ to be the administrator of our affections and the master of our motives. This in turn will lead to a life of prayer and praise in which we will often see God’s power at work within us and our fellow believers in order to display His glory through Christ and the church from generation to generation, and from age to age. Let us pray for such inner strength and praise God for such immense power!
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.