Pray: That God may open his Word to us by the power of His Spirit. That he we may gain in knowledge, that we grow in the love of Jesus and share this joy with those around us.
Read: Ephesians 3:14-21
The verses prior to these mark a turning point in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Having laid out the truth of the Gospel clearly, Paul challenged the Ephesians and us to boldness. Boldness for the Gospel- a boldness found in the work of Jesus rather than our own. Paul then uses what he knows to be his most effectual tool- prayer.
And this is not a generic prayer, but a personal, powerful prayer.
Kneeling “before the Father” Paul prays clearly into the lives and situations of these people. His words are marked by spiritual power, yet they also demonstrate a care and understanding of the people for whom he is praying. You see, the Ephesians are a very interesting group of people. Perhaps more than any city, they valued knowledge and more importantly, secret knowledge. They traded in it. They collected it. And they loved it as their mark on life and their means of power and stability. You can see this clearly in Acts 19:18-20 where having heard the Gospel, the Ephesians first burned all their books of magic (worth 50,000 pieces of silver) and confessed and disclosed their practices. For they believed there was power in secret words (disclosing it meant ridding it of power).
There was also money in it. This is the same city that when Paul first preached had a riot because the truth of what he was telling cut into the profit margins of the merchants. One of their own said, “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business.” This business was the selling of shrines.
To me, the most fascinating thing about the story of the Ephesians is how much it parallels the struggles of our own society. We live in an age where knowledge in and of itself has once again become a god that much of our society (either knowingly or blindly) has come to trust in. Self-revealing and self-defined, we are sold the idea that our own individual voice is the most truthful, and that our own individual truth is most true. But is it? Paul knew better, and he wants us like the Ephesians to know this too. His prayer is that we may “comprehend … the length, and width, height and depth of God’s love.”
Paul begins his prayer before the Father by giving this people (us as well) a family name. He then asks that God might grant them the family riches (remember all that concern about wealth). He then addresses their sense of the “inner man”, but ties it directly to the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul has already made it clear, that our “inner man” is dead apart from God. Spiritually dead!
Next, Paul prays that they may increase in comprehension. Sometimes we read this passage and think Paul has something against knowledge. Knowledge isn’t to be avoided, nor is it meant to be idolized. Paul loved learning. This is the man was still studying the Scriptures while waiting for his execution (see 2 Timothy 4). He is praying that knowledge may lead to an understanding of God’s love. It is understanding Jesus’ love that leads us to the “fullness of God.”
“But I’m not a good reader”, you say, “I’m not a bible scholar.” So what? Half of Jesus’ disciples were uneducated fisherman. These Ephesians, just like us wanted answers.
And here they are. Jesus loved us… that we may know… the depth of love… in Him we show… to a world that’s dying… to a friend that’s hurt… according to the power… that works in us. “To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generation, forever and ever. Amen.”
1) How have prayers of a friend strengthened you when you were struggling or down?
2) Are you quick to pray for or with friends, or is this something that you tend to keep private? Why?
3) How has your study and knowledge of God’s word led you to comprehend the depths of God’s love? How has this love then surpassed that very knowledge for you?
Memorize: Ephesians 3:17b-19
“…I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”