If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible
Paul was a man of prayer, and he makes a point of telling those he is praying for that he IS praying for them. He often goes even further, enumerating the specifics of the prayer. While I have often borrowed Paul’s prayer list, and in moments of great need and small brain simply prayed his words, I have grown to believe that a better approach is to read his prayers to discern from the richness of his prayer life how to pray.
In the last Echo From Ephesians, I wrote concerning the long parenthetical detour Paul made in Chapter 3. Now, in verse 14, his phrasing “For this reason I kneel”, makes us look back over his shoulder. What is the reason he prays?
He prays for us because we have been made alive in Christ, and because Christ Himself is our peace, and because through Christ our peace, both Jew and Gentile can be one. His heart’s desire that we would understand and operate as a unified body of believers causes Paul to fall on his knees and pray. How often do I fall on my knees in prayer for church unity?
He emphasizes the importance of unity in stating that he prays to the “Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” “Every” means “all”, without any exception. Paul is not writing about a universal Fatherhood of God. He is reminding the church that positionally, all believers are one…and this includes believers from all ages, those already in heaven and those still on earth…we are all one.
What can I learn from the heart of this prayer warrior?
“I pray that according to His glorious riches…”
I learn that he prays “according to” God’s riches (v 16), and God’s power (v 20). The term, “according to,” and not “out of,” means that he is praying that believers’ needs will be met in accordance, conforming to, in proportion to God’s own nature of generosity. That is a richness greater than receiving an answer limited to a part of a treasure, it is access to all the treasure. It reminds me of what he wrote to the church at Philippi… “and my God will meet all your needs according the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
“…He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”
I learn to pray for strength. This is not for bigger muscles, no matter how much those are needed! It is prayer for a powerful inner life. In Romans, Paul says the inner man is where the battle is waged.
I learn to pray for the Holy Spirit to be the agent of this work in my life.
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
I learn to pray that Christ will dwell in my heart. It is not a matter of Christ being in my life, but is Christ comfortable in my inner being. Is He at home in my heart?
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…”
I learn to pray about loving.
I can pray for a life that has roots in the terrain of love, and these roots will be the groundwork for a life of love.
I learn that praying for love involves praying for the church, and that all of the Lord’s holy people need to know a love greater than our ability to understand.
I learn to pray to be encompassed by a love without boundaries, yet indwelt by that same endlessness. Amazing love, how can it be?
“…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
I learn to pray for the fullness of God.
I can pray that my very finite being is filled with the vastness of God, that my dry sponge of a soul can be saturated from living waters that never run out. This is a prayer of permeation, that every corner of my life be flooded by the Lord.
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, for ever and ever? Amen.”
How can these wondrous prayer requests be met in my life?
They can be met because the Lord is able. He is able to do more than I can even think to ask about, more than I can ever imagine. And our imagination can stretch far and wide. No matter how great my imagination, how profound my insights, or how mighty the strength of my need…He is able to do more!!!
Part 10 of “Echoes of Encouragement from Ephesians.” See Also: Always On My Mind