“For this reason I kneel before the Fatherfrom 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 in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ 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 Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that 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 us—to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul picks up here in verse 14 what he started in verse one. He starts with, “For this reason I kneel before the Father…” The normal posture of prayer for Jews was standing with their hands raised. To kneel was a position of humility. We have examples of this in the Scriptures: Ezra praying in his time of humiliation (Ezra 9:5); Daniel praying before God (Daniel 6:10); Stephen knelt before the Lord and prayed before he died (Acts 7:60). I think Paul is showing us that our attitude should be one of humbleness before God.
Next, he says, “…from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” God is our Father. He loves us and cares for us. We can go before him with everything.
Paul then starts his prayer for the church at Ephesus. Prayer was an essential part of Paul’s life. He asks for prayer in his letters to the various churches and he lets them know that he is praying for them. And here, he gives an example of what one of his prayers was like.
This prayer goes through steps that move higher with each one. Each phrase builds on the other until he reaches his conclusion. The first thing Paul prays is that “he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” We might ask why Paul is praying this if Christ already dwells in the believer’s heart. Verse three from chapter one says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit when we believe. But are we allowing him to fully live there, or just giving him partial access? David Guzik writes in his Enduring Word commentary, “Two ancient Greek words convey the idea ‘to live in’. One has the idea of living in a place as a stranger, and the other has the idea of settling down in a place to make it your permanent home. Jesus wants to settle down in your heart, not just visit a stranger.”
Once the church is strengthened, Paul moves up to love. He prays that they will be rooted and established in love. He uses two metaphors here, that of a tree, and that of a building. Spurgeon wrote, “Two expressions are used: ‘rooted’, like a living tree which lays hold upon the soil, twist twists itself round the rocks, and cannot be upturned: ‘grounded’, like a building which has been settled, as a whole, and will never show any cracks or flaws in the future through failures in the foundation.” We can go back to Chapter 2, where Paul writes about the church being the building, with Christ as the cornerstone.
Paul then moves to the next step. Once they understand what it means to be rooted and grounded in love, they can begin to understand the knowledge of Christ’s love for them. He wants them, and us, to understand “what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” When I read those words, I see the picture of the cross. John Stott writes, “It seems reasonable to say that the love of Christ is wide enough to encompass all of humanity (especially Jews and Gentiles, the theme of these chapters), long enough to last for eternity, deep enough to reach the most damaged sinner, and high enough to exalt us to heaven.” Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We can only grasp this with all of the Saints, as Paul says in verse 18. The next step is we are not to live in isolation. The church is a body. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” There are many passages that discuss the various roles and parts of the body of Christ. We need each other!
Paul prays that the church will be able to know his love that surpasses all knowledge. I read a description of this that said it’s like a baby knows his mother’s love, he knows how deeply he’s loved without fully understanding it. We have that same sense of Christ’s love for us.
The last step that Paul prays for is that they be filled with all the fullness of God. Wow! That is quite a prayer. What does it mean to be filled with the fullness of God? John Stott writes, “God’s fullness or perfection becomes the standard or level up to which we pray to be filled. The aspiration is the same in principle as that implied by the commands to be holy as God as holy, and to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Paul concludes his prayer with a beautiful doxology. He says, “Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us…” God can do everything we can ask or imagine. Everything we pray for, and even things we haven’t, God already knows. Because he is all-knowing, he can do far more than what we ask. David Guzik writes, “This doxology does not only belong to the prayer that precedes it, but also to every glorious privilege and blessing spoken of in the first three chapters. Who was able to bring such things to pass? Only God can do this because he can do far beyond our ability to think and ask.” There is no limit to what God can do!
We have finished the first half of Ephesians! We know where we are positioned in Christ. Now, we will see how we are to respond. What are the actions of the church? What does the Christian life look like? That’s what the second half of the book is all about!
Grace be with you!