For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. (Ephesians 3:14-20).
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is divided into two sections. The subject of the prayer is found in the opening scriptures - spiritual strength for the Christian life. The rest of the prayer is what produces our strength in the Lord - knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. Our spiritual strength can come to the place where we can see things done beyond our wildest imaginations, above all we can ask or think.
Paul, Our Example
Paul is not telling of a life he is aiming for, but of a life he has already attained to and seen operate. Not that Paul had arrived by any means, but he is not teaching “pie in the sky”, or things he wishes he could see. Paul is a short distance ahead of us all telling us what it is like to live a life of spiritual power and victory.
What Paul is doing is sharing his story with us of how we too can operate as an overcoming believer. Paul’s prayer was based on his knowledge of God’s word and his covenant relationship with God. To make this prayer even better, he was not praying for himself, but for the saints at Ephesus, and ultimately for saints in our day too. So, make this prayer personal and adapt it into your own prayer life.
This is an intercessory prayer, a prayer for others. This is the definition of intercession, praying for others. Our prayers should take on a whole new intensity as we take our faith, usually used for ourselves and our own needs, and aim it toward the lives of others.
Defining Intercessory Prayer
If you ask a charismatic believer, one who prays and speaks with tongues, what intercessory prayer is, they usually will tell you it is praying in tongues. In fact, you will usually hear them say that praying in tongues is the highest form of prayer and an all-encompassing prayer. It can be used for any situation and for all conditions.
To be honest, you cannot pray in tongues for someone else. Praying in tongues is for yourself. It is used to edify you, make you more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 14:4, Jude 20). It is also used when you do not know how to pray. A problem has come, you are blindsided and need to know where to begin in prayer (Romans 8:26, 27). There is no one prayer which eliminates all other forms of prayer.
The most powerful prayer you can pray is praying the word of God, the prayer of faith. This is the prayer Paul prayed in Ephesians 3. He prayed the word of God, relevant uses of scriptures over the Ephesians saints for their spiritual understanding and growth. There is always something to pray over other saints. We often think that if someone has no financial problem, family situation or besetting sin, there is no reason to pray for them. In other words, we think intercessory prayer is only for people with problems.
Actually, this is the second intercessory prayer Paul prayed for the Ephesians saints. Both prayers were for the same cause. The first prayer is found in 1;15-23. I will give you the first three verses.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:15-17).
Paul did not begin to earnestly pray for them until after he heard of their faith and love toward other saints. This is usually when we stop praying for saints, not begin. We should pray in more earnest for the growth of saints than the problems of saints. Paul prayed for them to become what Jesus desired of all who would be born again, to become disciples. Paul was not satisfied with a person just being a Christian, a convert. He wanted them to grow in the word of God and become disciples. What will change a church, an office, a city and community is not just Christians, but disciples. Jesus described a disciple as one who, “continues in the word of God” (John 8:31, 32). This was the prayer Paul made for his fellow saints in Ephesus.
The Content of Paul’s Prayer
Paul prayed for the Ephesian saints for four of the greatest of all blessings.
First, he prayed for them that by the Holy Spirit that lives in them, they would increase in inner strength and might. Our strength for daily life does not come from our own will power or determination, although it begins with your choice. It comes from the strength of the Holy Spirit. You are not a self made Christian, but a Holy Spirit made Christian. The Holy Spirit not only saved you and recreated you, but personally moved inside you. He left the great and beautiful temple in Jerusalem and moved into all believers on the Day of Pentecost. He would rather live in you than one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You are a temple not made with the hands of men. The Holy Spirit moved into a temple built by God. He not only wants to live in you but be the leader and controller of your life. He knows God’s will for your life better than you do. But He will not force Himself over your will. He asks you for to allow Him to guide and lead you.
Second, Paul prayed that Jesus Christ, who also lives in them would be at home in their hearts. Have you ever lived in a house that did not feel like a home? It was a structure, but you never felt an attachment to it. The home that is right for you, you usually detect when you walk in it for the first time. Jesus was not looking for a house, but a home when He moved into your heart. He wants to set up a permanent residence, a place of connection to your life.
Third, Paul prayed that they would gain a greater understanding of God’s word. Success in the Christian life is directly tied to our knowledge and understanding of God’s word. Understanding is another word for revelation or illumination of the promises. It is one thing to know the scriptures, but quite another thing to have the light come on and show the meaning of the verse. This type of revelation does not come by reading the word of God, but “by studying the word to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). Memorizing scripture is not the same as studying. Revelation comes by meditating on, thinking and examining, the word. It may not be an entire verse, but only a portion of the verse which suddenly takes on illumination and from that time on becomes an integral part of your life and walk of faith.
Fourth, Paul prayed for them to be filled with all the fullness of God.
This “fullness” would encompass every area of life, including physical and natural blessings of health, prosperity, happiness, joy, peace and friends. Paul saved this for last, because it is the product of the first three areas of prayer. Outward blessings begin and manifest in our lives with inward spiritual growth first.
This Is Not an Impossible Dream
Inward strength in our own lives and the lives of others begins with a choice, not a supernatural manifestation from heaven. We often ask God to do what He has already done, or we ask for God to do something we are supposed to do.
Becoming strong in the Lord begins with our decision to do our part in becoming spiritually strong. God commands us to become strong, do what we must to allow His strength to grow. He does not want us to ask Him to make us strong. Strength has already been provided.
Be Strong and Stronger
Begin by seeing yourself as already strong. Rise up in what God has already given you. Choose to “be strong.” To “be strong” is a command in both the Old and New Testaments.
Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might (Ephesians 6:10).
And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage (Deuteronomy 31:23):
Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people you shall divide the land for an inheritance, which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go (Joshua 1:6-7).
Next, God does not immediately give us full strength, but asks us first to patiently wait for the strength to increase. Strength from God comes initially and then grows. We must choose to gain and grow in strength God’s way and not our own. Through time, God will exchange His strength and power for our weakness.
He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. Even the young men shall faint and be weary and shall utterly fall: But those who wait on the Lord shall renew (exchange) their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).