Ephesians really gives us a look into Paul’s prayer life, at least as it concerns the churches he had worked with. Earlier, in Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul expressed his prayer for this church. And now, in chapter 3, verses 14-21, he continues that prayer.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Table of contents
A Dwelling Place for Christ
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.Ephesians 3:14-17a NIV
When I came to Christ, it was a spiritual rebirth; and my spirit was weak and puny. God had a treasure he wanted to pour into me, but I was incapable of holding it. It would be like putting an elephant into a cage designed to hold a chicken; it just would not work. And that is the case for every person who comes to faith in Christ.
This Old House
So Paul prayed that God would, out of the riches available to him, strengthen our spirits to the point that they would be adequate for the task. You might think of this as an episode of This Old House. The Holy Spirit shows up with all the right tools and materials and transforms the shack that was there into a mansion that is suitable as a dwelling place for God.
As the vessel of my spirit is prepared, Christ will make his home within me. To be clear, Christ will live within me from the moment of my salvation. He does not wait until the new house is fully completed before moving in. But as the house is remodeled, expanded, and strengthened, Christ’s presence and ability to effectively work within me will grow. Rather than a strict two-step process, this is more of an iterative process, or journey, that we are engaged in. So, as I surrender more and more in faith to him, he works to remodel the house, making it more useful, which in turn encourages me to respond with greater faith, which produces more change and effectiveness ….
Rooted and Established
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,Ephesians 3:17b NIV
Paul seems to shift metaphors a bit as he goes on from here. But I believe he is still building on the idea of being strengthened by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Being rooted and established is very much an agricultural term. As a tree or plant grows, it sends out roots that will both anchor it to the ground, and provide water and nourishment for the rest of the plant. Being rooted and established is necessary for long-term health.
I planted some rose bushes a month ago. Right now I could walk out into the rose bed and yank up one of these new roses with no effort at all; they have not yet established a good root system. To make way for these roses I had to pull a couple of older plants that were not what we really wanted. One of these old “rooted and established” roses was nearly impossible for me to pull and required some pretty significant labor and heavy tools. Paul’s prayer was that, like my roses rooted in the soil of the rose bed, so I would be rooted and established in Christ’s love, unshakable and unmovable.
Knowing the Love of Christ
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,Ephesians 3:18 NIV
As the inner man is strengthened, Christ fills it more and more. That results in my becoming rooted and established in his love. The next step is to work at understanding the scope of Christ’s love. To know how wide, long, high, and deep something is, is to understand what its limits are. So what are the limits of Christ’s love? Obviously, there are none; except maybe for that person who cut me off in traffic this morning. And maybe those dirty stinky guys in robes shooting at our soldiers in Afghanistan. Or maybe those Democratic (or Republican) leaders who are destroying our country. Maybe the guy who killed 77 children in Norway. And maybe …
Christ’s love reaches out to destroy the walls or barriers that separate people. The barriers that keep us from sharing the good news of Jesus with other people in this world. And the more his love fills my life, the more I should understand that his love is for everyone. An unwillingness to take Christ’s love to some person or class of person is a sign of immaturity in my walk with Christ. Allowing my roots to sink deeper into his love will open me more to the extent of his love. And it will help to tear down those barriers I have erected.
Knowing the Unknowable
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:19 NIV
Another benefit to being rooted and established in love is that you can know the unknowable. The love of Christ is beyond my ability to completely comprehend; it surpasses knowledge. But it is not beyond my ability to experience or to know. The deeper my roots sink down, the more I experience his love in my own life. Take root in Christ’s love and allow it to become your life.
And the more I experience the unknowable love of Christ, the more I am filled with God. Paul brings us back to the metaphor of the remodeled dwelling; a dwelling that has been made adequate to hold all of God’s fullness. This is a task that is beyond me. But God is able to remodel this old house to make it suitable as a dwelling for himself. A house that is filled with the love of Christ.
More Than We Can Ask or Imagine
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably 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 throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV
Paul closes his prayer with an expression of praise to God. To the God who is able to do in us more than we can begin to imagine. The same power that raised Christ and seated him at God’s right hand (Eph. 1:19-21), is at work in me. And it is at work within the church. There are no limits to what God can do within my life, or within his church. All glory to God!
Questions to Consider
- How much has your life changed since you came to faith in Christ?
- How well do you understand the love of God? What is your experience with that love?
- Is there anything that you believe God cannot do in your life?
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All Posts In This Series
- Ephesians: A Brief Introduction - This brief introduction to Ephesians will share some thoughts about the authorship, dating, audience, and purpose of this profound letter.
- Ephesians: Spiritual Blessings (1:3-14) - God has given his spiritual blessings to us in the heavenly realm. And we have these blessings because we are in Christ.
- Ephesians: Prayer (1:15-23) - In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul's prayer for his readers is a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they could know God better.
- Ephesians: From Death Into Life, An Act of Grace (2:1-7) - In my natural state, I was spiritually dead, separated from the life of God. But by his grace, I have been made alive and seated with Christ.
- Ephesians: Amazing Grace (2:8-10) - Grace. More specifically God's grace, his unmerited favor towards us. But it is concerned with much more than my salvation.
- Ephesians: Tearing Down the Wall of Hostility (2:11-22) - Jesus' death on the cross tore down the dividing wall of hostility separating Jew from Gentile. In his death, the law is fulfilled.
- Ephesians: A Mystery Revealed (3:1-13) - The revealed mystery is that the barrier that separated Jew from Gentile has been eliminated, and has been replaced by a new humanity.
- Ephesians: Rooted and Established In Love (3:14-21) - Paul prays that the Ephesians would be rooted and established in love, a suitable dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
- Ephesians: Walking Worthy (4:1-6) - What does walking worthy of our calling mean? In the context of Ephesians 4:1-6, it refers to our role in the body of Christ. Be the best member you can be.
- Ephesians: Growing a Mature Church (4:11-16) - Christ provides his church with the necessary equippers to that we can be a mature church, fully equipped to do the work he has called us to.
- Ephesians: Out With the Old, In With the New Self (4:17-32) - How can I be an effective member of the body of Christ? Take off the old self and put on a new self. One made in the image of Christ.
- Ephesians: Imitators of God (5:1-20) - Don't be like the world around you. Instead, be imitators of God by living a life of love, living as a child of the light, and living with wisdom.
- Ephesians: Married to Jesus (5:22-33) - One of the images for the church in the New Testament is the Bride of Christ. This image pictures the intimate relationship between Christ and his church.
- Ephesians: All In the Family (5:21-6:9) - Paul's instructions to first century families contains useful information for families today. It also contains advice for workplace relationships.
- Ephesians: Spiritual Warfare (6:10-20) - A spiritual battle is raging all around us. So take up the armor God provides so you can stand your ground and be engaged in that spiritual warfare.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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