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PAUL’S FOUR-FOLD PRAYER – Ephesians 3:14-19

Posted by Angella Diehl, Webmaster on April 12, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; April 5, 2017 from Ephesians 3:14-19

Theme: Paul describes his four-fold prayer for the spiritual enablement of the saints.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

I have noticed that, whenever someone tells me that they are praying for me, I tend to evaluate that on the basis of who says it. Some people simply ‘say’ they are praying for me because they don’t know what else to say. But with others—those that I recognize to be deeply concerned and sincere followers of Jesus—I know they’re not just ‘saying’ it. They mean it. And I value their prayers greatly.

Think what an encouragement it must have been, then, for the believers to whom Paul was writing to know that he was praying for them! We find a description of his prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19. This is not the only mention he makes of praying for these believers. He also mentioned his prayer for them in 1:15-23. The difference may be, though, that in Chapter 1, the prayer seems primarily focused on God’s gracious gift of spiritual enlightenment; while in Chapter 3, the prayer seems focused on spiritual enablement. We certainly need wisdom to live the Christian life. We need to know what our riches are in Christ. But more than just wisdom—we need enablement to live out the implications of what we know by God’s gift of wisdom.

Notice from these verses …

I. WHY PAUL PRAYED (v. 14a).

Paul begins his statement of his prayer by saying, “For this reason …” But for what reason? This is where he takes up something that he left off in verse one; “For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles …” But then, he got sidetracked by talking about his great privilege as a minister of the mystery of God’s grace to the Gentiles (vv. 2-13). And so, to know what the reason is, we have to go back further. And we find it in 2:11-22; where he talks in great detail about how God has showed grace to the Gentiles—who once were afar off and apart from the covenant promises of God; but who have now been brought near by Christ.

It wasn’t enough that these Gentile believers ‘knew’ the theological truth of their welcome to God through the gospel. They also needed to be empowered to live it. Paul was thrilled to proclaim it to them; and now, he also shows that he is eager to pray for them to be enabled to live it.

II. TO WHOM PAUL PRAYED (vv. 14b-15).

Paul declared that his prayer was a very serious one—bowing his knees in his prayer. Perhaps you and I often pray sitting at home, or sometimes pray standing while in church. But in very serious moments of prayer, we get on our knees. And that’s what Paul said he did for these believers. He said that, because of God’s grace to the Gentiles, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named …”

Paul prayed “to the Father”. Some translations have it that he prayed to the Father of our Lord Jesus. Others have it simply that he prayed “to the Father”. In the best original texts it’s “to my Father”. In the first great prayer, he said he prayed to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (1:17). That seems like a very formal and objective name for God. But in the prayer before us—where he prays for enablement—he uses the familial name “Father”. Jesus purchased for us the right to call Him “Father” (John 20:17; also John 1:12). Notice that His ‘Fatherhood’ is great. It includes “the whole family in heaven”. This may include all the saints who are now rejoicing in heavenly glory; and it may even include the great company of angelic beings who behold our salvation (see verse 10). And it also includes the whole family on “earth”; which includes all those who believed on Him for salvation according to His promise—both in terms of every spot on the earth and in every culture that they may be found, and in terms of every age in human history in which they lived—before the flood, after the flood, under the promises of Israel, and, now, to even the Gentiles. How great His ‘Fatherhood’ is!


His prayer is “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory …” And that’s very much worth thinking about. To be enabled to live out the implications of what Jesus Christ has done for us is no small thing! It’s not a thing that we, ourselves, have the power to do. But this is not a prayer that Paul prays on the basis of our abilities and resources; but rather on the unlimited resources of God our Father. Note that he says “according to” God’s riches. It’s not merely “out of” His riches—which, of course, would be abundant. But rather, it’s “according to”. As great as God’s riches are, that’s how sufficient He is to enable us in the ways that Paul prays.

IV. FOR WHAT PAUL PRAYED (vv. 16b-19).

First, notice that Paul prays for inner strengthening. He asks for us “to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (v. 16b). We may, at times, long for “outer strengthening”; but this doesn’t show the glory of God. God’s glory is shown in our weakness—where He Himself proves to be our strength (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 12:7-10). This strength in the inner man is through the indwelling Holy Spirit; and it’s not for outward shows of power, but for inward endurance in times of trial (see Colossians 1:11). When people see it, it testifies of the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

Second, Paul prays for a confidence in Christ’s indwelling. He asks “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (v. 17a). It would seem that this isn’t a prayer that this would simply be the case—since Christ does indeed already indwell those who believe on Him. But rather, it seems that it’s a matter of we, as Christ’s followers, recognizing that He is there, rejoicing and trusting in His constant presence with us and in us, and allowing Him full reign over our lives in every circumstance. It comes through “faith” (or, as it is more literally, “the faith”). In John 14:23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

Third, Paul prays for an apprehension of divine love—not just that it would be experienced, but that it would be fully understood and believed. He prayed “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” (vv. 17b-19a). Can we see something of the cross in those ‘dimensions’ of love?—width, length, depth and height? Only by God’s grace could we grasp the full dimensions of Jesus’ love for us. How else could we ‘comprehend’ that which ‘passes knowledge’? (See 1 Corinthians 2:12).

And finally, Paul prays that we might be given an experience of divine fullness. He prays “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (v. 19b). What a wonderful idea. But how is that possible? It may be that it’s like when we submerge a paper cup in the ocean. You can’t fill that cup with all of the ocean; but once it’s submerged—and you leave it submerged long enough—it becomes filled with and partakes of all the fullness of it. Our poor, creaturely frames could never contain all the fullness of God ; but we can be filled with all His fullness. And this is through Christ; “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:9-10).

* * * * * * * * * *

Paul affirms the power of God to answer this prayer in the great benediction that we find in verses 20-21; “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, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Wouldn’t it be a great way for us to apply this passage about Paul’s prayer, as followers of Jesus, to pray for these things for one another?

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