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Ephesians 3:16-19 A Family Prayer

When I was in my first year of university, I had the very good fortune to meet a friend who encouraged me to memorize scripture.  We would choose a passage, and then one week later recite it to each other.  One of the first passages we chose was Ephesians 3:14-19.  It is a prayer that the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians, but that we could, and should, pray for our Christian brothers and sisters.

Paul begins this passage with the words, “For this reason”.  He has returned to what he started to say in Ephesians 3:1, after a lengthy parenthetical discourse in which he elaborated on the point he had made in Ephesians 2:11-22.  That is, that Gentiles were also welcome into God’s family, and that they, together with the Jews, were being built into a dwelling place for God’s Spirit.  On that basis, Paul begins his prayer for all believers in Ephesians 3:16-19.

Paul prays for three things, but they are not material things, and they are not separate and distinct.  Each request builds upon the one that preceded it.  First he prays that, according to the wealth of God’s glory, not according to our merit or what we have to offer, but according to what God has to offer, that we may be strengthened in our inner being, that we may become mature and more like Christ.  Second, Paul prays that Christ may dwell in our hearts.  The word translated dwell does not simply mean that Christ has entered our hearts.  He has done that through the Holy Spirit the moment that we accept the gift of His sacrifice for us.  Paul was speaking to those who had already taken that step.  What the word dwell more accurately means is that Christ will feel at home in our hearts, that there would be nothing within us, no thought, or word or deed, that would make Christ feel uncomfortable, disheartened or grieved. Third, because we have been rooted and grounded in the love of God—it is our anchor and our foundation—Paul prays that, although it is beyond what we could truly understand, we might still grasp how great God’s love is, that we would know God’s love, and that we may be filled with it until it overflows from us.

What Paul has prayed for is more than our minds can truly conceive, and certainly beyond what we have the capability to accomplish in our own strength.  Paul turns from petition to praise in Ephesians 3:20-21.  It is God’s power working within us that will accomplish this, and He is able to do far beyond anything that we could ever ask or imagine.  May God be glorified and praised through all generations.

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