The Prayer for the Church: Strength, Love and Fullness
Introduction: Praying in confidence that Father is able to build his church
Paul now takes up and completes the sentence broken off at verse 1, and leads into the final part of his prayer which he began in 1:17. The theme here complements what has so far been said. In 1:17–23 the basic prayer was for the readers’ deepened spiritual understanding of the central mystery of God’s will; specifically that they may have a joyful grasp of the Christian hope, and a confident trust in God’s saving, reconciling power in them, beginning to bring all things together into unity in Christ…The more deeply that is known in the church, the more intensely will it reflect the unity, harmony, and vibrant Messianic peace that will finally be restored by God in the new creation…This final part of Paul’s prayer (v. 14-21) forms its climax. Here (verse 14) we see Paul prostrating himself before God, on his knees with head bowed to the ground, as one making obeisance (a gesture showing worship, respect, homage) and bringing a matter of utmost urgency to a powerful king (the more usual position for prayer was standing). Paul certainly wanted to convey the impression of God’s power. If he is called Father (see the comments on Mk. 14:36; Lk. 11:2; Rom. 8:14–17) we must remember this is not only a term of intimacy. In the east the father is the ruler over the family, the one to whom all questions of importance are related, and to whom the children (however old they may be) are expected to defer in obedience. When Jews spoke of God as a Father, they meant he ruled the world which owed him its obedience.
1. Paul begins his prayer in recognition of the power of God the Father to be the one who can and will affect all that is needed for his people because he is the one who
created and rules all the families of the earth.
The use of the word “family” is a word play on the proper name of “Father”.
To name something is to have the right and authority over it.
Paul’s affirmation that the families of the earth are his sovereign realm highlights the fact that Father is the one who is powerful and able to answer the prayer for his people’s strength, love and fullness.
So, Paul begins this prayer with complete confidence in the one who can and will answer mission-centric requests from his children.
2. Paul begins his prayer in recognition of the authority of God the Father to build his church and for us his people to fall in line with his purpose.
Paul specifically is about to pray for the Ephesians’s strength, love and fullness because that is precisely what they will need as they make war to grow into Christ as one body formerly made up of two.
Perhaps we can carry away from this that we, too, need strength for being one under the headship of Jesus in relationship with Jesus (up).
Perhaps we can carry away that we, too, need increased love for one another as the Lord commanded (in).
Perhaps we can carry away that we, too, need all of the fullness of God at work in us to collide with culture and make disciples (out).
Adjustment on the mentality of prayer before we launch into the prayer of Paul:
It may help to adjust our mentality on what prayer is before we begin a look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians.
Prayer is communication with God and his divinely created and wired means of getting the mission of the kingdom done in restoring all things back under the headship of Christ.
1. We don’t pray to be heard by others
2. We do pray to be heard by Father
3. We don’t pray like believers of false religions in their constant repetition (in the same setting unnecessarily chanting the same phrase over and over again) thinking this somehow gets Father’s attention because he knows what we need before we ask
1. A prayer for strength for the church v. 16-17a
The “so that” in verse 17 is supplied due to the tense of the following verb “dwell”. This is not necessary. The literal rendering is better and not misleading.
Literally, “…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant to you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, Christ to dwell in your hearts through faith…”
The idea is that because Christ dwells in us through faith we can be strengthened with power through the Spirit, who is Christ dwelling in us through faith, and this is according to the riches of his glory.
It’s really parallel statements. Christ dwells in our hearts through faith // he grants us to be strengthened in our inner being by the Spirit according to the riches of his glory.
In other words, we have the available the riches of God’s glory in powerful strength through the indwelling Spirit, who is Jesus in us through faith.
1. We need strength to do the mission
2. We need strength to do life
3. We need strength to persevere
4. We need strength to resist the evil one
5. We need strength for courage
The real question is: How is this strength realized?
1. We are strengthened through prayer
2. We must be asking for strength to stay on the mission daily. If we need to pray for
strength to stay on the work, then the temptation will be to grow weary of the work and
fall away from the church.
2. A prayer for the church to know how much we are loved and to continue to love one another v. 17b-19a
The church must be founded on love
17b actually starts with a purpose clause, “that you being rooted and grounded in love”.
Because these saints have followed the Lord Jesus they are obeying the Lord Jesus.
They are “rooted” and “grounded” in love.
Vital to the life of the church is it’s love for each other.
John will write later to the church at Ephesus that they had abounded the love they had at first.
For this multi-ethnic church on the frontier of the mission love would be essential.
Jesus said to love each other. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John will say in 1 John that love is how we know we are in the faith.
1. The church is not rooted and grounded in its mission first
We are rooted and grounded in love because Father has loved us and that love made for us a mission.
2. The church is not rooted and grounded in its detection of false teaching
3. The church is rooted and grounded in its love for each other reflecting the love of the
Father’s love is rich
1. We are to enjoy the infinite love of Christ Jesus
The “Four Magnitudes” – breadth, length, height and depth are poetic expressions to help us know the magnitude of the love of God.
2. Father loves wide enough to include people from all nations (John 3:16)
3. Father loves long enough to last for eternity (1 Corinthians 13:8)
4. Father loves high enough to take sinners to the kingdom of heaven (1 John 3:1, 2)
5. Father loves deep enough to send the Lord Jesus to the earth to reach the lowest
sinner (Philippians 2:8)
Love is a community issue not an individual issue
Paul prays that we would be able to comprehend with “all the saints” the love of Christ.
Paul seeks not solo virtuoso knowledge of Christ’s love, but the love that is known corporately and unites.
“…may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints”
Community is only where we can truly, full throttle taste and enjoy love. Love is not to be enjoyed in isolation. Love is uniquely Father’s… “God is love…”. Trinitarian community is where we get this.
1. We understand the magnitude of Father’s love when we sit under the preaching of the word together
2. We understand the magnitude of Father’s love when we study it together and discuss
3. We understand the magnitude of Father’s love when we share our knowledge and
experience of Father’s love with each other
4. We understand the magnitude of Father’s love when we receive it from our church
5. We understand the magnitude of Father’s love when our hearts go upward in the
worship of Father
3. A prayer for fullness for the church v. 19b
Verse 19b has the purpose clause.
“…that you may b filled with all the fullness of God.”
The stated purpose here for their knowing infinite love of the Father is that in knowing that love they would then be filled up with all the fullness of God.
What is the fullness of God?
Ephesians 1:22-23 “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
What is the fullness of Jesus who fills all in all? The church.
In the church we find the community of the kingdom, and in the church we find the very fullness of the revelation of Father, Son and Spirit. We get all there is to get of Father in his body, the church.
In the church we find the powerful work of the Spirit to gift and supply with everything needed for each other.
1. In the church we find the powerful work of the gospel in its reconciling us to Father to know him (restores the up).
2. In the church we find the powerful work of the gospel by the Spirit in its sanctifying power to clean us up and unite us together (restores the in).
3. In the church we find the powerful work of the gospel by the Spirit in transforming dead rebels into alive saints and retaking all domains in bringing them back under the rule of Jesus (restores the out).
Where Christ’s love is deeply known, there he is already exercising his rule, uniting the cosmos in himself in new-creation harmony with God.
4. Doxology v. 20-21