January 1, 2006
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole 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. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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.”
I invite you to turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 3, starting in verse 14. Ephesians chapter 3, verses 14 through 21.
It is an honor and a privilege to open God’s Word with you today. I have high regard for your former pastor, Jeff Powell (who is now my pastor as District Superintendent) and high regard for your present Pastors John, Ron, and Greg. And I thank Pastor John for asking me to divide the Word with you today. It is a privilege to speak from his pulpit.
I’d like to speak this morning on the subject of prayer from the book of Ephesians chapter 3. I have just begun a doctoral class at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School on the subject of prayer, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. And I think that prayer is a good subject to start a year with. So, prayer it is.
How did you learn to pray? Most of us didn’t learn to pray from some book (though books may have been helpful to us along the way). Most of us who have learned somewhat how to pray learned it from listening to others pray, didn’t we?
We learned to pray from our parents, from our pastors, from a youth leader, from Sunday School teacher, from a friend.
I remember joining (for the first time) a prayer group of guys that met every Monday at 10am at Moody Bible Institute. That group existed to pray and nothing else. We came together and met in the storage room on our floor. A bunch of us sitting on boxes in the storage room. I can still see them now. Ruddy Chapparo, Kipp Wilson, Mark Boardwine, Buddy Delaporta, a few other guys, and myself. And we’d share requests, and then we’d get right down to praying. I had never been a part of anything like that before.
And I learned a lot from listening to those guys pray. The things they prayed for and the way that they prayed for them. Listening to these other guys about my age go to God with their hearts, with their needs, with their requests–I learned a lot about how to pray.
Well, here in Ephesians chapter 3, we get to listen in to the Apostle Paul praying!
How would you like to do that?!
This is a prayer report of what and how the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church. Do you think we could learn a few things about how to pray from the Apostle Paul? What he prayed for them? How he prayed for them? I think so.
And I think that in this passage, there is a BIG PRAYER REQUEST! A Goliath. A Paul Bunyan of a prayer request. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that for a believer, there is no greater prayer request than this one! No Greater Prayer Request.
It comes right in the middle of the book of Ephesians. It’s really the climax–the high-point of the book. Paul has been driving the whole book to this point (3 chapters of glorious theology erupt into this prayer) and then the next 3 chapters of powerful application flow out of this prayer. This is the high-point of the book.
Let’s listen in.
Ephesians chapter 3, verses 14 through 21.
[scripture reading, prayer]
I think that the last phrase in v.19 is the greatest prayer request ever. The thing that our Lord’s church needs to pray more than anything else. That we would be (v.19) “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” That request has captured my attention and should capture yours, as well.
It is a huge request, brothers and sisters! The fullness of God is everything! God’s glory is infinite, without end, overflowing, all-encompassing in fullness. And that’s the standard of the experience of God that Paul prays for this church. Filled to the measure or filled unto the fullness of God.
Do you want to “experience God?” This is the fullest experience of God possible.
“Filled to His fullness.”
God has so much to offer us, so much to give, so much that He is, in and of Himself. And Paul prays that we would have it all! That we would be filled to the measure (filled past capacity) “to the measure” of the fullness of God. That is the hugest prayer-request ever. None greater. None greater.
And you can see by looking at today’s passage that it is the culmination (the high-point, the mountain-top) of two sub-requests. Two things that Paul prays for the church in vv.16-19. They are both prayer requests for power.
Let me give you a road-map of this passage. It is all one prayer. Vv.14 and 15 tell us whom Paul prays to. Then v. 16 and the first part of v.17 has the first sub-request for power. The second part of v.17 and then vv.18 and 19 have the second sub-request for power. And then Paul caps them both with the awesome request that we would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God and bursts forth with a power-packed exclamation of praise in vv.20 & 21.
This is one of the most powerful prayers in all of the Scriptures. I would say only the “Real Lord’s Prayer” in John 17 is more powerful and that’s because the Son of God Himself prays for us there. But this is almost as powerful and just as all-encompassing and the request of v.19–I personally think there is none greater. Do you want your prayers to be great and powerful? Learn to pray along these lines.
Let’s look at them a little closer. Paul prays to the Father in vv.14&15. Look at that.
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.”
We pray to God as Father. The word “Father” should conjure up for us both the connotations of respect and intimacy. Every family in heaven and on earth gets its name from God the Father.
In other words, there is nothing that exists that God has not brought into being and named. He is the Author of Everything and the One who owns all the power in the universe and to whom all praise is due. And yet–He is also our FATHER. He’s our Abba. And that’s whom Paul addresses with this prayer. The Father.
And then the first sub-prayer request. V.16
“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.” Stop right there.
Now, follow this train of thought (it’s a little complicated, but the basic idea is pretty simple). Paul prays that God would reach into the un-ending storerooms of His glorious wealth, the limitless treasure-vaults of His glory, and give us...what? One word. Power.
Paul prays that God would give us power...now where? Where does the power go? In our inner beings. Literally the original says, “in our inner man,” in our hearts, the immaterial but most important part of us. He prays that the Spirit of God would give us power to strengthen us in our inner-most parts–in our hearts.
What does that say about you and me? It says that our hearts can be very weak. And that God must do a work in us for them to be strong. “They are weak, but He is strong.” Paul prays that God would strengthen our inner-beings by giving us power through the Holy Spirit from the riches of his glory.
Now, follow this. That power then has a goal. And that goal is awesome! V.17. “I pray that you would have this power ‘so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.’” What does that power look like in action? It looks like Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith.
“Now wait a second, right there. Hold on. Slow down. Back up. When I became a Christian, Pastor Matt, Jesus came into my heart! And Paul is praying for Christians here, is he not? What is he talking about? Jesus doesn’t disappear from our hearts and then we need to pray that He’ll return, does He?”
No. That’s not what this is saying. When you receive Christ, Jesus does come through the Holy Spirit to live in your heart.
And He does not leave us nor forsake us if we are truly His.
What Paul is praying for here is that the power of God would come to us to strengthen our inner beings so that Christ might be at home in our hearts.
Let me put it this way. Prayer Request #1 is for God’s Power to Remodel Our Hearts for Christ. Paul prays, and we need to pray for God’s Power to Remodel Our Hearts for Christ.
The Greek word translated here “to dwell” (katoikeo) could be rendered “to settle in,” “to take up residence” in other words, to make oneself at home.
How many of you have read the little booklet: My Heart, Christ’s Home? This is the passage that that booklet comes from.
Think about your heart–your inmost being, the real you–as a house. When Jesus came to be your Savior and Lord, you invited Him to live in your house, your heart. But for Jesus to live there comfortably, for it to really be His house, some remodeling needs to be done.
How many of you have done some remodeling in your home? There’s always some work to be done, isn’t there?
Remodeling takes some effort. It means making some changes. And it’s not always comfortable. It’s a process that takes power tools and deconstruction as well as reconstruction. Paul is praying that God would reach into his glorious riches and bring His power-tools to a remodeling project of our hearts with the Holy Spirit as the General Contractor so that Jesus would feel more and more at home there. This is another way of praying that we would become more Christ-like. That our hearts would be the kind of place that God would want to dwell.
We need to pray for God’s Power to Remodel Our Hearts for Christ.
Can you see Jesus looking at a certain wall of your heart and saying, “You know, I love this house, but that wall has to go. That attitude has to go, that sin needs cleaned out of here, that priority needs to be adjusted and hung on a different peg. That relationship needs to move, and now.”
Jesus is Lord, brothers and sisters, and He wants to rule our hearts as the Master of the House.
Now what’s our part in this? Paul prays that it would happen, so he’s putting the onus of responsibility on God to do this in us. God’s riches, God’s power, God’s strengthening, God’s Spirit, Christ at home. It’s His work! The whole work of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ is the work of God the Holy Spirit. But what do we do?
We exercise faith. Look again at v.17.
“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
The remodeling project that God is up to requires our cooperation by believing in God’s promises to us. Faith is our part in the project.
So, let me ask you the big question. What’s He moving around? If there is no heart-re-modeling going on in your life, you’ve got a problem. Where is the Master of the House calling you to make some changes? A relationship? An attitude? A job change? A new calling here at church? A priority adjustment? Is your heart more Christ’s home now than it was at the beginning of 2005?
I want to ask you to write down on the back of your bulletin a change that you know that God is calling you to make. A sin to repent of, a change of priorities, a new direction to take your prayer life, a habit to overcome by faith. Go ahead and write it down.
Some of these changes require a lot of trust. Sometimes when Jesus says to tear down a wall in our hearts, we think that that wall will bring the house down with it, and so, we’ve got trust Him. And when we do, our hearts will never be a more beautiful home!
Do you see how this is being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God? How is that fullness going to fit if we don’t let God’s power strengthen our inner beings to make a suitable dwelling place for the Lord Christ? For us to have all of Him, He needs to have all of us!
We Need to pray for God’s Power to Remodel Our Hearts for Christ.
Paul prays that we would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God by giving all of our heart over to Christ’s skillful remodeling hands.
The second sub-prayer request is in v.17.
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge...”
Paul prays, and (we need to pray) for God’s power to grasp the love of Christ.
This prayer request is also a prayer for power. Do you see that in v.18, “I pray that you may have power...”
The Greek word here for “power” is different from the word in v.16. This word is a stronger word that occurs only here in the New Testament. It means “strong ability.” It was sometimes used to mean “the ability to sack a city.” To have what it takes to ransack a town and make it yours. This word is put with a word that means to “seize something” or “to grasp something,” so that together, it means to have the strong ability to comprehend or personally understand–to fully realize something.
Sub-Request #2 is a prayer for the power to understand in a personal way (not just intellectually–not just “head-knowledge”) the love of Christ.
We Need to Pray for God’s Power to Grasp the Love of Christ.
Paul knows that we have been rooted and established in love, that is, we have come to faith in Jesus and have a taste of His love at work in our lives. That much is certain. It is our root, our foundation. “We are rooted and established in love.” But Paul prays for MORE. More. More personal knowledge of this love.
He wanted it for himself, did he not? Philippians chapter 3, “I want to know Christ...I consider everything a loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (vv, 10, 8, 12).
“Knowing You, Jesus, there is no greater thing!”
And he wants it for us. More personal knowledge of the love of Jesus.
And that takes power.
We Need to Pray for God’s Power to Grasp the Love of Christ.
He prays, “Rooted and established in love, I pray that you may have power, together with all the saints (notice the word TOGETHER here, this knowledge of God’s love is not a Lone-Ranger kind of expedition–it takes the whole church to do it. We need each other in the Body of Christ!), power to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
Do you see what he’s doing? Paul is trying to paint a picture of the infinite dimensions of Christ’s love. Go as far east as you can and you won’t exhaust it. Go as far west as you can and you won’t exhaust Christ’s love. Go as far north, as far south–go to the moon, go beyond our galaxy, go beyond the universe, no matter what the direction you travel, you will not be able to find the end of Jesus’ love for His people.
What does this tell you about us? It tell us that we are weak! We need power to understand how much Jesus loves us. It doesn’t come naturally. We need power. We are weak. And it tells us that Jesus is strong. Jesus awesome and glorious and matchless in the dimensions of His love for us.
How do you measure love? We know that there are greater and smaller amounts of love in the world. I have a greater love for my daughter Robin than for other little girls. One writer asks, “can we say `how many buckets of love do you have?’” How do you measure love? I’m not sure how to put it on a scale. But if there was a four-dimensional scale available for measuring love, Christ’s love for His church would not fit on it. It would be off-the-scale. The Cross shows us this limitless love!
And Paul prays that God would pour into us a power to grasp in a finite way the infinite dimensions of Christ’s love.
I love how he puts it in v.19. “To know this love that surpasses knowledge!” That doesn’t mean to know the unknowable, that would be meaningless.
That means to know something that cannot be fully grasped. To catch the tail of the great beast. To see the tip of the iceberg. To feel the rush of wind from the first blasts of the hurricane. To dip your feet in the ocean. Jesus’ love is limitless–but it is experience-able. “To know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
We Need to Pray for God’s Power to Grasp the Love of Christ.
And that, Paul believes, that would lead to being filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!
For God to increase our capacity to understand, to realize, to grasp, to enjoy the unending dimensions of his love in ever-expanding magnitudes!
To be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Do you see it? There is no greater prayer request. Sub-request #1, that God would remodel our hearts by His power so that Christ can really move in and fill us and make our hearts the home of all His measureless glory. Sub-request #2, that God would empower us to grasp in ever increasing amplitude the limitless frequencies of His love. Wave upon wave of His love breaking over us for all eternity!
Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
There is only one more question to be asked. This awesome prayer request begs one important question....
Can He do it? Can God answer this request?
This is the greatest prayer request ever for anybody. Have you ever prayed this into someone’s life? Pastor John, memorize this and pray this for your people. Elders, memorize this and pray this for your people. This is what we need, brothers and sisters. More. More. Limitlessly more of God.
But, can God do it?! Has Paul asked for too much? We have reached the greatest prayer request ever. The summit of the mountain. But, can God do it? Can we be filled to the measure of His fullness or is that asking too much?
Not by a long shot! V.20
“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.”
Can God do it? He is able! Paul breaks out into “doxology,” words of praise to God because this is possible for God. He has a power (see that word POWER again?). He has a power at work within us who believe that is able to accomplish this prayer request in our hearts–to remodel us as a suitable dwelling for Jesus and to give us clear understanding of His matchless love. He is able!
In fact, He is more than able. The KJV says he is able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
Let me tell you about the word that is translated “immeasurably more” in the NIV.
The word is huperekperisou. It’s a compound word. Perisou by itself would mean full; God is able to fill us that much that Paul prays for. He can do it. But then it has a preposition on it. Ek. Out of. God is able to do what Paul prays for and more than that, out of that! And then Paul tops it off with another preposition. Huper. “Beyond.” God is able to do what Paul prays. God is able to do out of that level. God is able to fill us out of, and beyond. “Beyond, out of, full.”
Let me show you what this word means with this glass of water. We need to understand the power that God has and wants to demonstrate in our lives.
The glass is Paul’s greatest prayer request for us. That we would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Water is God’s ability to answer that request. V.20 “to him who is able to do”
“perisou.” Perisou is filling the cup. Ek-perisou is filling the cup and letting some of it overflow and dribble on the stage. But the word here is huper-ek-perisou. That means taking another jug of water and pouring into the cup until it overflows and overflows and gets the carpet completely soaked.
“Immeasurably more than all we ask... or even imagine!”
He can do it, brothers and sisters!
Don’t be afraid to ask, with Paul, to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
He can do it and exceeding abundantly more!
And because He can, we should give Him praise. Paul says, “to him be glory in the church (that’s us!) and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations (He’s still able today to do this!), for ever and ever! Amen!”
Let’s join Paul in praise of this Awesome Father before Whom he has knelt and offered the greatest prayer request for the church, ever.
God’s power to remodel our hearts for Christ. Trusting Him even when it seems like the whole house is going to fall down in the renovation.
God’s power to grasp the love of Christ. It is limitless and unimaginably great. We need to know it.
Filled to the measure of all the fullness of God!