I recently heard an interesting statistic: the average Christian pastor prays eight minutes a day. The average believer is likely far less than that. Regardless of how many minutes you pray a day, consider this: how much of that time is consumed asking God for something. Even if it’s on behalf of someone else, we tend to treat God more like a cosmic valet than we do the creator of the universe. Here’s a scary little test. Ask yourself how many of your prayers God could answer with: “would you like fries with that?”
Jesus gave us a template for prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer. But lesser-known to most Christ-followers is another prayer example, this one from the Apostle Paul praying for believers in Ephesus:
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. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 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, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)
Before you continue reading, I would ask you to read that again; especially if you’re not familiar with it. Please meditate on it and consider what Paul is saying before you read on. Let’s drill down on a few key verses.
Let’s start at the top: “For this reason, I kneel before the Father…” I was raised in a Catholic family and did a lot of kneeling while praying. I hadn’t done much kneeling until I had occasion to study this prayer. If you haven’t recently, or if you never have, I suggest you do it while praying this prayer. It’s a humbling and receiving position.
Verse 16: I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being. It’s easy to miss how powerful this is. Here’s the best analogy I can think of. I have a history of buying digital devices and never fully learning what they’re capable of doing. I tend to learn just enough to do the basic functions that I consider essential. I usually leave a lot of the device’s capability in the box. We tend to leave a lot of Jesus in the box after we are saved. That’s what Paul is saying here. That our inner being would be strengthened with the power of His Holy Spirit. What does that mean? We can get a clue from Paul in Romans 6:
For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Romans 6:5-7 (NIV)
We died with Christ and we rose with Christ when we accepted Him into our hearts. Christ in us and we in Christ. But do we accept all of that? And do those we know accept it? Do we pray that they do? Author and Pastor Francis Chan, while training pastors for his “We Are Church” project in 2015, suggested to them that he would rather have them pray for their people all day than do the busy work of being a pastor. And he asked that they pray this prayer. As Chan said, “how can good things not happen if you pray this prayer.”
Yes, it’s fine to pray that people will find a job, get healthy and have a better marriage. But Chan’s point is if you pray Paul’s prayer the change will be so foundational, so complete, that it will address the other needs in the person’s life, or your own.
Verse 18: to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Imagine if you could truly understand the depth of Jesus’ love for you. Who wouldn’t want someone to pray that for them?
Most nights Ramona and I pray at 8 p.m. for those impacted by the pandemic and racial injustice. We’re going to start praying this prayer. I encourage you to pray it as well. How can good things not happen if you pray this prayer?
This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere WI.