I’ve been reflecting a lot on Paul’s prayers to fuel my own attempts at ‘extraordinary prayer’. As I do, it’s remarkable the resonance I find with our 4Priorities, and especially with ReCentering Jesus and Equipping for Unity. I jotted some thoughts on Ephesians 3:14-19 down in my journal to help shape my praying imagination as I intercede for us and for our local brothers and sisters. I thought I might share them with you to help fuel your extraordinary prayer, as well. If you’d like the extra fuel, read on. If not, no harm done, and have a great day!
Here’s the text:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul’s endgame is “that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God”. Imagine that for a moment, and imagine the effect – both direct and indirect – that a people filled with God would have on a city, on a culture. No goodness that God wants to give thwarted, no corner of our personalities untouched. All that God is totally permeating all that we are. Infinity quietly (and sometimes not quietly) suffusing the mundane. A people utterly Godsoaked.
To get there, Paul thinks we need defining, transformative experiences of the love of Christ – experiential knowledge of a vastness that defies category and definition. We need experience that outstrips explanation, when often what we have is just the opposite.
There is something here that’s easy to miss but absolutely crucial: this love can only be fully known “with all the saints”. This is a group exploration, and the group required to pursue it is “all the saints.” Division aborts sanctification and blessing and fullness, and sometimes I fear we have gotten used to a normal that isn’t normal at all.
The same kind of “unity required for further growth” idea is present in Ephesians 4, and in Colossians 2, wherein our “hearts knit together in love” provides the matrix necessary for us to receive and comprehend the mystery of Christ. To offer a weak metaphor: no one, no matter how skilled or brilliant, can lasso a butterfly with a single strand, but even a child can catch one in a net. A net knit together in love.
A fractured pitcher holds no Water, and does a thirsty world (and thirsty saints) no good. Ok. Enough metaphors 😉
There is a wideness and a depth to what we’ve inherited, and as long as the church lives divided, she’ll only know one dimension of what’s hers. And she can only show what she knows.
Toward all this, Paul’s desire is that “Christ may dwell in [our] hearts (our cores) through faith”. A condition must be nurtured in each believer – a way of life Dallas Willard has called “vivid companionship with Jesus”. Saints betting on his presence down in our cores, and that very expectation opening the doors to all the rooms within us, giving him opportunity to set up shop in all our corners, and in all the layers of our lives. His real, current presence not mainly a theological fact, but the dominant experience of our lives.
I don’t live here often or steadily enough. What’s more, there seems to be little I can do to wrestle myself into the “mood” to feel him in my heart, or little I can remember or believe to “truth” myself into a steady state of vivid companionship with Jesus.
That’s why the very first part of this prayer is so encouraging to me. The first domino in this beautiful cascade of goodness is an action that God takes, and he takes it with all his might. With a force equal to the fullness of his glory, he reaches into us and acts on that part of us that is always ready for him – beneath our good and bad theology, beneath our emotional and social disturbances, beneath our wounds and attachments and ambitions, and beneath the distractions that fill us with noise – God himself, with a strength commensurate with his own, strengthens us in our inner man, and aims that power at the endgame…a people filled with God. In response to a prayer, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Paul knows that this generous action on God’s part is absolutely necessary. He also knows that it’s not always sufficient, because of the way God has made us, and because of the way he has conspired to save us. So Paul employs his Pray-and-Say strategy.
He prays because it’s first and always God’s work in us, and without that the engine doesn’t turn. But he also says what he’s prayed, I’m convinced, because he knows that the process usually requires the saints’ intelligent participation. So he tells us what he’s asking God for, essentially activating the cooperation of the willing in a transformation that begins and ends with God.
So, this week, I’m letting this prayer from a master apostle inform my praying AND my saying. I’m praying it for us, and I’m saying it to us right now. I’m also praying it for our local Family, and I’m saying what I can when I can as I encounter the brethren along the way.
If you think it might be helpful, you could do the same. Pray and say.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”