IT’S NOT JUST MY IMAGINATION
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
The repetition of adverbs can be comforting and assuring. One of the best responses to difficulty in our lives from our friends is to hear the words: “I’m really, really praying for you.” This is kind of like what Paul the Apostle did in Ephesians 3, as he told the believers in Ephesus that he was praying for them. He said, For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a major statement of departure for Paul in the eyes of his readers. Why, you may ask? Well, as a Jew, Paul would almost always pray standing up. This was the culturally acceptable way for men to pray. But here, he tells the Ephesians that he was interceding for them with bended knee. The expression “bowing the knees” was a different way of saying that he was prostrating himself before the LORD on their behalf. This would very naturally convey to them his earnest desires for their betterment.
Think about this action for just a moment, as a painted picture may help you to better grasp the implications of this act on the Apostles part. He was in prison bound at the wrist by a Roman Guardian. He would have needed the guards permission to get down on the ground. It would have even required the soldier’s joint participation. It is entirely possible that Paul had won this man to the LORD and he was discipling him in the fine art of prayer. What is even more telling is the content of Paul’s outcry, as it is one of the most eloquent examples of loving prayer in all of Scripture and literature, for that matter.
This gives us a glimpse into the nature of prayer as a reality, as it began in the heart of God as Holy Spirit touched Paul’s heart and caused a fount to open up, creating a surge of inspired intercession that transcends this present reality. We are given two glimpses into the heart of God for us, as there is an unveiling of the depth of longing that exists in Paul for his friends and in the vision God imparts to them through this apostolic pronouncement. This prayer is a critical one for us individually, as it has eternal implications. We can pray it into existence for ourselves by changing the wording as we remove the second person pronoun and “you” and replace it with “me.” You works when we pray for others. Me works in helping me to see God’s great love that is personal and attainable.
Paul’s explanation of our inheritance in Christ comes into focus at this juncture. It’s like he is saying, “my explanation of your riches in Christ isn’t sufficient by itself. Now it’s time to experience these riches. What I said now needs to be lived. That’s my prayer.” In examining this Apostolic Prayer, let’s start with the ending, where Scripture says that, Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, as it is one of the Apostle’s “He is able” declarations concerning the power of God expressed in Christ. This is important to note, as Paul isn’t placing confidence in the readers or himself. He is affirming the ability of Jesus. The word able is the verb dunamei in Greek, which means to have power. Here is the truth: Jesus our LORD possesses all power and He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we could ever consider possible.
However, we must be bold, confident and filled with great expectation in our assertions before the Throne! The phrase: according to the power that works in us means that Christ who dwells in us through Holy Spirit by faith, stimulates and stirs up the potential we are capable of achieving in our lives. This means that He works into us everything that He desires to work out of us/cause to flow from us like a mighty River! Jesus has made it possible for us to lay claim to the superabundance that He offers to us. We just have to be willing to grab on and not let go. So what are we laying hold of? Exactly what was prayed over us in the preceding verses.
When the heart cry was released, it’s first gush embraced courageous behavior. Everyone of us goes through times where we run the risk of losing heart. Verse 13 of this chapter has a telling phrase, Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart (KJV). Paul knew they ran the risk of faltering, so he began by saying, For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Losing heart is a figure of speech that implies you are losing your verve, your determined will. In our culture we talk about athletes who have lost their heart or we say that someone really puts their heart into their work. Our potential to lose heart is what predicated Paul’s emergency room behavior as he implored the LORD to, grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. The secret to not losing heart in any situation is to receive power from Jesus indwelling Spirit. This is why the cultivation of the walk in the Spirit is so important.
He gives us courage in the middle of a compromising world. Courage is the creative compulsion that is the composite of compelling convictions that calls us to concentrate all our capabilities and conscripts us in a cause that cannot be compromised (a quote I read). Plutarch once said that courage is not hazarding without fear, but being resolutely minded in a just cause. Or how about this one, an old Italian proverb advises that it is better to live one day as a lion than a hundred days as a sheep. Cool expressions of courage, but for us as believers, courage is the blending of Spirit’s guidance into what we are called to be and what we are called to do for Jesus.
Courage is the internal resource of Heaven’s provision for us to step out in faith and get the work of the Kingdom accomplished. Courage is the substance that leads us into the life of the overcomer in every area of that our faith expresses itself: in our minds, in our bodies and in our wills. By the way, overcoming is more than trying harder. Overcoming happens as we let Jesus work in us and through us. It’s trusting in His all sufficient grace to lead us into our destiny. Right before Jesus was crucified for you, He made this statement for you, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Cheer in the Greek can also mean courage. This cheerful courage is an offering that has been presented to us, but we have to be willing to reach out and take hold of it, appropriating it into our spirit. An alternate rendering that might be better would be to translate this passage to say, “take courage, for I have overcome the world.” When all seems bleak and we feel like quitting, when we say to the LORD, “I can’t make it LORD,” He responds by saying, “ I’m in you, over you, all around you, behind you and going before you. Receive my courage and be filled with cheer!”
LOVE AS A FOURTH DIMENSION
The love of Jesus is absolutely amazing, isn’t it? As Paul continues to pray for us apostolically, he addresses his revelation of the fourth dimension reality of love as he says, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. His first dimensional revelation is seen in the width of love. It’s like the revelation of Ezekiel’s River. Impossible to cross because of its size. What this means to us is that the love of God is inclusive. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you may have done, if you are in Christ, you belong to Him. There isn’t anything that disqualifies us from His love. When the enemy or your soul tries to condemn you, tries to say that you have no right to God’s great love and forgiveness, remember that it is Jesus who healed the sick, who cast out demons and who embraced Prostitutes and accountants who worked for the IRS. Jesus will always reach out to you in order to wrap His arms around you!
The cool thing about this Jesus love is that it is more than width, it is also long. Length addresses the inescapable quality of Jesus love for His own. You will never find a place where jess isn’t waiting for you, never! His arms are long enough to wrap themselves around you, regardless of where you may have wandered off. The Psalmist addresses the ubiquity of the LORD (present everywhere at once, or seeming to be, mom’s aren’t God) in Psalm 139:7-10, Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. You know what this means don’t you? You may as well give up and realize that when life seems to be pressing in, the LORD is with you, waiting to invade you with His grace and mercy. We have to trade our sin dulled naturalistic views of life for Jesus’ view, which is naturally supernatural. The view of Heaven sees what we call supernatural as natural, and what we proclaim to be natural as fallen, tainted and immaterial.
Jesus’ love is also deep. This means that Jesus cross reaches down, plummeting to the bottom regions of our guilt and shame. There is no abyss that He cannot reach down into. Your memories of failures, broken relationships, whatever you may have said done or been, all those things that make you achy inside, all the junk of your cauldrons of despair cannot keep Jesus out. Jesus will never leave you alone to stew in your sordid juices of self-condemnation, negativism or self-judgment. But that isn’t the end of it all. Paul also says that Jesus is high, high, high! Jesus love reaches to the highest heights, to infinity and beyond! Applied to our faith, this means you have unlimited possibilities as you rest secure in Jesus. All your relationships, all that you are supposed to become, Jesus is there, coaxing you on toward the finish line.
VISION STRETCHING FAITH AND LOVE
We are now back to where we started, looking at Paul’s conclusion to his prayer. Learn the truths of this heart expression: what you can expect from Jesus is dependent on the power He works in you. His power is what stretches our capacity to see, our vision. So don’t give up! Don’t give in! Never surrender to the flat lined existence of this present evil age! To live in this current plain means we will be limited by our own intelligence and abilities, but friends there is so much more! Remember the words of Jesus, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10)!” Don’t get robbed by the devil, live in the abundance of Heaven’s open floodgates.
LORD, we are grateful for the prayer that was prayed for us all those years ago. Make us like the soldier who would have to bend his knee with the Apostle. Help us to never pray feckless, weak or furtive prayers again. This is real prayer. This is prayer that leads to life. This is the key to accessing more than we can ask or imagine.