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A Refrigerator-Posted Prayer

One of the most famous, refrigerator-posted, prayers of the Bible is found in Ephesians 3:14-21, and I understand why: it’s a powerfully worded prayer that asks for things every Christian wants, as it reminds us that God is able to do much more than anything we can ask or think: things like (1) being strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being (we might say spiritually and emotionally) (2) for God to put (to indwell) Christ in our hearts through faith, (3) being rooted and grounded in love, (4) so that we might be enabled to comprehend (with all the saints) the breadth, length, height, and depth—to know the love of Christ that goes beyond knowledge, and (5) that we might be filled with all the fullness of God. And if God can do much more than that, why wouldn’t we want to be reminded of his amazing grace and power upon us and in us?

But let me ask you, have you ever thought about what these things really mean . . . in the context of Ephesians? Are they just generic, “broad-as-a-barn” concepts, that can be understand and applied by everyone and anyone at all times, anywhere? Well . . . sort of . . . Maybe. But maybe not.

The ideas are certainly broad and powerful. But knowing what you know about Ephesians thus far, can you begin to see how they might apply within the book-level context of Ephesians (Paul and his audience)? That is, how they might pertain to the subject matter Paul has been discussing and perhaps to the situation that lies behind the letter?

For instance, remember that in the very last verse before this prayer (3:13), Paul asked his audience not to be discouraged because of what had happened to him and his current situation. Discouragement! Hmm. And overcoming discouragement. How do we do that? Paul has been telling us that his ministry and everything that came with it was according to the working of God’s power. Being able to trust that God is in control, even in the worst of circumstances, and that God has not forgotten or abandoned his powerful work in us/Paul flows naturally into just such a prayer to strengthen his audience emotionally (in their hearts) through faith in Christ. Since God has shown such great love to us in Christ (“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love . . .”), and since Christ rules for the church, do we not have reason to hope, be encouraged, and strengthened?

But let me ask you a question. Would the prayer apply in the same way if Paul was not living out and up to his calling in Christ? (“For this reason, I, Paul, am the prisoner/ minister of Christ for the Gentiles.”) Or what if the Gentile audience decides not to strive to live up to “the calling with which they were called”? In other words, is there a relationship between the power to comprehend, to be encouraged, standing firm against the fiery arrows of the evil one—of God’s abundant riches and blessings in Christ—and understanding/accepting our place (by the gifts of Christ’s grace [see 4:1-16]) in God’s ongoing plan for the church?

(Sorry for “the length . . . and height and depth” of this blog. I got carried away. 🙂 I’ll do better next time.)

Check out the words and ideas of the prayer in Eph 3:14-21, and see if you begin to see the connections—to see the features of this prayer as “encapsulations” or “distillations” of important points of Ephesians to this point. For example, why is God described as the father of “every family in heaven and on earth”? How does comprehension relate to power, and does the audience need to “comprehend” some things? Why should they comprehend with all the saints? And what about “the fullness of God”? Has Paul mentioned that? Are we headed to more about that in the chapters that follow? (see 4:7-16).

In other words, have you ever noticed (“comprehend”) the marvelous prayer of Eph 3:14-21 as a key, transitional moment in the book of Ephesians? . . . how its ideas flow from, sum up, and highlight important themes?

It’s a good moment when we pause to read this prayer on the refrigerator, or wherever we see it. But what meaning and power was first inspirited into the prayer by the Spirit’s moment within the book of Ephesians as part of God’s first conversations with his people? Have you ever associated God doing more than we ask or imagine with your calling in Christ (like Paul: “according to the power at work in us”)?

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