Summary: This prayer serves as a model for us in prayer, both in praying for ourselves and praying for others in the family of God. This three phase prayer builds, each phase upon the previous, culminating in a request that God’s ultimate goal be reached in us.
A Prayer For The Church Family
One of the best ways to discover a Christian’s chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of their prayers and the intensity with which they pray them. We all pray about what concerns us and we are evidently not concerned about matters we do not include in our prayers. Prayer expresses desire.
As the hymn puts it, “Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, unuttered or expressed.” This is certainly true of today’s text - Paul’s second prayer in Ephesians. He pours out his heart to God.
Before launching into his petitions, Paul lays the foundation for his prayer in acknowledging God as Father/Creator …‘from whom his whole family … derives its name.’ The Life Application Bible notes say of these verses,
“The family of God includes all who have believed in him in the past, all who believe in the present, and all who will believe in the future. We are all a family because we have the same Father. He is the source of all creation, the rightful owner of everything … those who isolate themselves from God’s family or try to go it alone cut themselves off …”
We are a family, and just like any other family we will have shared joys and shared tears … feelings get hurt, and relationships get healed. Bonded together by our adoption by God, we have been forged into a new family – a family that prays for one another.
Through his emphasis on the fatherhood of God and the church as family, Paul prays a prayer for the church family, both then and now. This prayer serves as a model for us in prayer, both in praying for ourselves and praying for others in the family of God. This three phase prayer builds, each phase upon the previous, culminating in a request that God’s ultimate goal be reached in us.
Klyne Snodgrass says of this prayer, “This prayer is as appropriate to pray today as it was two thousand years ago, and its theological ideas are directly as applicable to our lives.”
So what was Paul’s prayer – what should we pray. Let begin with phase one.
Prayer Phase #1 – God’s power would be renewed within us.
While the apostle urged his Christian readers not to be discouraged on account of his suffering in 3:13, his prayer is for them to be strengthened by God’s power in order to meet this need.
At the heart of Paul’s first petition is a request for power. He has already prayed that the Ephesian believers might know God’s incomparably great power (1:18-19a). Now he prays more directly and specifically for the Spirit’s power to be manifested – that God’s power would be renewed within us.
This prayer, like the counterpart of 1:15-23, is loaded with terms for power. God’s mighty activity is stressed, first, by means of the relatively rare Greek work rendered ‘strengthen’, which carries the idea of fortifying a stronghold. In employing this expression, Paul has in mind more than becoming muscular. The emphasis is upon increased vigor and vitality. From this we can deduce that perhaps Paul is addressing some members of the Ephesian church who have just become spiritually worn out … they are ready to give up. The strengthening is further intensified by the addition of the words ‘with power’.
The resources available to fulfill this confident request are limitless: they are (lit.) ‘according to the riches of his glory’, an expression similar to one used in the earlier prayer of 1:18, where the readers, who are God’s own inheritance, share in ‘the riches of his glory’. The preposition draws attention not simply to the source, translated ‘out of the wealth of his glory’ as in the NIV, but also indicates that his giving flows freely from an inexhaustible supply of riches of that glory. It is on a scale corresponding with this glory: he gives as overwhelmingly as only he can, yet it never decreases the store of what he is able to supply.
The sphere in which the strengthening is to take place is in ‘the inner person’, a uniquely Pauline phrase. This inner person is ‘the interior of our being … the seat of personal consciousness, … [and] of our moral being.’ It is the focal point at the center of a person’s life where the Spirit does his strengthening and renewing work. ‘In your hearts’, in verse 17, is equivalent to ‘your inner being’. The ‘heart’ here, as elsewhere in Ephesians, is employed in its customary Old Testament sense of the center of one’s personality, the thoughts, will, emotions, and whatever lies at the center of who we are.
Indeed, our inner selves stand in constant need of renewal given our continual struggle with sin and the need for daily spiritual revival. Rather than merely chasing after our physical needs and desires, we must attend to our interior lives. Our souls requires as much care and exercise as our physical bodies.