Summary: . Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man; strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where
Opening illustration: A missionary wrote a newsletter to thank his supporters for being “prayer warriors.” Because of a typing error, though, he called them “prayer worriers.” For some of us, that might be a good description.
In his book Growing Your Soul, Neil Wiseman writes, “Prayer must be more than a kind of restatement of fretting worries or a mulling over of problems. Our petitions must move beyond gloomy desperation, which deals mostly with calamity and despair.”
During an anxious time in our life, we become “prayer worriers.” we beg, “Lord, please keep my neighbor from causing me problems tomorrow.” Or, “Father, don’t let that ornery person spread gossip about me.” Apparently these kinds of prayers are never going to shape us or strengthen us in anyway but may help us to consider God as a genie in a bottle.
But then the Lord teaches us to pray for people, rather than against them. I began to say, “Lord, bless and encourage my neighbor, and help him to sense Your love.” Then I watched to see what God would do. The Lord’s amazing answers not only helps others but also helps us to cure our own anxiety!
Paul was no “prayer worrier.” He prayed for God’s people that they might know the strength, love, and fullness of God, who is able to do far more than we can ask or even think. Such confidence made Paul a true “prayer warrior.” Are our prayers like that?
Let us turn to Ephesians 3 in our Bibles and check out the prayer Paul prayed for our inner man to be strengthened.
Introduction: Paul asks for spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings. Strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man (a terminology which the Greek understood and used in their daily life); strength in the soul; the strength of faith, to serve God, and to do our duty. If the law of Christ is written in our hearts, and the love of Christ is shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Where his Spirit dwells, there he dwells. We should desire that good affections may be fixed in us. And how desirable to have a fixed sense of the love of God in Christ to our souls! How powerfully the apostle speaks of the love of Christ! The breadth shows its extent to all nations and ranks; the length that it continues from everlasting to everlasting; the depth, its saving those who are sunk into the depths of sin and misery; the height, its raising them up to heavenly happiness and glory. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ’s fullness may be said to be filled with the fullness of God. Should not this satisfy man? Must he needs fill himself with a thousand trifles, fancying thereby completing his happiness?
Particularly, Paul desires them not to faint on account of his afflictions in their behalf; declares that he bows his knees in prayer before the great Father of the redeemed family, that God would be pleased to strengthen them, and enlighten them, and give them clear views of the glorious plan.
How can ‘The Inner Man’ be strengthened?
1. Permanence of Christ (vs. 16-17a)
For many of us, this is basic Christianity. Children speak of Christ in their heart - though, we often find this basic idea difficult as well ... how is it that Christ dwells in our heart? This metaphor is strongly related to all suggestions that our lives are connected with Christ. Whether conflict, or success, or failings, our lives have been connected with Christ ... whether Christ "dwells in our hearts" because he is always in our thoughts, and we pray just as we breathe", or if this is something deeper and more mystical ... Paul’s prayer is that we are tied more and more closely with Christ.
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it’s as if we invite Him to come and make our hearts His home. But in a very real sense, He is not yet “at home” there until He takes full possession of every area. He takes us on a tour of our hearts, as it were, takes a look at a room that is behind a locked door, and says, “Child, I would like to go into this room. Would you please hand Me the key?” We might be very unwilling to do so. We might be afraid to let Him in that room because of what we keep in it. “No, Lord. I keep that room locked for a reason. There are things in there that it would not be appropriate for You to see. I have some favorite sins and habits I keep in there. I’d rather You not go in there.” For Jesus to dwell in our hearts by faith would require that we give Him the key to that room. It would be as if He says, “Child, your heart is now My home; and I must make Myself at home everywhere - even in this locked room. Give Me the key; and let’s clean out this room of the things that don’t belong in your life, so that I can truly be at home in every area of your heart.”