The prayers of Paul
This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.
The letter to the Ephesians is not written to a specific church. Some copies of the letter do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in Verse 1. It is a general letter written to the churches in what is now western Turkey.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 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, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.Ephesians 3:14-21 ESVUK
The story so far … grace and
This is basically part 2 of the prayer in chapter 1. But between them, Paul has written some other stuff in this letter, here’s a quick rundown for context. Chapter two takes the idea of Christ’s exultation, adds that we are raised in Christ then counters the bland triumphalism that we are already partaking in the victory of Christ by saying not yet, that will have to wait until Christ returns, even though the new age of God began when Christ rose from the dead.
But God … says Paul in two very important words, and goes onto two points about the Christian life, living in grace and hope and in grace and faith. It is always grace and. There is nothing in the Christian life without grace.
In a way, Ephesians tackles the same ground as Paul’s earlier letter to the Romans. Still, where Romans spoke of the Christian life in terms of the crucifixion of Christ, Ephesians’ focus is on Christian life in terms of the ascension and ascension of Christ.
The rest of Chapter 2 talks about the history of Judah and Chapter 3 is about Paul’s ministry up to this point.
Praying for strength
Paul starts the second prayer in Ephesians with a pun in Greek. The word family in verse 15, patria in Greek meaning a group with a common ancestor, puns on patera, meaning Father in verse 14.
The context here is that the prayer is for those with experience of living in grace and. That is grace and hope, and grace and faith. Please read grace into everything that follows.
When Paul says that he bows the knee before the Father in verse 14, he is praying for strength for his readers. Remember this is about grace and … in this case grace and power. Grace comes from God, so first you have to bow the knee to the Father and be weak. We are strengthened with God’s strength, not our own, which is fortunate for me because when I rely on myself I fail at an alarming rate. God’s strength is freely available, we do nothing to deserve it. That is grace.
Typical of Paul is the adding of detail that is as long, and often longer than the point he is making. Here he does just that, and the ESV, used above, helpfully uses a dash to separate the comment from the point. It is possible to move on from the dash in verse 17 to the start of Chapter 4, but I think that would be a mistake as what follows is wonderful.
A word of explanation here when we see the word heart we could interpret it as the centre of emotions, as is common in modern Western thought. The heart is not the centre of emotions in Eastern thought but of reason. When Paul says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith,” he is talking about Christ living in your reasoning. There is a good cause for saying God should be in your emotions, but that is not in this passage. So when he continues to say “may have strength to comprehend” the extra dimension is deliberate, Christ in your hearts is about the control by God of your reasoning and through that you understand the breadth and length and height and depth. Yes, four dimensions. Paul would have known that there are three physical dimensions and is deliberately adding a fourth. What God gives us goes beyond what can be explained by the physical, it is so much, much more.
Knowing Jesus leads to praise.
Knowing Jesus leads to praise. We are still in Paul’s tangent, but when he is speaking to the churches around Ephesus about how we can understand the things of God fully and well beyond, but still including, the physical, he then overflows in praise directly to God about how wonderful God is for doing this to and for us.
The effect of knowing Jesus, the effect of comprehending the grace of God by Christ dwelling in our hearts is not something that can be contained. It bursts out. Telling of the great things of God leads to praising God. The passage is not about the heart as the seat of emotions, but it is so great that an emotional response by us cannot be contained. It bursts out spontaneously.
Let us praise God for his great love for us.
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