Last week I introduced a short series on Paul Shaped Prayers; the intent being to shape our thinking about prayer by considering Paul's prayers through the New Testament. To begin, let's pause for a while and dwell long enough to be touched by the magnitude of Paul's prayer for the church in Ephesus.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, ESV)
The scale of everything in this prayer is enormous! From the all-pervasive nature of the Father to whom the prayer is addressed, to the glory of Christ throughout all generation, forever and ever. Nothing in this prayer is small.
When you pray like Paul, you pray big prayers! Even 'small things' find their true scale when you pray like this.
Paul prefaces his requests with an acknowledgement that any growth that happens as a result of his prayer comes not because of Paul's prayer, but instead from the inexhaustible riches of God's glory.
So pray big things humbly. Know that prayer is powerful, not because you hold sway with God, but because God's glory holds sway over all things.
Now notice what Paul prays for...
- Spirit enabled power that reshapes the character - rather than self-discipline over external actions
- That your life would be the residence of the Risen Christ, with it's foundations established by faith - rather than an acquaintance of Jesus
- That because of this foundation, you would have the capacity to know the unknowable; to join with that great cloud of witnesses in seeing Christ for who he truly is; to actually grasp love, real love, not as the world defines it; to have the full full-ness of God so fill you up that there is no room left for any other selfish ambition - rather than, "Yeah, I'm giving this Jesus thing a go"
And just in case we may think we have a picture of what that life would look like, what it would feel like to see this come to life in my own existence and the lives of those around me, Paul's prayer expands even more.
Paul finishes by reminding himself, and us, that we address a God who isn't restricted by the small-ness of our prayer, no matter how big we think we're praying. We cannot even begin to approach God's capacity to do big things in the lives of those we pray for, our greatest dreams or most outlandish requests don't even scratch the surface.
So pray big, but expect God to be bigger!
Imagine with me for a moment what your church might look like if it committed to praying for each other like this...
To the praise of his glory... forever and ever. Amen!