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The Prayer of Paul
by Steven Wickstrom
09/08/08
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Ephesians 3:14-21
The Prayer of Paul

by Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the NASB

(14) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
(15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,
(16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man;
(17) so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
(18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length, and height, and depth;
(19) and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.
(20) Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,
(21) to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.


To bring you up to date on the book of Ephesians, chapters two and three talk about being saved by grace through faith. This is the main subject in these two chapters. In these chapters, the Apostle Paul also talks about the mystery of Jews and Gentiles becoming one man in the body of Christ. He lets us see that we are fellow heirs, members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Chapter 3 verse 10 says that it is through this mystery that the manifold wisdom of God might be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. It is after this discourse where we find this prayer being offered by the Apostle Paul.

(14) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

We find Paul in an attitude of prayer in verse fourteen. Prayer is more than just talking to God, it is two way communications. Prayer is also an attitude. But what exactly is prayer? The word prayer used most commonly in the New Testament is the Greek word "proseuche," which simply means "prayer to God." When we pray, we are to modestly and humbly come before God, to adore him, bow down and pay homage to him in worship. As I mentioned earlier, prayer is also communication; it is you and God in a one-on-one conversation. This is one of the best ways to consciously involve Him in our lives. This is what we find Paul doing in verse fourteen. This is also what we should be doing when we pray.

Also notice to whom he is bowing down and worshiping; it is God the Father. Paul is focusing his prayer directly to God the Father. Jesus Himself taught His disciples to pray to God the Father (see Luke chapter eleven and John 16:23). We pray in Jesus' name, but we pray to God the Father. I personally do not believe that it is scriptural to pray to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I have not found this practice to be encouraged or taught in the New Testament. I have also not found any examples of prayers directed to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Scripture does however indicate that we should pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus. We pray in the name of Jesus because he is our mediator. He is also our High Priest and intercedes for us always.

((15) from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,

What makes a family a family? They are descendants of a common father. The Israelites considered Abraham to be their father and indeed it was and is their boast. The twelve tribes of Israel received their name from Abraham. It was from "father Abraham" that they derived their identity. The Israelites are who they are because Abraham is their father. But those of us who are gentiles however cannot trace our name and our heritage back to Abraham. What about those of us who are gentiles and are saved by the grace of God? Who is our father? Who is in our family?

The Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is the person of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named, or as the NASB puts it, we derive our name. Children are named after their father, and the whole family in heaven and on earth is named after God the Father. When we are born, our parents name us and that name is written down on a birth certificate. We are identified by (and with) the name of our earthly father (yes there are cases when they do not know who the father is). Christians however, are members of the family of God. This means that God is our Father. This means that He has our name written down in His own book of birth certificates. That book is also known as the Lamb's book of life (Revelation 21:27). In that book, we are identified by (and with) the Name of our Heavenly Father. One day we will all die and leave this earth, but we will still be part of the family. We will be part of His family, for we will wear His name.

(16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man;

That He (God the Father) would grant (give) you according (agreeing with, in harmony with) to the riches (abundance) of His glory (power and majesty). We see that God the Father wants to give us something according to the abundance of His glory. What is it that He wants to give to us? His gift is for us to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in our inner man. Let's take a look at what this means to us. The word strengthened is the Greek word "krataioó." It literally means to make, or grow stronger. To strengthen something means to add strength to, and make it stronger. For example, iron is strengthened by adding carbon to it while the iron is molten hot. The result is steel.

God wants to make us grow and become stronger with power. The word power is an interesting word. The word for power is the Greek word "dunamis" which means, "infused strength, physical or moral." It is the same miracle power that God used to raise Jesus from the dead. We derive the word dynamite from the Greek word dunamis. God wants to make us stronger using dunamis power through His Spirit in our inner man. Just as iron is strengthened in the refining fire by the addition of carbon (the carbon is infused with the iron) so God strengthens us. He refines us in the fire and adds (infuses) himself to the mixture. The result: a stronger, more Christ-like Christian. Every time that God puts us in the refining fire, we come out stronger. God wants us to be strengthened with His "dynamite" power in our inner man. This of course leads us to the next question.

What is the inner man? It is your heart and soul. This is where our affections, passions, and emotions come from. Our inner man is where we think and reason and develop our will. If I allow God to strengthen me with His power in my inner man, then my thoughts, my passions, and my will become aligned with God. His thoughts become my thoughts. His passions become my passions. His will becomes my will. This is a gradual process that happens over time. It is God's desire however that we become more like Him. The question is whether or not we want this to happen and will allow this to happen. God is a complete gentleman in that He does not force anyone to change who does not want to change. He does not force anyone to go to heaven who does not want to be in His presence.

The strength and power (in verse 16) are God's strength and power. They are not human strength and human power, because we are too weak. We are not capable of fighting spiritual warfare on our own. We have no power of our own. I am too weak to even change my own bad habits. I have to (and need to) rely on God's strength and power. This is why we need to pray that God would fill us completely with His power. It is His desire that we grow in His strength and power. Just think of what we could accomplish if we allowed God to fill us like He wants to. What would happen to our Christian walk if we were constantly growing in this area?

We need to paraphrase this verse back together and take a look at what it is saying. Please be advised that this is my own paraphrase and not any version of the Bible. "That God the Father would give you, agreeing with and in harmony with the abundance of his glory, to grow and be strengthened (by becoming infused with God) with power by His (God the Father) Spirit in the inner man." This is a very powerful verse. It should be our prayer every day that God would use his dunamis power to make us stronger. Just think about what kind of Christian we would be if this were to happen in our lives. It becomes obvious that God wants us to become spiritual giants. He wants us to grow and become stronger every day. Just as earthly children grow up to become adults, so also God wants us as spiritual children to grow up and become spiritual adults.

(17) So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

What does it mean when it says that Christ may dwell in your hearts? The word dwell is the Greek word "katoikeo" which means "to house permanently, to reside." Noah Webster defined the word dwell as "to abide as a permanent resident." Jesus Christ wants to be a permanent resident in your heart. How does this happen? This happens through faith. When we accepted Jesus into our heart as our personal Lord and Savior, He came and took up residence in our heart. The faith that it took to save your soul, is the same faith that it takes to cause Jesus to dwell in your heart.

We find Jesus in Revelations chapter three verse twenty, standing at the door, knocking. This particular verse was written specifically to Christians. Isn't it tragic that Jesus would have to stand outside a Christians heart and knock on the door, waiting for the lukewarm Christian to open the door and let Him in? Jesus wants to be a permanent resident in our hearts and not a temporary guest. Jesus will not reside where He is not welcome. Let us make sure that Jesus is welcome as a permanent resident in our hearts.

The verse continues on with the phrase being rooted and grounded in love. The word rooted is the Greek word "rhizoo" which means "to take root, to become firmly rooted." To be rooted is to become immovably set in place. If you think of a tree with roots going deep down into the earth, that is the picture the word rooted implies. The word grounded is the Greek word "themelioo" which means "to lay a foundation, to establish." In the last verses of Ephesians 2:20, Paul was talking about the foundation a spiritual temple. That foundation was the doctrine of the Gospel as spelled out by Christ Jesus and the apostles. He was pointing out that as Christians we need to be established or firmly set in place on the truth of the Bible. Now Paul is praying that we will be rooted and grounded in love. A tree with deep roots is firmly established and is not easily blown down in a storm. A building with a good foundation is also not easily blown down in a storm. Love is to be the foundation that makes us stabile and irremovable. We as Christians will not stand for very long if we are not standing on, and rooted in, the foundation of love. God's love gives us stability in life. We will stand firm when the storms of life beat down upon us if (and only if) we are rooted and grounded in love.

We will now paraphrase verse 17 back together again. "That Christ may abide as a permanent resident in your hearts through faith; that you, being deeply rooted and firmly established on the foundation of love," Jesus Christ does not want to simply live in our hearts. He wants to be welcome there, and to be at home in our hearts. We must truly want Jesus to feel at home while residing in our hearts, and we do this through faith. Love is the key to all of this. We need to make love the foundation of our hearts. Let's make sure that the house Jesus lives in has a good foundation. Is your welcome mat outside the door of your heart? Is Jesus inside? Or is Jesus standing outside, knocking on the door of your heart, waiting for you to open it and invite Him back inside?

(18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth,

There is a reason why we want Jesus to be resident in our hearts, and why we need to be stabile on the foundation of love. It so we may be able (which means to be entirely competent) to comprehend. The word comprehend is the Greek word "katalambano" which means "to apprehend, attain, obtain, find." When you put that definition together, comprehend means; to understand or to perceive. It is one thing to know something, but it is another to understand it, or comprehend it. For example, I know that it is possible to split an atom, but I do not comprehend that technology. I may know that God loves me, but do I really understand what He went through to show me that love? Paul desires for us to completely understand and comprehend the breadth (width), and length, and height and depth of something which verse 19 will reveal.

(19a) and to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge,

The Apostle Paul wants us to know the love of Christ. He is praying that we will understand the width, and length, and depth, and height of Christ's love. Essentially Christ's love for us is too big to be contained, and so unlimited that it boggles the mind. Jesus Christ's love for us surpasses knowledge. The word surpasses is Greek word "hupperballo" which means "to exceed, to go beyond." The love of Christ goes beyond knowledge. The word knowledge is the Greek word "gnosis" which refers to man's knowledge. What this means is that Christ's love goes beyond anything man has known or has knowledge of. Paul wants us to understand and know the width, and length, and height, and depth of this love which goes beyond man's knowledge.

When I think about width, length, height, and depth, what comes to mind is a cube, or a square, or a box. A box has all of these dimensions. It has width, length, height, and depth. A box however is finite, and it is only so big. A box can only contain a certain amount and no more. The love of Christ is too big to fit in any box. No box could be constructed that would be big enough to contain His love. In fact, the love of Christ for us exceeds dimensions.

It takes faith to have this kind of understanding. Paul wants us to know something that goes beyond knowledge. He wants us to know the love of Christ. It almost sounds like a contradiction; to know something that goes beyond knowledge. The love of God is so vast that the human mind cannot fathom it. The love of Jesus is so wide, so long, so deep, so high, that not even the cross of Calvary could contain it. It was too powerful for even death to hold on to. That love is residing in your heart. Your mind may not be able to understand the love of God, but your heart can. Your heart has the faith to be able to understand what your brain cannot.

What is the width of Christ's love? It stretches from age to age. From one nail scarred hand to the other. What is the length of Christ's love? It goes from everlasting to everlasting. What is the height of Christ's love? It reaches higher than the heavens. What is depth of Christ's love? It goes beyond the deepest pit of hell. The love of Christ is larger than we can imagine. But it is very real. So real in fact, that Paul wants us to comprehend and understand it.

(19b) that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

We want to know the love of Christ so we may (the word may is not in the original Greek) be filled (Greek word "pleroo" which means to make full or abundantly supplied) with all the fullness (Greek word "pleroma" which means full measure, abundance) of God. Paul goes beyond wanting us to know the love of Christ. He now desires us to be full of God. This is another concept which can be difficult to understand. How can we be completely crammed full (to the point of overflowing) of God? In order to be full of God we need to know the love of Christ. The love of Christ allows us to be full of God. God in and of Himself is complete. He is completely full. We need to be completely filled with the love of God. We are like containers which are only partially full. We need to let God fill us to overflowing. No matter how much love God pours into us, he never empties, he always has more. God never runs out of love. Let's paraphrase verse 19 back together again: "and to know the love of Christ which goes beyond human knowledge, that you be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God."

This goes beyond what even my imagination can imagine, and believe me, I have a good imagination. To actually be filled to the measure of the abundance of God. What would we be like, if we were crammed full of the fullness of God? I think we would be operating like the Apostle Paul, bringing many souls to the Lord, with signs and wonders following. We would certainly be a whole lot more like God the Father. There would certainly be no lack of fruit in our lives, and the fruit would be in abundance.

(20) Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

Now to Him that is able (can do) to do far more abundantly above all we ask or think. The word abundantly is not in the original Greek, it was added in by the translators of the NASB for clarity. The words far more is the Greek word "huperekperissou" which means, superabundantly, beyond all measure. God is able to do over, above, and beyond all that we ask or even think. This takes us into a whole new realm of understanding God. God can go beyond what we even think about asking but do not ask for. The things we do not even think of, He can do for us. What an awesome God we serve! How often do we not ask God to do something because we do not think that he can do it?

The verse continues with, according (agreeing with, in harmony with) to the power (dunamis) that works (Greek word "energeo" which means, to be active, to operate) in us. When we paraphrase this verse back together again, it reads: "Now unto Him (God the Father) who can do over, above, and beyond all we ask or think, in agreement and in harmony with the strengthening power (by becoming infused with God) that actively operates in us."

Wow! Did you see what I just saw? In agreement and in harmony with God's strengthening power that actively operates in us. What this says to me is that the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit is already in us. Paul is praying for it to actively operate in us. I think that in most Christians (myself included) the dunamis power is in a dormant state. We need to get on our knees and ask God to make his power “actively operate” in our lives.

(21) To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

To Him (God the Father) be glory (Greek word "doxa" which means, honor, praise, worship) in the church and in Christ Jesus to (throughout) all generations, forever. Notice that the honor, praise, and worship takes place in the church, or body of believers. This signifies a group effort and participation. When we get together as a church we should honor, praise, and worship God the Father. We are to do this from generation to generation forever and ever. Everyone who is a Christian is a member of the church. Whether or not you are a member of a particular denomination is not even relevant or important. What is important is that you give God the glory. We are to honor, praise, and worship Him forever. It something we should do out of love for Him.

We have paraphrased each verse individually, but now I will paraphrase them all back together again. Please remember that this is my own paraphrase and not any version of the Bible currently in print (that I know of).

(14) For this reason I bow my knees in prayer and worship God the Father,
(15) from whom every family (who belongs to Him) in heaven and on earth derives their name,
(16) that God the Father would give you, agreeing with and in harmony with the abundance of His power and majesty, to grow and be strengthened (by becoming infused with God) with power by His Spirit in your inner man,
(17) that Christ may abide as a permanent resident in your hearts through faith; that you, being stable on the foundation of love,
(18) may be entirely competent to take eagerly and seize and understand with all the saints the width, and length, and height, and depth;
(19) and to know the love of Christ which goes beyond human knowledge, that you will be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.
(20) Now unto God the Father who can do over, above, and beyond all that we ask or can think, in agreement and in harmony with the strengthening power that actively operates in us,
(21) to God the Father be honor, praise, and worship in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.


This is an incredible prayer being prayed by the Apostle Paul. Do we really understand what God wants to do in us? God wants us to be firmly established on the foundation of his love. No trial or tribulation can dislodge a heart that is built on the foundation of God's love. God wants us to be operating in dunamis (becoming strengthening by infusion with God) power. I do not think it could hurt to pray this prayer for yourself, your pastor, and your church, on a daily basis. In fact, it might even be beneficial. Are we daring enough to try it? We need to examine our hearts, and see if our foundation really is love. Jesus Christ needs to be the foundation upon which we build our lives. I think this is the only way we can be successful as Christians and operate in the kind of power (dunamis) that God the Father desires. We could change our world the same way the early church changed their world. In order to change other lives, our own lives must first be changed, and this was the prayer of the Apostle Paul. Let us make it our prayer as well.


If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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