Priorities in Prayer

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

When we ask for prayer requests, what tends to dominate the requests? Are the needs typically spiritual or physical in nature? I wonder if we are placing an emphasis on the same things that God would. Romans 8:26 tells us that we don’t even know what we need and so the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf for what we really need.

Just as a note, I’m not saying it is wrong to pray for physical issues. There are plenty of examples in scripture for that, including the Lord’s model pray. We are invited to cast all our care upon Him (1 Peter 5:7). I’m just wondering if we are biblically balanced. For example, in 1 Timothy 4:8, we’re told, “For bodily exercise profiteth little…” Does that mean it doesn’t profit? No. We’re given a comparison. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Bodily exercise profits, but it is just for a short time. Developing godliness is profitable not only in the temporary, but the long haul. With this same line of thinking, I would like us to consider our prayer lives. How do we pray for ourselves and others? Does praying for physical things profit? Yes. We’ve seen answered prayers. But is there something more beneficial that we should emphasize that has a more eternal value?

Paul had a burden for this church at Ephesus, for whom he prayed this prayer. He starts of in verse 14 and 15 placing an emphasis on the unity and oneness that we ought to have in Christ.

For this cause…
Up to this point, Paul had laid out some deep doctrinal issues. One of the issues addressed just before this passage was that salvation was not just to the Jews but to the Gentiles also. “For this cause,” for the cause of their unity in the gospel, Paul humbly knees to pray for five pointed things.

Paul’s Five Prayer Requests for the Church at Ephesus

1. That God would strengthen the inner man (v. 16)
That inner man is the real you. We are very good at the outer man prayers: health, wealth, physical, etc. How are we doing with inner man prayers? Prayers for help to forgive other, to stop complaining, to overcome lust and geed. These are the root issues of the inner man that make their way out. When we pray for others, we should pray to this end; that they be strengthened in the inner man. To have the strength to say “yes” to the things they should say “yes” to, and “no” to the things they should say “no” to. The Apostle Paul prayed that this strengthening would be “according to the riches of his glory.” What an awesome thought! Not just His strength, but abundant strength according to His glory!

2. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (v. 17a)
The thought in this verse is” why is he praying that Christ may dwell in their hearts, doesn’t he live in our hearts when we get saved?” Yes, that is true, but to dwell is a much deeper concept. The word used there (katoikeō) is a compound word that carries the idea of thoroughly living in. When you have guests in your home, there are areas that are typically off limits. In other word, not that Christ would have a part of your heart, or live there, but fully reign. Perhaps the closet that you shoved the clutter into or the rooms you didn’t vacuum. One who lives in the home could go there, but it would be quite embarrassing for a visitor to wonder there. May we grow to such a point that no area of our lives are off limits to Christ. Someone once said, “I don’t want Christ to just be a resident in my life, but the president of my life.” We must practice the presence of God. We know intellectually and theologically that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but do we live believing He is ever-present with us, or do we go on grieving the Holy Spirit? Our faith should be lived out in such a way that Christ is at home in our lives. We ought to be more concerned with the Christ who lives within than the passing some outward inspection. Our faith should be lived out in such a way that Christ is at home there.

When we pray, pray for strength in the inner man and that Christ may dwell in hearts by faith.

3. That ye… may comprehend (v. 17b-18)
“Rooted and grounded in love.” This is written in the perfect tense, meaning it has already happened and continues on. Roots go down deep and grounded shows a good foundation to build upon, in love. Being settled in this love allows us to fully comprehend it. The prayer is that, based on the foundation we have, we may comprehend the vastness of the love of God. 

Comprehend is more than just understand. It means to lay hold of; to make it your own. You know that God loves you, but have you made it your own? Do you understand that God loves you in such a thorough, unconditional manner? There is nothing you can do to make Him love you more or less than He does now.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? – Romans 8:35

Do we truly understand that? Have were made it our own? Do we really know what we have in the love of God?

Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon? It truly is a sight beyond description. I do not believe any picture can ever do it justice. And really, it doesn’t matter if you see it from the north side, the south side, flying over it, or from the bottom looking up. It is simply magnificent! As Ephesians 3:18 describes comprehending God’s love it reads, “breadth, and length, and depth, and height.” In other words, no matter how you look at it, from whatever angle, you see the majesty of God’s love.

4. To Know the love of Christ (v. 19a)
In this verse, “know” is different from “comprehend.” It is an experiential knowledge. To know the love of Christ experientially. That is, do you see the lot of Christ working in and through you? Have you ever had one of the moments where you were so used of God that you had to step back and say “woah! That was not me. That was Christ working through me.” Oh to know the love of Christ. I want to know it more and more. I want to live it!

5. that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (v. 19b)
In Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of God bodily (Colossians 2:9). If you would take up all of the attributes of God and wrap it into one person, what you have is Jesus. 
As we submit ourselves to Him, as we really lay hold on His love for us, and how He wants to work in and through us, and the power that we could have through His Spirit in us, we can begin to experience ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD. 

God could lead us along in this life, in spite of trouble and pain, to see God do a work on the inside. 

Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
 That’s what we ought to be praying for!

Would we pray for eachother? That our inner man would be strengthened, that Christ would dwell in us richly, having control of every part, that we would lay hold of and fully understand the love of God, and that that love would flow out of us into a world that desperately needs to see the love of God on display!

Its been said that Christians spend more time praying to keep people out of heaven than they do to keep people out of hell, (Ie. “please heal so-and-so”).

Our prayers ought to be centered on inner man praying.

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