We are living in the hour of preparation for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings. It is a time of tremendous opportunity to reach unreached people-groups and see the greatest harvest of souls in the history of the church. And yet we are facing an escalation of the powers of darkness seeking to hinder and destroy believers. We find ourselves struggling with the pressures and stresses of a complex world. With all of our modern conveniences, we still find ourselves worn down, physically and emotionally fatigued, and battle-weary. What we need is to be connected with supernatural strength.
The prayer that Paul prays in Ephesians 3:16-21 certainly applies to us just as much today as it did to those Christians in Ephesus that he was writing to from his prison cell in Rome over 1,900 years ago. And — as another example of something that we today need to hear and heed — just before he begins his prayer, he implores them in verse 13 to not be discouraged; that is, to not lose heart, faint or give up, and to not stop believing and trusting.
As he begins his prayer in verse 16, Paul first of all prays that they would have the strength of integrity. “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being…” (v. 16, NIV). The “inner being” is the real you — the heart, mind, will and emotions — that reveals integrity. God’s desire is that the glory of His character would be revealed in us and through us. That His true image would be truly reflected through our true selves.
He then prays for the strength of security, “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts…” (v. 17). The Greek word here for “dwell” means to abide, settle down and be at home. Our security flows out of the reality of Christ’s abiding presence in our lives. Our insecurity keeps us from the promises. It is at the root of our poor self-image, of our petty jealousies, and our tendency to blame others. But our security comes from abiding, from dwelling in Christ and by submitting to the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to abide in us at all times. When we are secure in Christ, He is able to release divine strength into our spirit and soul.
Then Paul prays for the strength of confidence, or, as he puts it, “faith” (v. 17). It is a confidence in God’s agape love, the love that always wills the highest good in our lives. Jeremiah 17:7-8 declares,
Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree
planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.
Fear, worry and anxiety keep us in the wastelands and parched places of life. They weaken us and keep us in the prison of turmoil and uncertainty — and consequently, our lives wither in the heat of adversity and difficulties. But when we stand in His hope and confidence as we trust in Him, we find ourselves strengthened, peaceful and encouraged.
The fourth thing Paul prays for is the strength of hope, “…that you, being rooted and established in love…” (v. 17). The word “established” in the Greek is actually an architectural term. God’s love is the firm foundation of hope. Hope is not simply wishful thinking, and it is linked together in I Corinthians 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love...” Love initiates, but hope is the creative dynamic of love, and faith brings that hope into being.
Hopelessness is at the basis of emptiness, frustration, indifference, apathy and cynicism. It robs our lives of vitality and the contagious enthusiasm that is to mark us as believers. We need to be filled with hope. Bible hope is the confident certainty of God’s promises and the unshakeable trust in God’s faithfulness to fulfill those promises.
The fifth thing Paul prays for is the strength to persevere. In verse 18, he asks that we will have power to “grasp” — a word that in the original language means to apprehend, obtain, overtake, or recover fully. A monkey has a “prehensile tail” by which he can lay hold of or get a grip on whatever he needs to reach. Many of us have actually lost our own grip because of discouragement, despair and debilitating circumstances.
In Colossians 1, where we find another of Paul’s powerful prayers, he asks that we might live a life worthy of the Lord, being “…strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy” (v. 11, NKJV). The word “patience” means to endure or persevere. It describes the ability to bear all things in such a triumphant way that we are literally transformed by the process. To be able to pass the breaking point and not break. The second word, “longsuffering,” means to bear up under the load with unruffled temper, to bear with people even when they are wrong, cruel or insulting.
Then Paul prays that we will be filled with “all the fullness of God” (v. 19), that we will have the strength to reveal the life of Jesus. This is our mission, to allow the Holy Spirit to manifest the life and character of Jesus through us. But we need divine strength in order to do this, so Paul prays that we would be filled with all the fullness of God, that a world without Christ might see Him in us and through us.
Finally, Paul concludes His prayer with our need to be strengthened with divine enablement. The Amplified Bible translates verse 20 this way: “Now to Him Who, by the action of His power that is at work within us, is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly, far over and above all that we dare ask or think…” In this verse, Paul is speaking of the indwelling Person of the Holy Spirit who will enable us to accomplish this. It is this same need in us for supernatural strength that prompted the Lord to say to Joshua three times in Joshua 1:6,7 and 9, “Be strong and of good courage.” The Lord was exhorting — and even commanding — Joshua to lay hold of His strength and not let go.
So how can we connect with this supernatural strength?
By seeking to know God. Daniel 11:32 encourages us, “The people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.”
By spending time in His presence. Paul declares in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
By always keeping our focus on Jesus. Isaiah 40:31 promises, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” Wait means to look to the revelation that God has given us and expect Him to do what He has promised.
By holding on to God’s promise. The author of Hebrews tells us, “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive…since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (11:11).
And by continually giving glory to God. Romans 4:20 reminds us, “No unbelief made him [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (ESV).
As we connect with and walk in the strength that God gives, we will truly know and experience His glory in us and in His church.