In Ephesians 3:14, Paul actually utters the prayer which it seems he began to utter in 3:1. If you look back at Ephesians 3:1, it seems as if Paul begins to say something before getting “sidetracked” by a discussion about the mystery of God and his place in proclaiming it. Because verse 14 begins with the same phrase as verse 1, it seems likely that Paul has resumed his thought after the “digression” of verses 2-14. And what was Paul’s “original thought”? Prayer. He was about to offer up a prayer for his readers. So as we look at the last part of chapter 3, we are looking at a prayer of Paul – much like the prayer in 1:15-23. This is a prayer offered by Paul on behalf of his readers that turns out to actually be inspired of God and useful to teach us. So what can we learn from Paul’s prayer?
First, we should take note of the mere fact that Paul prays for his readers. He writes, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…” (3:14). After spending two chapters elaborating on the incredible power, love and wisdom of God as evidenced in his redemption of sinful people, and in preparation for the practical exhortations that will consume the final three chapters of the letter, Paul prays. In light of his meditation on God and what God has done, Paul prays. In light of the practical exhortations he is about to give, he prays. Why? No doubt, Paul recognized that his readers needed God to do something for them. Though he has already redeemed them and granted them salvation, Paul recognizes that they are still as dependent on God as ever. As we consider that, we should recognize our own need to pray. If Paul recognized the need for God’s power, we need to recognize the same thing. Ultimately, all our effort and “doing” means nothing if God does not act. So we must pray. And we should note that Paul prayed even while in prison. Even if it is inconvenient or it feels like there is nothing we can do, we can pray, and we must pray. We should heed Paul’s example.
Second, we should note that Paul’s prayer was fueled by His knowledge of God. He writes, “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” (3:14-16). Paul uses a series of phrases that all center on, and describe, the One to whom he is praying. God is “Father” – meaning He is the authority. Even more, it points to the reality that we have been adopted as God’s beloved children (Eph. 1:5; 2:6; Rom. 8:15,29). God is also the One “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (3:15). Once again, this is a reference to sovereignty and authority of God because the concept of naming is one that highlights those realities (Gen. 2; Isa. 40:26; Acts 17:25b-26). Paul also prays that God grant them power “according to the riches of his glory” (3:16). He knew that the Father had the resources to answer his prayer. He is not praying with questions about God’s ability. Rather, he is praying precisely because he knows God’s ability. This is another example of Paul’s knowledge of God fueling and driving his prayer – both the fact that he prays and the way that he prays. Paul’s knowledge of God fueled his prayers. It led him to pray for “big” things because He knew God was sovereign. It led him to pray with confidence because he knew God was Father. We should pray the same way because God is still our sovereign Father (Matt. 6:9). Learning about God is not merely an academic exercise – it fuels our prayers.
Third, we should notice the content of Paul’s request: he prays that his readers would be strengthened with power through the Spirit (3:16). Even though the prayer will continue through verse 21, the one basic request is found in verse 16. Beginning in verse 17, we see the results that will come from that basic request being answered. Having spent much of the letter describing the power of God, Paul now prays that God would grant that same power to his readers through the Spirit. Astoundingly, it is possible for the power of God to be present in the life of His people. As we will see in the final three chapters, Paul is not speaking primarily of “miraculous” gifts like healing and miracles but rather of the influence of the Spirit in guiding and directing God’s people to live as they ought. As God’s people, we have been sealed by the Spirit (Eph. 1:13), but there is so much more. The Spirit lives within us, and we are called to “be filled” with Him (Eph. 5:18) by walking according to His will. Instead of “quenching” the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19) or “grieving” the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), we are called to let the Spirit exercise His influence in our lives so that we will walk according to God’s will. The Spirit empowers us.
So, as we have seen, Paul’s prayer instructs us. We should be praying diligently. And we should pray based on what we know of God. And, in particular, we should pray that God would strengthen us with His supernatural power through the Spirit who dwells in us.