By Roy E. Ciampa, Ph.D., S. Louis and Ann W. Armstrong
Professor of Religion, Samford University
We Pray for One Another
Pray for the power and presence of Christ to be manifested through His Church. (14–17a)
Paul indicates he commonly prays on his knees, a posture that reflected his submission to God and His authority. God’s authority is reflected in the title of “Father” and in the reference to His naming of every family (in Greek the “father … family” connection reflects a bit of wordplay: “patera … patria”). A father’s role in naming his children reflected his authority over them and the rest of the family.
The reference to God as Father also evokes the idea of the inheritance He may give His children (see Eph. 1:11, 14, 18) and in verse 16, we are told that it is out of the Father’s riches (the riches of His glory) that He grants us the wonderful privileges that are outlined later in this passage.
Jesus had modeled praying to God as Father and had taught His disciples to do the same (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). Paul models the same pattern here.
The proto-Trinitarian nature of Paul’s prayer is worth noting: It is a prayer to the Father (vv. 14–15), to be realized by the Spirit (v. 16) in terms of greater knowledge of and conformity to Christ (v. 17) and thus to God (vv. 18–19).
“Strengthened with power” (v. 16) is a pleonasm (using two different words where one would suffice) that reinforces the idea of the awesome power or strength that God provides by His Spirit so that Christ’s life might be fully reflected in our own lives.
Of course, Christ lives and dwells in all who have put their faith in Him. As believers, the Ephesians already had Christ living in them, but Paul is talking about the life of Christ being made more and more powerfully manifest and dominant in our lives.
Pray for a deeper sense of God’s love. (17b–19)
Paul refers to God’s love as a four-dimensional reality (with breadth, length, height and depth), and raises the paradoxical hope of knowing that which is beyond knowledge: the incomprehensible love of Christ.
For the Church to be “rooted and grounded” in love is to fully comprehend God’s love shown to us in Christ. That happens in part by experiencing that love within the body of Christ (see the references to love in Ephesians 1:4, 15; 2:4; 3:17, 19; 4:2, 15–16; 5:2, 25, 28, 33; 6:23–24).
The Spirit reminds us and assures us of Christ’s love and expresses that love for each of us through the members of the Church who have also been transformed by that love.
Pray that God would be glorified through His Church. (20–21)
The Church exists to glorify God. As John Piper has said, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” As God’s priestly people, we live to glorify Him and to act in ways that lead others to do the same.
When Paul writes that God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (v. 20), he doesn’t mean God will give us a Mercedes instead of a Ford or a mansion instead of an apartment.
He mentioned God’s power in verse 16 and clarified in verse 17 that that power was focused on making the life of Christ more and more dominant in our own lives. God’s power is also at work in other ways to benefit the Church, but the focus is always on powerfully empowering the Church to manifest Christ’s love and holiness to a world in need of Christ’s love and life.
We need the Church because we need each other to glorify God as we are called to do — glorifying Him when we gather on Sundays and every other day of our lives as we support each other in pursuing God’s will, righteousness and Kingdom above all competing priorities.