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… – Ephesians 3:14-16 ESV
Paul was a praying man. He prayed constantly for the people over whom God had placed him as a shepherd, and his prayers reveal not only his heart of love, but his understanding of God’s will. Paul opened his letter to the Ephesians with a prayer and, here in chapter three, he shares the content of yet another one of his prayers for them. Paul wrote this letter from prison and he told them that he did not want them “to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:13 ESV). Then he wrote, “For this reason I bow my knees before God.” Paul’s prayer was motivated by his desire that they not lose heart. He didn’t want his imprisonment to leave them scared, in doubt, or lacking in faith. He no doubt knew that they would find his imprisonment for sharing the gospel more than a bit intimidating. It would have been easy for them to question whether they would be next. In Paul’s day, being a Christian could be dangerous, especially for Gentile converts living in a pagan context. Persecution was a constant reality. So Paul told them what he was praying for them. He wanted them to know of his concern but, more than that, he wanted them to know what the solution was. He made it clear that his prayer on their behalf was directed the the Father. He was going directly to the source. Paul uses a word play in the Greek. He says that he bowed before the Father (patera) from whom every family (patria) is named. He is the Father of the fathers of all the families on earth. He is the creator of all mankind, so ultimately He is the Father of all. Without Him, no one would exist. Paul is reminding his readers of God’s deity and dominion over all things. Paul was taking their needs to the God of the universe.
And what was it that Paul was asking God for? Strength. His pray was “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Paul was asking God to provide them with power – not an outward display of His power, but an inner strength provided by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul was praying his prayer from prison. He was not asking God to break open the bars and release him. He was not asking God to show a power of force and deliver the Ephesian believers from any and all persecution. He was praying for inner strength. Paul knew what it meant to have that kind of strength. In his letter to the Philippians, he wrote, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV). Paul had experienced an up and down life, filled with tremendous joys and extreme heartache. He had been beaten, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, imprisoned repeatedly, threatened, chased out of town, and ridiculed relentlessly. Yet he was able to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul knew that the key to their survival was power provided by God – life-transforming, boldness-producing power that would come from the inside out.
What many of us lack as believers is endurance. We give up far too easily. When faced with difficulties, trials or trouble of any kind, we immediately begin to figure out how to get ourselves out of the situation in which we find ourselves. We even pray that God would deliver us from the difficulty. But it may be that God wants to use the very circumstances from which we seek deliverance to make us stronger. I could be that God wants to reveal His power within us while the trouble looms all around us. He wants us to learn that inner strength, when provided by Him, always prevails over external circumstances. Paul wrote the majority of his letters from prison. He remained steadfast and faithful even when faced with some of the most difficult situations. He did not let external conditions distract or defeat him, because he found strength from Holy Spirit. So he prayed that God would do the same thing for the believers in Ephesus. And that should be our prayer for one another today: God-provided, Holy Spirit-produced inner strength. The strength to face any and all circumstances with faith, joy, patience, contentment, and an overwhelming sense of God’s faithful presence. A change in our circumstances won’t make us stronger, but a change in perspective will. We must know that our God is in charge, all-powerful, and deeply in love with us, regardless of what our surroundings or situation may seem to say. We need His strength to patiently wait for His will to be done. We need His power to transform our inner man and give us strength to stand strong in the midst of the storms of life.