Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV
Sometimes our prayers lack faith. We ask, but we don’t really believe anything is going to happen. We talk, but we don’t expect to hear anything in return. We share, but it feels as if our words disappear into a black hole. But would have us remember that the effectiveness of our prayers are based on the faithfulness of our God, not us. He closes out his prayer for the Ephesian believers with a benediction that focuses on the unfathomable faithfulness and power of our God. He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” God is not limited by the limitations of our prayers. The very same power that is at work within us is quite capable of exceeding our expectations and answering our requests, even when we fail to make them. Paul knows that we have divine assistance. We have the Holy Spirit within us. “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Romans 8:26 NLT). And the Holy Spirit provides us with something we don’t have on our own – an intimate awareness of the mind and heart of God. “No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:11 NLT). So the Spirit prays on our behalf. He knows the will of God perfectly. He understands the heart of God intimately. So He prays for us. And the answers are “infinitely more than we might ask or think” (New Living Translation).
And when God answers even our unspoken prayers, He gets the glory. His power gets revealed through our lives and the body of Christ, His church. God is at work in the lives of and the circumstances surrounding His people. He is accomplishing things we have not even asked to happen. He is performing miracles we didn’t even think to request. And on those occasions when we do make requests, the answers come, but often in ways we didn’t expect. Rather than giving us what we asked for, He provided what we really needed. We asked for happiness, but He gave us an opportunity to increase in holiness. We asked for comfort, but He provided a perfect environment in which to learn contentment. We asked for healing, but He chose to provide us with a chance to learn to experience His grace even in the midst of weakness.
In one of his other prayers, recorded in the book of Colossians, Paul requested that God would, “give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9 NLT). The end result of this knowledge of God’s will would be that they would grow to know God better and better. When we grow in our knowledge of God, we are able to pray more effectively and in keeping with His will. We will desire what He desires. We will request those things which He longs to give. But in the meantime, in those moments when we don’t know what to pray for, or make requests for things we don’t really need, God answers anyway. His Spirit prays on our behalf and God answers, lovingly and faithfully. All for His glory and our good. “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’ But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:9-12 NLT). The Spirit is our helper. He is our advocate. He intercedes on our behalf, making requests to God that reflect the heart of God. He knows God’s deep secrets. He has an insider’s understanding of God’s plan and always prays in accordance with it.
So does all this mean that there is no need for us to pray? Are we to just leave that up to the Holy Spirit? The obvious answer is, “No!” We have been commanded to pray. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6 NLT). “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV). We are to pray expectantly and constantly. We are to ask of God because it expresses our dependence upon Him. But Paul would have us remember that even when we are unfaithful to pray, God is answering. He doesn’t stop giving just because we stopped asking. And He gives in ways that are beyond our wildest imaginations. He has our best in mind. Our holiness is His highest priority. Our transformation into the likeness of His Son is His ultimate objective. But let us never forget that prayer is really less about us than it is about God. We should long to see His glory revealed. We should desire to His power displayed. We should pray that His will be done and His Kingdom come – in our lives and on this earth. Because He knows best.