Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians 3: 14-21 (NIV)
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
The Apostle Paul, writing primarily to Gentile believers in the church at Ephesus, had already confirmed that they were no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household (Ephesians 2: 19). Further, they were being built together to become a dwelling in which God lived by his Spirit (Ephesians 2: 22).
Paul expressed this amazing prayer for them (Ephesians 3: 16 and following). He prayed that the Father might strengthen the Ephesian church with power, through the Holy Spirit working within each member. He prayed not just that each would be empowered in a general sense. His prayer had this key purpose: that Christ might dwell in the heart of each one of them as a consequence of their faith.
Like a plant (let us imagine a fruit-bearing vine) the church was to be so deeply rooted in love as to be firmly established in, and therefore unable to be removed from, the love of Christ. (The love of Christ here refers to his love, love that flows from Christ for his church, rather than the love that his church may hold towards Christ – see Romans 8: 35-39).
This love, claimed Paul, was indescribable. It has no bounds. It surpasses the ability of anybody to know it and yet, in prayer, Paul has desired that the church should be permitted to grasp the magnitude of the dimensions of this limitless love.
As we begin a new year, this prayer can become our prayer. It is a prayer we can pray for others, whether we name them specifically or pray in a more general sense, as for a nation or people group – the persecuted church for example.
It is a prayer we can pray also for ourselves. Do I grasp fully how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for me? Could I know this love that surpasses knowledge? Yet here is the Apostle’s encouragement that, out of his glorious riches, the Father may strengthen you and me and fill you and me with his love.