Inward Power (2)
So I've been walking around and around this passage from Ephesians, looking at it from one angle and then another. As I warned at the start, I have allowed myself to be discursive, repetitive, and even achingly obvious in some of my observations. I'm not aiming at originality. Really I'm just wondering. Wondering over a keyboard, that's me. Paul's prayer has me thinking about prayer in general, and wondering what lessons might be learned from this example.
So far, I've drawn at least two conclusions. I'll express them in the forms of imperatives. First, Pray big. As a beloved child of God you are coming to your Father with open hands, asking that he bless you (or whomever it is you're praying for) out of the incredible wealth of his glory. Now that's a thought! You're praying for God's glory in someone's life. And as Paul reminds us, God can do immeasurably more than anything we can ever ask or imagine, so don't be limited by what you can imagine (as if we can ever imagine the glory of God), or what you have experienced in the past, or by the expectations of rationality. As Tim Challies has written (here), "We put God in a box when we 'know that we know' what God can or will not do." Tim's point: don't do that. Mine too.
Second, I think another lesson of this passage is this: Pray from the inside out. That's how Paul does it. He prays first of all for power (alt., might) in the "inner being." It is specifically power to comprehend something. He prays for an enhanced faculty of understanding in the Ephesians, so that they can comprehend something that is by its very nature "beyond knowledge." Notice that all the emphasis for now is on the inward. It is on knowing something. Paul is not saying, for the moment, I pray that you be loving and united and righteous in all your dealings, etc. Neither is he praying for safety, for wealth, or even for effective ministry (a broadening of their territory!). None of that here. No, here as elsewhere (see yesterday's quoted passages), Paul is putting all the emphasis on the inward, the hearts and minds of the Ephesians.
Now, Paul's prayer doesn't end there. There's a purpose to all this. As I said, he's praying for an enhanced faculty of understanding so that the Ephesians might know something that is, without the Holy Spirit's empowerment, beyond knowing. We are moving from the inside out here. This inward empowerment is going to have consequences for the outward, the life as it is lived from day to day. We're getting to that, and that is I think the most exciting aspect of this prayer. So the next two questions we need consider are, 1) What is it that Paul wants them to know? And, 2) Why is it they need to know that?