Well, I told you I was going to take my time with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. I’ve been blogging about it for a week now, and there’s no end in sight! As Arlo Guthrie used to say (and probably still does) about his wildly extended live-versions of Alice’s Restaurant, “I could go on singing this song all night . . . I’m not proud . . . or tired.”
The heart of Paul's prayer is that the Ephesians would have inward power to comprehend the sheer mind-bending extent of the love of Christ. So in the coming days I want to think about this whole issue of “extent,” as I’ve been calling it (no doubt inadequately), but for now I want to consider this matter of “power in the inner being.”
You know, God gives gifts to his children, and it is not inappropriate to speak of power or supernatural ability in association with these gifts. But it’s interesting to me that Paul does not often speak in terms of outward manifestations or pray for these things for his churches. Instead, he prays for a continuing inward transformation. His prayers, exhortations, and closing benedictions are focused on the “inner being.” Here are a few examples:
Romans 15:13 -- Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:17-19a -- I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him -- since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened -- so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe....
Philippians 1:9-11 -- And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Colossians 1:9-12 -- For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.
See the point? It is Paul's way to pray for the "inner being" before he ever prays about outward circumstances. But that's completely the reverse of what we most often do. We tend to look at the difficult outward circumstances, try to imagine the best outcome, and then pray for that. Now, I'm not condemning that sort of prayer in every case, but I'm just noticing that it's not Paul's way. He prays for the "inward" first. He prays for the hearts and minds of the people in his care.
So I'm getting to a perhaps familiar aphorism. God works from the inside out. Men work the other way round, from the outside in. We think that if we take care of the outside, then we'll "feel better" inwardly.
Hmmm. More on this next time. This post is already way too long (like Alice's Restaurant). If anyone is hanging in there with me on this, well, you are certainly gifted with much patience. See you next time!