Praying for Power & Fullness (Part 2)

As we continue our study of Ephesians 3:14-21, we see that one of the great needs for those who have trusted in Christ is to become established in Christ. This is the apostle’s intense and constant prayer burden for his converts. He frames his intercession in these words: “that He would grant you . . . to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, . . .”1

Believers cannot be established in Christ apart from the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit. One will never resist temptation from without, or the cravings of natural and normal passions from within, apart from the Spirit’s empowering grace providing the believer the ability to say “No” to the Adversary and fallen flesh.

It is the Holy Spirit who is the Christian’s internal Helper. The Lord Jesus, confiding in His disciples a short while before going to the cross, assured them: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, . . .”2 These same disciples received this Helper during one of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances: “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ “3 This was a definitive reception of the Spirit. However, it was not until the day of Pentecost that the Spirit invaded the hearts of these disciples in unhindered, cleansing fullness: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”4

Accompanying the Spirit’s inner strengthening is Christ’s making our hearts His home through the instrument of faith: “that  Christ may dwell in your hearts through  faith.” As noted in the previous article, the thrust of Paul’s prayer burden here is that these believers would welcome Christ to make their hearts His home. Such a need was expressed by Henry Lyte when he penned these words:

Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word;
But, as thou dwell’st with thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free,
Come, not to sojourn, but abide with me!5

How many converts there are who have experienced God’s forgiveness and regenerating and justifying graces, but possess a divided heart, divided loyalties. Christ has not been welcomed to take possession of every room and corner. When one does, however, invite Christ to enter fully, without qualification and reservation, what release, rest, joy, and power! Instinctively, the language of Jean Sophia Pigott becomes the language of the soul:

Make my life a bright outshining
Of Thy life, that all may see
Thine own resurrection power
Mightily put forth in me.
Ever let my heart become
Yet more consciously Thy home.6

Established in Love

Paul continues to pray. He prays for those who experience the Spirit’s inner strengthening and Christ’s welcomed indwelling, that these may be “rooted and grounded in love.” As noted above, a Christian will never become established in Christ, mature in Christ, apart from cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s internal control of his heart. Neither can a believer be established in Christ apart from welcoming Christ to make his heart His home. Only by these operations of God within the hearts of His people can one expect to become “rooted and grounded in love.”

Theses two words—”rooted” and “grounded” (literally: “founded”)—are interesting terms. Both verbs are perfect, passive participles, hence the subjects are being acted upon. With our will in submission, and cooperating with the will of God in establishing us in love, Paul says it is God Himself, working within the believer, who causes the believer to become established: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”7

“Rooted.” Moule suggests this term connotes a “derived  life.”8 Spiritual life and holiness are never the native possession of any soul. They come from God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is our life. Where there is life, spiritual, regenerating life, God’s desire is for this life to sink deeply into the soil of His divine love: “rooted . . . in love.”

“Founded.” The imagery Paul uses here is taken from the architectural world, and very possibly, he had the  Church as God’s temple in view. Regardless, clearly Paul has in mind such a prayer vision for these believers that they will become established in love—agape love—God’s very own love.

It is into this divine love that the tentacles of our spiritual lives must sink into deeply. It is this divine love upon which our spiritual life is to be founded.

Love’s Comprehension

Paul prays that these Ephesian Christians may become so rooted and founded in love that they “may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth . . . .”9

One of the first things one notes about this incomplete phrase is the absence of an object. Moule suggests, and I believe correctly so, that the unnamed object is the divine love which the apostle has just referred to, and the love of Christ which he will refer to shortly.10 Paul’s prayer could then read like this: “I pray that God would grant you . . . to be so strengthened and founded in love, that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love.”

This comprehension must, of course, be a comprehension which occurs in our spirit. This is not an exercise of the intellect alone. It comes as a result of “the love of God [being] poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us”11


In perceiving this immeasurable, fathomless vastness of God’s love, we are humbled when we realize how far short we fall in reflecting and demonstrating this love in our homes, churches, life’s marketplaces, and in our prayers for others.

For example, how outraged many of us are when we read and see how the homosexual movement in America is demanding marriage rights. Yet how many of us have actually reached out with the love of God to one homosexual? Where is the love of God in all of this outrage? Do we have any right to become indignant at the sinful lifestyles of sinners if we fail to weep over them, embracing them with arms of compassion and love? Do we have any right to protest and boycott and march against these issues, if we have yet to kneel beside the fallen and  intercede for the wayward? Should not the words of Fanny Crosby grab us every time we see lost people acting like lost people do?

Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.12

Isn’t it amazing how many sinners Jesus actually touched—physically touched—and how many sinners Jesus invited to touch Him? I wonder how we will ever reach sinners as long as they  make us angry and bother us by their sinful practices? Can it be said of us as it was of our Lord, “He is a friend of sinners”?

I never tire of reading the story of Frank Laubach’s turn-around in ministry, a story I’m sure I’ve related before in these pages. But it’s worth repeating—more than worth repeating—it’s worth emulating. Frank was a Methodist missionary, a miserable Methodist missionary at that. It occurred to him one day that he was ineffective in his ministry to the people because he didn’t love them. One night, during a spiritual retreat, Frank walked up a mountain to be alone. He confessed to God that his ministry was a failure, that he simply didn’t love the people. The Spirit prompted him to pray, “Lord, I will not leave this mountain until you give me love for these people.” Hours passed. He prayed on. At perhaps three or four o’clock in the morning, he says God’s love for men was poured into his heart.

Then a changed man walked down the mountain to tell men about the love of God and to show them that Frank Laubach loved them. He met some Catholic friars, and he told them he loved them. Then he met some Buddhist monks; he told them he loved them. He told the farmers, the women, the childrenChe told everyone he loved them and that God loved them, too. Needless to say, from that day, the hearts of the people were open to the Methodist missionary. They believed God loved them because a loving missionary loved them.

Christ’s Love

Furthermore, Paul prays that these believers may “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.”13 What an oxymoronCapparently. Is Paul actually praying that we might “know” the unknowable? Not really. This word rendered “surpasses” could more correctly be rendered “excels.” Paul prays that these believers may experience such a heart-knowledge of Christ’s very own love, a love which excels all other loves. It is this quality of love that Methodism’s prolific hymn writer wrote about:

Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heav’n to earth come down;
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling;
all Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
enter ev’ry trembling heart.14

You can’t know the love of Christ by reading about it alone, by taking a course in it, by attending a seminar about it. This love is not an exercise of the head as much as it is an experience of the heart. It is the love of Christ, the love which originates with Christ and that flows into our hearts from Christ. It is Christ’s very own love.

We “know” this love and experience this love by knowing Christ, by becoming intimately acquainted with Christ, by walking with Christ, by conversing with Christ, by delighting in Christ’s presence, by communing with Christ. Frederick Faber was so filled with this love of Christ that one day he wrote:

I love Thee so, I know not how
My transports to control;
Thy love is like a burning fire
Within my very soul.15

This is the one thing needed—the love of Christ—which must be experienced in a fuller measure by Christ’s people and lived out daily in the midst of life’s toughest trials. This world is longing to see the real—real Christians. No, not just the world—the church, too, must long to see the evidences of divine love among us. Evidently Beatrice Clelland was acquainted with this kind of Christian when she penned these words:

Not merely in the words you say,
Not only in the deeds confessed,
But in the most unconscious way,
Is Christ expressed.

Is it a beatific smile,
A holy light upon the brow?
Oh no, I felt His presence while
You laughed just now.

For me, ’twas not the truth you taught,
To you so clear to me so dim,
But when you came to me you brought
A sense of Him.

And from your life He beckons me,
And from your heart His love is shed,
Till I lose sight of you and see
The Christ instead.16

Paul prayed that his converts would receive a powerful inner strengthening of the Spirit. He prayed this strengthening would result in Christ Himself making their hearts His home. He prayed that such a definitive strengthening would establish these believers in divine love—so much so that they would receive a comprehension of divine love unlike what they had ever experienced before—a quality of love which is found alone in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The church’s greatest evangelist and missionary carried such a prayer burden for the converts of his day. As church leaders, can we do less? As Christians, will we settle for less?!

– Soli Deo Gloria –

All Bible references are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

1.   Ephesians 3:16-17.
2.   John 14:16-17a.
3.   John 20:22.
4.   Acts 2:4.
5.   Taken from “Abide With Me” by Henry Lyte.
6.   Taken from “Thou Whose Name is Called Jesus” by Jean Sophia Pigott.
7.   Philippians 2:13.
8.   H.C.G. Moule. Studies in Ephesians. p. 99.
9.   Ephesians 3:18.
10. Moule. p. 99.
11. Romans 5:5.
12. Taken from “Rescue the Perishing” by Fanny Crosby.
13. Ephesians 3:19.
14. Taken from “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” by Charles Wesley.
15. Taken from “O Jesus, Jesus, Dearest Lord” by Frederick Faber.
16. Taken from “Indwelt” by Beatrice Clelland.

Taken from . . .
Breath of God: Experiencing Life in the Spirit
Copyright ©2013
Ralph I. Tilley
(May be copied for noncommercial purposes;
not to exceed 500 copies.)

Author: Ralph I. Tilley

I joyfully identify with the long history of the orthodox, evangelical stream of the Church. Theologically, I am a conservative. On issues of secondary importance, I will not quibble with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I would hope I have no doctrinal biases; however, I realize that is a practical impossibility: “Now I know in part.” You can read more on the About page.