“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 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 3:14-21
There is something so rich about the gift of Christian community that I’m not sure I’m able to capture the full essence of it in words. My husband and I have been beyond blessed to be a part of a small group Bible study of close friends now for several years. The support and encouragement that they each bring into our lives is immeasurable. They have in many ways become family to us. We celebrate the joys of life together. We mourn the losses. We carry each other through the deepest of valleys. We run alongside of one another on the mountaintops. An essential element of our lasting relationships has been prayer. Each one of us knows that at any given moment of the day, we can reach out to each other for prayer, and we can be confident that powerful prayers are going up on our behalf. Although I have had countless friendships throughout my life that have been incredible in numerous ways, this is a distinguishable characteristic that is shared exclusively within my friendships of faith. Intercessory prayer is essential in the life of the believer, and I have been a very blessed recipient of this gift.
Consistently shown throughout Paul’s writings is his heart of prayer for the churches. He was a man who was regularly found in prayer, and not just for himself, but for other believers. He carried a burden of prayer for the church. Ephesians 3:14-21 is perhaps one of my favorites of all of his prayers because his heart’s cry in these few verses is that the believers in Ephesus would be given spiritual strength to be able to grasp the depths of Christ’s love for them. Wow. I just need to pause for a moment on this thought. It never occurred to me before that I would need spiritual strength in order to fully understand and embrace the love that Christ has for me. His love is that great. His love is that overwhelming. His love is that complete. His love is that good. Perhaps Paul had tasted this love on the road to Damascus. Perhaps he had seen this love tangibly expressed towards him in each prison cell that held him captive. I don’t know why or how Paul knew that he needed to pray these very words for them and for us, but I’m so grateful that he did.
Although I’ve known many Christians who cannot seem to believe that God’s love is for them as much as for the next person, right now I’ll just speak for myself. Guilt and shame muddled much of my former understanding of God’s love for me. In my earlier years of faith, God always seemed to be more of a distant and far off ruler than a close, loving Father. Looking back on those wasted years that were spent in fear and confusion, I can now see the importance of this prayer for all believers. Apart from the strength that only God can give, how else are we to know and understand the depth, width, length, and height of Christ’s love for us? We simply cannot fathom it without God’s strength because the love of Christ is both vast but also complete. There is no love this side of heaven that even touches the love that Jesus has for us as His children. We err when we equate the love of man to the love of God. Unfortunately, the love of man is our only frame of reference before we come to faith in Christ. I believe that this is perhaps the very reason why Paul prayed that we would be given strength to understand it.
Because when we come to the place where we can finally grasp this love that is deep and wide and long and high, our lives are lived in such a way that shouts to an unbelieving world, “If I have you, Jesus, I have everything, but without you, I have nothing.”