Experiencing God Fully: A Passionate Prayer

Text: "For this reason I bow my knees to the Fatherthat He would grant youthat you may be filled with all the fullness of GodNow to Himbe gloryforever and ever. Amen" (Eph. 3:14-21)

Thought: God's desire for us as His people is that we experience Him fully in our lives. This points us to the passage of Scripture before us. This desire of God is seen and sensed in the Apostle Paul's prayer for the believers in Ephesus, and it is God's desire for us today. The prayer is all about experiencing God in His fullness in our lives.

I. The Primary Reason for This Prayer (3:14-15)
It might surprise you to know that this is the only time that Paul speaks of bowing his own knees in prayer. What was the real reason for this passionate payer? The Apostle is concerned for the spiritual growth of the Ephesians. They need to experience the truths of the Lord that Paul had taught and experienced Himself. In addition, this prayer is a bridge between the great truths of the first half of the letter, and the application of those truths in the second half of the letter. Paul is going to call these Ephesians to a "worthy walk," and to a "strong stand," that are radically different from the world around them. Before he sets forth this Christian "walk" or "stand," he prays.

II. The Limitless Resources for This Prayer (3:16a)
Paul is going to pray for some amazing things to happen. In short, he wanted the Ephesians to experience God more fully. Will God do this? Can God do this? Paul's next phrase answers those questions? Paul is asking God to give or grant to us something "according to the riches of His glory." You cannot give something that you do not have. God has the resources to answer the Apostle's prayer.

III. The Awesome Requests in This Prayer
1) Experience the Spirit's Power: "to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man" (3:16).In another place Paul speaks of the outer man as wasting away or perishing, but the inner "person" being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4:16). I believe that God can and does strengthen people physically, but Paul is talking about something deeper here. He is talking about the real you inside that body. Paul is talking about strength within us that the Spirit of God enables.

If you have truly trusted in Christ for your forgiveness and accepted Him unreservedly into your life as Savior and Lord, then the Holy Spirit of God brought that about and you have been born again. The Spirit of God has entered your life. Paul is praying that this same Spirit would empower these believers. The blessing is that Paul is asking God the Father to give what He desires to give.

Paul's request concerning the power of the Spirit of God is connected to some wonderful words that follow:  "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (3:17).

2) Experience Christ's Presence. Paul is speaking to believers, and there is a special emphasis here. People smarter than I have pointed out that the idea here is one of continuous dwelling. It is one thing for someone to enter your house, it is another for them to be at home, to live, to dwell, to stay. Paul is not talking about salvation from sin here, he is talking about close fellowship with Christ. It is the Spirit's job, in a sense, to make that possible, but the result is for fellowship with Christ at the deepest level.

God's desire has always been to have fellowship with His people, to live in their midst, to indwell them. Now Christ Himself does not want just to come in, but to have fellowship with us. This relationship established in love is just the beginning of understanding of the love of Christ.

3) Experience Measureless Love: "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge" (3:19a). Paul expresses his passion for these believers that their understanding and experience of the love of Christ would grow in every way, and especially be enriched by the knowledge of Christ's love that other believers have. What a wonderful thing it is when we share the love of Christ with other believers! It is wonderful to comprehend with "all saints" the measure of Christ's love which is in fact immeasurable!

This "grasping" with all saints reminds us that we are not to be exclusive in our fellowship. The gentiles in Ephesus were to appreciate that they were a part of the Church that is claimed by God the Father, redeemed by God the Son, and sealed and strengthened by God the Holy Spirit. These requests of Paul move from one to the other. They are not identical, but they are interconnected. And he reaches the end by praying some audacious words:

4) Experiencing God's Fullness: "that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (3:19b). When God lovingly dominates a life, it is filled with Him and becomes more and more like Him. You see, God wants to fill your life with Himself. This is His purpose. It is His provision, also, so that the Christian life can be lived in a "worthy" manner. Here is the question: Is this what we really want? Do we want to be filled by God, with God, and for God? I hope your answer is "yes."

IV. The Worshipful Response to this Prayer (20-21)
Paul jumps immediately into one of the most beautiful statements of praise and doxology that you'll ever read. Paul is on fire! At the heart of these words of praise are two underlining realities in Paul's own life.

1) Confidence in God, and His power. God can do what Paul has just prayed for. The key phrase is "Him who is able." Yes, "according to the power that works in us," God can do so much more than we think or imagine. We need to be confident that God is able to work powerfully in our lives. Paul's movement into praise reminds us that we must trust God to do this work in our lives.

2) Commitment to God and His Glory. This was Paul's heart, and it is the passion of those who are really filled with the fullness of God. We need to remember that God will only work in and through us for His own glory. It has to be for His glory. And this glory does not just come through our individual lives, but through the whole Church, in Christ Jesus.

I don't claim to understand it all, but I know that this prayer is a key to Christian living. It is a real relationship with the Lord that strengthens, and grows and fills our lives. When everything is open and given to the Lord, when we want His glory more than anything else, He will do what only He can do to fill our lives with His love and Himself. It is a miracle as real and amazing as crossing the Red Sea, His fullness in our lives!

Thrust: If you pray this prayer like Paul (not just once, but as a daily attitude of faith), God may just answer this prayer beyond your wildest imagination. Where do you start? Answer the question, "Do I really want this?" Yes, or No. If you are saying "Yes" for the glory of God I want this, then the challenge is to make Paul's prayer yours. It is an expression of your desire to experience God more fully.

David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.

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