First Mennonite Church
January 14, 2018
“Empowered in Our Inner Being”
Text: Ephesians 3: 14-21
Every time Lilian prays she makes reference of the distance that separates us from Emmanuel. She asks God to guide, to protect and to help Emmanuel. There are a couple of things that prayer reveals about ourselves when we pray. When we pray and especially when we pray for others, either our children or our fellow brothers and sisters, our prayer reveals our concern for their wellbeing. Praying for others, therefore, reveals our love that binds us to those we are praying for. In the case of praying for our children, our prayer reveals the deep sense of obligation we have for them. Implicitly then, prayer reveals we are mindful that there are aspects about our lives and our children’s wellbeing that are beyond our ability to provide or to secure. It is true that God provides us with everything: food, clothing, transportation, etc., but often when we pray, especially when praying for our children, we pray for their safety, for their ability to do their school work, for their health, for wisdom, and for guidance in the choices and daily decisions they make. And the reason we pray for these things, even at the hearing of our children, is because we as parents know that there are many things we cannot do for our children despite the great love we have for them. In that regard, prayer reveals we acknowledge our limitations; prayer reveals we cannot control everything in life. Through prayer we entrust to the Almighty God the things we cannot control. But above all, prayer reveals we believe in God in whom we trust and rely on for those things that are beyond our control or capacity to provide for our loved ones. God’s wisdom is greater than ours as parents. God’s love for our children is greater despite our great love for them. God’s comfort is deeper than the comfort our best words can express to those grieving. God’s power to heal is better than the best medicine there could be. Only God can transform the heart of our loved ones and our friends. Therefore when we pray to God for our loved ones and dear friends, first we give testimony of our love and concern for them. Prayer expresses our commitment to the wellbeing of those we pray for. Prayer reveals we do understand our limitation. And lastly, prayer shows we believe in the God who can do all things and especially the things we cannot.
When we pray out loud we reveal what is our understanding of God and what we believe is his will for our lives. I forgot to tell Dennis that I loved the opening prayer he said for the service last Sunday. It was beautiful, not only for the words used to express his plea before God, but also the words of worship and thanksgiving to God. Having said that, I admit I was eavesdropping on Dennis’ prayer. I mean, I was listening and not praying. I should confess, I do it often when people pray aloud. And this morning I want to invite you to eavesdrop on Paul’s prayer.
Paul’s Prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Despite being the great missionary, teacher, and theologian, Paul still pleaded with the Holy Trinity on behalf of the people he dearly loved. Paul was constantly on his knees before the Father pleading that his loved ones would be strengthened in their inner being by the Holy Spirit and that Christ would dwell in them. Paul had a clear vision about the purpose of his prayer for the Ephesian church. Paul’s prayer shows his understanding of the progression there should be in the life of faith. From the moment of conversion, Christians should see as their final goal to attain “the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Transformation of the heart, mind and soul
Paul understood clearly that Christian conversion is only possible by the working of the Holy Spirit in the life a person. This is very important for us to understand. There is nothing in the world and there is nothing in religion that will ever produce a Christian convert. Only the Spirit of God can convert the soul, heart, and mind of a person. God’s Spirit is the only one who can illumine our mind to understand the word of God. It is only the Holy Spirit of God who can transform the heart. We can go to church Sunday after Sunday, we can sing all the hymns in the Christian repertoire, we can participate in every church activity, but if the Holy Spirit has not shone the light of the gospel to reveal to us our need for God and to bring us to repentance before God, transformation, conversion, the new birth will not happen. That is why Paul prayed “that out of his glorious riches [God] may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Earlier I said it is very important for us to understand Paul’s order of requests to God for the Ephesian church. Paul asked God to empower the inner being of the Ephesian sisters and brothers through his Holy Spirit. Paul understood that a fruitful and spiritually mature Christian life is only possible when God’s Spirit empowers the inner being of the person. By “inner being” Paul had in mind the heart, as the seat of the human will; the mind, which is the cognitive engine for thought processes, and the human spirit, which is open and sensitive to the spirit world, including God who is Spirit. Therefore, when the Spirit of God empowers you and me from the core faculties of our being, we are given the power to believe in Jesus Christ and Christ begins to dwell in us. I believe we should make Paul’s prayer our daily prayer for those we love and especially those who have not given their lives to the Lord. I want you to know that this is the prayer I will make for each of you this year. I will be praying for you by name and I ask you to remember me in your prayers too.
Last Tuesday I was sharing briefly this passage with the church leaders. I said that many times church leaders are tempted to believe that if there would only be good programs and activities for the young people in the church they would not leave the church once they become adults. Programs and activities are good, but they do not guarantee that young people will stay in the church. What will certainly keep our young people in church is if the Spirit of God is dwelling in them. Even if these people move elsewhere, they will continue to seek to be in fellowship with others who share their faith. For that reason, I want to urge you to pray for our children that God’s Spirit would lead them to Christ and that Christ would dwell in them through faith. Once again, Paul was an extraordinary teacher, minister of the gospel, and missionary, but he knew that none of his abilities could guarantee that the Ephesian believers would remain stable and growing in the faith, except if the Holy Spirit of God has transformed them from the core of their being.
Paul’s second request is that the Ephesian believers would be rooted and established in love. To be rooted and established in love means to be rooted and established in God. As John writes, God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them (1John 4:16b). Paul desired that the Ephesian brothers and sisters would be firmly established in the love of God and as they lived together in harmony that they would deepen their understanding and experience of that love. I must admit: Paul uses very mysterious language when he talks about this. Listen to how he presents it: And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Paul was very ambitious in his prayer for the Ephesians. God’s love is unfathomable, unsearchable, and measureless. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. One of Job’s friends said this about God:
“Can you find out the deep things of God?
Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
8 It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
9 Its measure is longer than the earth,
and broader than the sea (Job 11:7-9).
Although we may never get to know the fullness of God’s love, yet as we come together to worship, as we continue to pray for one another, as we keep seeking each other’s wellbeing, as we continue to admonish each other with the word of God, as we continue walking together in this journey of faith, our understanding and experience of the love of God will increase. As we continue to remain in God, we remain in his love. It is love that unites and empowers for service. It is love that sustains the fellowship. May we all pursue to grow in the love of God which surpasses all knowledge. Knowledge is superseded by the surpassing love of Christ.
This year, let us commit ourselves to pray Paul’s prayer for one another. Let us begin by praying that the Spirit of God would empower each of us from within. Let us pray that each one of us would experience transformation of our spirit and inner being. Let us pray that each of us would experience spiritual renewal to grow in the love of the Lord. Let us pray that as we come together in fellowship we would be able to experience the love of God that is reflected in you and me. Amen!
 My oldest son attends Fremont School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA