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WITH PAUL IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER, PART 3

WITH PAUL IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER, PART 3

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I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power 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, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19

PART 3

I was raised on the old spiritual, “There is a Balm in Gilead.” Perhaps you know the song. Each stanza is followed by the chorus:

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

I think it is because of that song that I grew up thinking of the apostle Paul as the “go to” person to learn about prayer. Read the book of Acts and you will see Paul as a man mighty in prayer. Read his letters and you will see inspiring prayers scattered through them. Paul has a way of taking us to new depths of prayer. Today we look at Paul’s third prayer request in Ephesians 3:

I pray that you may have the power 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…

Note Paul’s deliberate paradox as he prays: to know the unknowable. To know Christ’s love for us that will always be greater than we can know. Paul does not pray for readers to love Christ more, but that they might know more and more of Christ’s love for them. That is our need. Knowing His love, stirs our love. After all, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Paul knows that his readers are Christians and already know something of the love of Christ. But no matter how much they know of Christ’s love, there is always more and more of His love to be enjoyed. In fact, they will never get to the end of His unfathomable, unconditional love.
We understand what it means to know a love that we cannot comprehend. As a child I knew that my parents loved me, but what did I really know of a father and a mother’s love! I felt it, but I did not comprehend it!

Paul prays for readers to know Christ’s love more fully and be overwhelmed by that love in its “breadth and length and height and depth.” “It is as if Paul invited us to look at the universe to the limitless sky above, to the limitless horizons on every side, to the depth of the earth and of the seas beneath us, and said, ‘The love of Christ is as vast as that.’” (William Barclay, Ephesians: Daily Study Bible) I frequently look at the Cross and think of the love of Christ in its vast dimensions. The upper arm of the cross points to the height of His love; the lower arm points its depth; and the crossing arms points to the vast reaches of His love. Here is a love I long to know more and more!

But where in this vast incomprehensible, unknowable love best experienced? Where is such love to be found? This is where Paul takes readers back to a key theme of his many letters: the Body of Christ, the Community of Believers! Paul prays that “with all the saints” readers may comprehend Christ’s love for them. Of course, when Paul writes about saints, he is not writing about some super-spiritual elite, but believers in Christ. John Stott writes about the Christian community as the place to learn the depths of Christ’s love:

The isolated Christian can indeed know something of the love of Jesus. But his grasp of it is bound to be limited by his limited experience. It needs the whole people of God to understand the whole love of God, all the saints together, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, young and old, black and white, with all their varied backgrounds and experiences. (John Stott, God’s New Society: The Message of Ephesians)

We really do need each other! Even those believers from other denominations, from other churches, other parts of the world! Even those believers who don’t do things quite the way we do them! We need them in order to more fully know the unknowable love of Christ for us
Let’s pray for one another this wondrous prayer of Paul:

I pray that you may have the power 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…

Grace and peace,
Tim

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