Most of us probably don’t spend much time thinking about our prayer requests. We must make them. Perhaps we ought to think about them. John Stott, in his commentary on Ephesians, notes that our requests express our desires.
We also ought to consider what Paul prayed for people. His desires reflected God’s desires for those churches. One of his most significant prayers comes in Ephesians 3.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ESV
Paul was preoccupied here with 4 things: strength, love, knowledge and fullness. He wanted these for the Ephesian Christians. Are we so different that we don’t need these 4 things.
Strength: We need strength in our inmost being. We are weak, in so many ways. Paul wants the Father to strengthen them by the Spirit so Christ dwells in them by faith. Christ dwells in all true Christians by the Spirit. Just as we are not always under the influence of the Spirit, we are not always under the influence or aware of the reality of the indwelling Christ. We rely upon the flesh, by default, instead of relying on Christ. He wants them to trust in the indwelling (the word used is for permanent residence, not a sojourner) Christ. They need the ministry of the Spirit to enjoy this blessing of the gospel.
We also need the Spirit to give us the ability, or strength, to comprehend or experience the love of Christ. We don’t have the ability to know this love on our own. It is spiritually discerned. The flesh is powerless, so Paul prays that the Spirit would help them.
Love: We need to know, experience, the greatness of God’s love. It is a love that cannot be known exhaustively. Love is a relational sort of thing, and we only learn of this love in community with all the saints. You won’t learn to be merciful unless you have people sin against you- alot. You won’t know the patience of love unless you rub shoulders with frustrating and irritating people.
They need to know and experience love precisely because God is love. He expressed His love in our salvation, and one of His goals is to make us loving. This is so important that Paul feels compelled to pray for that love to be manifested in our lives.
Knowledge: We need knowledge. Not just facts, but experiential knowledge. He wants us to comprehend what surpasses knowledge. Odd, huh? He wants us to continue to grow in that experiential knowledge of a love that cannot be fully known. Paul wants them to get it from their heads to their hearts, and is praying it into them. Preaching is necessary but insufficient. Prayer is just as necessary as preaching. They go together as God’s ordained means.
Fullness: He wants us to be filled with the fullness of God. This is like Peter’s statement about partaking of the divine nature. God dwells in us to make us like Him. We don’t become God, but become like God. The nature of the hypostatic union was that Jesus was filled with the fullness of God. In our union with Christ, He now fills us with the fullness of God. Essentially this is growing in our experience of our union with Christ.
Paul was convinced that they, and we, needed these 4 things. He was also convinced that God was more than able to do this and more than we could ever imagine. Paul made bold prayers- bolder than praying for someone to be healed- because he believed in a great God. Do we? Or do we believe in a mundane God who is only able to help us with the mundane?