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… (Eph. 3:20 TLB)
It would be hard to find a New Testament passage that would exceed the glorious promise found here. However, verse 20 should not be considered apart from its context (1:14-21), in which the apostle’s purpose is to address the believer’s knowledge of both the love of God and the power of God involved in the experience of prayer as we ascend to the very summit of prayer captured in verse 20.
Actually, our incentives to prayer and our convictions for prayer are grounded in our realization of both the love of God and the power of God. God’s love determines His willingness to hear and answer prayer; His power determines His ability to hear and answer prayer. If God were simply a God of love, but not a God of power, He would be willing but not able; if He were a God of power, but not a God of love, He would be able but not willing. But glory be to His Name! We have a willing God of unlimited ability, and this truth should become the greatest assurance and highest incentive to those of us who pray!
Paul prays for his readers to be rooted and grounded in love and have power to comprehend with all the saints the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that they might be filled with all the fulness of God. The apostle treats the love of God as a cube, having breadth, length, depth and height. In the Bible, the cube is presented as a symbol of perfect form. Every side of a cube is a perfect square, and is seen as such from any and every angle The “Holy of holies,” in both the Tabernacle and the Temple, representing the dwelling place of God — was a perfect cube. By divine specification, Moses and Solomon were to make the “Holy of holies” ten cubits long, ten cubits broad and ten cubits high. We find in the book of Revelation that the New Jerusalem, of which the “Holy of holies” was the type, let down out of heaven and measured equally in length, breadth and height — still the perfection of symmetry.
As Paul leads us to consider the love of God, he first calls attention to its breadth.
It is broad enough to take us all in! He does not love Jews only, but His love is extended to the Gentiles including every nation, tongue and tribe. It is extended to the whole world.
The love of God is also long. He says, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” This means that back in the eons of eternity before the earth was formed and before we were born, our Gracious, Sovereign God planned our salvation by sending His Son Jesus to planet earth to suffer and die in full payment for all the sins of all of us. And in love He sends the Holy Spirit to convict and cleanse us from sin and to guide and empower us for the Christian life. His love for us never had a beginning and it will never have an ending.
The love of God is deep. So deep that it went to hell and back to pluck us out of the filth and mire of sin. So deep it lays hold of our secret parts — the mind, the heart, the soul, the will, the conscience, the affections, and the emotions — and makes us holy and acceptable to a Holy God.
But just how high is the love of God? Anyone who will yield his/her heart to Jesus Christ and will take up their cross and follow Him will discover that His love is high enough to sanctify us wholly and preserve spirit, soul and body sound and blameless until the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The love of God is high enough to elevate our affections from the things of the world and the flesh and set them on things above, even where Christ is seated at the right hand of God!
Dear friends, should not these dimensions of the love of God inspire us to reach the summit of prayer! Let us therefore come boldly to the Throne of Grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Tell me, please, how any truly redeemed child of God can pore over such an urgent invitation and remain prayerless! We are urged to come, to draw near, to approach the Throne, for it is a Throne of mercy and grace. We need not apologize for coming. We come not as a stranger or an alien. We approach our loving Heavenly Father through our Loving, Forgiving Savior. Nothing — not our ignorance, not our weakness, not even our sins if we are penitent — need keep us away. We come even as we are — humble, honest, hungry and trusting Him who cannot lie, cannot fail, cannot turn us away. How dare we leave such mighty divine attributes of love and power untapped in our daily lives in light of all of our needs, in light of all that God calls us to and in light of all the promises He makes!
But I want to close with the secret to reaching this summit of prayer as revealed in our text: the power that works in us! Paul is referring here to the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s Gift to us when He saved us. The Holy Spirit is the secret to our union with God the Father as through the Spirit we have been adopted into the Father’s redeemed family. The Holy Spirit is also the secret to our communication with God the Son, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven as our intercessor. The Holy Spirit intercedes in us here on earth. The Lord Jesus intercedes for us in heaven. The Holy Spirit within us is breathing out to the Father what we can only groan and sigh and cry out, unable to put unto words. Then our Savior in heaven takes these prayers and purifies them from selfish motives and ignorant conditions and imperfections in our knowledge of the truth and presents them in person to the Father. In fact, Jesus’ presence at the Throne of Grace respresents our everlasting plea for everything we need.
And just what is our assurance that our prayers will be answered? Again, it is the power that works in us! The Holy Spirit! Have we been born of the Spirit? Are we cleansed (purified, sanctified) by the Spirit? Are we walking in the Spirit? Or have we been grieving, quenching, disobeying, ignoring the Holy Spirit? If so, we cannot know how to pray. We cannot know how to pray the will of God. Such a professing Christian cannot have the assurance their prayer will be answered. And this accounts for both a lot of prayerlessness, and a lot of unanswered prayer.
But I feel I should leave us all with this one truth: Any Spirit-filled believer (Roman Catholic or Protestant, Calvinist or Wesleyan-Arminian, Pentecostalist, Evangelical or Independent) can have the assurance that they are praying the will of God by a Spirit-inspired direction for prayer accompanied by a Spirit-inspired confidence. Listen to what the apostle John wrote: “Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.” (I John 3:21-22).
So pray on, my brother, my sister. See the glory of God in your life in answered prayer. Know a life of joy unspeakable and full of glory because God is delighted to hear you and honor His Word, meet your need and show His glory in your life of prevailing prayer.