Pray Big: Worship Big

“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, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

We’ve spent this last week listening in on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Christians, a huge prayer for huge power so they could understand and live in the reality of a huge idea – that the God of the universe loves them and will never, ever stop.

pb_350To understand that truth about God’s commitment to us in Jesus changes a person. In fact, it changes everything. Ultimately, if the all-powerful God is for you – and will be always – how could your future be any better?

In these final verses, Paul responds in the only way that makes sense: worship. “To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”

Amen.

Think: Are you convinced that God is all-powerful and that he loves you unconditionally in Jesus – and that he will love you forever? If so, how does believing that change the way you live? How does it motivate you to respond to God in worship?

Pray: Say to God, “To you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!”

Do: Make a point this next week to remember God’s love for you in Christ and to worship him for it.

Pray Big: Can’t Even Imagine

“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 . . .” (Ephesians 3:20)

Okay, yes, this is not even a whole thought, but Paul squeezed a huge idea or two into this sentence fragment.

pb_350In a way, it makes sense that we tend to pray small, because God can do so much more than we could ever even dream up. He’s got the power to do good for us that we do not have the power to think of to ask for.

Bottom line: You will never be able to ask God for something that is beyond his ability to do because you’ll never be able to think of anything that is beyond his ability to do.

This verse is not a promise that God will do whatever you ask him to (no matter what your motives). Sometimes he says no because that is what is best for us and for others – but he never says no because he cannot do what we ask. We don’t have to be afraid to pray bigger.

Think: Have you ever limited what you asked God for because you were limited in your understanding of what God can do? Are you able to hear a “no” or “not now” from God as his love for you, trusting that what you asked for would not ultimately be for the good?

Pray: Ask God to help you to pray like he is really able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine – and to trust him to respond to our prayers out of his love for us.

Do: Ask a wiser Christian you know if they have ever asked God for something they desperately wanted at the time – but are now glad that he said no to.

Pray Big: Filled Up with God

“And I pray that you . . . may have power . . . to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

The last line of Paul’s huge prayer for the Ephesians may be the biggest request, yet. To boil it down, we left out a lot of important stuff with those “. . .” things – stuff you’ll need to really understand the whole idea.

pb_350Still, here’s the bottom line: Paul prays that they will know the “beyond-knowing” love of Christ. In other words, he wants them to know in their lives – to experience for real – something they cannot understand with their brains alone. Do you want to experience Christ’s love in a way that can’t be understood? Do you want to feel and be loved by God like that?

I hope so, because the last phrase of Paul’s prayer is that knowing that love is the path to being filled all the way up – to your maximum capacity – with God.

So you are rooted in this immense love. You grow in it. You know it. It lives in your heart through Christ. And it is the way to be full – all the way to the top – of God. That’s a big prayer.

Think: Has thinking about this prayer this week made you feel like you need to know and understand more about God’s love for you in Jesus? If so, do you think there’s a way to know God’s love better (in addition to praying about it)?

Pray: For yourself and a Christian friend, ask God for the power to know his love that surpasses knowledge – that you may both be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.

Do: Remind yourself of some of the aspects of God’s love for you by reviewing 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Pray Big: Power to Grasp

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17-18)

The whole idea of these verses is profound and beautiful . . . and odd. Since when do you need power to “grasp” or understand something? We would usually say that you need intelligence or wisdom to grasp a big idea. But Paul prays for power – enormous power directly from God himself.

pb_350That (and tomorrow’s verse) tells us that the immense “love of Christ” is beyond our ability to understand with our minds, no matter how smart or wise we are. It’s like asking the plant, rooted in the earth, to understand how vast the earth is.

If we’re going to carry around any understanding of the long, high, deep, wide love of Christ, we’ll need a power source beyond that of our own minds that will allow us to get a handle on it.

Why does it matter? Because the fact that God loves us in Christ is what matters most of all. Because it’s a love that never runs out and looms infinitely larger than anything we can imagine that might separate us from it.

Think: Can you think of any other examples of ideas or concepts that require an external power to understand? Does it bother you that there are truths in God’s universe that we can’t figure out with mere human intelligence and reason?

Pray: Pray for yourself and a friend that you would have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.

Do: Read more about this powerful love in Romans 8:31-39.

Pray Big: Heart Home

“. . . so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love . . .” (Ephesians 3:17)

Yes, today’s verse is basically a couple of sentence fragments – but both fragments contain huge ideas to pray about.

pb_350The first has to do with what we need God’s power for: to keep Christ “dwelling” in our hearts. Don’t panic: This is not talking about keeping our salvation; Paul teaches over and over again that God doesn’t “lose” His children.

Paul’s prayer here has to do with asking God to give his readers the power to keep Christ the first priority in their lives – making him “at home” in the very center of their hearts.

The second idea is this: While Christ lives in our hearts, we live – like plants in dirt with a deep, established root system – in God’s love. Tomorrow we’ll see why we need those deep roots in his love.

Think: How have you been doing at demonstrating your trust in God by keeping Christ the first priority in your life, making your heart his home? Do you need more of God’s power to be able to do that? Do you believe God can give you the power to do that?

Pray: Ask God to strengthen you with his power so Christ may dwell in your heart through faith.

Do: Ask someone who prays for you what kinds of things they pray for you – and what they might like you to pray for them.

Pray Big: Ask for Power

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:16)

When my son was about five, he went through a phase where he was continually impressed by how powerful I was. He would try his hardest to pick up a heavy box without being able to budge it. Then I would scoop it up without even grunting (much), and he’d look at me and say, “Whoa, dad, you’re really strong.”

pb_350It was awesome, but it didn’t last too long. He kept growing and getting stronger. I didn’t. He eventually started to catch on to the fact that his dad’s strength is only about average for a man. He’s learning that he is strong enough to handle some pretty big boxes on his own.

I’ve notice the same thing has happened in reverse in my relationship with God as my Father. When I started out, I was pretty sure I could handle anything. I trusted my own strength, and I thought maybe God would be impressed with my self-reliance. He wasn’t.

What God wants from me most is to catch on to the fact that I only have average strength for a man – which makes me far, far too weak to handle what he has planned for me. He wants me to catch on to the fact that to accomplish anything truly meaningful, I’m going to need his strength.

We’re talking about big prayers this week, and what Paul asks today is a doozy. He knows God has an unlimited bank account of “power,” and he asks God to take some of “that” power – limitless God power – and to install it in the “inner being” of the Ephesians.

How often do you ask God to put His “whoa, dad” power in you or in someone else’s inner being? That’s a big prayer.

Think: How strong are we in our inner being – in our hearts and minds and souls – when compared to God? Would you say you are impressed with his power? Would you say that you need his power to do anything worthwhile?

Pray: Pick another Christian you know. Ask God to do this for both of you, to “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

Do: Read David’s prayer to see the impressive power of God in Psalm 68:28.

Pray Big: Kneel to the Father

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Ephesians 3:14-15)

Most of the Christians I know, including me, have a prayer problem. Not only is prayer hard work and easy to skip, we’re often only half-convinced that it even matters. We believe God hears and answers prayer, generally speaking; we’re just not sure sometimes that our prayers are worth putting out there.

pb_350Sound harsh? If you and I really believed we were talking to the God of the universe – the God with unlimited power and unlimited patience and love and forgiveness for us in Christ – how often would we talk to him?

Our small faith leads to small prayers. When we do pray, we usually ask for little things that have to do with money and health and travel and relationships. Yes, God cares about all of those things with us, but we can also pray much, much bigger.

This week, we’re going to try to “kneel to the Father” along with Paul and copycat his giant prayers for his Ephesian readers. What he asks God for is, frankly, a little startling. I hope we’re not afraid to ask the same things for ourselves and those we care most about.

Think: Do you think it matters what position your body is in when you pray? Why do you think Paul made a point to say he kneels when praying here? How does kneeling or bowing or closing our eyes help us to pray more meaningfully?

Pray: Ask God to help you to approach him respectfully when you pray and to be glad to call him Father.

Do: Paul offers another great-to-copy prayer for the Ephesians in 1:15-23. Check it out.