“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)
Someone once asked me: “Do you think we should pray for even the little things in our lives, or just for the big things?” But, seriously, can you think of anything in your life that comes in the category of “Big” to God?
Paul has just prayed that the Ephesians would be “filled up to all the fullness” of God. How can you pray any more for someone? Well, even at that point, remember He is able to do far more abundantly “beyond all that we ask or think”, according to His power and for His glory.
But what of all the disappointments, the crises and the failures? What of that strange mysterious grey zone between God’s sovereign will and my hopes and plans, triumphs and disasters? Even Paul, who wrote these great words, had many setbacks in his ministry. Demas was one of Paul’s fellow workers, and yet he deserted Paul because he loved the world (cf. Philemon 24, 2 Tim. 4:10). Surely, Paul prayed for Demas to repent, but there is no record that he ever did so. Paul prayed for the conversion of the Jews (Rom. 9:1-5), and yet they largely rejected the gospel.
I am painfully aware of many situations where God has not answered my prayers for Him to do for His glory far more than I could ask or think. There have been lost people for whom I have prayed that they would be saved, but they were not saved. There have been broken Christian marriages that I have prayed would be restored, but they ended in divorce. There have been sinning Christians for whom I have prayed that they would repent, but there has been no repentance, so far as I know.
So I am learning to hold both together, to pray big prayers with faith in a mighty God, who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think and yet at the same time, not glossing over these daily difficultiess. I guess that we simply cannot fully know the big picture of what God is doing.
But there’s a “but” here! But remember the context. Paul’s prayer for God to do His super-abundant extra is not a prayer for physical miracles or individual spiritual prowess at all. Look back at v16 & 17: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
Christ in me.
The super-abundant presence of God -every form of spiritual maturity- looks like Jesus. Christ brings together the will of God perfectly expressed in human life. He prayed the biggest prayers of all. He experienced the presence of God and the power of God, and that’s all that Paul prays for us! Christ in us; Christ in his glory and in his suffering, Christ bearing the wounds of the world, and rising in power. Christ, blessed, broken and given. Through me and in my life of prayer and trust.
Only Jesus. He is the measure of my maturity.