Ephesians 3:16-17 - 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.
As the apostle Paul closes out his letter to the community in Ephesus, a group of people he cares for deeply, he offers a prayer for them. It’s one that I appreciate and have applied as I pray for fellow believers.
Paul’s initial prayer is that they be strengthened in their inner being. We live in a world that pays less attention to the strength of a person’s inner being. Such strength has to do with what motivates a person to behave the way they do when they face various circumstances in life.
The longer we live, the more our character gets tested through life’s ups and downs. Financial hardship, avoiding shortcuts to success through moral compromise, being misunderstood, the loss of friends and family - we’re susceptible to all of these. Therefore, we consistently need renewed in our inner being to be able to display exemplary character during moments or seasons when we are pressed.
And then Paul qualifies that we are to be strengthened with ‘power.’ These words, strength and power, which often accompany physical or even economic prowess, might confuse us here. Paul, however, reminds us that this power is something that we find through God’s Spirit.
It’s a different kind of power, a spiritual power. If that sounds a bit mystical, let me explain. The idea of ‘spirit’ has to do with what animates us as human beings. In this case, a person is animated by God and given direction by His Word. In turn, that Word directs us to impact the world following the model given to us by Jesus.
It’s this kind of spiritual power that drives us to speak a word of pointed kindness to a person and change their countenance for the rest of the day. It’s the kind of power where you can discern a need and meet it before someone even makes it known. It’s the kind of power that gives you the freedom to forgive someone and restore a friendship.
You can witness it in spontaneous acts of service. I had a friend who was frustrated to the point of tears trying to install cabinets in his home and took a moment to pray to the Lord to him him. Not a minute or two later, he received a text "hey, are you installing cabinets? I'll come help you." And he did. Such a helping hand may sound small until you are on the receiving end of it after hours of frustration.
I’ve seen this power at work in teachers who challenge their young students to think about how they can apply their education to make a better world. I’ve seen it in a group of neighbors who band together to assist an elderly neighbor with grocery shopping. I’ve seen it in the honest word one friend gave to another, risking the temporary rift it might cause in the relationship to bring to light something that need to be talked about.
God’s Spirit gives us power like this, and Christ dwells in our hearts because we choose to demonstrate this kind of faith. These activities must rooted and grounded in love. It’s love that keeps us stable, that keeps us present to commit to the long-term task of doing the work of God. The work isn’t done until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).