The word of the day is “pray.” In today’s reading of Ephesians 3:8-21, Paul makes known his prayers for the churches of the region of Ephesus. The apostle says that he wants to encourage the Ephesians despite his imprisonment. Therefore, the apostle writes, “For this reason, I bow my knees to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 14 and 16.)
The Majesty of Paul’s Prayer for the Church
The prayer soars in majestic phrases. Paul asks for their “strength” “in the inner man” (vs. 16), the indwelling of “Christ in their hearts,” and their “foundation in love” (vs. 17). The apostle goes on to pray that his flock might comprehend with the saints “width and length and height” (vs. (18), referring to the “immensity of the love of God” (NfP1:13 “Chrysostom’s “Homilies on Ephesians). Finally, he prays that they “may know the love of Christ which passes knowledge” and that they “be filled with all the fullness of God” (vs. 19).
But why does he pray in this lofty way? Paul was concerned that the believers in Ephesus would lose heart when they thought of all the tribulations that he suffered. Such despair would be natural because Paul was their teacher and shepherd. Like the women who stood at the cross, they would have great sorrow for him. And spiritually and emotionally, they would share his suffering. And that sorrow and experience of suffering might wear their faith down.
Paul Considers His Sufferings Glorious
But in today’s reading, Paul does not view his “tribulations” as sorrowful (vs. 13). They are glorious for him and his flock. The Lord Jesus himself said, “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you… for my sake” (Matt 5:11). And Paul prayed in Philippians that he might “know Christ,” the “power of His resurrection,” “the fellowship of His sufferings,” and the conformity to His death, so that he might obtain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:10-11 passim). Thus, Paul viewed suffering for Christ as a way of “taking up his cross and following him,” as the Lord directed (Matthew 16:24).
With this in mind, we note in our reading Paul is not thinking of himself. He does not defend himself. Nor does he ask for the prayers of his flock. He is at peace with all the challenges of his ministry. The apostle’s sole concern is the spiritual welfare of those who look to him for inspiration, guidance, and strength.
We may be suffering ourselves. But we may also be suffering vicariously. We may be upset, worried, and troubled with the course of what is going on today. Certainly, we can lift our concerns to the Lord. Along with this, we can seek comfort in the loving presence of God, courage in the inspiration of the Spirit, and hope in the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. And we can use Paul’s prayer in this reading as our own.