We probably think more frequently about Paul as the great theologian or the great preacher than we think of him as a great man of prayer. Yet as mighty as he was in doctrine so he was mighty on his knees in prayer. Ephesians 3:16–19 contains what many consider to be the most sublime of all of Paul’s prayers. The prayer is made up of three petitions.
This is the sum and end of all his prayers for the Ephesians. The words of this astonishing climax are easy to read, but who can fathom their climax? There are certain great truths to be gleaned from this petition:
First, we learn what we are by nature. The request Paul makes underlines our desperate plight by nature: “We are empty of God.” By his own folly man has been wholly emptied of anything that resembles godliness. The soul by nature is empty of God. All the sin and misery we see in this world is the result of being empty of God. Solomon, the man who had all that men crave today, repeatedly said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity”—all is emptiness.
Second, we learn what we are in Christ. The moment a soul is united to Christ, the same Holy Spirit who dwells in the bosom of the Father dwells in him also. “I will but my spirit within you,” records Ezekiel (36:27). The believer becomes “a partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), he becomes “a partaker of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). He does not become as holy as God, but the same stream that flows through the divine bosom flows through the soul that is one with Jesus. So a believer begins at conversion to experience some of the drops of the fullness of God.
“Saving grace makes a man as willing to leave his lusts as a slave is willing to leave his galley, or a prisoner his dungeon, or a thief his bolts, or a beggar his rags.” —Thomas Brooks