FENTON, MI – From time to time, God lays a passage of Scripture on my heart that becomes especially important for a season of ministry. I sensed that recently when I read the Apostle Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21. In this powerful prayer, Paul asks God to strengthen believers. That's what you and I need individually, and it's what we need collectively as Michigan Baptists. We need strong believers in strong churches glorifying God and punching holes in the darkness together. I am inviting Michigan Baptists to join me in asking God to strengthen our churches.
The Apostle Paul is in prison for his faith in Christ as he prays these words. It’s a remarkable scene. This man who has traveled to some of the greatest cities in the world to share the Gospel is now in prison because of that same Gospel. His world is reduced to the space between prison walls. Physically, he can only move a few feet in every direction, but on his knees, he prays a prayer that touches the heart of God for the people of God.
In my mind I see Paul as he kneels "before the Father" (verse 14). He is entering the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The word “before” means "facing." The picture is of an intentional turning toward God. Paul focuses intently on God as he bends his knees in humble submission. His heart and mind are captured by the God who changed his life on the Damascus Road. His body is imprisoned, but Paul’s reality is not going to be defined by the difficult circumstances around him, but by the Christ above him. Paul prays and the impact of that prayer reverberates in the church even today.
The ask of the prayer is verse 16: "that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man...." Paul boldly asks God for believers to be "strengthened with power through his Spirit in their inmost being." The burning desire of Paul in these verses is not for his freedom. It would have been OK for Paul to pray for release, but that’s not his first concern. He prays for God's people to be strengthened. Isn’t that amazing? His prayer isn’t about him. It’s about us. He asks God to make us strong in Christ.
Notice where this strength comes from. It comes from the riches of God’s glory. Do you see the flow? It’s from God to us. It comes to us according to the riches of his glory. That’s good news because there is no limit to the riches of God’s glory. Paul asked God to strengthen us, not out of our riches, but according to His riches. The universe, and all that it comprises, cannot contain the riches of God's glory. Here is a deep, abiding, limitless source of strength, available to believers from the inexhaustible riches of God’s glory. Paul prays for us to be strengthened with power through His spirit in the inner man according to those riches.
Now, that’s a prayer! It's a bold, audacious, incredible prayer for the People of God! That’s what you and I need as we follow Christ. So let's follow Paul's example and pray boldly in the year to come for God to strengthen Michigan Baptists. Let's pray that God strengthen us according to the riches of His glory. And let's watch as God does great and amazing things in and through His strengthened people.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike Durbin is the State Evangelism Director for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before joining the state convention staff, Mike served as Church Planting Catalyst and Director of Missions in Metro Detroit since 2007. He also has served as a pastor and bi-vocational pastor in Michigan, as well as International Missionary to Brazil.