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Filled with All the Fullness of God

Prayer is essential if we are to experience the fullness of God.


(Read Ephesians 3:14-21)

We are often impressed and inspired to greater heights of living as we observe the world around us. Many times, we want to see changes in our lives that replicate the habits of people who inspire us. Virtually every Christian I know desires to grow in godliness and specifically in their effectiveness in prayer, time spent praying, and passion for prayer. Prayer is crucial and yet often not fully utilized. Many Christian I know desire greater amounts of transformation in their lives in areas such as killing sin, living in obedience to God, loving God and others, and walking in joy and boldness. My hope is that this sermon and this text will give us guidance in how to pray, what to pray for, and how to seek life transformation.

Pray for God's empowerment to live in, understand, and embrace God's extraordinary love.

(Review Ephesians 1-3)

In Ephesians 1-3, we see these highlights:

  • God has blessed us in the past, present, and future (Eph. 1:1-14)
  • Prayer to know the hope God calls us to, who he has made us as his people, and the power he gives to us (Eph. 1:15-23).
  • The individual position before God (Eph. 2:1-10).
  • Corporate position of the Jew and the Gentile before God (Eph. 2:11-22).
  • The gospel is the power of God for salvation, for Jews and Gentiles. (Eph. 3:1-13).

Foundation: Pray to God as the Father of all

Notice that "For this reason," is also in Ephesians 3:1. Ephesians 3:2-13 seem to be a bit of a continuation of Ephesians 2:11-22 where Paul speaks of his stewardship as a gospel preacher to Jews and Gentiles. Paul is bowing his knees before the Father because God has saved us by grace (Eph. 2:1-10) and brought together Jews and Gentiles in one gospel ("every family in heaven and earth" Eph. 2:11-22). Standing was the typical posture of prayer in Paul's day (Mark 11:25; Luke 18:11, 13), but kneeling signified an expression of humility, reverence, and urgency.
God is the one who creates, sustains, and exercises sovereignty over all heavenly beings and humanity and is Father of all who dwell on the earth.

Posture communicates. When we are in meetings, we can tell based on someone's posture if they are receiving information or not. When we meet someone of importance, we become aware of our posture and seek to demonstrate respect. For example, an administrator at the school where I teach is a retired three-star general. The first time I met him, I was completely aware of my posture, wanting to make a good impression and show respect.

We must recognize God is the sovereign one over all. We recognize all he has done throughout history, what he has done on our behalf by means of the gospel, and come to him in a way that rightly expresses our worship of him. We come to him as Father. We pray big prayers to our God. The rest of the text gives us an idea of what to pray and why.

Request #1: Pray for the power of the Spirit

God showers the riches of his glory on us (Eph. 1:3, 15-21; cf. Phil. 4:19), and based on the wealth of blessing available to us (Eph. 1:3) we should pray. Specifically, we pray to be strengthened with God's power. This power comes through the Spirit. The sphere within which that power operates is in our inner man. Paul elsewhere speaks in that kind of language when he says:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Some of us are young and in our physical prime, or past it, but we are all aging. Our bodies break down in this life. In our culture, we have become obsessed with having physical health (not necessarily a bad thing), but we can often overlook our need and dependence on the Spirit's power for our continual transformation.

A couple of years ago my family was in Gatlinburg. There is a certain store we love, and there is a climbing wall in it. My kids wanted to climb the wall, so they got harnessed in and climbed the wall. When Jonathan was done, he was so excited and said, "I did it." Technically he did do it, but my children seemed to have forgotten an important person who helped them climb the wall: the bilayer. As the bilayer assisted Jonathan, so we need to depend on God in prayer to allow the Spirit to strengthen us.

We urgently need to follow Paul's example and pray for displays of God's power within us. While praying for external realities is needful, we need to look to our hearts as well.

Result #1: The indwelling of Christ

Paul prays to the Father for empowering by the Spirit in the inner person so that Christ may dwell (make his home) in our hearts through faith. That is one of the letter's many references to the Trinity. There is a close relationship between the experience of the Spirit's strengthening activity and that of Christ's indwelling (1 Cor. 15:45; 2 Cor. 3:17; Rom. 8:9, 10; Gal. 4:6). "In your hearts" is similar to "the inner being" of Ephesians 3:16, and Christ's indwelling defines more precisely the strengthening role of the Spirit in Ephesians 3:16. At first sight, it seems strange for Paul to pray that Christ may dwell in the hearts of believers. Doesn't he already live in us as Christians (John 14; Rom. 8)? The focus is not on the initial indwelling of Christ but on his continual, abiding presence. The verb used in this prayer is a strong one, signifying a permanent indwelling, settling down, and taking up residence rather than some temporary abode (Col. 1:19; 2:9; 1:27).

The sphere of Christ's continuing presence is our hearts. The "heart" here, as elsewhere in Ephesians, is employed in its customary Old Testament sense as the center of one's personality, thoughts, will, and emotions. If Christ has taken up residence in our hearts, he is at the center of our lives and exercises his rule over all that we are and do. That indwelling is through faith—that is, as we trust him, he makes our hearts his home (Gal. 2:20; 3:2-5). The implication of the apostle's prayer is that the more the Spirit empowers our lives, the greater will be our transformation into the likeness of Christ because of his lordship in our hearts. That point that will be developed throughout the second half of Ephesians.

Perhaps you can picture the home you live in. Maybe you purchased your home knowing there was a great deal of work to be done. You also knew, due to the expense, it would take time to make the residence the way you wanted it. You may work at it for years, even decades, and it gets to the point that it is "your home" where you take up residence. Similarly, Christ has a great deal of work to do in our hearts, and that work never really ends until we are glorified. That is why we pray for the power of God's Spirit that Christ may genuinely take up residence within us, transforming us into a house that pervasively and increasingly reflects his character.

That first request is a plea for power—power for holiness to think, act, and feel in ways that accord with Jesus; it is power for moral resolve, gratitude, humility, discernment, obedience, and, as we will see, to love. What are our prayers like? Does this first section ever come out as a request for our own lives or the lives of others? We are in need of such transformation, and God seeks to richly supply it! Pray and walk in the confidence that he hears and grants what we need!

Request #2: Pray to know the love of Christ

Paul prayed that we would grasp the limitless dimensions of Christ's love. That is not a prayer that we might love Christ more, though that is a good prayer and is a direct result of this prayer, but, rather, that we might better grasp Christ's love for us. Rooted and grounded in love, Paul is praying for the Holy Spirit's power and Christ's abiding residence so that we could increasingly see and savor the love of Christ for us, both with our intellect and our affections. Gospel-centeredness produces that kind of mind and heart and leads to an overarching character. The character of Christ should increasingly dominate and shape the orientation of our lives. This is most characteristically expressed in love that increases as we comprehend the love of Christ. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19), and as we understand increasingly that love, we are able to love more completely.

That is clearly seen in the example of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, where Valjean is shown grace and love by a priest. Valjean is completely transformed by the experience and is a shining example of love and grace toward others for the rest of his life.

We may know Christ's love in some measure, but we will never exhaustively comprehend it, and so we pray the prayer to know God's love more fully. No matter how much we learn, no matter how much we think we know and see and feel and grasp, there is always an infinity more left over to grasp. As we pray and ponder these truths, we are changed.

Result #2: Filled with all the fullness of God

The main goal or result of the prayer is that we would be filled with the fullness of God (Col. 2:9-10). Paul prays that God would strengthen us with the Spirit's power, resulting in Christ effectively dwelling in us, so we might be able to comprehend the wonders of Christ's love, resulting in our experiential knowledge of Christ's love that surpasses all knowledge, for the purpose of being filled with the fullness of God. Paul desires that the prayer would take root in us so that we would be all that God wants us to be and be spiritually mature (4:12-13). In some sense, it is with the radiant power and presence of God that we are to be filled. The church as Christ's body already shares in, embodies, and expresses Christ's fullness (Eph. 1:23). We have not yet experienced the plenitude of God in the way that is available for us. That is why Paul prays as he does.

Paul assumes that we cannot be spiritually mature unless we receive power from God to enable us to grasp the limitless dimensions of the love of Christ. Experiencing and knowing this love changes everything. It leads to deeper fellowship and the ability to forgive others and love enemies. It leads to transformed speech and thoughts and transformation of many others areas of life. Are we needy and dependent enough to look to God daily and ask for this power, indwelling, and knowledge of love?


God is a God who goes beyond anything we can imagine. He is able to do, for he is neither idle, inactive, nor dead (discuss and contrast idols in Ps. 115:1-8). God is able to do what we ask because he hears and answers the prayers that he commands we pray! God is able to do what we ask or think because he knows our thoughts. He is able to do all that we ask or think because he knows everything and can perform it all. There is nothing that is proper for us to have that transcends God's power to perform. He is able to do much more, far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, for he is a God of superabundance (the single Greek word that stands behind this idea, huperekperissou, has the idea of an extraordinary degree, considerable excess beyond expectations). All that God does is done by virtue of his power that works within us. As we recall all that God is and has done in and for his people, we must proclaim that all glory and credit and attention and affection goes to him even as we are being transformed.


Pray for God's empowerment to live in, understand, and embrace God's extraordinary love. We want to be God-centered, not self-centered. There is a genuine love of God for us that turns our hearts outward toward him and others in love, gratitude, and persevering faith. Focus your prayers on those and other spiritual matters such as the Spirit's strengthening, the dwelling of Christ in our lives, and the comprehension of Christ's love. All of this is so we can walk in the fullness of God. Soak in texts like Ephesians 1-3 so you can see the glorious riches of your spiritual inheritance, and worship God like these things are actually real. Pray with an open Bible. Use helpful apps, such as Echo Prayer or Joshua Project (which shows you how to pray for the unreached peoples of the world). May we walk in the fullness of the love of Christ and the power of the Spirit for our continued transformation to the glory of God.

Jeremy Kimble is Assistant Professor of Theology at Cedarville University and the author of '40 Questions About Church Membership and Discipline' (Kregel, 2017).

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Sermon Outline:


I.Foundation: Pray to God as the Father of all

II. Request #1: Pray for the power of the Spirit

III. Result #1: The indwelling of Christ

IV. Request #2: Pray to know the love of Christ

V. Result #2: Filled with all the fullness of God

VII. Doxology