The Prayers of Paul: For the Fullness of God


Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth: until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. Ephesians 3: 16-19

We have spent much time in this one prayer; however, it’s so rich, and it exemplifies Paul’s heart for people in the church that it is well worth our time to continue to draw rich teaching from it.

We find the Apostle urging the people to live in the full power and effectiveness of their faith. He wants them to use the God-given power that is available to them, not merely know it intellectually. He does this in a stair-step sequence:

  • They are rooted and grounded in love so Jesus may dwell in their hearts through faith,
  • They experience the love of Christ
  • The fullness of God fills them.

As D. A. Carson puts it, Paul wants us to have the power to grasp the love of God in Christ Jesus, to the end that we might be mature. To be “filled to the measure of the fullness of God” is simply a Pauline way of saying “to be all that God wants you to be” or “to be spiritually mature.” A similar expression is found in the next chapter of this epistle, where Paul tells us how various people in the church are to serve “so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (4:12-13). God himself, Christ himself, is the standard. God elsewhere says, “Be perfect, for I am perfect,” and “Be holy, for I am holy”; now he says here, in effect, “Be mature, be complete, as I am mature, complete” [D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers, (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic, 1992), 195].

Paul’s goal for the Ephesian church and us is that we might be mature and fulfilled Christians. As we read in another Pauline epistle (2 Corinthians 3:18), this process is continual and transformative. When we think of the words “filled” and “continual,” we can think of a fishing net that is crammed with fish to overflowing. However, that same fishing net keeps growing as more and more fish are placed in it. That’s a picture of how we grow in Christ—the more His Word fills us, the more our “net” expands.

The word “transformation” is from the Greek word metamorphoō (the root of the English word metamorphosis). It’s the process of change we see in a caterpillar and butterfly. When Jesus fills our minds and hearts we are transformed—we start as a small caterpillar and grow into a beautiful butterfly that reflects faith and the fullness of all God has for us. When this happens, we reflect Jesus in everything we do.

Being in the fullness of God is a continual process. It’s transformative. It means God dominates our lives, and we choose to let Him into every corner of our experience and every action we take. When God fills us, we empty ourselves—there’s no room for ego or self-sufficiency.

How do we achieve this fullness? Pastor Jon Courson wrote, “Stay in the Scriptures, gang. Spend time in the Word daily. Come together for Bible study. Sing songs of adoration—for it’s in worshiping, in studying, in looking at Him that you’ll become like Him [Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1113].” R.A. Torrey adds one more critical step, “Oh if we only realized the fullness of God’s grace that is ours for the asking, its height, and depth and length and breadth, I am sure that we would spend more time in prayer. The measure of our appropriation of grace is determined by the measure of our prayers [Reuben Archer Torrey, How to Pray (Chicago; New York: Fleming H. Revell company, 1900), 16.].”

How do we achieve fullness? Spending time in God’s Word, worshipping Him, and prayer. All of which is surrounded by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor, evangelist and hymn writer J. Wilbur Chapman often told of the testimony given by a certain man in one of his meetings:

I got off at the Pennsylvania depot as a tramp, and for a year I begged on the streets for a living. One day I touched a man on the shoulder and said, “Hey, mister, can you give me a dime?” As soon as I saw his face, I was shocked to see that it was my own father. I said, “Father, Father, do you know me?” Throwing his arms around me and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Oh my son, at last I’ve found you! I’ve found you. You want a dime? Everything I have is yours.” Think of it. I was a tramp. I stood begging my own father for ten cents, when for 18 years he had been looking for me to give me all his fortune [Dr. Glen E. Clifton, Being “In Christ” We Have Victory, (Bloomington, IN: Westbow Press, 2012), 17]

With the fullness of God, we have all of our Father’s fortune.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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