The Prayers of Paul: Strengthening


I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:16–17).

Here, and in other places in his writings, Paul prays for strength for our inner being, for our endurance and patience, for our hearts to be holy and blameless. Paul knows we need strength as we face each day not only with our own personal issues but in a post-Christian culture whose values are often opposed to the biblical framework of our faith.

As my co-teacher of this class, Julie Sumner noted, “Paul understands well all of the proclivities of the human heart, and while these prayers for something that seems intangible, its results inevitably show up in our lived realities. It requires strength to be a parent, a caregiver, an employee, a sister, a neighbor. It requires strength to exercise faith, to pursue right living, to try to live in relationship with Christ and other people. But the glorious thing is that Paul knows we cannot shore this up in ourselves, but rather petition God for this strength, calling on our constant companion and advocate, the Holy Spirit.”

Looking specifically at the Ephesians prayer, Paul realizes that the Ephesian believers felt like stepchildren. They didn’t think they were as worthy or good as the Jews, and, with their new faith, they found that they were outsiders in their own culture. Paul’s goal in this short prayer is to bless these new believers and empower them. He sees them through a different lens and therefore he prays audacious prayers for them.

Paul uses the word “power.” While it speaks of impressive force (the root Greek word is where we get our English word dynamite), it is not a one-time destructive explosion. It is an ongoing power (more like a string of powerful firecrackers than a single stick of dynamite) that alters not rock, but the hardened soul. It will take the power of almighty God to reconcile the divisive biases and historical conflict between Jew and Gentile. It will take power to help these believers, and us, to live in a culture that disdains them. So, Paul prays that they will know the magnitude of this God-given power that leads to the love of Christ so that they will be filled with God’s love that spills over to love for one another.

In Ephesians 3:20–21 Paul’s prayer affirms God’s character and Paul’s expectation of God’s strength in us to carry on with His purposes and plans. Andrew Murray wrote, “God is able to do for us exceeding abundantly above what we ask or think, and we are in danger of limiting Him, when we confine our desires and prayers to our own thoughts of them [Andrew Murray, Waiting on God! Daily Messages for a Month (New York; Chicago; Toronto: Fleming H. Revell, 1896), 67.]”

We can also gain insight into God’s strengthening in Paul’s prayer for the Colossians. He prayed, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord…being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience… Colossians 1: 10-11”

Notice the progression in this prayer as you read verses 9 to 14. First, he calls them to progress in knowledge. We need to know God’s will through reading and studying His Word.

Then, as we gain the knowledge found in His Word, we embrace His strength and power to fulfill God’s will for our lives. Paul is urging believers to apply God’s will to every decision and he knows it requires knowledge and strength to do that and be our most productive for His purposes.

Strength leads to endurance, and then when we experience knowledge, strength, and endurance, we praise Him for taking us through whatever He’s asked us to do. A.W. Pink wrote:

To be “strengthened with all might” signifies to be mightily strengthened, to be given a supply of grace amply sufficient for the end in view. It means spiritual energy proportioned to whatever is needed, with all the believer may have occasion for, to enable him to discharge his duty and carry himself in a manner pleasing and honoring to God. “According to his glorious power” implies both the excellence and sufficiency of it [Arthur Walkington Pink, Gleanings from Paul Studies in the Prayers of the Apostle (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), 246].”

Trying to walk worthy in our own strength is doomed to failure. Martin Luther stated that truth clearly in his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”:

Did we in our own strength confide

Our striving would be losing,

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, It is He.

Lord Sabaoth His name,

From age to age the same.

And He must win the battle.







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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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