Building Expectations

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By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Ephesians 3.14-21

Note to the Reader – I encourage the reader to invest additional time reading the letter of Ephesians in conjunction with this article.

Building Expectations

As we begin, let us consider our prior articles. You may recall from our study of Ephesians 1 that Paul prayed frequently for those brethren and asked for God to give them six specific blessings:

  1. 1.17 – That the brethren receive a spirit of wisdom
  2. 1.17 – That the brethren receive revelation [by having] knowledge of [God]
  3. 1.18 – That the brethren receive enlightened understanding
  4. 1.18 – That the brethren will know the hope of [God’s] calling
  5. 1.18 – That the brethren will know the riches of [God’s] inheritance
  6. 1.19 – That the brethren will know [God’s] exceeding greatness of power to believers.

And, in our previous study we saw Paul comparing death and life, and we briefly examined the struggle to ascertain true life and we concluded by seeing that true life includes three things:

  1. Recognize true death is living outside of God (Ephesians 2.1-3)
  2. Recognize that the transformation needs to have happened (2.4-7),
  3. Understand the need for the butterfly to do good things (2.8-10) [see analogy in previous lesson].


What we are going to see today is that Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3.14-21 not only builds upon our previous two studies, but also that Jesus brought peace to the Jews and Gentiles (2.14-22), that this peace is the mystery that God at one time hid from humanity but is now known (3.1-7), that Jesus has riches so vast it is impossible to discover all of them (3.8), and that through Jesus we have boldness and confidence (3.12).

In our constant struggle for knowing true life, it helps each person to know when others offer prayers on their behalf. The prayers of others often provide reassurance for the soul. As I was re-reading Ephesians, it struck me as powerful that Paul offered an additional, and very specific prayer for the Christians who received the letter, which includes you and me.

Paul’s Second Prayer

Ephesians 3.14-21 records for us the prayer written by Paul on behalf of all believers. He asks that God bless all believers with four specific items:

  1. 3.16 – Each believer would have a strengthened soul
  2. 3.17 – Each believer would by trusting have Jesus living within the their heart
  3. 3.18-19a – Each believer could comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ love
  4. 3.19b – Each believer would be filled with the abundance of God.

People offer prayers on our behalf many times, but this prayer astounds me. What an incredibly impressive request. This is not a prayer requesting physical health, or prosperity of life, Paul’s prayer is specifically asking for each person to be blessed spiritually. This has extraordinary meaning for our struggle to live.

The Implications

Have you ever felt beaten down and that life was not worth living? Perhaps you have not, but someone around may have. Have you prayed for their soul to be strengthened by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Have we grown accustomed to seeing the community around us – the emotionally damaged, the spiritually weak, the intellectually challenged, the physically poor – and yet we pass by and really only comfort them with helpful sounding words: “How’s it going?” “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” (cf. James 2.15-17).

Consider the imagery that Paul uses to describe the love Jesus demonstrates, Paul compares it to a tree. A truly developed and mature tree is huge, consider Paul’s word picture. The tree is rooted and grounded, sure, but listen to its four dimensions:

  1. The breadth (the expanse of the tree’s canopy, if you will)
  2. The length (the size of the tree trunk)
  3. The depth (the unseen tree roots that hold the massive tree firmly in the ground)
  4. The height (the canopy towers over the one standing under it).

This is the love that Jesus has for humanity; this is the magnitude of love we are to have, not just toward God, but also to our fellow humans. This only begins to show us the knowledge that Christ has for us, and Paul states that the knowledge Jesus has is beyond comprehension.

Ever become tired of the nagging boss? The disrespectful children? The traffic? Ever lashed out because of fatigue and/or irritation? Paul states in Romans 2.4 that God’s kindness, tolerance and patience lead to repentance – these are part of the fullness of God. God’s fullness is immense, but when we are unkind and rude to our fellow humans we are not as Paul said in Ephesians, “filled with all the fullness of God.”


Because we call Jehovah, God and have committed ourselves to His belief system, He has the ability to help us know not only that we are truly alive, but also to bless each believer with the requests of Paul. This prayer was not just spoken on behalf of those believers then, no. Paul’s prayer is just like Jesus prayer in John 17.20, it crosses time and space – Paul prayed for us. God cares for us and will bless us, but will we do as He has requested (cf. Deuteronomy 28)? May the Lord give us the blessings of Paul’s prayer.