Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Praying for the impossible. And then some.

For my Perfectionism's Antidote post last week, I tried to look not only at the individual verses I referenced but also at the verses surrounding them. One of those verses was Ephesians 3:20. I had more or less paraphrased the King James version in the post.  Here's the actual:

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21, KJV

God is able to abundantly exceed all that we ask him to do.

I don't know about you, but I can ask for what seem like some pretty big things, but before we talk about that, let's back up a few verses. For better understanding, I'll switch to an easier-to-read version of the passage.

I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21, NET

Paul prays for the believers:
To be strengthened and have power
To have Christ dwelling in their hearts through faith
To comprehend the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge
To be filled up with all the fullness of God

These requests are huge. Ridiculous, even when you look at just one of them. How could a human ever know something that surpasses knowledge? It's impossible. And yet, it's also my heart's cry. I hunger to understand God's love for me, because it's in his overwhelming, unconditional, and steadfast love that I have hope. 

Until we, as Christians, better understand the depth and breadth, the length and height of his love, we're at risk for underestimating it. Fear and guilt tell us his love is limited and shallow, and when we falter in our faith, we try to perform to earn or keep God's love. Instead of swimming in his love like we could, we flail, in danger of drowning in whirlpools of perfectionism and judgmental attitudes, at risk for being pulled under by the shark of hopelessness. 

So, my prayer echoes Paul's. Lord, I want to know your love. As impossible as it for a human to know the unknowable.

But then Paul follows his extravagant prayer with a stunning truth: God can do more than we ask or think. 
When we ask for the impossible, say to comprehend the incomprehensible love of God, we are touching only the very edge of what God is capable of doing. He can abundantly exceed those impossible requests.

And that brings me back to thinking I can ask God for some pretty big things. Do I? No. I ask for some pretty selfish things. For some pretty earth-minded things. I don't often ask for the impossible or the unimaginable. 

God cares about the details of our lives. We're instructed to pray about everything. So, yes, many of our prayers will be about earthly things. But let's not neglect praying for the things of greater importance, those related to our spiritual life and our relationship with the unlimited, uncontainable God.

Let us never hesitate to ask God to know him better, to experience him more fully, to understand his love on a deeper level. He wants these things for us. He died to give us that sort of relationship with him.

What prayers in the Bible do you like to meditate on and claim for yourself? What themes most cause you to stop and wonder?


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