Deeper Than That!
Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen tried to measure a particularly deep part of the Arctic Ocean. On his first attempt, he used his longest measuring line but was unable to reach the bottom. He wrote in his log book, “The Ocean is deeper than that.” The next day he added more line but still could not measure the depth. Again in his record book he wrote, “Deeper than that.” After several days of adding more and more pieces of rope and cord to his line, he had to leave that part of the ocean without learning its actual depth. All he knew was that it was beyond his ability to measure.
That was Paul’s perspective of what God is able to do in our lives. In Ephesians 3:20, Paul states that God “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine!”
Because of Paul’s confidence in God’s ability “to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” he was brave to ask big things from God on behalf of the Ephesians (and we should be brave enough to ask for such big things for ourselves and others).
In Ephesians 3:16, Paul prays “that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.” He doesn’t pray for easy lives. He prays for something bigger. He prays that our inner being will be strengthened so that we can handle all struggles, challenges and opportunities.
Prayer opens our souls to the gaining of such strength. Oliver G. Wilson asserts, “Prayer fills a person’s weakness with God’s omnipotence and opens the gates to new fields of achievement. It makes the weak strong and the simple wise.”
If we pray merely for easy lives, we might get the ease we desire, but we will get nothing more. But if we ask for strength, lives might be marked by miracles. One buried in the snows of Valley Forge could become a George Washington; one raised in poverty with a multitude of setbacks could become an Abraham Lincoln; one knocked down by polio could become a Franklin Roosevelt; one stripped of her sight and hearing could become a Helen Keller; one locked in prison for sheltering Jewish neighbors could become a Corrie ten Boom; one locked in prison for protesting apartheid could become a Nelson Mandela. A prayer for strength is the bigger and more critical prayer.
In Ephesians 3:17, Paul prays for us to be “rooted and grounded in love.”
Before a seed bursts forth above the ground, it sends down its roots. The roots soak up moisture and nourishment from the ground, enabling the plant to gain health and strength. As the roots dig into the soil, they establish a strong hold for the plant to be able to withstand the winds that blow against it. Paul’s prayer is for our roots to sink down deep into Christ’s love, soaking up the nourishment that his love provides, gaining a strong hold so that we might be able to withstand the winds that blow against us.
Mark Labberton stresses, “We are made to live out of God’s belovedness first and primarily. When that occurs, we have a far, far greater likelihood of coming to all else in our lives with more capacity to live and to love.”
I have a tendency to be highly critical of myself, but when I shame myself for my faults and failures, I am not living “out of God’s belovedness. Paul’s prayer is that we be able to comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love and “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” so that we might have greater “capacity to live and to love.”