“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19
I’ve been praying Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 for myself lately. I pray it for others on a regular basis but for some reason I’ve never gotten into a habit of praying it for myself. I’m not sure why. But lately I’ve felt a great need to know the love of God, to really know it, not just know about it. And that’s what Paul is getting at I think.
I love to study and learn. I love to teach others about God. But does this acquiring of knowledge about God lead me to loving him and experiencing his love in return? Or have I forgotten about love in the midst of all my study? Some of us may shy away from talking about experience, as if experience is an enemy of sound doctrine. But I really think they’re friends. Doctrine without experience is dry and dead. Experience without doctrine is disorder and confusion. Good doctrine must inform our experience, and all our experience should be guided by sound doctrine. But if all my study of Scripture and doctrine doesn’t result in any experience of loving God and being loved by him, I’ve truly missed out.
For isn’t this the whole point of the story, the capital ‘S’ story of redemption? The story of redemption told in the Bible is a love story, a rescue mission in which God redeems his people and brings them back to himself. Why? Because he loves them! And he desires our love in return. I fail when I make Bible reading and Bible study a mere exercise in accumulating knowledge about God instead of knowledge of God. And that knowledge of God should ultimately lead me to a greater love for God. Paul proclaims deep truth in Ephesians 1 about God’s unconditional election of his chosen people and to study that takes much time and effort. But if at the end of your study, you’re only left with a great argument for predestination, you’ve missed the point! There are five more chapters in the book! And right in the middle is this powerful prayer. Notice what Paul doesn’t pray for. He doesn’t pray for the Ephesians to be able to defend the doctrine of unconditional election with their friends. No! He asks for God to give them the strength to comprehend what that doctrine points to – the astounding and incomprehensible love of God in Christ!
No amount of study is going to give us this kind of strength. The reason Paul prays this way, and the reason we need to as well is because our comprehension of the love of God is weak. Our understanding is stunted. It seems the love of God is so profound that we need the supernatural help of the Spirit to give us the strength to grasp its meaning.
So in your zeal to know God’s word, don’t forget love. Don’t forget the point of the Story and where we’re headed. We’re headed to a wedding feast. A wedding feast where we’re the beloved Bride and the Lamb of God is our groom.
I think I’ll be praying Paul’s prayer more often now.