…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 all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
Clearly Marked Paths
Many saints of past generations have experienced the sheer power of God’s love in ways that you and I have yet to comprehend. For instance, it is said of pastor and evangelist R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) that one day, while he was praying and reading Scripture, he was so overtaken by a sense of God’s love for him that he began to weep. After this went on for some time, Torrey finally begged the Lord to suspend His outpouring of love because he could not handle its intensity any longer.
Now when we hear stories like that, most of us are tempted to think that such a deep sense of God’s love is reserved only for some elite class of super-duper special Christians. But that assumption would be mistaken.
In fact, such a sense of the Lord’s love for His people can be accessed by all believing Christians who position themselves to receive it by faith. And God has shown us the way. In His Word, He has provided clearly marked paths for any who desire to know and experience the love of Christ more profoundly.
What Prayer Actually Does
In order to follow these paths, Christians must devote themselves to the work of believing prayer—prayer that is coupled with regular exposure to God’s Word both in daily personal worship (as R.A. Torrey’s experience so powerfully demonstrates) and in gathered worship among the local church.
In Ephesians 3:17b-19 (quoted above), we find the remaining portion of an apostolic prayer that can get us going in the right direction. If you’ll remember, we considered the first part of this prayer last week, noting how Paul’s theologically insightful praying provides a biblical framework with which we can address the triune God in our own intercession. But the apostle does not end there. There is much more to be considered.
You see, Paul intends for us to grasp the full scope of the Spiritual impact that believing prayer can have upon the church. Indeed, he wants to show us what prayer actually does—the fruit it produces in a worshiping community that has devoted itself to praying together.
Placed alongside a growing knowledge of God’s Word, prayer is a Spiritual conduit through which the church receives the love of Christ. And through His love, He accelerates our maturity and advances us in godliness. It is as the apostle John wrote, “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). Indeed, prayer is the primary way which God’s people can most profoundly apprehend the reality of His great love for us—a love that preceded everything else, including the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5). Therefore we, as a church, must pray. Our maturity as Christians depends on it. Moreover, apart from prayer we cannot properly observe Christ’s Great Command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Lk. 10:27).
Concerning this, D.A. Carson offers some important insight when he writes,
Just as a human being cannot enjoy normal maturation and develop into a mature person without the structure of disciplined love in the home, so also a Christian who does not grow in the experience of the love of God in Christ does not grow to full maturity. That is what Paul presupposes in his prayer. He prays that Christians might have power to grasp the limitless dimensions of the love of God, so that they will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
It takes nothing less than the power of God to enable us to grasp the love of Christ. Part of our deep “me-ism” is manifested in such independence that we do not really want to get so close to God that we feel dependent upon him, swamped by his love. Just as in a marriage a spouse may flee relationships that are too intimate, judging them to be a kind of invasion of privacy when in reality such a reaction is a sign of intense immaturity and selfishness, so also in the spiritual arena: when we are drawn a little closer to the living God, many of us want to back off and stake out our own turf. We want to experience power so that we can be in control; Paul prays for power so that we will be controlled by God himself. Our deep and pathetic self-centeredness is precisely why it takes the power of God to transform us, if we are to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and grow to the maturity the Scriptures hold out before us.
Only the love of Christ can take us from being people who are self-focused and wretchedly immature to being the kind of people that He desires for us to be—people whose lives are characterized by Christian love and maturity. But we must first enter into His love through prayer and the Word, welcoming Him to invade the deepest interiority of our being and transform our inner selves through His power.
This will most certainly be difficult and uncomfortable for us in many ways, but without that kind of Spiritual renovation we will never be “filled with all the fullness of God,” nor will we grasp the limitless dimensions of Christ’s love—its “breadth, height, length and depth.” And yet, on the other hand, if we are faithful to open our Bibles and our hearts, allowing the Lord to deal thoroughly with the areas of our lives that aren’t aligned with His Kingdom—our sin, our self-righteousness, our fear, our apathy, our hypocrisy–God has promised that He will mature us to live boldly and humbly in His boundless love.
That’s the path God has marked out for us. Will we step out in faith to walk on it? Will we devote ourselves to the work of believing prayer? Will we position ourselves to receive an outpouring of the Lord’s love and power? These questions are crucial because in just a matter of days, LifePoint will observe Seven Days Of Prayer (beginning February 26 and culminating on March 5 with a Night of Worship). This is a perfect opportunity for us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ together.
This Sunday we’re asking every single person who calls LifePoint their church home to do three specific things:
- Sign up for a time slot for personal and/or family prayer, and another time slot to pray with your Community Group.
- Identify three people you know personally who are far from Christ, and pray for their salvation.
- As you go about your day, ask as many people as you can, “My church, LifePoint, is hosting a prayer campaign this week. We want to pray for as many people as possible. How can we pray for you?”
These three steps are very simple. You don’t have to be a super-duper special Christian to take them. No, all you need is faith—faith that desires to “know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge.”
So by faith, let’s take these steps. Let’s devote ourselves to praying together and see what the Lord does. May He grant a historic outpouring of His limitless love in and through the people of LifePoint Church. Our God is most certainly able to do that and much, much more—“far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). The question is, will we commit ourselves to the path He has so clearly marked for us?