“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Ephesians 3:16
If someone was to pray over me this would be the prayer I would like to have prayed. This simple promise of prayer touches the very heart of what it means to live the Christian life. To grasp the full impact of Ephesians 3:16 we need to put it in perspective of Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians as recorded in Chapter 3:14-19
14 “For this reason I kneel before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
The first question we should ask is what are the glorious riches that are able to strengthen us? And secondly, what does it mean to be strengthened with power “through His Spirit in your inner being?”
Before we answer those two questions it is interesting to notice the posture of kneeling in prayer in verse fourteen. This was uncommon for Jews who preferred to pray standing but there is mention of kneeling in Daniel 6:10; 1 Chronicles 29:20 as well as Luke 22:41; Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; Mark 1:40; Matthew 17:14. Paul, in verse 14 is bringing together the concept of prayer and worship.
Prayer is much more than a series of requests or a list of wants. Prayer is a deep desire to seek God in thanksgiving, praise, and worship. The idea of kneeling combines worship, submission, and respect. Verse 12 reminds us, “In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence,” so kneeling in prayer is not appeasement but respect and love. Do we have to kneel all the time in prayer? No, but there are times when kneeling somehow unloads the soul and lifts the heart in ways I can’t explain.
Back to our two questions. The glorious riches that God wishes to strengthen us with are assurance and confidence in God’s desire and ability to meet our needs and deliver us from evil. Andrew Lincoln puts it this way, “For this writer, God’s giving corresponds to the inexhaustible wealth of His radiance and power available to humanity, and that alone sets the limit for his prayer. In this way the writer’s formulation of his request is meant to evoke further the confidence of the readers in God’s ability to grant what is asked in a fashion more than adequate for their needs.” Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, p. 204
Before we move on to the second question raised in verse 16, I think, we would receive further insight into the meaning of “glorious riches” by reflecting upon Ephesians 1:17-18 for a moment.
17 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.”
We don’t have the space to dig into these two verses the way we could, but we should note a couple of interesting aspects of the verse. First of all, Paul says, “he keeps on asking,” that God “may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better.” The basis of prayer is to get to know God better and in order to do that we must have the Spirit of “wisdom,” and “revelation.” For Paul, these are the gifts he prays for on behalf of the Ephesian church.
Secondly he prays that their hearts might be open that they “may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people.”
The prayer of Ephesians 1 sounds familiar to the 3:16. Again in the above verses Paul is calling upon the church to know the hope into which God has called them and they might revel in the assurance of their “glorious inheritance.” Both the prayers of chapter 1 and chapter 3 revolve around the assurance of redemption and salvation in Christ.
Our second question was what does it mean to be strengthened with power through “His spirit in our inner being?” To better understand this phrase, we need to once again return to the prayer of chapter 1.
19 “and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength
20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realm.”
If I understand this right, the power that is for us who believe is the same as “the mighty strength He exerted when He raised Christ from the dead.” The power that God used in raising Christ from the dead is the same mighty working power that God exerts in assuring and strengthening us in our promise and assurance of salvation. It is no wonder that the Apostle John wrote that no one could snatch us out of the hand of God. (John 10:27)
This power is to be mediated to us through the Spirit in our inner being. The inner being in the New Testament has different nuances and can refer to the mind, the heart, and even our complete humanity. However, here in 3:16 Paul is referring to something quite different.
“The inner person appears to be that part of a person which is accessible to God but which, in the case of person under the law, is ultimately in bondage to the powers of the flesh and sin, and, in the case of the believer, is being constantly renewed…it is the base of operation at the center of a person’s being where the Spirit does His strengthening and renovating work,” Lincoln, p. 205
The centrality of Paul’s prayer is that the transforming work of God goes on deep within us. Galatians talks about the fruit of the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, living in the Spirit and each of these phrases bring us back to the idea that the Holy Spirit dwelling within our hearts and minds guide and direct us in our Christian walk.
Our “inner being” is where transformation and renovation take place. Legalism is a mere outward appearance of transformation but living in the power of transformation is a change of heart from selfishness to selflessness. Conversion is allowing God to strengthen and change the very fabric of our hearts desires and thoughts.
The whole reason for this transformation and renovation is summed up in verse 17, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” When our inner being, the very essence of who we are, is open to the power of the transforming and renovating work of the Holy Spirit we receive assurance of salvation because Jesus comes to dwell within our hearts through faith. And this is no wimpy power! This is the power that raised Jesus from the dead that guarantees our eternal life.
I hope that as we work through a series of 3:16 texts in the Bible that you are beginning to see these texts are packed with amazing hope and assurance. And it is not just the 3:16 texts, we could take any set of verses and they would give us the same assurance and hope. The result is that we begin to understand that the words of Scripture, no matter where we look, are rich and filled with the precious promises and redemptive gifts of life in the Son.