Begin your gathering by taking communion together, whether as a full meal together or some version of the bread and the cup. If you don’t already have a Communion liturgy, pray these words from Paul to the church in Ephesus:
For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches God may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 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, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Read This Overview Aloud Together
The final three chapters of this letter to the Ephesians are filled with highly practical and specific outworkings of those expansive promises in our everyday lives: the workplace, the home, and the complexity of human relationship and ethics. The bridge connecting the first part of the letter (Eph. 1–3) and the second part (Eph. 4–6) is a prayer written by Paul for the church from behind bars in a prison cell (Eph. 3v14–21).
Notice how Paul begins his prayer: he kneels before the Lord, posturing himself not instinctively, but intentionally as a significant and chosen embodiment of what he’s praying and who he’s praying for. Eugene Peterson describes kneeling this way:
“It is an act of retreating from the action so that I can perceive what the action is without me in it, without me taking up space, without me speaking my piece. On my knees I am no longer in a position to flex my muscles…I assume a posture that lets me see what reality looks like without the distorting lens of either my timid avoidance or my aggressive domination. I set my agenda aside for a time and become still, present to God.”
We don’t kneel in hopes to somehow woo God into responding to our prayers. Rather, kneeling keeps our day-dreaming at bay and helps us to pray with our bodies, to keep ourselves engaged with God’s promises for us. Just as Christ came as an embodied person, there is an appeal to the whole person through Paul’s prayer. We pray, not only with our intellect, but with our bodies. This prayer (Eph. 3v14–21) is Paul praying from prison, but his imagination belongs to Christ and his heart to his brothers and sisters. So, he’s crying out not for relief, but for love—so that we might grasp this love that surpasses knowledge.
In the beginning three chapters, Paul explained the good news of the Kingdom. In Eph. 3, he begins the second part of the letter, praying that we might experientially know the good news of the Kingdom in everyday rhythms of communing with God. While Paul was acutely aware of his own and others’ needs, he begins his prayers by declaring God’s promises. Our prayers, the honest and unprepared ones we pray when we’re alone, reveal to us what we really believe about God. Paul’s prayers indicate his confidence in God’s Fatherhood, in his abundance, and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
What if today, we lived believing that God actually loves us? That his love could anchor you in the face of disappointment, or while being falsely accused and unfairly criticized, or in the wake of betrayal, or enduring injustice and oppression? We don’t have a Great High Priest who holed up in the safety of the Temple, but one who got his hands dirty with every kind of mess we’ll ever find ourselves in – all so that we could find not only ourselves there but Him too, dwelling with and within us. We too can pray like Paul, by remembering the width, height, and depth of God’s love at the mountain top and in the deepest valley. This is the power of the Holy Spirit on glorious display.
Do This Practice Tonight
Read the second half of the letter (Eph. 4–6) out loud and then break into smaller groups and discuss.
Discuss The Following Questions:
- What word, phrase, or idea stands out to you in these chapters?
- Fear is part of life. What would it look like to pray God’s promises into the areas where you feel fear? What would it look like to “take thoughts captive” in prayer?
- What do your prayers reveal about how you see and what you believe about God?
- Are there ways God is inviting you into a fuller understanding of his love for you?
Read The Practice for the Week Ahead
Practice Option 1:
In his book, The Attentive Life, Leighton Ford offers an exercise for personal reflection on the dimensions of God’s love. Take time, without distraction, and follow the prompts below to create your own charts indicating how expansive God’s love has been for you. This practice doesn’t require more than a pen and paper – feel free to apply as much creativity as you’d like. The hope is that the Spirit would dwell in you even more fully as you invite him into your inner world.
- How Long: Draw a chart, dividing your life into chapters, recalling just how long God’s love has carried you.
- How Wide: Trace your life geographically, to the various places you lived or traveled, measuring the width of God’s love for you.
- How High and Deep: Draw another chart naming the major emotional and spiritual highs and lows over the years. Where are the peaks? Where are the valleys? And where has God been in all of it?
Practice Option 2:
Read Isaiah 43v1-3, inserting your own name into the blank spaces that stand for you. What is it like to read Scripture in this personal way?
But now, this is what the Lord says –
he who created you, ____________,
he who formed you, ____________:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed ____________;
I have summoned ____________ by name; ____________ is mine.
When ____________ passes through the waters,
I will be with ____________;
and when ____________ passes through the rivers,
they will not sweep over ____________.
When ____________ walks through the fire,
____________ will not be burned;
the flames will not set ____________ ablaze.
For I am the Lord, ____________’s God,
The Holy One of Israel, ____________’s Savior.
End in Prayer
Close your time together by thanking God for how wildly deep his love is – and that it would reach into the darkest valleys so that we may become a dwelling place for Jesus.