Here’s a prayer you can pray for your family every single day. Pastor John explained it in a sermon titled “God Demonstrates His Love Toward Us,” which John Piper preached exactly fifteen years ago. There he explained an important connection between Romans 5:5 and Ephesians 3:14–19. A podcast listener named Kevin from Ontario, Canada, who is currently going through the Romans sermons, wanted to share this little gem of a sermon clip with us. Here’s what Pastor John said.
Paul’s Most Wonderful Prayer
Ephesians 3:14–19 is the most wonderful prayer in the apostle Paul’s writings. It may be the third most wonderful prayer in all the Bible. If you give to John 17 the greatest and then give to the Lord’s Prayer the second greatest, I think this one comes next. Someday I am going to preach fifteen or thirty messages on this prayer, because it is so multilayered. The meaning is so profound. So, let me read it with you. It’s a prayer that you should pray for yourself and others.
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, so 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 all the fullness of God.
Love Knows Love
Let’s read it backwards and show you how it relates to Romans 5:5. What is the goal of the prayer? To “be filled with all the fullness of God.” Are you there? Any of you have that one in your back pocket? Are we done with this? “We know that. On to something else.” Anybody? I want that, because the apostle Paul prayed that I should have it, and I think that being filled with all the fullness of God is the same as having the love of God poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.
“Being filled with all the fullness of God is the same as having the love of God poured out in our hearts.”
Why do I think that? If you read backwards, now it asks, “Okay, how does this come about?” The answer is that it comes about through knowing the incomprehensible love of Christ, whose height and depth and length and breadth is beyond knowledge, so that you might be filled. Do you see the connection there, between knowing the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and being filled with all the fullness of God? One is a means to the other.
In knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond knowledge and incomprehensible, and yet the heart knows it with its own kind of knowing, we become filled up with all the fullness of God. Then the question becomes this: How do we experience the love of Christ like that? How do we know the unknowable love of Christ?
You go backwards, and it says that in order to do that, you have to be “rooted and grounded in love” so that you may be able “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of Christ and then be filled with all the fullness of God. It is love to love. Do you see that? We must be rooted in love, founded on love, so that we have the power to recognize unknowable love and thus be filled with all the fullness of God. This is worth fifteen sermons.
Pray, That You Might Know
I have spent more time in this prayer than any prayer in all the Bible, because no prayer in all the Bible kindles longings in me like this prayer kindles longings in me. Doesn’t it do that for you? Don’t you want to know what this is talking about? I hardly know what it is talking about.
It is all about experience. It is all about the fullness of the love of God. It is all about knowing the unknowable love of Christ. It is all about roots going down into love before you know the love of Christ so that you can know the love of Christ. This is a mystery to all, and yet Paul puts it in a book, in words, so that we read it, so that we will pray it, so that maybe we, in the miraculous experience of it, will know what it means.
Oh, long for this. Pray this for your children. Pray this for your spouses. If you wonder, “How do I pray for my family?” Pray this prayer every day. Pray it for your soul. Pray it for this church. Pray it for me. If you want to know what it is like to have the love of God poured out into your hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to you, meditate on these verses.
“No prayer in all the Bible kindles longings in me like this prayer kindles longings in me.”
Do you want to know objective reality, mediated by the Holy Spirit, exploding in your heart with self-authenticating experience of the love of God? If you want that, there are two obvious things you can do. One is you meditate upon the objective reality laid out in the Bible called the gospel of Christ crucified, and the other is you pray, pray, pray, pray, pray.
You pray, “Do it to me. Do it to me. Direct my heart. Direct my heart. Let the love of God be upon me. Fill my heart with all the fullness of God, which is the love of Christ beyond knowledge, rooted in love, wrought by the Holy Spirit, Christ dwelling in my heart. Do those things to me, even if I can’t understand what I am saying, so that I might recognize it in the doing.”
Jesus Loves Me
I wonder if you have any problems with the prayer that says, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That is true, but that is not enough. It needs another verse. I made it up.
Jesus loves me, there’s no doubt,
For the Spirit pours it out.
Little ones to him belong,
We are weak, but he is strong.
Amen. You are dismissed.