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Prayer & The Strengthening Work Of The Spirit

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. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, ESV)

“What Paul is praying for is not some sudden experience. He is praying for a process: ‘that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.’ I know that we are very often impatient. I would like to pray, ‘Oh, God, make me perfect,’ and he would immediately do it. But I am an absolute sinner, and forty years of being a Christian has shown me that there’s little hope of that. I ought to have known it, because the word of God indicates the same. God is interested in carrying out a process in my heart, steadily strengthening my inner being by his Spirit. What for? Well, that Christ might dwell in my heart. Somebody says, ‘But that’s curious, because the moment I trusted Christ, Christ came and dwelt in my heart. The preacher told me the words, didn’t he? Christ says, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me’ (Rev 3:20). I did that: I opened the door and Christ came in. Why does Paul need to pray for me now that Christ will dwell in my heart?’ The simple answer is this: that the word Paul uses here means, not merely that Christ should have come in, but that he should take up his residence in every part of my being. Now, for that to happen it will require a process and there are no shortcuts to it that I know of. You see, it’s one thing to know with my head that Christ is in me—one thing for Christ actually to be in me—I can grasp that. He’s in me because I asked him to come in and I received him—he’s in me, and I know he’s in me. It’s another thing to know it so that, in everything I do, every moment of the day, I am conscious of it. p 9 Have you arrived there yet? I haven’t. I get talking with a fellow believer about a difficult passage of Scripture. Now I am indeed very spiritual—I’m talking about Scripture. Suddenly he disagrees: ‘You’ve got it wrong,’ he says. So he must be told the truth, and the stupid man can’t see the truth! And then he has a view of his own—well, he has no right to have a view of his own—and, before I know it, I get steamed up. I’d quite forgotten for the time being that Christ is meant to be dwelling in my heart as well as his. We’ve been discussing theology, but Christ is meant to dwell even among theology, let alone when it comes to clearing away the breakfast things or something like that. It’s lovely to have exciting meetings, isn’t it, and marvelous feelings. Well, let’s hope Christ is in them. It’s also good if Christ is in your feelings when you’re clearing away the breakfast on Monday morning, and when the business is difficult, and when you’re trying to deal with the shop steward, if you happen to be the managing director of a firm. ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (Eph 3:17). To come to that position it will mean my inner self-being strengthened, and that is a long drawn-out process; but God does perform it in the hearts of his people, bit by bit, by bit, by bit. If we want a deeper experience of God’s Holy Spirit, we would be well advised to listen to what Paul is praying on his knees—this is the experience of the Holy Spirit.”

David W. Gooding, The Gift & Gifts Of The Holy Spirit: A Myrtlefield House Transcript. (Belfast, NI: Myrtlefield Trust, 2018), 8-9.

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