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New City Catechism 40.2

Question 40: What should we pray?

Answer: The whole Word of God directs and inspires us in what we should pray, including the prayer Jesus himself taught us.

In addition to the prayers found in the book of Psalms, there are numerous prayers in the New Testament that offer guidance to believers, especially the prayers found in the letters of Paul the apostle. Consider, for example, Paul's prayer for the Ephesian believers found in Ephesians 3:14-19:

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 suprasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

This is a prayer for supernatural power from the Holy Spirit. But notice what Paul assumes such power is needed for: the ability to comprehend the love of Christ. Why is this? It is because this love surpasses knowledge. There is nothing in human experience or in natural human ability that enables us to fathom how deeply God has loved us in Christ. For this reason, we must pray for the ability to take it in.

Our hearts are distorted by sin and wounded by experience. And because we tend to define reality by what we have experienced of it rather than by what God has said, our experiences of feeling abandoned, wounded, or abused, and the guilt of our own failures all have a tendency to compound in us and build up walls in us that make us doubtful and self-protective toward others rather than open, joyful, and receptive. This all too often happens with God as well. And this is why the ability to take in God's love for us is the center of our sanctification. The only way we may be "filled with all the fullness of God" is not by some achievement on our part; it is by grace alone, through the Spirit, learning how to comprehend how deeply we are loved in Christ. Meditate on this prayer and pray it often for yourself and for others.

Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Ephesians 3:14-21. What does this prayer teach you about God's love and your own need to take it in? How can you pray in light of what Paul expresses in this prayer, both for yourself and for others?

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