“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” Ephesians 3:16-17
Paul writes these words to the church that he helped establish in Ephesus. Paul often writes to his churches to offer them encouragement and correction when things are not always working out as planned and this case is no different. This passage, however, is part of a larger prayer that he is offering for the people and a prayer that could be used in churches today. Paul is praying that through the power of the Holy Spirit Christ takes up his abode, or his residence, in their hearts and by translation, in our hearts.
In my days in the Southern Baptist Church, I would often be asked two questions, am I saved and had I let Jesus into my heart. Fundamentally both items mean the same thing. I have come to say that no, I am not saved I am being saved as salvation is a life-long process. However, what of the second question, have I let Jesus into my heart, well, that is a bit more complicated.
The idea of letting Christ in is to change us. Having Christ take up his abode or dwell in our hearts is like asking someone to come and stay with you. If the person is visiting that’s easy, we make a little room for them and after a short, hopefully, a period, they go back to their own home. However, if we ask someone to move in, on a permanent basis, well then everything changes.
At first, we might try and hang on to our usual routine, but after a period, we have to make room for the other person as well. Our routine changes and we begin to do things differently because we are no longer living alone there is someone else with us. Conversations change. Relationships change. Household tasks and responsibilities increase and shift. This situation is the same as when we invite Jesus to come and live in our hearts. Jesus is not coming for a vacation, Jesus is moving in, and we have to make room.
Paul recognizes that we cannot do this alone and his prayer is that by the “power of his spirit… Christ may dwell in your hearts.” This is a prayer of hope that we will make room for Christ to come and by making room for Jesus, our lives begin to change, our attitude begins to change, our worldview begins to change, and our hearts become open to change.
Paul’s prayer is my prayer for us.
This essay appeared as the From the Pastor column in the weekly email newsletter of the First Congregational Church of Salem, New Hampshire.