IS EPHESIANS 3:20-21 A “NAME IT AND CLAIM IT” PRAYER PROMISE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Let us face it, dear friends. A lot of Christians are superstitious in their practice and shallow in their understanding. They are not thinking clearly because Satan’s evil world system (especially in religion) has dulled their senses. Some of the most ridiculous “Christian” beliefs and behaviors can be found in the realm of prayer. Unfortunately, people will carelessly grab prayer promises from the Scriptural record, with no regard for contexts (the most popular passages being Matthew 6:9-13, 1 John 5:15, James 5:14, 2 Chronicles 7:14, and Matthew 18:18-20). They assume they are safe in praying so long as any Bible verse even partly resembles their agenda and endorses their petition. What damage they do to God’s precious words!
Ephesians 3:20-21 is one such prayer passage so terribly abused: “ Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” While this is certainly part of a Pauline prayer, something directed to us as Gentiles (Romans 11:13), what should we make of it? Is it a promise that God will bless us beyond our wildest dreams?
Some have taken verse 20 to teach that we can ask for material blessings and Father God will give us even more than we could have even imagined. It is said that He can give us more physical healing than we have ever dreamed of receiving. It is claimed that God will give us more physical riches than we could have ever thought of asking Him for. Is this how we should view Ephesians 3:20? Let us consider what the Holy Spirit laid out in chapters 2 and 3, that which led up to Ephesians 3:20. All will then be clarified with absolutely amazing lucidity!
We begin at chapter 2: “ And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
This was our individual condition prior to coming to faith in Jesus Christ. We were dead in our trespasses and sins; that is, we were following Satan’s evil world system, spiritually dead in Adam and behaving like the sinners that we were. Thus, we deserved nothing but God’s wrath. However, there is a glorious contrast—praise God!
“ But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,  Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; )  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
In stark contrast to our wretched state (verses 1-3), God in His great mercy and because of His “great love wherewith He loved us,” provided us a way to obtain forgiveness of sins and a right standing before Him (verse 4). He saved us by His grace through our faith in His Son’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins (verse 5). Why did God crucify us with Christ, bury us with Christ, and resurrect us with Christ? To qualify us to share in Christ’s authority in the heavenly places (verses 6-7)! While God did not save us on the basis of our works, He saved us because He had some good works to do in and through us (verses 8-10). This is in stark contrast to our former dispensational status as Gentiles, when we were without God’s revelation and consigned to Satan’s kingdom.
“ Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:….”
In “time past,” prior to our Dispensation of Grace that began with Apostle Paul’s conversion in Acts chapter 9, God dealt with mankind on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). At that time, God was forming the nation Israel so He could save her from her sins and salvation and blessing would then flow through her to the Gentiles. That was God’s plan in the Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 12:1-3. However, when Israel refused to be that channel of salvation and blessing to the Gentiles—she rejected her Messiah, Jesus, at Calvary, and refused to accept Him in early Acts—God enacted a plan that He had kept hidden in Himself. He would temporarily go to the Gentiles without Israel’s kingdom. Through Israel’s fall salvation would go to the Gentiles. This is the purpose of Paul’s ministry.
The Holy Spirit caused Paul to write in Romans 11:11-14: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”
In Acts chapter 7, God actually set national Israel aside for a time, and began to consider the unbelieving Jews as Gentiles (who were all cooperating with Satan at this point). By chapter 9, Saul of Tarsus (leading that rebellion against Christ) met the ascended Jesus Christ and trusted Him as his personal Saviour. The ascended Lord commissioned (the now Apostle) Paul to go to all the world with a new message. Instead of forming Israel, God would create another agency in His overall plan for mankind. That is the Church the Body of Christ, made up of all believing Jews and Gentiles beginning with Paul and continuing onward to our present-day.
Going back to Ephesians chapter 2 to pick up additional insight: “ But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
As Gentiles, we were once on the wrong side of “the middle wall of partition.” God was dealing with Israel on the basis of His covenants with her, promises not given to us Gentiles (go back to Ephesians 2:11-12). If Israel refused Jesus Christ in Matthew through John, as well as early Acts, how would we as Gentiles participate in God’s program? Everything was dependent upon Israel accepting Jesus and Him ushering in His kingdom on Earth where we Gentiles would benefit. Israel was overwhelmingly unbelieving but God was not caught by surprise. He had already figured out a solution long ago.
“But now…,” Ephesians 2:13 starts off. Beginning with Paul and the Body of Christ in Acts chapter 9, God broke down the distinction between Jew and Gentile (verse 14—as compared to verses 11-12). Rather than having a nation Israel and Gentiles, there was now “the Little Flock” (Israel’s believing remnant that would inherit God’s earthly kingdom—Luke 12:31-33) and the rest of the world known as Gentiles. Unsaved, lost Israel was really considered Gentile. There was believing Israel, and then there was the Gentile world (unbelieving Jew and unbelieving Gentile). From Acts chapter 9 onward, Paul was sent to all those unbelievers with a new Gospel, the Gospel of Grace, that they believe on Christ’s finished crosswork and be saved into the Body of Christ. What resulted was the nation Israel (now known as the “Little Flock”) and the Church the Body of Christ (made up of all believing Jews and Gentiles from the Apostle Paul’s salvation onward—see 1 Timothy 1:15-16). Notice how Paul highlights these two groups of believers as he closes Ephesians chapter 2.
“ Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
With the revelation of the mystery (secret) committed to Paul by the ascended Jesus Christ, we now see that the Church the Body of Christ is the second half of God’s overall plan for creation. God had already begun to form an earthly people, Israel, and had already begun to isolate believers to form “the Little Flock.” However, there was a heavenly people He had planned from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; Titus 1:1-3). He told no one of that heavenly agency until the Apostle Paul. We will see that as we move into chapter 3 of Ephesians. For now, just understand that, in our Dispensation of Grace, God the Holy Spirit is living in a group of people called the Church the Body of Christ (verses 21-22 above). They will be His heavenly people in the ages to come, just as Israel will be His earthly people in the ages to come.
It would do us well to remember what Ephesians 1:8-10 said: “ Wherein he [God the Father] hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:….” Notice the issue of God’s purpose is to unite heaven and earth under the headship of Jesus Christ. It was the heavenly aspect that He kept secret until He revealed it directly to the Apostle Paul. We now learn about it through Paul.
As Ephesians chapter 3 opens, dear friends, the Holy Spirit continues talking about the Body of Christ being part of the secret Jesus Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul. For sake of brevity, we will read these verses without much comment. Remember our previous statements and it should be clear. Again, the issue is the Church the Body of Christ, and how it is the present-day group of believing Jews and Gentiles who will impact the heavenly places for God’s glory in the ages to come.
“ For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,  If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,  Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)  Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;  That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.  Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,  According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:  In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (Be sure to see the Body of Christ is part of God’s “eternal purpose”—verse 11. It is something He had planned all along but never told anyone about until Paul. When we read Paul’s writings, we learn God’s secret will!)
“ Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” God is doing something amazing with Paul’s ministry, even though the Apostle is suffering in prison (technically, house arrest—Acts 28:30-31) for preaching the Gospel of Grace. Now, we get to the Apostle’s prayer. Read it through in one giant chunk to get its full impact. It gets very exciting!
“ For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,  Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Did you see how verse 15 mentioned that God has a family in heaven and earth? Recall our earlier comments. That is a reference to the Church the Body of Christ (heaven) and the nation Israel (earth). Father God is going to use both agencies to glorify His Son in the future. We also read about this in Colossians 1:16-20, which time and space do not permit us to discuss here. What Paul is asking for in this prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 is our empowerment, that the Holy Spirit would strengthen us so that we understand what God is doing today and cooperate by faith. God’s eternal purpose is so unbelievably wise, reaching up to the heavenly places, encompassing Jews and Gentiles (which were once divided, hating each other, and part of Satan’s kingdom).
Those final two verses of Ephesians chapter 3 (our question) are a doxology, Paul closing the prayer by praising God for His great wisdom and power. Read these verses again in light of all that we have just discussed: “ Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
The power that works in us (saved us from our sins and Satan’s captivity—Ephesians 2:1-3), the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and set him at God’s own right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:19-23), that is the power God uses to “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Would we have ever asked God to form the Church the Body of Christ of believing Jews and Gentiles? Never! Our little human minds are too weak and limited. Would we have ever thought God would use us pagan Gentiles to glorify Jesus Christ in the heavenly places throughout the endless ages to come? Never! Again, our puny human minds would have never devised such a plan. It is God’s wisdom, “the hidden wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8). That is why “wise” Satan was so disturbingly shocked when he learned of the mystery revealed to Paul. It meant that his evil angelic cohorts occupying the heavenly places are going to be replaced by us! Horrors!!!!!
No wonder, dear friends, that Satan does everything he possibly can to hide the mystery from believers even today. The Devil uses religious tradition to keep people away from Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, and have them concentrate on everything else in the Bible! God’s power is being manifested today in mystery truth, Pauline truth. Christian lives are so weak and ineffective today because those Christians are not thinking properly. They are grabbing Israel’s verses, prophetic truth, and trying to make us follow something God is not doing today. May we beware of Satan’s underhanded tactics, and not be deceived by them!
As for making Ephesians 3:20-21 some prosperity gospel foundation, we distort the meaning of the passage entirely. What a shallow interpretation of such deep verses! There is not one word in the passage about material riches and superb physical health. Yea, remember, Paul is writing under Roman house arrest (Ephesians 3:1).
Awed by the wisdom that has been revealed in this study, dear brethren, we have no choice but to echo those wonderful words. “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”