A well-known Christian chorus says:
He is able, more than able to accomplish what concerns me today
He is able, more than able to handle anything that comes my way
He is able, more than able to do much more than I could ever dream
He is able, more than able to make me what He wants me to be.
But do we truly believe those words to be true? Do we act as if God genuinely is able to accomplish and handle and provide for all my burdens and needs?
The apostle Paul certainly believed in God’s ability, as his benediction at the end of Ephesians 3 indicates:
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20–21)
The word able in verse 20 speaks to the potentiality of God’s power. Because God is God He has an inherent power that is unlimited and infinite — He is omnipotent, the “sufficient” cause of all things. We see that ability beginning in Genesis 1 and running through all the pages of Scripture, culminating in His final victory and exaltation in Revelation 22.
But notice that God also has an ability to do — to act. God not only has a potential power, but a real power (1:19). And God has an ability to act beyond all (things). The word “beyond” is the Greek preposition “huper,” from which we get the prefix “hyper-” meaning, “over” or “excessive” (as in “hyperactive,” being “beyond active” or “excessively active”). So God has an ability to act beyond the strength and ability of any and all things. His power is never diminished and never needs replenishing (Acts 17:24ff).
But God also has an ability to do far more abundantly. Paul was so overwhelmed by the nature of God’s power that he had to make up a word to convey the idea of the infinite nature of God’s power. The word means “the highest form of comparison imaginable,” or “very far in excess of.” The omnipotence of God has the ability to do all and all that it can do has never been achieved.
In fact, God has an ability to do beyond anything we can ask or even think. So Paul had just made quite a bold request in his prayer (vv. 14-19). Is that too much for God? No. His gifts are greater than our requests, because “our asking is limited and feeble” (Jn. 16:24). This clause emphasizes the reality that God’s grace given to us is disproportionate not only to what we deserve (cf. 2:1ff), but also disproportionate to what we ask or can even comprehend. That is, God’s provision is not from an obligation to answer prayer, but in spite of the limitations of our prayers. As one commentator wrote:
“The object of the prayer was a lofty one; but, lofty as it is, God is able to give more than we ask, and even more than we understand. Neither the narrowness of our knowledge nor the feebleness of our prayer will limit the richness of His gifts.” [my emphasis.]
What will these truths about God’s ability do to our prayer lives?
- His ability will make us bolder in our asking. Is there anything that God cannot do, that is beyond His limits? (Remember a key caveat, however. Whatever we ask still has to be in His will. He cannot do anything contrary to Himself.) What have you hesitated asking from God “because that’s just too ‘crazy?’” — like praying for the salvation of an eighty-year-old unbeliever? Or asking for more baptisms in the church, or asking God to send missionaries or asking for reconciliation with estranged children? Ask. He can do it.
- His ability will make us content with His answers. Though He has an ability to do even beyond what we’ve asked, He is not obligated to give us all we ask. Yet He always does what is best for us and most glorious for Him, so knowing His ability will make us content with whatever His answers to our prayers are.
- Knowing His ability will make us persistent in prayer. Who hasn’t slowed in prayer because he doubted God’s ability or desire to answer that prayer? So, being confident of His ability should make us more persistent to continue in faithful prayer.
- Knowing His ability will make us thankful. The truth of God’s power should not only be a stimulant to our prayer life but cause of thanks, since we know that all that He gives is from His infinite power and grace.