I have always been fascinated by what people say when they pray. The prayers of a great saint are not only edifying but revealing. They tell you something about the one praying as well as offer insight into the needs of those he prays for. Reading the prayers of the apostle Paul explains what I mean (read Ephesians 1:15-23, 3:14-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-11). The Apostle’s prayers consistently reflect two great requests: enlightenment and enablement. Paul’s earnest desire for his spiritual children is that they might have a growing knowledge of God’s will and power to live out that will.
Paul understood the importance of knowledge. He often began his prayer by asking that believers might be filled with spiritual wisdom, understanding, and an ever-growing knowledge of God. This knowledge would come from scripture, the teachings of the apostles and prophets, experientially through a daily walk with Jesus, and through the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s concern that his children grow in knowledge was not simply concern for intellectual attainment but for moral and behavioral transformation. Paul wants us to know so that we can be.
Paul’s companion request was for power, not power to work signs and wonders but the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to live beautiful, holy lives that manifest the fruit of the Spirit. Knowledge alone can’t take the wobble out of our walk. For knowledge to effect change it must be activated. One may be a Greek scholar and a master theologian and at the same time be a failure at living out a holy life. One needs power to translate what one knows into what one is and does.
The natural question that should follow is, “How is this power activated in one’s life?” Understanding the source of this power is an important first step. It is not self-generated. It does not have its source in human invention or determination. Paul tells the Ephesians that it is “His power”; that we are “strengthened with might through His Spirit”; and “according to the power that works in us” (meaning the power of the Holy Spirit). To the Philippians he says that we have these fruits of righteousness “by Jesus Christ.” To the Colossians it is “according to His glorious power” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” To the Galatians he says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh…but the fruit of the Spirit is….” Paul makes it clear that the power to live godly lives comes only through divine enablement.
The question still remains, “How is the Holy Spirit’s power unleashed in my life?” Again, there is something we must understand. The power of the Holy Spirit is not a thing that we possess. It is not like a high-octane fuel additive that supercharges our spiritual engine. The Holy Spirit is a person who lives within us in intimate relationship. He is there because we have willingly surrendered our lives to His control. And whatever He controls He empowers. And when He empowers, we are able to manifest the character of the God we serve. The key to this inner strength is total surrender. As we walk in the light and mature in Christ, we will be enlightened to new areas that need His enablement. These new areas must be surrendered too, so that the Holy Spirit can give us victory and power in them. If we aren’t careful we will be tempted to handle these in our strength, and the end result will be failure.
Oswald Chambers said it succinctly when he declared that “to be our utmost for His Highest is not a matter of willing, wrestling, debating or reasoning, but of surrender.” If you want to close the gap between what you know you should be and what you are — you must close the gap between what is under your control and what is under His.