In Ephesians 3, the apostle Paul offered a prayer to God the Father on behalf of the congregation of believers in Ephesus. The church there consisted of a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers. Paul’s earnest desire was for them to be united in their knowledge and experience of Christ’s love, and to share that love generously with one another. As Paul brought his prayer to a close, he burst into praise, declaring that God can “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (verse 20).
Paul was in the habit of asking God to bestow spiritual blessings of extraordinary value on the believers under his care: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:9–11; see also Philippians 1:9; 4:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:12).
In Ephesians 3:20, Paul used a unique term to express God’s superabundant ability to work beyond our prayers, thoughts, and even dreams. English translations of the term include “immeasurably more” (NIV), “exceedingly abundantly above all” (KJV), “infinitely more” (NLT), “above and beyond” (HCSB), and “far more abundantly beyond all” (NASB).
Three key attributes of God’s character emerge in Paul’s claim that God can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. The first element we see is His sovereignty. The fact that God is sovereign means that He has the wisdom, power, and authority to do whatever He chooses. There’s no limit to what God can do in answer to our prayers because His capability goes far above and beyond anything we can ask, dream, or even comprehend.
The second characteristic we see is God’s omnipotence. Our heavenly Father possesses all power over all things at all times. He manifests His mighty power in many ways. We see it in His creation and in His miracles. In Ephesus, God expressed His omnipotence by bringing together Jews and Gentiles into one family—a united home for His Spirit to dwell through faith in Jesus Christ.
God’s glory is the third attribute expressed in Paul’s praise. Every sovereign and powerful act that God does in response to prayer radiates His majesty. When the Lord does more than we can ask or imagine, He receives the glory. Our narrow imaginations and feeble prayers cannot limit the richness of God’s gifts. As we recognize all that God has done for us and in us, His church, we can only stand in awe of His goodness and glory.
If you’ve ever been blown away by an answer to prayer, then you’ve sampled the meaning of Ephesians 3:20. Paul was teaching his readers what he himself already knew, that it is impossible to petition God for too much because His capacity to give far exceeds the believer’s ability to ask or imagine. Our thoughts surpass our words, but God’s power to act surpasses it all. The apostle reiterated what the psalmist had proclaimed: “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). No matter how extravagant we make our requests, God in His matchless power can give us more than we ask, and far beyond what our finite minds can imagine.