You know the verse in the Bible that talks about how God exceeds our expectations?
Yeah, this one…
Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
I love this promise and I’ve witnessed God do “immeasurably more than all [I] ask or imagine” in SO many areas of my life. It doesn’t matter how big I think I’m dreaming or how ideal I think my plan is, God somehow manages to WOW me with outcomes I never considered. More specifically, I think back to the times God didn’t give me something I wanted, and I realize in hindsight that, WHOA, what I wanted was NOT the best for me. God knew and he not only said “No, you don’t need that,” but he also said, “Here, how ’bout this way better thing you didn’t even have on your radar.”
So yeah. This verse is not an exaggeration. This is what God does. This is who he is.
But, there’s another key aspect of who God is in this verse that—I think—is easily overlooked because of the emphasis on “immeasurably more.” It’s the first part that reads: “to him who is able…”
Years ago, this word changed my prayer life. It taught me to pray, “God, I know you are able” when I want him to intercede in some way. Rather than wonder “will he or won’t he,” or hope I pray with enough faith to believe that he will, I focus on the fact that he is able. That is the core of my prayers. “God, you are able. Whether you do this or not, you are able. I trust your ways above my own.”
Believing God is able is easy when he does the thing we know he’s able to do. Right?
But what about when he doesn’t do it? Is it so easy to believe then? Not always. Sometimes, it’s frustrating. Discouraging. Confusing even. But I still believe. Why? Because God’s ability is not based on how he exercises that ability when I want him to. That’s not what the promise is about.
And, I can’t pick and choose what I want to believe in the Bible. That’s also not how it works. Either everything in the Bible is true, or none of it is. Without getting into all the theology, I say with confidence that I believe the Bible is 100% God-breathed and true—even the parts that tell me to do things I don’t always feel like doing. Because truth doesn’t change to match my feelings.
I think that’s worth repeating (for myself as much as anyone!): Truth doesn’t change to match my feelings.
Praising God No Matter What
So, back to Ephesians 3:20-21.
The end of the verse declares, “to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
While this declaration of glory to God is clearly in reference to the first part of the verse and God’s ability to do “immeasurably more,” it’s also clear in other areas of the Bible that we are to praise God no matter the circumstances or outcome of our prayers.
Psalm 34:1 (NLT)I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
These verses don’t say… “I will praise the Lord whenever he does something good that I like.” OR “I will give thanks in the circumstances that make me personally happy.” Or “Pray about everything and God’s peace will be with you only after he answers your prayer exactly the way you wanted him to.”
No. These verses show that we are to pray about everything and praise God BEFORE he answers. Before we know how he will answer. And then, praise him continually and give thanks in ALL circumstances. The words “every” and “all” and “always” are pretty clear. God deserves our praise and all the glory no matter what. Even if he doesn’t do the things he is able to do that we pray for.
Even If He Doesn’t…
My church’s worship team wrote a song with this very same title: Even If He Doesn’t.
It was inspired by the passage in Daniel 3, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace, if you’re familiar with that occurrence in the Bible. If not, read the entire chapter here.
The specific verse that inspired the song’s title is Daniel 3:18. Here’s a bit more of the passage for context:
Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV)Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
I bring up the song because it not only speaks to the fact that God is able, but it also reminds me to worship “any way it goes.”
Give it a listen on YouTube here.
And here’s an excerpt from the chorus:
“I know that He can do it
but even if He doesn’t
I will worship anyway
any way it goes
any way it goes”
I hope this reminder that GOD IS ABLE sticks with you when you pray, like it has for me.
What truths about God have helped your prayer life?