More than We can Ask or Imagine

Trinity FlameMy favorite concluding sentence for morning prayer has become the one based on Ephesians 3:20-21. It says:

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer, pg. 102.)

When I first started using the daily offices some years ago, I shied away from this concluding sentence because of that phrase in the middle “more than we can ask or imagine.” When I read that part I sometimes thought, “Father, you often seem to do less than I can imagine, why should I believe that you can do more?” After all, we have all had many experiences with unanswered prayer or prayers that were answered with a firm “no”.

A few months back I began to meditate on those words and two thoughts occurred to me that transformed my perspective on this sentence and made it my favorite:

1. God can do infinitely more than I can ask. This was a simple matter of repentance for me. I had to admit that I had often wished, hoped, or schemed for things in life and neglected to simply ask. As St. James said, “you do not have because you do not ask.” In as much as I had not asked God for certain blessings in life, I had to admit that it is certainly true that God can do “infinitely more than we can ask.” Perhaps I had missed out on the Father’s work through Jesus because I had not asked the Spirit to open my eyes to see, believe, and participate.

2. There is a difference between imagination and fantasy. The sentence does not say that God can do “infinitely more than we can fantasize” it says that he can do more than we can “imagine.” To imagine, in this context, would be to visualize how Jesus is at work in my life within the reality of who I am and who he created me to be. Fantasy, in this context, would be to visualize Jesus making me into someone else and bringing to pass events that are outside the realm of the reality of who I am. I can imagine myself helping others through my writing – and the power of God working in me can do infinitely more in that regard than I can imagine. I can fantasize that I will be a pro-golfer and make millions – and in that regard God has no interest in making me into someone I am not. As St. James said, “you ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.”

This sentence is now my favorite way to conclude my morning prayer because it calls me to a way of prayer in which I ask within my imagination baptized in the Holy Spirit and it calls to me to trust that God can do infinitely more than I can imagine when I ask.

~ Jonathan Stepp

5 comments so far

  1. Jeannine on

    I needed this today. Truly. Thanks Jonathan!

  2. Jonathan Stepp on

    Glad to know it was helpful!

  3. Boyd Merriman on

    I am learning how this works as well. Praying that I work wherever Jesus is working is far different than, bless me where I am working now. Though there is truth to that second one, “bless me where I am working since I want to learn to be content with what I have”, there is limitations there too. A neighbor lady was commenting on how we say things that translates into lost jobs such as “I need some more excitement in life” or “I need a better job” and “I need some rest”. Combined, it can translate to long term unemployment if we are not careful! Sometimes our imagination is not working very well. What we pray for and how it translate in God’s imagination can be two different worlds. We need to learn to imagine as God does.

  4. teen mom to teens on

    Reblogged this on Teen Mom to Teens and commented:
    This post was perfect for me today đŸ™‚
    Thanks Trinity and Humanity for posting it. Excellent.

  5. Sweet William on

    I really like this Jonathan. I had never drawn the distinction between imagination and fantasy. I must admit many of my petitions have probably fallen under the latter category. Might just take a day to pray, fast, and meditate on this. Thanks, Bill

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