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I believe that the Pauline Epistles, so with the books of Peter and John their recipients are believers. Is there a verse that Paul in his letter to Ephesians, especially in his prayer in Eph. 3:14-19, he was talking to unbeliever? "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith"

Ephesians 3:14[NIV] For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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I find no biblical ground to conclude that this specific prayer contained unbelievers. Here are the reasons:

  1. The letter to Ephesians is titled to 'the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus'.

  2. Ephesians 2:19-22 clearly shows that the recipients of the letter are gentile believers.

  3. Let's look at the context of the verse you quoted, verse 16-17 reads:

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

On the Day of Pentecost Peter stated to the Israelites what it takes to receive the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38:

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the [a]remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

To receive the Holy Spirit one needs to:

  • repent
  • be baptised in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins

Which essentially means you have to be a believer to receive the Holy Spirit i.e. another Advocate (same as Jesus) that dwells within each believer.

That being said, Apostle Paul was appointed by Jesus to preach to Gentile people and he converted so many Gentile unbelievers, I by no means am saying Paul cared less about unbelievers. It's just I can't find a solid ground to associate this particular prayer you quoted to unbelievers. Hope that helps.

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  • Thanks for the clarity. I also believe that the recipients of Ephesians were saints in Ephesus. I just heard someone said that that verse was for the unbelievers, which I disagree.
    – Giselle
    May 3, 2021 at 14:00
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Let's see the context, just one verse earlier in Ephesian 3:13

I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

The word "you" refers to believers in Ephesus. Then Paul Prays for the Ephesians.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

The "you" here also refers to believers.

Does Paul speaks also to unbelievers in Ephesians 3:14-19?

No, not directly, Paul addressed specifically to the believers.

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So it seems like the reason that some people may conclude that this prayer is written to unbelievers is because of the way verse 16 and 17 are rendered in the NIV:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,

...And being a careful reader one might ask, "Why would Paul be praying that Christ dwell in the heart of Christians if Christ is already in their heart?"

...And upon asking, one might conclude, "Well, he wouldn't, therefore he must be praying on behalf of not Christians who have yet to have Christ in their heart."

This is an understandable line of critical reasoning based on the evidence provided in the NIV, however, the NIV translation in verse 14-17 kinda distorts Paul's message by artificially chopping up what might to some seem like an awkward long run-on sentence in English.

While no translation is perfect, however, some translations, like the ESV do a comparably better job at rendering Paul's flow of thought through these verses:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on the earth is named. 16 I pray that according to the wealth of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, so that, because you have been rooted and grounded in love, 18 you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and thus to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. -Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV)

Notice how, in verse 17, instead of the sentence ending with Christ dwelling your hearts through faith, Paul is actually praying that they have the strength for Christ dwelling in their heart through faith in such a way that they are rooted and grounded in love, and are able to possess with all the saints the full measure of Christ's love so that they may be filled completely with all of the fullness of God.

Paul isn't praying for people who never had the spirit Christ in their heart to have him, but for those who have him, to be strengthened so that the spirit of Christ dwells in their hearts completely so that they are filled to the absolute maximum extent possible with Christ's love - with everything God has to fill man's heart with.

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