Ephesians 1:15-23 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Today we’re going to look at Paul’s entire prayer but we’re going to focus only on the first few verses. Over the years, I’ve been encouraged by reading the prayers in the Bible. Paul’s prayers have been especially encouraging to me. He doesn’t mess around with “wholesale praying” instead he rapidly moves to “retail praying”. “What is this retail praying?” you ask. I’m glad you did because I want to give you an answer that I think we can all understand.
“Wholesale praying” goes like this: “Dear Lord, please heal all the sick, feed all the hungry, save all the lost, stop all the wars, etc., etc.” “Retail praying ” would be more like, “Dear Lord, Please heal my friend, please provide for the needs of the Smith family, please help me to lead my friend to faith in Christ. Please show us how to be peacemakers, etc. etc.” Praying retail is requesting a specific answer to a specific problem, or a need.
The reason for Paul’s prayer. Look at Acts 20:20-21. Paul is speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church on his way to Jerusalem for the last time. “… I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul had heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and of their love toward all the believers. When he received this news of their spiritual condition he updated his prayer list and continued to pray for them. All of us at some time or another have had someone ask us to pray for them. Too often, we say, “I will pray for you.” And, also, too often we fail to pray. Or, we will add the request to our prayer list and, from time to time, lift it up before the Lord. If at all possible, when someone asks me to pray for them I will stop what I’m doing and pray for them! No matter where we are, prayer is an appropriate thing to do. I think sometimes we leave the impression that God is not around when people come to us seeking prayer. If we tell them that we’re going to pray for them but later then there is the implication that we have to wait until God is available. Instead, we should pray for them right where we are when they ask. Then we can continue to lift up this need before the Lord until we get an answer. We need to apply a more consistent practice to our praying. Just as…
Paul did not pray once and stop. He said, “I do not cease to give thanks for you.” Let’s see what Jesus had to say about this matter as recorded in Luke 18:1-8. And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Jesus wants us to pray and not be discouraged. We may often be disappointed with regard to our prayers but Jesus is asking us never to be discouraged. In this story we are introduced to a widow who had no one to take care of her. She brought her needs before a judge who was not compassionate in any way, shape, or form. In fact, this judge refused to give her the justice she needed. Rather than be discouraged the disappointed widow continued to show up every time court was open. She kept coming to him and saying “Give me justice” again, and again, and again she pleaded for help. Finally the judge said, “I will give her justice” because she was exhausting his patience.
If an unrighteous judge will respond to a plea for justice that is repeatedly presented how much more can we expect our God to give justice to His people? We must remember that our God is not slow to fulfill His promises. Praise God, He is patient, kind, and gentle. Please, don’t be embarrassed to repeatedly ask God to give us what we really need. In His time and in His way our prayers will be answered.
Paul offered his request to the Father. I almost always address my prayers to the Father. When Jesus was asked to teach His disciples to pray he began the model prayer by addressing the Father.
God the Father is addressed. Look with me to what Jesus taught in. Matthew 6:9. Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.…”
Jesus repeatedly addressed His prayers to the Father. But then, of course, it was very clear that Jesus was speaking to His Father since He himself is God the Son! When Paul prayed for the Ephesians he prayed that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you…” And then he began to list his requests on their behalf. I believe that under most circumstances prayer should begin with addressing the Father.
Having said that, I raise the question of praying to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Is there ever a time that we might begin our prayer by addressing it to Jesus or the Holy Spirit? Let me give you some examples. In the book of Acts, when it was time to choose a replacement for Judas, the disciples prayed, “Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which one of these two you have chosen…” (Acts 1:24) When Stephen was martyred he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59) When Ananias was sent to pray for Saul of Tarsus his conversation was with Jesus (Acts 9:10-16).
Time will not allow us to look at all the possibilities but it is sufficient say that we can certainly pray to Jesus.
In Romans chapter 8 we are taught that the Holy Spirit takes our words and makes them into effective prayer. Again, there’s simply not enough time to deal with this issue today. As God leads later we will come back to this subject.
Having addressed the Father Paul began his requests…
Paul asked for wisdom. When writing to the Colossians Paul offered a similar request. Let’s look at Colossians 3:16-17. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The request made to God that the Father of glory, may give the spirit of wisdom
in the letter to the Ephesians is paralleled here in the Colossian letter. However the request is preceded by “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” and then goes on to speak of teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… There needs to be on our part a cooperation with God whereby we let the word dwell in us. When we do so we have wisdom from God enabling us to sing and offer thanksgiving in our hearts. Wisdom that grows out of the word of Christ will allow us to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus”. Wisdom is a proper request to make on our own behalf as well as that of our friends and fellow believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Adding to the request for wisdom…
Paul asked for revelation. Look with me to 1 Corinthians 13:11-12. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
In this life we will only be able to see spiritual things dimly. We need a revelation from God so that we can see him clearly. In the flesh we can only see as a person looking in a polished brass mirror seeing their face. We need the revelation that comes from God and that begins the process of maturing in us. We need to “grow up” and to give up “childish ways”. That is the kind of wisdom the church is in desperate need of all over the world. The Spirit of wisdom and of revelation comes to us…
In the knowledge of Christ. Look with me at Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17:1-3. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
When we begin our walk with the Lord our source of joy and our sense of importance comes from our human strength. Our faith needs to increase. At the point of salvation we know very little and depend very much on feelings rather than facts. Real faith is not some kind of “leap into the dark” as a lot of people would have it be. Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God. When Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him that glory would be seen in believers coming to saving faith. The Bible tells us that “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Along with wisdom and revelation comes knowledge of Christ. The apostle Paul prayed that for his friends in Ephesus and we should pray these things for ourselves and our friends.
Peter commended his readers to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) This growth in knowledge of our Lord growing out of wisdom and revelation will allow our inner sight to become enlightened. The result of all these things happening in us will set us free from disappointment and discouragement. When the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Christ comes it will give us the ability, along with the Ephesians, to abolish discouragement. Paul asked the Father…
That the Ephesians may know hope. Turn with me to Romans 5:1-5. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
When a person becomes a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ certain things should characterize his, or her, lifestyle. Rejoicing in the Lord because of the peace that He has given us should be the normal life for us. Hope, for the Christian, is not in any way like the idea expressed in, “I hope it will rain today”, or, “I hope I win the lottery”, or some other such example. Those examples speak of hope that is empty of real meaning. I can look at the “guess” made by the weather forecaster and have a little bit of knowledge of what I am to hope for. I cannot know for sure but I can hope.
Biblical hope is very different from the way we usually look at the word “hope”. When we speak of biblical hope we’re talking about something that we have assurance of even though it is not presently ours.
When I say that I have a hope of heaven I do not mean that I am guessing heaven may come my way. I have the promise of God. And that promise includes His commitment to us. I know that I was born in sin separated from God. Jesus said “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God.” (John 3:17-18) Later, as Jesus was coming to the end of his life on earth, he assured his disciples, “In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The reply to him was “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)
The biblical hope of heaven is a sure thing for those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ! The fact that Jesus has ascended into heaven offering His blood sacrifice gives us assurance that we will go there also.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians certainly resonates with the needs in our lives today. The need for spiritual growth is very real as much for us as it was for the Ephesians. We need to walk in faith and love for all believers. We certainly know that we desperately need wisdom — God’s kind of wisdom! We will never be able to understand God in the same way that we understand another person. We are finite and God is infinite. But He has come to us and given us His thoughts. And having placed our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we will be able to go on for eternity growing to be like Him. Put your faith in Christ.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.