Tonight, I want to finish my teaching on praying with Paul. There are a number of other prayers that Paul prayed which we won’t get to, but I think I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. I wanted to make you aware of how easy it is to pray for people when you pray for them like Paul would pray for them.
Paul’s prayers were not just words. They were expressions from deep within his heart, based on relationships of his desires for them because he truly loved them and wanted them to have God’s best.
My prayer of course is that you have benefited greatly from this teaching. If you’d like to review them, they should all be available on the King’s Grace website. Tonight, I want to look at Ephesians chapter 1. It hasn’t been that long ago that Pastor Gordon touched on a few things in this chapter, so I think it’ll be a good thing to add another perspective on the things that Paul prayed, in this prayer for the Ephesians. So, let’s get in it tonight:
Ephesians 1:15–23 (NKJV)
15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which 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 principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Paul starts out by saying that since he had heard about their faith in the Lord Jesus which was obviously evidenced by their love for “all God’s people” he was always praying for them. Just a side note about a faith that is evidenced by love. We know that Jesus said that the world know that we are Christians because of our love for one for another. Of course, our love for non-Christians should be seen equally. Love really is what makes the kingdom of God go around.
So, what does Paul pray for the Ephesians? Let’s break it down and see how far we can go.
The Spirit of Wisdom, Revelation & Illumination
Ephesians 1:17–18 (NKJV)
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Walter Liefeld in his commentary on Ephesians says:
The word Spirit in verse 17 could refer either to the spiritual aspect of our learning and being or to God the Holy Spirit, since orthography in Paul’s day did not distinguish between capital and small letters. In either case the work of God is needed to bring spiritual understanding, and it is God’s Spirit who would accomplish this.Walter L. Liefeld, Ephesians, vol. 10, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Eph 1:17.
Anyone—whether a believer or not—with the ability to grasp the syntax and sense of a given portion of the Bible should be able to understand what it is saying. But it takes the inner work (some use the term illumination) of the Holy Spirit to comprehend the spiritual implications of the text in a discerning way (1 Cor 2:10–16).Walter L. Liefeld, Ephesians, vol. 10, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Eph 1:17.
1 Corinthians 2:10–16 (NKJV)
10 . . . For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
So, he is asking that God would grant a special, Holy Spirit illumination of all things spiritual and that they would understand (be enlightened) to its implications personally. The phrase “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened” is an interesting phrase to me. Spence & Jones in the Pulpit Commentary of Ephesians says:
“The eyes of your heart [understanding]” is an unusual expression, but it denotes that to see things clearly there is needed . . . not merely intellectual clearness, but moral susceptibility and warmth—a movement of the heart as well as the headH. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 6–7.
We need this prayer personally and every believer I know needs this prayer. This is a gift from God. Diving wisdom, revelation and illumination. You did not get what you have by your hard work, your education or even study. John Muddiman in “Black’s New Testament Commentary” on Ephesians says simply:
Paul prays for the whole community to acquire the gift of revelation; it is not, . . . reserved to an élite of apostles and prophetsJohn Muddiman, The Epistle to the Ephesians, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 2001), 85.
We could add to that pastor and teachers. This is why we push journal groups. Journal groups are a tool to help people get into God’s word, so that as they read it, the Holy Spirit can bring revelation, wisdom and illumination, that in turn will help you navigate your faith life in a pagan culture. We cannot do this on our own. We began in the Spirit and must continue in the Spirit so that we will end in the Spirit.
So, what is the reason behind this request?
#1 – That You/We/They May Know What The Hope Of His Calling Is
I think the hope
of his calling is clearly pointed out in vs. 4-5:
Ephesians 1:4–5 (NKJV)
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. “This hope,” according to Francis Foulkes in his commentary on Ephesians:
“. . . is not . . . ‘a vague and wistful longing for the triumph of goodness’, but it is something assured because of the present possession of the Spirit as ‘the guarantee’ (v. 14) and because of faithfulness of the God who has promised the future inheritance.”Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 10, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), 69.
This call of God “gives the sure promise of life with him as his people forever, and this hope in . . . turn should vitally affect life for the Christian” right here and right now.
#2 – That You/We/They May Know What The Riches Of His Glorious Inheritance Are
Secondly, he prays that they may know “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” That’s a mouthful. John Muddiman in Black’s New Testament Commentary says:
The phrase ‘riches of glory’ appears at Rom. 9:23f. in a similar context of Gentiles being grafted on to the people of God (and cf. Col. 1:27). The inheritance is here said to be God’s . . . in the sense that it is God who reaps a rich harvest consisting of saints.John Muddiman, The Epistle to the Ephesians, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 2001), 86.
Here’s my take. Paul prayed that we might know (fully understand and comprehend) that we are the riches of HIS glorious inheritance. It was his desire from the foundation of the world that we would be His.
#3 – That You/We/They May Know What The Immeasurable Greatness Of His Power Is
We could spend a good deal of time here but let me be brief. This is a huge notion to ponder. Is God truly all powerful? Can he do anything? Can He do it for you? The very same power that caused Christ to raise from the dead is a quality of God’s immeasurable, great power.
Paul’s desire is that you would be filled with all wisdom, revelation and illumination so that you could know the great, awesome power of the living God towards you through Christ Jesus.
As I close, let me read this passage once again in the NLT. Let you heart and mind agree, and may you confirm it by a declaration of praise at its conclusion.
Ephesians 1:15–23 (NLT) 15Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.