Imagine you check into a luxury beach resort. Upon check-in, you receive a brochure about all the special amenities that await you: access to a VIP lounge, free dry cleaning if you need it, and complimentary WIFI. The only problem is that you never take the time to read what’s available to you, so you never take advantage of these benefits.
The first three chapters of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians are like a brochure describing all the spiritual benefits that are yours if you are in Christ Jesus. But if you never read the document, you don’t know what is available to you.
As we saw last time, Paul begins this letter with a eulogy to God—words of high praise to God for the riches He has bestowed upon us. Specifically, Paul mentions seven of those blessings or riches that come from God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Remember what they are?
God the Father has chosen us (that is, He selected us to be the object of his affections), He adopted us (decided to place us into His family), God the Son has redeemed us (He paid the price to ransom us from the slave market of sin), He forgave us (taken our sins away from us), He revealed to us his ultimate will and provided an inheritance for us that is reserved in heaven. God, the Holy Spirit has secured us by sealing us so that our future is absolutely secure.
The first half of Ephesians 1 consists of praise for God, and that causes Paul to next offer a prayer to God—to move from benediction to intercession. What we are considering here is not just cold, dry theology. When we understand what God has really done for us, it should cause us to drop to our knees in thanksgiving to God. And so, beginning in verse 15 and on through verse 19, Paul offers this prayer to God on behalf of the Christians at Ephesus and, by extension, to every one of us who believe.
Remember that Paul was separated by hundreds of miles from these Christians whom he loved dearly. If you have ever been separated from a loved one by distance, then you know exactly how Paul must have felt. Because he was imprisoned in Rome, there was very little he could do for them except pray for them.
Some of you know what it is like to be separated from a loved one. If you have served in the military, you know what it is like to be away from your mate for weeks or even months at a time. Those of you who are parents know the anxiety that comes from sending your child off on a trip or off to college, where they face all kinds of potential dangers and temptations. You feel helpless. All you can do is pray for them—but in fact, the best thing you can do is pray for them!
Paul felt that way about his friends in Ephesus, and so he offers this prayer on their behalf—a prayer that shows us how to pray for those people we really care about, but a prayer that also shows us what God desires for each one of us.
Have you ever had someone say to you in passing, “Well, I’ll be praying for you?” Deep down, you wonder if they will ever think of you again. Or even if you believe that they may pray for you—you wonder exactly what they will be praying for you.
I am extremely grateful for our more than 500 Pastor’s Prayer Partners and our Women of Prayer teams who pray for me, our family, and our church regularly. I know that many of you pray for me—and it is really encouraging when you drop me a note or say in passing, “Pastor, I’m praying for you.”
But what really encourages me is when someone tells me exactly what they are praying for when they pray for me. I imagine you’re the same way as well.
In verses 15-19, Paul tells the Ephesians exactly how he is praying for them and, by implication, how we should pray for others and ask that others pray for us.
1. A Prayer of Encouragement (Ephesians 1:15-16)
When we pray for people we care about–and tell them about it–we should express why we are thankful for them. Hopefully, everyone here today prays regularly for their mate, their children, and their friends. Make sure you express to God what you appreciate about those individuals and then tell them as well.
Paul said, “As I pray for you, there are two reasons I am grateful for you.”
- For Your Faith in Christ
What does he mean by your “faith in Christ.” I think there are two sides of faith that Paul has in mind.
We need to remember that in a day in which Christians place so much emphasis on the feeling they have in a worship experience and suppose that their feelings, their experience is what really matters to God.
The real test of your relationship with God is not how you feel in a worship service but how you behave when you leave that worship service. God is always more interested in faithfulness than in feeling.
- For Your Love for All Christians
Remember, every Christian is a saint. Anyone who professes Christ as his or her Savior has been set aside by God for a unique purpose. We need to understand that about every Christian—not just the ones who happen to be like us in the color of their skin, their economic background, or even in their doctrinal belief.
In spite of the difference that exists between true believers in Christ, what unites us is greater than what separates us—that is why we are to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, as Paul wrote in Romans 12:10.
After encouraging the Ephesians for two things they already possess—faith in Christ and a love for all Christians, Paul exhorts them by telling them two things he is asking God to give them.
2. A Prayer of Exhortation (Ephesians 1:17-19)
- Knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17)
This Greek word for “knowledge” used here is a compound word. The regular word for personal knowledge is gnosis. But Paul strengthens it with the preposition epi. Paul wants us to have an epignosis kind of knowledge about God. A knowledge that isn’t just intellectual or abstract—knowing facts about God. Paul wants us to have full knowledge—exact, complete, experiential knowledge of God. This is the ultimate goal for every one of us—to know God as our Heavenly Father.
- Understanding of God’s Workings (Ephesians 1:18-19)
In Greek culture, the heart represented the entire inner being of a person—the mind, the will, as well as the emotions.
Paul is praying that our inner person might be enlightened. He uses a mixed metaphor: “the eyes of your heart.” That phrase is one Greek word: photizo—we get the word photograph from it—and it means flooded with light. Paul is praying that our knowledge of God would go beyond mere understanding of certain facts and that we would come to a full and complete comprehension of God.
Three Workings of God in Every Christian’s Life
- He has called you.
- He has enriched you.
- He has empowered you.
When you pray for others that you really care about, here is a model for how to pray for another person. But this prayer is also a model for how we should pray for ourselves.
I pray that I might know you—not just intellectually, but experientially. I pray that I might understand your calling, your riches, and your power that are available to me.
How do we get to know God? I mean, really know God? The same way we get to know another person—by personal dealing, by personal involvement. That means spending time with Him. That means allowing him to speak to us through His Word and, in turn, our speaking back to him through prayer.
Full Passage: Ephesians 1:15-19