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Friday, June 24, 2011

Paul’s Prayer Request in Ephesians 1


You’ve heard the saying, “Prayer changes things.” How often we fail to recognize that we are first changed by prayer! Followers of Christ are changed at that initial prayer when we cry out for mercy because of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ—we are able to call Him Father! What gratitude and love we express when every time we pray we say, “Father . . .”

Yet over the course of time, we sanctify a period of utterances with “Father . . .” or “God . . .” or “Lord . . .” and fail to remember the person we are addressing.

“Fatherwecomebeforeyounow . . .”

“Godpleaseblessourfood,amen.”

“Lordhelpthismeetingtoendquickly.”

What is right is that He is our Father, our God, our Lord and He should be addressed as such, but what is not right is that we forget the weight of those titles. Yes, He is our Creator and there should be gratitude for life, but He has reconciled us through Christ and He is our Father—we are His children. He is our God, The Supreme focus of worship through all heart, mind, soul and strength—He is deity and we His subjects. He is our Lord, our Ruler and we are his servants motivated by love. Do we pray to please our Father, or use prayer as a tool of power manipulation? The first chapter of Ephesians contains one prayer that can serve as an example and a challenge for us in the way we pray—we are the first to be changed by prayer.

Paul first makes his readers know they are covered in prayer and are answers to prayer. “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.” (Ephesians 1:15-16) Have you ever thought the reason you walk with Christ today in obedience to His Word is because someone prayed for you? I remember a preacher who used to say, “If you are running for God and someone is praying for you, give up!” I like to remind students the reason they are in Seminary is because God has answered prayer.

He continues to pray for them, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:17) His prayer is not “God bless the Ephesians,” but very specific. Paul asks the Father two requests on their behalf. The first part of the request is that they be given “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” He wants to see these Christians grow! The church is not a social club but a place to grow in the light of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. God speaks to us and gave us His spirit not for us to ignore, but to hear and obey. Think of a dog barking at night—to some it is a nuisance but to someone else, it may be a warning! God wants us to know Him better and we do that by the spirit of wisdom.

Paul continues, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19) His second request is that “the eyes of your heart be enlightened.” In other words, as Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, that they would see clearly, from God’s perspective. This is a great lesson in how to pray for others, that they would see themselves and others clearly, the way God sees. The purpose is that one would 1) “know the hope of His calling”; 2) “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” and 3) “the surpassing greatness of His power.”

What a wonderful gift to pray for someone, that they would grow in their relationship with Christ and with others! New followers of Christ should become intimate with Him and what better way to do it than through the prayers of other followers and through fellowship with other followers! Every time God answers this prayer there is a great display of power!

There is a difference between “knowing” and “receiving” this power. Knowing this power is intimacy; receiving this power is impersonal, which leads to indifference. There is no place for indifference in prayer. This is why Jesus defines eternal life as “knowing God.” (John 17:3)

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