Elon, North Carolina
No church is greater than its prayer life (Leonard Ravenhall). Without prayer, churches have no power. Nothing happens in them. Lives are not changed. Miracles do not happen. God does not work in them. There is no revival in them. Most churches do not even have prayer meetings. One that has one today is rare. We have many prayerless churches.
No person is greater than his or her prayer life. Some are good at evangelism. Some are good at bible study. They love to study their Bible. Some are big on spiritual gifts. That is their favorite topic. Some are passionate when it comes to public worship. They worship with their hands in the air, but they struggle with having a regular, consistent, devoted prayer life.
Most Christians today struggle with prayer. Paul commanded us to pray without ceasing. Some saints throughout church history who prayer for hours every day, but most Christians have difficulty praying even for a few minutes.
It was hard for me after I first became a believer. I tried to pray regularly but it became a struggle. About two years ago, I had a heart attack and my life changed. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. After that event, prayer became easy. It is something that I want to do. It is not a struggle. What is the secret? Prayer is not a mystery. It is not a religious ritual. It is simply talking to God. It is sharing with Him the deepest things on your heart.
Many do not know what to pray. They do not know what to say in prayer. This chapter was written by a man who knew how to pray. Most of us do not think of Paul as a man of prayer but he was. After talking to them about the Lord, Paul now talks to the Lord about them. This is Paul’s intercessory prayer. We get to hear an actual prayer of the Apostle Paul.
Many think that if you believe in predestination, you do not believe in prayer. Why pray, if everything in predestinated? Paul believed in both. Two of Paul’s greatest prayers are found in Ephesians (one in chapter one and one in chapter three).
This is a prayer that we need today. Do Christian need a spirit of wisdom and revelation today? Yes. If you do not know what do to with your life, you need a spirit of wisdom and revelation. If you do not know who to marry, you need a spirit of wisdom and revelation. If you do not know what the will of God is for your life, you need a spirit of wisdom and revelation. All of us need a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
This is an important prayer. This prayer can change your life. Kenneth Hagin said that he prayed these prayers a thousand times and it was the turning point in his life. He said that it was one of the greatest spiritual discoveries he ever made.
We need to personalize this prayer. We need to pray that God would give US the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him that WE would know what is the hope to which He has called us, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe.
An Unusual Prayer
There are only three sentences in this chapter. Ephesians 1:1-2 is one sentence. Ephesians 1:3-14 is a second sentence. This prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23 is another sentence. Paul wrote this from prison. Ephesians 1:3-14 gives us Paul’s prison PRAISE. Ephesians 1:15-23 gives us Paul’s prison PRAYER. It is a lot different from the way people pray today. Notice what Paul did NOT pray for.
1) Paul did not here pray for material things.
We are Westerners. We tend to pray for material things. It is not wrong to pray for material things. Jesus gave us the Lord’s Prayer. The first prayer in the Lord’s Prayer says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That is not wrong but when Paul prays for this church, he prays for spiritual things, not material things.
He doesn’t pray that the church will have a bigger building or that the Christians in the church would make more money or that they would all be in great health. He prays that they will know God better. When you pray, do you just pray for material things or do your prayers go deeper than that? Most of our prayers are petty.
2) Paul did not pray here for people who have problems
Most of us pray when things are going wrong. We pray when things are bad. We pray when we have a serious financial need or when we have a medical emergency. We encounter a personal tragedy, we get on our knees. That is not wrong, but Paul prayed when things were going good, not just when things were going bad.
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 (Ephesians 1:15-16 ESV).
This church had a reputation. Every church has some kind of a reputation. Some have a bad reputation. They can have a reputation for scandals (immorality) or church fights. Some churches have a reputation for a lot of rules (legalistic churches). Other churches have a good reputation. Some have a reputation for bible study. Some have a reputation for prayer. Some have a reputation for anointed worship. What is the reputation of your church in the community?
Paul is writing to believers that he has never met before and he has heard two things about them. It had a reputation for two things. It had a reputation for its faith and for its love. I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints (Ephesians 1:15 ESV).
How did Paul know they were saved? How did he know that they were elect? How did he know that they were redeemed and forgiven? How did he know that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit? Paul had never seen these people. He was in prison, but he knew two things about them and these two things are signs of salvation. These are two marks of a true Christian.
They had FAITH in Christ. They responded to the gospel in faith. They not only had faith, they had LOVE. It was love, not just toward people in their church. They had a love for all Christians. There are plenty of believers today that do not want anything to do with Christians that are just a little different than they are. They love their fellow Baptists but cannot stand the Pentecostals down the street.
If you do not have a love for other Christians and desire to be with them, it is a sign that you are not saved. Do you have faith? Do you have love for other believers? Paul prays for them and tells us what he prayed for.
A Prayer for Knowledge
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Ephesians 1:17 NIV)
What does Paul pray for this church? Many preachers today love to preach against knowledge and how bad knowledge is. We do not need a big head but a big heart. Well, Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian Church is a prayer for KNOWLEDGE. Paul wants them to know some things. He does NOT pray that that they GET some things. He prays that they KNOW some things.
Apparently, it is not enough to pray for people that they get saved. These people were already saved. Once they get saved, they need to know some things. This is a prayer for knowledge but not just any kind of knowledge. It is a special kind of knowledge
1) This knowledge is REVEALED, not learned.
It requires a revelation. You cannot get it on your own, no matter how much you try. No matter how educated you are or how smart you are, God has to GIVE you this knowledge. You cannot get this knowledge from the classroom. You can only get it by revelation. This source of knowledge can only come from the Holy Spirit. That is why Paul prays that this church would be given the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
2) This knowledge is PERSONAL, not theoretical.
This knowledge is not theoretical. It is personal. It is experiential. It is NOT a prayer for academic knowledge. It is not even a prayer for biblical knowledge, as important as those things are. How do we know? Paul does not pray that Christians in this church will learn ABOUT God. He prays that they will know God.
If they were saved, didn’t they already know God? Yes. If you are saved, you know God. That is the definition of salvation. Jesus said, “this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3 NIV). If we are saved, we already know God but we could all know God better and on a deeper level?
But GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen (II Peter 3:18 ESV).
That verse raises an interesting question. Are we growing as Christians? Are we different this year than we were last year? Has there been any progress in our life? Are we becoming more like Jesus every day? At a certain age we stop growing physically and many Christians seem to have stopped growing spiritually. They are at the same level they were years ago.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19 NIV)
Paul prays that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened. That is a little strange. Your heart does not have eyes. How could your heart be enlightened? Your mind could be enlightened but how could your heart be enlightened? Paul prays that the eyes of their heart would be enlightened so that they would know three things.
Paul has three specific requests for this church. He prays that these Christians would know three things. He prays that they would know the hope of the divine calling, the riches of his inheritance and the greatness of God’s power for us. He prays that they would know God but specifically three things about God: God’s CALLING, God’s RICHES and God’s POWER.
What is God’s calling? We know the hope to which he has called us. What does it mean to be called? The Bible uses the word “call’ in many different ways. This is a calling to salvation. In the Bible, there is not one call but three calls.
Three Divine Calls
1) Ministry Call
There is a ministry call or a vocational call in Scripture. This is is a call to service (called to the ministry or called to be a missionary). Paul was called to be an apostle (Romans 1:1).
2) Evangelistic Call
This is the gospel call. This call is found in Revelation 22:17. The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life (NIV). This call goes out to everyone. It goes out to every sinner. It is an invitation. It is a universal call. It is an external call. It not always effective. Many reject this message.
3) Salvation Call
This is the call to salvation. It only goes to certain people. It is selective call. It is an internal call. It is effective. The day you were called, is the day you were saved. When you were saved, God called you. That is what Ephesians 1:18 is talking about. Paul speaks of this call in Romans.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30 NIV)
1. He prays that we might know INCREDIBLE HOPE
The first thing he prays is that you may know the hope to which he has called you (Ephesians 1:18 NIV)
Many Christians today have no hope. They have no assurance of salvation. They have been corrupted by bad theology and have no hope. Christians have a special calling and because of that calling, we have HOPE. Paul said that these Christians had faith, love and now they have hope (faith, hope, love). Why do we have hope? We have a past (chosen by god). We have a present (redemption forgiveness of sins) and we have a future.
We are told in John 13:3 that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God” (NIV). We can have confidence in our final destination, because we are sealed with the Spirit.
2. He prays that we might know our INHERITED RICHES
Paul wants us to know the riches of His glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:18 NIV). The HOPE tells us where we are going. The RICHES tell us who we are. We are children of the king we have an inheritance. That is the theme of the whole chapter, our riches in Christ. Many Christians do not know who they are in Christ.
3. He prays that we might know IMMEASURABLE POWER
The third thing Paul prays is that we might know his incomparably great power for us who believe (Ephesians 1:18 NIV). Many Christians have no power. They walk around defeated. Many have no power to live. They are powerless: powerless to live, powerless to resist temptation, powerless to minister.
Paul wants us to know not only WHERE we are going and WHO we are but WHAT is available to us as believers. Paul wanted Christians to know that they have power. We know the LOVE OF GOD if we are saved. We know the GRACE OF GOD but Paul also wanted us to know the POWER OF GOD.
Jesus said something very interesting. He said that some people in his day were mistaken, because “they “did not know the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). We can criticize these dumb Jews but the fact is that many Christians today do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. Most Christians do not know what the Bible teaches and they do not believe that God works miracles today. That was for some other period of time. They have no idea of the power available to them.
Many Christians are religious. They go to church. They are religious but they have no power. They have a form of godliness but do not have power in their lives (II Timothy 3:5). Paul said that the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of POWER (I Corinthians 4:20). Jesus said to the apostles, “You shall receive POWER when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” (Acts 1:8).
Paul piles on Greek words to show us the power that we have. You do not notice this in English but in Greek, he uses four different words for power in the same sentence.
He prays for us to know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power (δύναμις) toward us who believe, according to the working (ἐνέργεια) of his mighty (ἰσχύς) power (κράτος) that he worked (ἐνέργεια) in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:19-20).
Christians not only have power, they have a lot of it. This power is not only great, it is immeasurably great (ESV). It is exceedingly great (KJV). We do not just have power. We have great power. Paul uses superlatives. We have unimaginable power. We have mega power. It is spiritual power and it is inside us. We have this power inside us if we are saved.
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work WITHIN us (Ephesians 3:19-20 NIV)
Paul uses an illustration of this power. In the OT, there are several illustrations of God’s power. One is creation. God created the whole world out of nothing instantly. It was a demonstration of incredible power. Another illustration in the OT is the exodus. God delivered two million Jews out of slavery from Egypt. That required a miracle. It required power. Paul uses a different illustration of power.
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 (Ephesians 1:19-20 ESV)
We have resurrection power inside us. It took power to raise Jesus from the dead. The resurrection was an act of power. Paul said that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God WITH POWER by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4 NASB). BY HIS POWER God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also (I Corinthians 6:14 NIV). Paul said that he wanted to know Christ and the POWER of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10). He raised Jesus when He was completely weak and powerless, humanly speaking.
Jesus was not only raised from the dead. He ascended into heaven. The resurrection is not the same thing as the ascension. In the resurrection, Jesus left the grave. In the ascension, Jesus left the earth. The resurrection came after three days. The ascension came after forty days. Paul says that God “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” (Ephesians 1:20-21).
We not only have RESURRECTION POWER. We have ASCENSION POWER. The same power that not only brought Jesus’s lifeless body back to life also exalted him to the highest possible position in heaven. Jesus sits at the right hand of God above everything. He is the head of the church. The same power that took Jesus from humiliation and to exaltation lives inside of us.