Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday in which we thank God for His many blessings in our lives, not the least of which include living in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Family gatherings fall somewhere in the category of being ridiculously fun or numbingly painful. For the Apostle Paul, praying for those he loved was a privilege tempered with joy and thankfulness. We have much to learn from his inspired prayers, here are some highlights from his prayer for the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:15-23).
When we pray for fellow believers, it ought to be with an attitude of gratitude: Paul said he “always gives thanks” as he prays for the Ephesians. As well, persistence is crucial: “I have not stopped”, Paul says, and, “I keep asking”. Now stop and ask yourself, “How do I feel when I know people are committed to praying for me?” And not just casually praying, but consistently storming the Throne of Grace on your behalf? Return the favor to your fellow soldiers in the fray; remember, Revelation tells us that Satan’s theater of operations is “night and day”.
So, what did Paul pray for in the Ephesians’ lives? That God would take away their pain? Remove the trials in their lives? No. He prayed one simple prayer – that they would know God better. That their pain would point them to Him and that their trials would add depth to their worship of the Almighty. “Know” refers to relational intimacy, not just head knowledge. We Christians need an awareness of His holiness to convict us of sin and a reminder of His forgiveness to quench our bitterness. And, oh, how we need to receive His matchless love, to heal the wounds others have inflicted. Peter put it well: “He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” (2 Pet 1:3).
But to just pray that we would know God better is too vague. Notice the three specific ways Paul prays we would know Him better:
1) First, he prays we would know the hope of His calling. Oh, that we would revel in this knowledge and keep it before us! God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. We no longer fear death but know our lives are temporary and will give way to the new heavens and new earth. My friend, keep this vision before you and take note how little you begin to care about the affairs of this world.
2) Second, he prays that we would understand the riches of His inheritance. Who is His inheritance? YOU! Christ died to atone for your sins. He died and rose again that you might live for righteousness. Here is the ultimate cure for “low self-esteem”: I have made God rich! The God of the universe, the one who flung the stars into place, is wonderfully blessed to have acquired me. He did not spill His blood for a trivial cause – it was to redeem sinners like you and me and He considers Himself blessed to lavish His love on …me.
3) Third, he prays that we would understand His power at work in us. The same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at God’s right hand – above ever name that is named – is at work in us! Haven’t we heard it all before, either in our own musings or with a friend: “I can’t forgive him for all he’s done” “I could never love my basket-case of a wife, I’m through” “I can never overcome this sin” “I’m a hopeless case, God can’t help me”. REALLY? Paul’s prayer is that we understand the extent of the Spirit’s power in our lives. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
I’ve enjoyed traveling through the Biblical prayers and will post more about some of them. Let’s be faithful in prayer and intentional about how we pray for others.
- Pastor Colin