If you’re like me, you’ve wondered, “What should I pray about?” and “How should I pray for others?” We know we’re supposed to pray as Christians and we’re given model prayers, but our prayer’s exact contents are left up to us. That makes sense — prayer is a conversation with God, not a recitation. But that also means we have to keep studying our Bibles to keep a good dialogue going between us and our Creator, as well as to gain deeper insights into how we ought to pray.
Paul’s epistles include several beautiful examples of his prayers for fellow believers. The book of Ephesians has two, both related to further deepening of their faith. A comment in last week’s sermon drew my attention to the second of these prayers, and I noticed the other when re-reading the whole letter. I was going to cover both in one article, but there’s far too much depth to cut the Bible study short. We’ll only talk about one of these prayers today.
Paul opens this letter blessing “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). He talks about redemption, grace, and God’s will for us, along with our trust in Christ and the assurances we’ve been given of a glorious future. Then he says,
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers (Eph. 1:15-16)
Paul’s not just praying for them. He’s also giving thanks that they’re already walking by faith in the Lord and loving the brethren. They’re practicing important commandments and grounded in fundamental truths. Because of that, he can pray they would experience a deeper conversion.
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 (Eph. 1:17)
Wow. We could spend whole Bible studies on each phrase in this little verse. Firstly, Paul is asking the Father to bestow as a gift the “spirit of wisdom and revelation.” We know from other verses that we can get wisdom by asking God for it, so this prayer makes sense (James 1:5). But Paul doesn’t stop at asking for knowledge and intelligence (sophia, G4678, Thayer) by itself.
“Revelation” refers to something once covered being unveiled and fully disclosed. It’s a full, complete revelation that includes understanding of what’s revealed (apokalupsis, G602, Zodhiates). So Paul is that praying his readers be given a spirit of God revealing deep truths along with their meaning. And all this happens “in the knowledge of Him.”
There are several Greek words for knowledge, and this is a deep one. Epignosis refers to “precise and correct knowledge” (G1922, Thayer) gained by a “more thorough participation in the object of knowledge on the part of the subject” (Zodhiates). God doesn’t just dump all this incredible information into our brains — there’s a process we participate in.
Light For Our Eyes
This is one of those passages it pays to read very slowly and several times over. It’s packed full of truth, but we’ve probably read it so may times it’s easy to not really meditate on the words.
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 (Eph. 1:18)
I love the word-picture in “the eyes of our understanding being enlightened.” It’s describing our mind’s eye going from blind to seeing; from groping in the darkness to clear lines of sight. That lets us “know what is the hope of His calling” and the riches of glory He’s giving the saints as an inheritance. And, though we miss this in English, that word “know” could also be translated “see,” continuing the vision metaphor (eido, G1492).
John’s gospel opens by telling us life was in the Word “and the life was the light of men.” Jesus ” was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:4, 9). We’re enlightened by the direct actions of Jesus Christ, who was sent by God the Father with power to accomplish a purpose. And that’s where Paul’s thoughts in this prayer go next.
Our Father’s Might
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:19-20)
When our eyes are opened, we start to understand the “exceeding greatness” of God’s power working in us as it did in Christ. Unsurprisingly, this is another verse much more specific in the original Greek than it appears in English.
The power described as having exceeding greatness is dunamis — inherent strength and ability to perform actions (G1411, Thayer). This word contains an assurance that God can accomplish the miracles He has promised. Paul then talks about the “working of His might power.” Working is energia, which “in the NT is only used of superhuman power” (G1753, Thayer). Might, ischus (G2479), is a forceful word conveying ability and strength.
Couple those two words with kratos (G2904), a word for power in reference to mighty works, and you’ve just emphasized God’s superlative power three times over in a single phrase. And when Paul talks about what God “worked in Christ” the word is energeo (G1754) — to show ones self mighty by putting forth power. God has more than enough might and ability to accomplish great things in us as He works in Jesus Christ.
Focus on Christ
These next verses might seem an odd direction to take a prayer for your brethren, but this is all still one sentence in many translations and the phrasing makes it clear the prayer starting in verse 15 is connected to the thoughts at the end of chapter 1. For Paul, praying that the Father would open eyes and deepen understanding naturally leads to talking about Jesus’ roles, titles, and exaltation.
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. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:21-23)
This is the sort of prayer we should have for ourselves and all our brethren — that God would open our minds to understand His truths, recognize His work in our lives, and honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we fit into His church, let’s pray we all come to a fuller understanding of Him and His will for us.