Praying Paul’s Prayers (Ephesians)

Praying Paul’s Prayers (Ephesians)

If you and I were to sit down one-on-one, I would like to ask you this:  “If you could ask God in prayer for only five things, what are those five?”

Please know God is not limiting us in any way in our prayers.  Nothing is too big or too small for him to help and to care.  My question about asking for five things is to find out what is most important to you.

This morning, I propose one thing that you should consider for your Top Five list:  to know God better.  One of our greatest callings from God is to pray.  And one of our greatest topics we can pray for is to know God.

 Author D.A. Carson said in his book, Praying with Paul,

“The one thing we most urgently need is a deeper knowledge of God.  We need to know God better.”

This has been my greatest heartbeat in prayer for 40 years.

I know we all pray for our daily, visible, tangible needs.  Health, finances, jobs, relationships.  We can and should pray for those, and probably much more than we are.  But from my many years of serving and helping Christians, and praying alongside them, I find we pray less often and with much less passion for things like Carson speaks of.   Things that are invisible.  Things of the heart.  Things concerning our faith in and love for God. 

We are in our second week of a 10-week sermon series on prayer.  If you missed last week, check that out on our website.

Our series is focused on learning HOW and WHAT to pray by praying directly from the Scriptures themselves.  I don’t mean we have to pray the precise words we find in the Bible, but taking the message God has given us here and using those to fuel HOW we pray and WHAT we pray.   Our focus for today and the next two Sundays is the prayers of the Apostle Paul.  I propose that if Paul prays for something, we ought to pray for the very same things.

Let’s pray. 

Father in heaven,  You are great.  Majestic.  Glorious.  Eternal.  Merciful.  Just.   Would you help us this morning to know you better?  Would you teach us to pray for greater knowledge of you, to know you more personally, intimately, sincerely, and joyfully? Open our eyes by the power of your Spirit.  In the name of your Son, we pray.  Amen.

Ephesians 1:3-14

This morning we are going to spend all our time in a letter Paul wrote called Ephesians.  In this letter, Paul spends considerable time telling this church how and what he worships and prays for.   We’re going to read in Chapters 1, 3, and 6. 

Ephesians 1:3–8 CSB

3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.

4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.

5 He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

8 that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding.

We could keep going through vs. 14, but we need to pause. 

Here in vs. 3 we learn to worship.  “Blessed is the God and Father of Jesus…”.   “PRAISE BE to him.”  We tend to think of worship as primarily music.  But we also worship with our words in prayer. 

In vs. 3, what is Paul worshiping “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” for?  That God has graciously, lovingly, and powerfully blessed these Ephesian Christians with great and glorious goodness that has its very roots in heaven.  “Every spiritual blessing in the heavens,” he says. 

These aren’t mere temporal and earthly blessings, like being blessed with good health or a new job.  No, these blessings are good and glorious works of God through the gospel in the spiritual, heavenly, eternal realm.  This is lofty stuff. 

He worships God for things he cannot see.  Again, our natural tendency is to worship primarily for the things we can see.  Possessions,  family members, finances.  And wonderful church services and Bible studies.  Worship for such things is good and right.  And we should do it more.   But Paul worships God for a long list of heavenly, eternal, spiritual blessings that are found in Christ. 

So here in the first half of chapter 1, we learn HOW and WHAT to worship.

Application:

Here is a way to apply this passage to your life:  When you next spend time with God in prayer, begin by worshiping him for these spiritual blessings.  You don’t have to remember everything I said.  Simply open your Bible to this chapter, read Paul’s words, and to the best of your understanding, worship God.

Pray Paul’s words, if you like, “Heavenly Father, I thank you and praise you for every spiritual blessing I have received from you.  Every blessing in heaven. 

“Like in vs. 4, thank you for choosing me and giving me the calling and purpose of becoming holy and blameless in your Son.

“Like in vs. 5, thank you for adopting me as your own son because of your Son.  What an honor.

“And in vs. 7-8, I praise you for redeeming and forgiving me.

Blessing by blessing through vs. 14 we worship.  We learn HOW and WHAT to worship from Paul’s example in the Scriptures.

Ephesians 1:15-19

Let’s continue on in chapter 1, for we can learn more from Paul.

Ephesians 1:15–19 (CSB)

15 This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints,

19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.

This may sound to us like a great prayer, but also we may wonder, “What is he actually saying?”

Let’s start with vs. 15.  He says, “This is why…I don’t stop thanking God for you and praying for you.”  What is the “why”?  What is the reason he gives thanks for the Ephesian Christians?  He is referring to all that he just said.  From vs. 3-14, in light of the glorious, eternal, spiritual blessings God has given to these Ephesian Christians….in light of God’s great power and mercy and authority to do all these gracious things for them…in light of that, I thank God for you. 

What specifically is he thankful for?  Their faith in the Lord.  Their love for the saints, that is, the holy ones.  The Christians in their church.  Paul says, “I see all that God has done, and I thank him for you.”

THEN Paul prays for four things.

FIRST:  vs. 17. He prays that God would give these Christians the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

What does that mean?

Paul prays that the Holy Spirit who indwells them (vs. 14) would increase their knowledge of God.  In other words, Paul prays that these Christians would know God better and deeper and richer.  Yes, they need to know God in their minds, but he wants a transformative knowledge.  This knowledge of God is not abstract or merely informational.  It is deep and rich and personal.  And when we gain this knowledge, we are changed.  To know God better transforms us from the inside out. 

It’s difficult for me to think of a richer prayer for one another than this.  To know God better and better.  To know in our hearts and with faith that he is good.   To know he is powerful.  To know he cares.  That he is holy and righteous and glorious.  To know he is eternal and omniscient and all-wise.

Paul’s prayer here is not intuitive to pray for.  Such things are not on our calendar.  They are not in our task list.  They don’t have deadlines like a paper due in my class.  They don’t have precise numbers like my bank account.  But God is teaching us through Paul’s prayers HOW and WHAT to pray for unseen things of the heart.

Then in vs. 18-19, Paul prays “that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened.”

He is praying for our hearts that can be dark and ignorant, that God would shine a light on them so that we could see something better.  Paul prays that we would see and know three things better. 

Hope

vs. 18a. He prays we would know the hope of God’s calling toward us.

This is an important prayer, that we would know and believe what is in store for the Christian in eternity.

It’s so easy and natural to think about all that is or might be in store for us in this life.  We set our hope on things like graduation, a new job, a marriage, the birth of a child or grandchild.  Retirement. 

But Paul is praying for less intuitive things.  He prays that we would know what is coming in the next life.  In the glories of eternity in the presence of God. 

This is our hope.  And without hope, we cannot survive.  The Christian’s hope is founded upon the very nature of God and his work accomplished when he sent his Son into this world to die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven, with the guarantee he is coming back to earth soon.

Paul prays that our hearts would be flooded with light to see this hope.

Inheritance

Then in vs. 18b, Paul prays that our hearts would be flooded with light to know a second thing:  “what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

What is this about?  There are two potential ways to understand this, but I’ll give you what I believe he is asking:  He is asking that we would know the glorious inheritance from God that is coming in eternity.

God is King and he is our Father, and he owns everything.  He created heaven and earth.  It all belongs to him.  And he is going to establish an eternal kingdom in a new heaven and new earth someday when he sends his Son back to earth again soon.  And all that God has and owns will be given to us as an inheritance.  Romans 8:17 says we are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

The world to come is good and beautiful and rich.  Simply stated, Paul prays that we would know this.  He prays that we wouldn’t be deceived into thinking that this world…establishing our little earthly kingdoms…is all-important.  He wants us to know the generosity and kindness of God to give us everything we could ever imagine and more….but in the next life, not in this life.

Power

Then finally in vs. 19, Paul prays for one more thing.  That our hearts would be flooded with light to know the surpassing greatness of his power.  And specifically, that we would know this power is directed “toward us.

It’s vital to know God’s power in general.  For example, in Genesis 1 he spoke this universe into existence with just a word from his mouth.  That is stunning, glorious, breathtaking power that we must know and believe. 

But Paul here is praying for something much more personal than that.  He is praying that we would know the power of God toward us.  His power for our benefit.  His power to help us.  To strengthen us.  To keep us from quitting this faith journey when life is hard.

Though we don’t like to admit it, we are fundamentally weak.  It’s popular today to tell one another how strong we are.  But we are utterly dependent on so many things simply to survive:  the air we breathe, the food we eat.  We are dependent upon relationships to help us, comfort us, protect us.  We are dependent on God to forgive us and save us from our sins. 

So we are fundamentally weak. But the solution is simple.  And it’s better than being strong in ourselves.  The solution is to pray like Paul to know and experience God’s power in our lives to sustain us in our trials, encourage us in times of fear, and to usher us into his presence after we die.

Application

So I find that the application from vs. 15-19 is easy:  Pray for one another.  For others sitting beside you and in front of you. 

  1. We should thank God constantly for one another like Paul did.

Thank God for the faith and love our friends in our Community Group have.  The Lord is at work, and we should express our gratitude to God for it.

  • Pray that we would know God better and better. 

Again, this is not a felt need.  But it is one of the deeper needs we will ever have.  And the deeper we go in our knowledge of God, we will find that the remarkable things in this life simply don’t compare.  Instead of being “dazzled” by knowledge of this world, we will be dazzled by God himself.

  • We must pray for a deeper grasp of our hope of eternal life. 

Pray this for yourself, for your family, for your friends, for your pastors.

  • Pray that our hearts would be flooded with light to know the rich inheritance from God that will be ours very, very soon.

Pray that we wouldn’t get enamored by inheritances in this world:  money, property, possessions.  Such things may be nice, but they are super-exceeded by the greatness and majesty of what our gracious Father will give to us some day very soon.

  • Pray we would know and experience God’s remarkable, unlimited power in our lives.

Pray that we wouldn’t despair of our own weakness, but would humbly and joyfully yearn for God’s power to be displayed in our lives. 

If you want to know what I pray most frequently for for all of you here at Stonebrook, it is this very passage.    I pray for you to know these things deeply.  I may not know any recent needs you have or current prayer requests.  But that does not inhibit me from praying for you like Paul prayed. 

So from Chapter 1, we learn HOW and WHAT to worship.  And HOW and WHAT to pray.  So tomorrow as you pray, thank God and pray for one another using Paul’s prayers to fuel your prayers. 

And if someone asks you how they can pray for you, include something like Paul prays for. 

Ephesians 3

Now let’s look at another prayer of Paul’s, this time in Ephesians 3.

Ephesians 3:14–19 (CSB)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father

15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.

16 I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit,

17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love,

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love,

19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ranked only behind Ephesians 1, I pray this frequently for you all.

What is Paul praying for here? 

Power

So first, in vs. 16, he prays with the riches of God’s glory in mind.  And he prays for strength in our souls.    Actually, not simply strength but God’s power through the Holy Spirit.  Obviously he’s not talking about physical power, like being a world class weight lifter.  He is speaking of spiritual power.

Christ at home

Then in vs. 17, he has an outcome for this power:  that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith.  He’s not talking about salvation here.  Back in chapter 1, it’s obvious the readers of this letter to the church in Ephesus were already saved and had the Holy Spirit indwelling them.  Here he is asking that Christ would be at home in their hearts.  That he would abide there.  That the Christians would openly and constantly welcome Christ to lead, guide, and strengthen them however he wanted.

Our relationship with Christ begins with our desperate cry of faith for salvation and forgiveness.

Then once we are saved, Paul wants more for us.  So he prays for an ongoing, vibrant, energetic walk with Jesus every day of our lives.  That we would let Jesus be at home in our hearts with all we do, think, and say.  ALL we do.  Nothing left out.  Nothing hidden.  No locked doors in our hearts.  No rooms where we won’t let Jesus in.  All rooms are wide open for him to come in, love us, care for us, protect us, and guide us. 

Love

Then in vs. 17 through 19, he prays for one more thing.  Something so vital, so important, that we simply can’t be very fruitful in the Christian life without it.  He prays that with that same power from the Spirit we would know, grasp, and comprehend in deep and meaningful ways the love of God.  That we would know how vast his love for us is.  How wide and long and high and deep.

Now if we have believed in Jesus, we already know his love, at least a little bit.  But God’s love is like the Pacific Ocean.  We are already on the beach, playing in the sand, and jumping through the waves.  But the ocean extends for 5000 miles in every direction, and we have only begun to explore its vastness and its depths.  As we explore, we will know the majesty of the ocean more thoroughly and intimately, and with awe and wonder.  So it is with God’s love.   We want to be on a lifetime trajectory to know God better, especially his love for us. 

Application

The application here is simple: 

  1. Pray that God would grant us power through his Holy Spirit to make Christ at home in our hearts.
  2. And pray that we would be transformed by the vastness of his love.

Make this one of your more frequent prayers for your family and your friends.  And your pastors. 

Ephesians 6

Now let’s look one last call to prayer by Paul, this time in Ephesians 6.  Paul is speaking about warfare.  But not normal human warfare.  This is spiritual warfare.  Battles that take place in the heavenly, spiritual realm involving the demonic world.

Ephesians 6:10–12 (CSB)

10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.

11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens.

Paul then in vs. 13-17 walks through the spiritual armor of truth, faith, righteousness, and the Word of God.   All of it is so important.  But for sake of time, let’s go to his final admonition in vs. 18.

Ephesians 6:18 (CSB)

18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.

Paul urges us…commands us as from the Lord…to pray for one another.  You and I on our own are helpless in fighting an unseen war with Satan and his demons.  But with the power of the Spirit and God’s answer to our prayers, we fight.  Importantly here is that we are to fight.  Not WITH one another.  But FOR one another.

Paul’s emphasis here is not merely to pray for yourself.  It is to pray for one another.  Fight alongside your fellow Christians by praying often and staying alert to the battle we are in.  To not be naïve or ignorant.  To not assume that our enemies are only our flesh and this world.

Look at the “all’s” in vs. 18:  Pray AT ALL TIMES.  With EVERY prayer and request.  Stay alert WITH ALL perseverance and intercession.  For ALL the saints.  Does that leave anything out?

Application

In light of Paul’s instruction, let’s do this:  Pray for one another often.  Pray for alertness to the warfare.  Pray for strength.  Pray we would keep our spiritual armor on.

I often wonder how much we struggle with sin, darkness, discouragement, fear, lusts, discontentment and more….because we are succumbing to the spiritual battle….because we are not praying more often for one another.

Imagine if we all prayed such things more for one another. 

  • Imagine the victories we would experience.
  • The obedience we would walk in.
  • The joy we would have.
  • The peace we would find.

May God give every one of us more and more grace to be alert to the spiritual struggle we are in, the struggle for souls.  And to pray for power and protection.

Conclusion

Let me close with this.

As we consider praying like Paul …If we prayed for these unseen, invisible, eternal, spiritual, heavenly things…If we pray such things for one another, let’s consider what will happen to us when the Lord answers our prayers….what will happen to us, to our families, our roommates, our small group friends, our pastors.

  • We will become more heavenly minded. 
  • We will find strength in our souls when we are weak.
  • We will have greater joy in our hearts in spite of our trials.
  • We will have increased peace when there is so much to fear.
  • We will have greater love for people when we don’t have the capacity to love.
  • We will have greater resistance to temptations from the devil.

Why?  Because when God answers our prayers, like back in Chapter 1, we will be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.

Join me in praying like Paul, and let us see what the Lord will do. 

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, would you empower us through your Spirit?  Would you empower us so that your Son, Jesus, would abide closely, tenderly, and powerfully in our hearts?  Shine light on our hearts to know our eternal hope.  Shine light on our hearts to know the glorious, eternal inheritance in your coming kingdom.  Open our eyes to know the power of God through your Spirit…the power to overcome sin and the strength to keep going when we are weak.  And, Father, please radically change our lives by seeing your deep and vast love for us…the love you revealed when you sent your Son to be punished for our sins and then raised from the dead for our salvation.  Hear our prayer, gracious Father, and answer us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.