Prayer, continued

So… did you have a chance to meditate on prayer for a while?  Before we begin today’s lesson, stop and consider your own prayer life. 

  • How often do you pray?
  • Do your prayers focus mainly on you and the things you are asking God to give you?
  • Has there been any kind of change/maturity in your prayer life over the last year, or are your prayers still basically the same?

Ephesians chapter one gives us some wonderful insight into prayer.  Please consider these verses carefully and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you about your own personal prayer life.

Ephesians 1:17-  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…

Previously, under the Old Testament covenant, God was commonly known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But notice the way Paul refers to God in this verse – as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This title reflects the change of covenants that took place when Jesus rose from the dead.  In this instance, the focus is on Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant and the one who intercedes for us with the Father.

Now, let’s start by looking at what Paul did NOT ask God to give them.  He did not ask God to keep them from persecution and trouble.  He did not ask God to give them fame or wealth.  He did not ask God to grant them happiness or an easy life. 

What he DID ask God to give them was the Holy Spirit who bestows to the believer wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.  In other words, Paul prays for these believers that their spiritual eyes would be opened and focused so that spiritual realities will be clearer, more easily seen and more understandable by their minds.  Likewise, he prays for the Holy Spirit to quicken our spirits making them more sensitive to spiritual things. 

The Holy Spirit can open your spiritual eyes!

Why would Paul pray that for believers?

Well for one thing, if we are honest, we will admit that we can be easily distracted.  Our every waking moment is a constant barrage of things from the physical world that compete for our time and attention.  Personally, I think the situation is worse now that it has ever been.  Modern electronics like the cell phone, hand held video games, electronic readers and computer tablets spew entertainment and information like an active volcano.  It literally never ceases.  If we are not careful, our spiritual eyes and ears will become dull and useless.  We will lose our sensitivity to the voice of God.  We should regularly be praying that the Holy Spirit quickens our spiritual man.

For another thing, no matter how mature we have grown in Christ, we have still not arrived at perfection.  No matter how much we know of God, no matter how much we have experienced of him, there are still unfathomable depths of wisdom and knowledge to be found in him.

Ephesians 1:18-19a – having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe,

The ‘eyes of your heart’ refers to your mind or your understanding.  Our understanding of God and spiritual principles have been blinded or distorted by sin.  Unless it is touched by the Spirit, the mind cannot comprehend spiritual truths. If you are a Christian, you have already had your mind/understanding enlightened by the Spirit to some degree; it was a revelation of sin that prompted you to accept Christ as Savior.  However, the entire Christian life is one of gradual maturing.  The revelation of truth that we experienced during salvation is not the full revelation of God.  Our understanding needs to be further enlightened because there are more and deeper spiritual truths to be understood.   

1 Corinthians 2:14 –  The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Paul prays for the Spirit to enlighten our minds, that we might discover three great truths.

One, that we may know what is the hope to which he has called us:  Christianity is the hope to which we are called.  Hope is a powerful thing; in fact, it’s a game changer.  It spurs us on during difficult times, it calms our sorrows, it lessens the effects of persecution and temptation, it renews our focus on the prize and it sustains us during the long haul of life.  Hope makes our work and sacrifice worthwhile.  Paul wants the Spirit to give us a greater understanding of the hope to which he has called us, so that it can work powerfully in us during our time on earth.

Food for thought – if we lived in constant hope of the great eternal future awaiting us as Christians, wouldn’t it change the whole aspect of our life?  Wouldn’t it make forgiving others easier?  Wouldn’t it make our problems a little less significant?  Wouldn’t it make the petty differences between believers melt into insignificance?

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.     

Two, that we might know what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints:  In other words, the glorious abundance of spiritual things to which you are entitled as a consequence of being children of God.  As discussed earlier in this chapter, we are not completely sinless, painless, perfect, righteous, etc, right now, but someday we will be.  At this time, we can enter into God’s presence through praise and worship, but one day we will behold his face as we sing praises around his throne. One day we will rule and reign with Christ.  The more we understand the riches of our inheritance, the more motivated we will be to serve our King and the more joy we will have during our service here.   

Was there ever a time in life when you longed to have something and you wanted it so much that you constantly daydreamed about it? When you finally got it, was it all that you expected or were your daydreams better than the real thing?

Sometimes we disappoint ourselves because the thing we long for winds up being less than we imagined it would be.  In the case of our inheritance in Christ, the opposite will be true.  No matter how wonderful we imagine heaven to be, it will be infinitely better!

1 Corinthians 2:9 – But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.

Food for thought – true riches are not silver and gold.  The only true riches are the ones bestowed upon us by our perfect heavenly Father. These are the only riches that last eternally. In light of this, examine your own prayer life.  Are most of your requests earthly or heavenly?

Three, that we might understand the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us: God’s immeasurable power is at work in every stage of the Christian life.  Once we were dead in sin, but his great power converted us.  His power is still at work in us right now; he has branded us as his own and he watches over us as we mature in Christ.  One day that same great power will raise up our dead bodies in newness of eternal life, when we will find the fulfillment of our hope, our glorious inheritance in Christ!

Are you excited about the prayer that the apostle Paul prayed for you?  The things he asks God to grant you are far, far greater than anything earthly that we could ask for.

I encourage you to begin to earnestly pray this same prayer for yourself over the next few weeks.  See how the Holy Spirit changes your life!

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