The Content of the Prayer: Part 1 of 3 (series: Harmony of the Gospels)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Book of Ephesians

By: Tom Lowe Date: 1/23/17


Lesson 5: The Content of the Prayer (1:15-19)


Ephesians 1:15-19 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,
16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
17 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.
18 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. That power is the same as the mighty strength


Introduction
Paul has been singing the praises of the God of all grace. The Christian’s life is anchored in Jesus Christ. From our election in Him before time began, to the final salvation of which the indwelling Spirit is the guarantee, everything we need to live “to the praise of His glory” (1:12, 14) is found in Christ. His grace makes us rich with the blessings of redemption, forgiveness, adoption, and spiritual illumination. These are, in Paul’s beautiful expression, “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (1:7-8).

The resulting fruit in our lives is diverse: humility in the face of God’s eternal election; sanctity in our lifestyle because He has chosen us to be holy, stability because we know we are anchored into the eternal heart of God; doxology (a hymn, verse, or form of words in Christian liturgy glorifying God) because we have been so richly and fully blessed.

When Saul of Tarsus first experienced this grace it turned him into a man of prayer: “The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying” (Acts 9:11). Even now, perhaps two decades or so later, we find him still on his knees: “For this reason, I kneel before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14). The adoration of the Lord in His grace always led him to intercession for his brothers and sisters.

Commentary
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,

Notice verse 15 begins with “For this reason,” thus connecting the phrase with what preceded it.
Paul prays with thanksgiving for the Ephesians (and presumably others in the same region who received his letter). He has been told about their transformed lives. Two features dominated the report he received about them: their “faith in the Lord Jesus” (trust in Christ as the Divine Son of God)and “their love for all God’s people” (the saints). The kind of love he is referring to is not sentimentality or emotionalism of any kind, but “caring”—caring for other people because God has cared for us by giving us Christ. These make up the two features Paul always seemed to look for as marks of genuine conversion (as his frequent reference to them in other passages indicates: see 1 Corinthians 13:13; Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:6; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:13; 3:10; Titus 2:2; Philemon 5). Authentic Christianity always transforms both the Godward and manward dimensions of life. Otherwise, our professions of faith are hollow.

But, in addition to this, it is also clear that Paul’s prayer life was fueled by news about his fellow Christians. A glance at the number of names mentioned in his other letters indicates how much he seemed to know even about churches he had not personally visited. The closing greetings of his letter to the Romans are a remarkable illustration of this. Paul well illustrated the lifestyle he wanted to see in others: he prayed for them because he shared their love for all the saints.

In passing here we might note Paul’s knowledge of his reader’s spiritual growth, but the absence of personal greetings, tends to confirm that this was indeed a ‘circular’ letter and not one written specifically to Ephesus.

16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

In verse 16, Paul reminds these believers that he gives thanks for them in his prayers. This is another feature that marked his prayer life: his thankfulness: “I have not stopped giving thanks for you.” First of all, Paul gives thanks to God for the Ephesians. They were on his prayer list, and I guess all the churches were. These are the words of a man who is marked by God’s grace. Gratitude is always the result. According to Dr. Luke, Paul wept with the believers at Ephesus when he took leave of them. He loved them, and they love him.

Three

things may be said about the thanksgiving of Paul as expressed in the present passage. First, that for which he is especially grateful is the good news of the faith and love of the readers. Second, his gratitude is constant and continual (“I have not stopped”). Third, it is addressed to God. Thus does the apostle recognize that God is the true fountain of all that is good in His people.

Man is by nature ungrateful: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). We live in ungrateful times: “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (2 Timothy 3:2). Many Christians’ lives have been marred by this spirit of the age. We fail to give thanks because we do not lift our eyes to the throne from which all blessings flow. Such ingratitude, Paul teaches us by implication, cannot breathe in an atmosphere of true prayer.

In the King James Version, “Remembering you in my prayers” has been translated“making mention of you in my prayers.” That means he called them all by name.

17 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.

In all of his letters, Paul is very careful to make clear the fact that his message came by revelation—not by man, not through man, but from God by direct revelation. The Word of God consists, for the most part, of knowledge which man cannot know nor receive except by revelation. If we understand the things of the past, or, if we look into the future, we must rely upon God to unveil deep spiritual truths to us as we yield to the Holy Spirit, the Teacher of the Word of God (1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit gives to us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding—but only through revelation. What a wonderful, glorious thing it is to have the Spirit of God be the One to teach us. “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.” How will that take place? It will take place by the Spirit of God—the only One who can open our eyes—teaching us God’s Word.

One phase of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in this Dispensation of Grace is to reveal the deep things of God to spiritually minded believers. Study carefully John 16:12-15. There are many Christians who read the Bible—but there are few Christians who study the Bible. Almost anyone can read a chapter a day, and from that chapter learn things about Jesus, God, heaven, hell . . . but to dig into the diamond mines and the gold mines, to find the unsearchable riches of the Word of God, we must be led by the Holy Ghost, enlightened by the Holy Ghost—and if we ever understand the deep things of God it must be through the revelation of the Holy Ghost as we study.
When we go to God in prayer there ought to be a profound reverence, a sense of deep and inexpressible wonder. Furthermore, the apostle reveals something of the encouragement he had to pray. It was not to a far-off and unknown deity that he unburdened his heart; it was to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To think of God in this way is to be reminded that in approaching God in prayer we in truth draw near to a “throne of grace.”

To speak of God as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” in no sense detracts from the uniqueness of Christ. God is the God of Christ in the sense that He is the God whose work Christ came to perform and by whom Christ was sent into the world. To speak of God as “the glorious Father” is to declare He is the Father who possesses glory, the Father of whom glory is a characteristic feature.

For what, then, does Paul pray? First, that the Ephesians may be given “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know him better.” The believer must grow in his knowledge of God. To know God personally is salvation (John 17:3). To know him increasingly is sanctification (Philippians 3:10). To know Him perfectly is glorification (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). Since we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28), the better we know God, the better we know ourselves and each other. It is not enough to know God only as Savior. We must get to know Him as Father, Friend, Guide, and the better we know Him, the more satisfying our spiritual lives will be.


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