Praying with Paul (Eph 1:16-19)

Our prayers reveal our priorities. The requests we bring before God give a window into our heart’s greatest concerns at any particular moment. Sometimes they are petty and selfish: “Lord, help me find a good parking spot” or “Help me pass this test I didn’t study for.” Often they focus on more urgent immediate needs around us: “Lord, heal the cancer” or “Comfort the grieving widow.” Certainly nothing wrong with these as far as it goes.

I love Paul’s prayers because they provide a glimpse into his heart and reveal his greatest desires for the believers he’s addressing. Strangely, his prayers rarely sound like either the petty prayers or prayers for immediate needs listed above. Paul’s prayers — and, therefore, his priorities — are rather on the deeper spiritual realities and affections of the heart. Let’s listen to his prayer for the Ephesian believers in 1:16-19.

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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. 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, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph. 1:16-19).

Out of all the possible things Paul could have prayed, and prayed continuously, for these believers, he mentions two. We do well to ponder them and ask ourselves if these ever arise in our own prayers for ourselves and others.

1. First, Paul prays that God will give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. Barclay notes that wisdom (Greek sophia) is insight into “the deep things of God” and “being led deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the eternal truths.”  Why?  So that we can come to know God more deeply.  Too many today know many theological truths about God, but have very little relational intimacy with Him. As an intellectual believer, this is often true of me.

His prayer for “revelation” reminds us that God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself to us. He is intent on making Himself known in all his glory and grace, and has done so through the Word that testifies to Him, and most completely in sending his son — the Word become flesh. God continues to reveal more and more of himself to us as we grow in faith — or, at least we continually come to fresh discoveries about what has already been revealed in His Word.

So, while many of our prayers invite God to grant us good things — healing, favor, forgiveness, material blessings; God’s first desire is to give Himself to us in a real, intimate way. Paul desires for us to “know him better.” Do we share this desire?

2. Second, Paul prays that these believers will experience an inner awakening of the heart, to grasp and see more clearly the extravagant hope that we have in Christ. He prays that we’d have a new realization of the hope we have and a new realization at the power available to us in Christ by the Spirit. Again, he does not mean merely an academic understanding of these truths, a merely intellectual assent to such ideas.  Rather, he prays that for the Spirit of God to remove the blindfold of our hearts, so that we could experience in the fullest sense — to taste, touch, see, hear and smell — the goodness of this New Life available in Christ.

All of this should not lead the reader of these verses to say, “Well, this is a fascinating idea” but rather burst out in spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving at such a marvelous gift available to us.

The American church today is too busy doing stuff. Great stuff, no doubt. But to quote a line from a song by Christian artist Shane Barnard, “My serving you has replaced me knowing you.”  May we all take a moment today to waltz freely and boldly into the presence of our Heavenly Father just to “be with Him.”  Let us stop serving Him long enough to get to know him better.

Here’s the lyrics from Shane Barnard’s song “Received”:


by shane barnard

you can only go so far, until the bottom falls out
all my singing, smiling, pleasure finds me, i’m all right
pretty melody, dedicated to God
to be called by one Almighty God and take it for granted
heard a rumor i guess, but i wanna know who told me so
told me serving You replaced me knowing You!

can i be received?
unclean oh Lord am i
find me in my shame
You are all I need
please don’t pass me by
i call upon Your name

You whispered to Your child today
but i haven’t got a minute to listen
Your child is busy with the work of God and taking Him for granted
got a lot to do today, kingdom work’s the game i play
Lord my serving You replaced me knowing You

can i be received?
unclean oh Lord am i
find me in my shame
You are all I need
please don’t pass me by
i call upon Your name

Originally posted 11.21.11.

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