Oh, my! I am sorry, but I fully intended to move on to the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church, but I forgot to discus the most important part of this first chapter: Paul’s prayer.
In the early years of my faith, I was taught to read various prayers found in the Scriptures and use them as guides to pray for myself and others. And, for the past 38 years or so, I have been doing just that. As a matter of fact, ever since I began sending out these Morning Messages, I have used Paul’s prayer found in this first chapter of Ephesians, for each person who receives the messages. Take a look.:
Because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I continually to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers; I always pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may impart a spirit of wisdom and of revelation that gives you a deep; a personal; and an intimate insight into the true knowledge of Him.
I pray that the eyes of your heart, the very center and core of your being, will be flooded with light by the Holy Spirit, so that you will know and cherish the hope, the divine guarantee, the confident expectation, He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and so that you will begin to know what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His active, spiritual power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength (Ephesians 1:15-18)
Wow! Isn’t it good to know we can pray like that? Those are the things I continually ask the Lord to do in your lives. Yes, I pray for others things, as well, but this prayer has become the foundation of all of my prayers. We should never become content to simply “believe in God.” Oh, how boring that would be! I want to know and understand everything available to me! As Tozer famously explained:
, , , there are . . . increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities . . . [they] are athirst for God. . .
Oh, that describes me! I am “athirst” for God! Years ago, in the earliest point of my Christian faith, a friend introduced me to Tozer’s writings (and I am eternally grateful for that). From that point on I have continually asked the Spirit of God to open my heart wider and broader than it has ever been! As Ed Cole used to say, “Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles,” and I wanted (and still want) miracles in my life! And, if you desire miracles in your life, you need to understand the place, the prominence, that prayer will play.
This is especially true if you have any desire to mature in your faith. And [I just thought of this], if you want to grow in your study and understanding of Scripture, you need to add this prayer to your regular routine. It always helps when you unite prayer with the Scriptures!
It is fascinating to see what this prayer will accomplish in our life! I will even confess that Paul’s prayer has made me aware that I must add, deliberately and intelligently, this dimension to my teaching. Teaching the truth is never enough. I can always teach someone else, and they would be able to parrot the truth back to me. But that wasn’t good enough for Paul. He instinctively knew that it was never sufficient to know truth, but that it has gripped you. So, that is what he prays for:
“may [the Lord] impart a spirit of wisdom and of revelation that gives you a deep; a personal; and an intimate insight into the true knowledge of Him“
Now, wait a minute! Why is he praying for that? Aren’t these Christians? Haven’t they already received the Holy Spirit? Hasn’t He already empowered them? Yep! Absolutely! Paul had just written that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. So he is obviously not praying that they will be given the Holy Spirit. He is praying for a special ministry of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet spoke of seven spirits of God — the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of understanding, the spirit of counsel, the spirit of knowledge, etc. He didn’t mean that there are seven Holy Spirits. Goodness no! He meant that there is one Holy Spirit who has a seven-fold ministry of illuminating and enlightening the heart. That is what Paul is praying for the believers to experience.
However, it is interesting that he doesn’t take it for granted that this is going to happen in their lives. It isn’t an automatic feature of the Christian life. If you want the Word of God to come alive to you, you have to ask for that illumination — you must give the Holy Spirit permission to illuminate your understanding. It also takes time. It is a growing process. That is what this passage teaches us.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you want it to come alive in someone else’s life, you must ask that the spirit of wisdom and of revelation would move on their hearts. Remember that James told us that we don’t receive anything because we don’t ask (and when we do ask, it is with selfish motives) (James 4:2). Everything that God has, is for us, but they won’t be given automatically. You need to ask.
I may not be the wisest dad in the world, but even I know that you can’t give to your children that way. Even if I could anticipate every one of my kid’s wants and wishes and brought them home to my kids, they would eventually take my gifts for granted. They would never develop a thankful spirit. They would also never develop a sense of need in their lives. No wise parent does that.
As their parent, it was hard, because I would see they were in trouble but I had to learn to wait until my kids sensed their need and asked me for help (or until they realized that they were up against a wall and there were no other options available). That is when I could step in. And our Heavenly Father is no different. He is teaching and training us, and He never allows the Scriptures to come alive for us without our sensing a need for it.
That is why so many reach a point when the Bible becomes dull. They read it and just stare at the page like a deer facing headlights. There is no illumination, or you are listening to a message that only falls flat. Yes, it could be the inability of the preacher, but other people seem to be blessed, and you get nothing out of it. What is going on?
Well, it is part of the great conflict which we will hear about in the last chapter of this letter — the blinding, hardening, darkening work of the powers of darkness which keep us from grasping the truth. To counteract that, there must be the ministry of prayer, of asking our Father for a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that the truth can come alive in the hearts of those who read the Scriptures. That is what Paul is asking for here.
Sometimes I wonder if a lot of our sermons out there are falling flat because we never prayed this prayer over them. Notice how Paul is so concerned that these truths should be more than mere sentences on the page, that they would grip the lives and hearts of the believers. Paul also prays that the wisdom and revelation would come, “in the knowledge of him.” That is where truth finally leads. It leads to the understanding of the Person of Yahweh.
When you begin to read your Bible, do you pray like this? Do you open the pages and say, “Lord, show me yourself?” This isn’t merely a book to read just so you can learn what is going to happen as prophecy is fulfilled. It isn’t merely a book to read so you can receive some ethical guidelines on how to behave in the relationships of your life. This book is designed to lead you to stand in the presence of the Living God, to feel Him, to know Him, to sense His love, His wisdom, His strength, His might, His incredible grasp of circumstances, His control of human events, and to empower you to understand your relationship to Him, to have Him stand in your presence living, breathing, compassionate. That is what the Scriptures are for. That is the wonder of the Scriptures. No other book has that quality. Christ can step out of the pages and be a Living Presence in your life and heart. All you have to do is pray and ask Him to give you that spirit of wisdom and of revelation. Because it will not come any other way.
So, if your Bible study time is dull and dreary, take that as a hint and begin to pray that it will come alive, that you can know your Father. Remember what Jesus prayed: “Father, I thank you for our relationship, and I pray that men may know you, the only true God, for this is eternal life,” (John 17:3). And if you want life — life with that quality of abundance which characterizes Yahweh — then that is the way to have it. It comes with knowing Him, knowing who He is and what He is like.
There is a story told about two churches among a group of churches found in the inner part of China. These two churches were growing and reaching all kinds of people with the Gospel. But during the same period, others churches were just dawdling along and barely surviving.
The mission director of that area was trying to figure out why these two churches were doing so much better than the others. What he found out is that a couple of years before, at a conference in England, someone had provided information about all these churches, and various individuals began to pray for the churches.
Well, the story goes that one man began to faithfully pray for those two churches. Every week he would fall on his knees and pray for the Christians in those churches, that the truths they heard would be understood and acted on. As a result, those two churches were like flowers with abundant sunshine and rain. They blossomed and grew, even while facing persecution. The other churches? They remained the same. Sure, some kind of Gospel was being taught, but no one seemed to understand it and lay hold of it. This became known throughout the mission and became a tremendous testimony to the fact that prayer has this power to open eyes.
Oh Father, I apologize for rambling on and on, but your word is so exciting, once I start discussing it, I have difficulty stopping. But please, allow those who read this message will weed through the dung and discover some nuggets of truth.
But, we do thank you so much for the wisdom you gave to Paul, who realized that you can’t simply pour out a bunch of facts, write them down in a letter, and expect to have people understand them. No, now we understand that we must bend our knees and open our hearts to the work of Your Spirit; the bathing of Your Word, in prayer, so that it becomes a vital, living, attractive, compelling part of our lives.
Lord, help us to pray for each other. We need this truth today, and we ask that your Spirit will drive it home to us with clarity and with power, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.