The Family That Prays Together

Ephesians 1:15-23:

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 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[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also 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 the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Do you have a friend who “randomly” sends you a text message (or mails a card or calls you on the phone) saying: “I prayed for you this morning”?

I do.

She prays for me without asking. She prays for me without knowing my needs. She prays for me in whatever ways happen to cross her mind and heart, or, as I believe, as the Spirit leads her to pray for me. (And yes, she also prays for me when I do ask her to pray for specific things!) It absolutely makes my day when I find out that she went before the throne of grace on my behalf. It makes my spirit soar! What a blessing. WHAT an encouragement to me!

When she prays for me, it draws me closer to the Lord and closer to her. Though we are not related by the blood of our earthly fathers and mothers, we are related by the blood of our Heavenly Father, which means we are sisters — both adopted into God’s family. And in His infinite wisdom and goodness, God has established prayer as a means for strengthening His family.

You’ve heard the saying, “The family that prays together, stays together.” Well, that is exactly what Paul is doing here in the second half of Ephesians 1. After having passionately shared God’s divine purpose for us (to be adopted as members of His family) in Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul is now praying for this established family — his fellow Believers — and in so doing, he is exhorting us to do the same. He wants to encourage us. He wants us to not be satisfied with knowing we are members of God’s family, but to grow deep in our family relationships: with Him — and with one another — fully grasping the hope, power, and strength of Christ.

“For this reason…”

We know immediately that Paul is praying specifically for his fellow Believers because Paul picks right up with a continuation of his previous thought, “For this reason…” he begins, referring back to the previous section of text. In other words, he’s saying: “Because we are all members of God’s family, I am praying for you.”

Another indication that Paul is praying for his Christian brothers and sisters here is because he acknowledges the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those for whom he is praying by observing the Ephesian Believers’ “faith and love.” We know that love and faithfulness are two of the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Thus, faithfulness and love are outer, visible signs of the Holy Spirit’s work in us – it is evidence of the seal of the Holy Spirit we read about back in Eph. 1:13-14.

Then he goes on to say, “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Now, I don’t know whether the literal translation of the original language truly means “praying without ceasing,” but I’m willing to bet it means that Paul prayed for the church at Ephesus on a very regular basis. At least daily. Probably multiple times a day. After all, Paul was not distracted by Facebook. (Guilty.) Paul was not distracted by television. (Guilty.) Paul was not distracted by a mobile phone that beeps, chimes, or whistles for every status update, tweet, or text message. (Guilty, guilty, guilty.)

Christian, are you praying and giving thanks for your fellow Believers on a regular basis? Are you praying daily for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Are you … praying at all? And I don’t mean only praying for the missionaries who are living in extraordinary circumstances, but I mean, are you praying for your Christian neighbors? For your fellow church members? For your friends? For your coworkers?

It seems so simple. Guess what … it is.

Perhaps it’s so simple, we’re missing the forest for the trees. We might think, “This person is already saved, they seem to have a healthy walk with the Lord – I mean, she’s a Ministry Leader! And she certainly doesn’t seem to be “suffering” like other Christians around the world. What could I possibly pray for her that would make a difference in her life?”

But Church, our need for prayer is not conditional upon our material circumstances, our spiritual maturity, or our position of influence. We need to be continually praying and giving thanks for one another. God does not intend for us to journey this Christian life alone. He has given us a family of Believers with whom we share our joys, sorrows and burdens. He has created us with a need for one another and then provided us with an avenue through which to grow closer to Him and to one another: prayer.

But as Nike has so aptly and yes, simply, stated: We need to Just Do It.

What do we pray?

“Ok, Lord, I’m ready to pray.”

But … what do I pray for? Well, as we would expect, Paul gives us a beautiful example to follow.

First, Paul prays that the Father would give us wisdom and a revelation of Himself (v17).

He wants us not only to know that we are children of God, he wants us to know God, and to know Him in a deep and intimate way. But since there is nothing we can do to reach God, instead, Paul asks God to reveal Himself to us and to give us the wisdom we need to understand Him when He does.

In both the Old Testament and New Testament, God reveals Himself through dreams and spoken word given through prophets, kings, soldiers, servants, shepherds, angels, and others whom He appointed and anointed by His Spirit. The written Word did not yet exist.

But how does God reveal Himself to us today? Perhaps still through dreams and prophecy. (Who am I to say He doesn’t?) But for certain, God reveals Himself through the person of Jesus Christ, Who is revealed to us in Scripture. In fact, every time you open your Bible, God is revealing Himself to you because all of Scripture points us to Jesus: from Genesis to Revelation.

But even though we have this written Word, we still must have the “Spirit of wisdom” – which is the help of the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom – in order for us to understand the revelation, for it to stir our hearts and thus, to draw us into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Father.

Every time I open my Bible, I ought to be praying: “Lord, please reveal Yourself to me, and give me the wisdom to understand. Use this time to draw me closer to yourself.” But, as Paul has prayed for Believers, we should also be praying in this way for one another.

From Your Head … to Your Heart

Now, lest you are concerned that Paul is only concerned with our “head knowledge”, he continues praying: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…”

Our heart. Our heart. How interesting. Usually when I think of something being “enlightened” it is in reference to the mind. But Paul prays that the eyes of our heart would be enlightened. Why would that be?

In verses 18 and 19, Paul says that when our hearts are enlightened, we will know hope, we will know power, and we will know strength:

“… that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ…” [emphasis mine]

First, we will have hope. This hope is not a “hope so” kind of hope. Rather, it is a “confident hope” – a certainty of something that is yet to come. I think he is praying that we won’t doubt God’s promise of our future inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven. When we do not doubt for our future, then we are released from the discouragement of our present suffering. Our hearts need to be enlightened so that we will have hope.

Second, we will know “his incomparably great power.” God’s incomparable great power…

… Created the Universe in a spoken word

… Flooded the entire earth, but in His mercy, preserved humanity through Noah and his family

… Parted the Red Sea and allowed Moses and the Israelites to cross on dry ground

… Kept the fiery furnace from harming, singeing, or scorching Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, nor was there even the smell of smoke on them

… Halted the lions’ jaws from devouring Daniel

… Healed paralytics, lepers, and those possessed by demons

… Took enough food for a child and used it to feed five thousand (and more!) until they were satisfied.

This same power is known to us, in us and, get this, for us, is what Paul says. ALL of the power of God has revealed since the beginning of Creation is for us … it is for us to know Him.

And certainly, not forgotten from my list above, Paul says that this power is like His strength, “which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” The same strength that conquered sin and death is made known to us.

How is it made known? As Paul goes on to describe, through Him [Jesus] who is “seated him at his right hand … above all rule and authority, power, and dominion, [above] every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the one to come.” Remember, all of Scripture points to Christ.

My dear friends, the eyes of our hearts need to be enlightened so that we will know Jesus.

But returning to the beginning of verse 18, what is truly challenging to me is that we won’t know hope, power, and strength when we give Him our mind and enlighten our mind, we will only know hope, power, and strength when we give Him our heart.

We need to be praying that the eyes of our hearts would be opened and enlightened to the hope of Jesus, the incomparable power of Jesus, and the mighty strength of Jesus.

I don’t know what your prayer life is like. Maybe this isn’t a struggle for you. But I know for me, I tend to find it easier to remember to pray for things that are going wrong. I almost always remember to ask for God’s blessing. But Paul exhorts us by his example in this passage to pray for our Spiritual Family into which we have been adopted, that:

  • God would reveal Himself to them
  • The Holy Spirit would give them wisdom – that they will understand the revelation of Himself, and for it to stir their hearts and draw them into a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Father.
  • The eyes of their hearts would be enlightened, that they would know the hope, power, and strength of God, made known to us through Jesus Christ

Will you pray for your Christian brothers and sisters in this way?

And will you ask God to give you the name of a specific Believer right now for whom you will pray in this way each and every day?

And then … will you send her a text message (or send a card or give her a phone call) and tell her that you prayed for her?

I promise you, it will make her day.

Advertisements

Let Me Hear From You

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s