Paul's heartfelt prayer for the Ephesians - Download This Episode
In my last message we looked at the first 14 verses of Ephesians 1. The title was, “Chosen, redeemed and sealed”. We drew on three main points.
1. That were chosen by God before the foundation of the world and out of love He adopted us into His eternal family.
2. That Christ redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sin and paying the price to redeem us back to God.
3. That we were are sealed by the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our eternal inheritance.
Paul set the scene to remind us of these three vitally important foundations for us as Christians. If we are going to move on in Christ, we need to understand these three great truths – we are chosen, redeemed and sealed.
In the next section we move on to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. Hence, the title of my message. This is the first of two prayers Paul records in this book. The first is found in Ephesians 1:15-23 and the second is found in chapter 3 verse 14-21.
Today I want to look at the first prayer and look at some of the things Paul prayed for the church he planted.
Bible Reading – Ephesians 1:15-23
15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere,
16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,
17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.
18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called–His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.
19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power
20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
21 Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else–not only in this world but also in the world to come.
22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church.
23 And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.
In the first part we see that Paul has not stopped praying for the church since he heard about their faith. Paul planted this church and spent a lot of time with them, but it seems he had a good report to him in Rome and he was very thankful.
So, what did Paul pray in these verses? What did he want for the Ephesians? Paul prayed both thanksgiving for what he heard and he also interceding for them to have certain things. I will break this down and share six things.
Point 1 – Paul prayed for Spiritual Insight and Wisdom
In verse 16-17 Paul says, “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.”
Paul wanted them to have a greater degree of spiritual insight and wisdom. We all need that as we go through this world.
If there is one thing I have learned about living the Christian life is that we need to keep growing in my knowledge of the Lord. We need to keep moving forward in our relationship with God. To do this we need more spiritual insight and wisdom.
This is the NLT that uses the term spiritual wisdom and insight. In the NIV and the KJV it says the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
This is Paul’s heart. He wants us to have spiritual insight and wisdom, so we can know God better.
What did Paul want us to understand? Points 2-6 touch on these…
Point 2 – Paul prayed they would understand the confident hope
In verse 18 Paul says, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called–His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance.”
The phrase hearts flooded with light means, Paul wants God to reveal truth to them. Remember Jesus described Himself as the light. So, it makes sense that Paul used the term flooded with light.
What did he want them to understand? One thing is the confident hope they had in Christ.
Biblical Hope according to one of my Bible dictionaries is a “Certainty in the present and firm expectation for the future”.
This ties in with Hebrews 11:1 tell us that, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see”.
We have a hope, a great hope, a hope that is not of this world. It is our hope that we are saved in Christ, that we are co-heirs with Christ, and we have an eternal home waiting for us. And as a result, we look forward to the day when we see Christ face to face.
Paul prayed they would understand the confident hope they had in Christ.
Point 3 – Paul prayed they would understand the greatness of God’s power
Verse 19-20 continue. “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honour at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
God is all powerful. There is no-one or nothing more powerful than our God. Nothing even comes close. God created this world we live in. God has the power to create and sustain life. God has the power to raise the dead.
When we understand that we are connected to a God that is all powerful it changes our world. We can have faith knowing that God is in control because of His mighty power. Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand this. God wants us to understand it today.
Ephesians 3:20 reminds us, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
Not only does God have unlimited power, but He wants to work in and through us. Often, we try to do everything in our own strength. Sometimes we do well, sometimes we fail. But I have learned that this life works best when I let God work through me. When I pray, “I surrender Lord, please use me, let your power flow through. Let me love, show compassion and serve in Your strength”, life and ministry flow more effectively. God wants to work His power through us. And when He does, He is able to accomplish much more was we can ask or imagine.
We need to understand the unlimited power of God at work in the world and the unlimited power of God at work in and through us to touch the world around us.
Point 4 – Paul prayed they would understand that Christ is above all things
Verses 21 – Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come.
Verse 21 flows on from this idea of an all-powerful God. Not only is He all powerful, but He is above every other ruler, leader, power or authority. He is far above all things in this world and the world to come.
Philippians 2:9-11 echoes this thought. “Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
We worship an all-powerful God who has supreme authority over everything, for all time. From eternity to eternity, He is God.
Paul wanted the Ephesians to understand this too. That they were connected to a God who controls human history. When we understand that we are chosen, redeemed and sealed by a God who is above all things, we can stand a little bit taller and live our lives accordingly.
God wants us to live in this place. A place where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is in control and nothing or no-one compares to His power or His authority. He is above all things. Far, far above all things. Nothing comes close.
Point 5 – Paul prayed that they would understand that Christ is over all things and the head of the church
Verse 22 – God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made Him head over all things for the benefit of the church.
As we have seen in the last points, He is not just a King of a region with limited power, He is a King that is far above all things with unlimited power. This is the King who invites us in to be His sons and daughters in His eternal family. We are part of this all-powerful Kingdom that has Christ as the head of the church.
Christ is the head of the church. When we ask Christ into our lives, we ask Him to be our Lord and Saviour. This means He is our ruler and our King. The King of kings and Lord of lords, becomes our personal King. He is our King as individual members of the church, and He is our King of our church, and the church global.
Two other verses from Colossians touch on this idea too. These are also writings of Paul…
Colossians 1:18 says, “Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So, He is first in everything.”
Colossians 2:19 also tells us that, “Christ, the head of the body. For He holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.”
Christ is the head of the church, His body, and He holds it all together. Our King, the one we bow our hearts and knees before, holds it all together.
Point 6 – Paul prayed that they would understand that we are Christ’s body
Verse 23 – And the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself.
Verse 23 tells us three great truths…
- that His body the church,
- The church is made full and complete by Christ, and
- Jesus fills all things with Himself.
Romans 12:4-5 says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other”.
Romans 12 reminds us two more great truths…
- The first that even though we are many parts of Christ’s body we all have a special function. God has a special work for each of us to do.
- The second is that even though we are all separated parts, we all belong to each other. I am not my own. I was brought at a price.
Church, we are His Christ’s hands, we are Christ’s feet, we are Christ’s mouth and we are Christ’s heart in this world.
And the church is made complete and filled by Him. Christ fills His church with His love, so we can love each other and loves others; He fills the church with His gifts, so we can serve each other and the people around us; and He fills the church with His power, so we can make an eternal impact when we allow His power to flow through us.
Because the church is full of Christ and completed by Him, we know we can live this life with confidence knowing we ARE on the winning team.
Church we are Christ’s body, His hands and feet.
Today we looked at Ephesians 1:15-23 and saw Paul’s heartfelt prayer for the Ephesians. We saw that not only was it Paul’s heart for the Ephesians, but it is God’s heart for us today. We looked at six main points…
1. Paul prayed for Spiritual Insight and Wisdom
2. Paul prayed they would understand the confident hope
3. Paul prayed they would understand the greatness of God’s power
4. Paul prayed they would understand that Christ is above all things
5. Paul prayed they would understand that Christ is the head of the church
6. Paul prayed they would understand that we are Christ’s body