PRAYER 2

25 Mar
     Prayer is relationship driven.  If you love someone don’t you want to speak with them regularly?  You want to learn as much about them as you can do.  You want to know what gives them joy.  Do you?   I do.  Knowing God is critical to my relationship with Him.  Both in my speaking to God through prayer and in listening for His reply, (most often through reading and studying His Word, the Bible), and also through fellowship within a body of like fellow believers in Christ.
     Continuing the series on prayer, I want to share with you one of my favorite Bible prayers.  It is found in the book of Ephesians, one of my favorite books.  It is written by the apostle Paul.  To give a very brief synopsis of Ephesians, the first 3 chapters tell us who we are in Christ.  If you ever struggle with your self-image, studying this book is a great place to start to see yourself as God sees you.  The last 3 chapters tells us, now that we are in Christ, how we want to live to show off God’s glory and keep His reputation spotless.
     The prayer for today’s reflection is one of Paul’s prayers for the Ephesians.  I don’t know about you, but I think he was well practiced in prayer.  Scripture does not tell us how Paul learned to pray, but it is clear from his writings, that not only did he know how to pray, he believed in the power of prayer.
     I’m no theologian, but I dare say all of Paul’s letters contain at least one prayer.  I don’t believe he did this as a mere formality of letter writing in his day.  I believe this was done to encourage other believers –  then and now.  I believe it was his enthusiasm and love for Christ that made Paul love to pray.
     In speaking about this passage, the Asbury Commentary says: “Paul hopes that the Ephesians will know God not only as the Father who legally adopted them but also as the Father who loves them. More than legal heirs, they are also children; …. they are members of God’s household”    As such, I believe Paul hopes they will want to know God more intimately.  As such, hopefully WE also want to know God more intimately.
     One reason I love this particular prayer in Ephesians is because reminds me, not only that God cares about my personal and detailed concerns, but with this prayer it brings in an understanding that we need to take seriously the call to pray for the spiritual needs of others.
     This is a big responsibility, particularly when I often feel inadequate about living my own spiritual life with consistency.  (*Tip: Go back and read Eph. chapters 1-3)  I chose to emphasize that it is also an incredible privilege to pray for other’s growth along their spiritual journey.  There are few things more satisfying than seeing spiritual growth in a person you pray for and care about.  This is what Paul asks for the people of Ephesus:

 

*********     Ephesians 1:17-20  (NIV)     ***********

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,20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…”

      As I look at this prayer, the first observation is Paul saying:  “I keep asking”.  He perseveres even if he does not hear an immediate answer, he continues to pray for the believers in Ephesians.  News traveled slow, but He did not stop because the need was always present.  It is still a need today.  Are we consistent in praying for the spiritual needs of others?
     Second observation is that Paul recognizes and hallows to whom he is praying.  He first asks God, (as God Almighty), then he further mentions God in Trinitarian context, as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (a title I love), and his next mention and first request is that the Holy Spirit would take particular action to benefit the Ephesian believers.
     Third, I notice what action Paul requests.  He specifically asks the Spirit to provide wisdom and revelation to the believers.  Without the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we are unable to know God.  Without the assistance of the Holy Spirit we are unable to understand anything God wants to communicate with us.  It is only through the leading of the Holy Spirit we are even able to want to know God.
     Fourth observation – Paul includes the reasons for the requests within the prayer, “so that” and “in order to”…I love that.  Do we carefully craft our prayers to know what and why we are praying for a need?   Or do we just blurt out something without understanding the reason?  I encourage you to go deeper in prayer as Paul did, and think about the reason for your request.  Why are you asking for God’s assistance in the matter?  Be specific, what is the outcome you are hoping for?  What is the “so that” and the “in order to” for your requests?  In other words, if God grants your prayer, what result would you see?
      The first reason Paul gives is for the people to know God better.  “If Paul’s prayer is answered, God will show himself to the Gentiles in particular and give them insight to understand the divine mystery of grace.” (ibit)

     What a wonderful request each of us can make for ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities.  If we, as believers, want to grow, we need to hunger to know God better.  We need to dive deep into God’s grace.  Go all in.  When I can’t think of any other prayer, I ask God to give me deeper understanding of His grace, and an unending hunger for His word.  What I want most is to know Him better.  I ask the same for my family, my friends, my pastors, and my community.
     Fifth,  I notice in His second sentence Paul moves straight to the heart of the matter.  “Heart” in this passages is considered the very center and core of life.  Prayer is a matter of the heart.  Loving God is a matter of the heart.  Knowing God is a matter of the heart.  Having Hope is a matter of the heart.  So, when Paul asks God to open the eyes of their hearts, that they may be enlightened, Paul is asking the best thing he can think of for his friends in Ephesus.  Again, Paul tells us why:  “in order” that you (the Ephesians) may know the hope to which God has called you (the Ephesians).
     Today, is it just as important to know the hope to which God has called us.  Knowing Whom our hope is, in Whom our hope is placed, knowing to Whom we belong, is a matter of the heart.  It is in our heart that we experience God’s light and life.  Through His Holy Spirit dwelling in us, that enlightenment comes from God.
     Sixth, Knowing hope and knowing our calling from God is absolutely essential in living a Christian life.  As I reflect upon this, I realize knowing the hope of our inheritance is part of a deepening appreciation of God’s plan for our lives as we journey with Him.  I also think of the many times in my journey past, when I did not have a clear vision of what God called me to do, nor why he called me.  Now days, I always come back to the same answer,  He called me because He loves me.
     God loves all His children.  He offers reconciliation to all His children, but not all people are willing.  We have free choice.  God is a gentleman and will never force himself upon us.  We and we alone are responsible for our choices and the consequences of those choices.  Let me say this a different way – I don’t want to offend anyone – but man are you missing out if you pass up God’s offer of reconciliation in Jesus Christ.
     Seventh observation, Here in the prayer for the Ephesians, Paul expands not only are we called of God, but Paul’s desire is that they realize the extent of the riches to be found in His glorious inheritance in His holy people.  Wow.  Can we ever wrap our head around that concept?  Can we ever exhaust God’s glorious riches?  Can we even take in that He is our inheritance and we are part of His?  Us?  Really?   Doesn’t that just blow your mind?  It does mine.  It calls me further into prayer, it calls me deeper, it calls me to ask the Spirit to again further enlighten my heart so I may know God better, and to be holy, even as God is holy.
      Eighth:  This prayer calls me to realize that I can’t be holy,  without God’s provision and power.  Paul continues with the request for the enlightened heart to understand God’s incomparably great power for the Ephesians who believe.  (Some translations say “toward us that believe”.)   Then he explains in vs 20, that the same power, is what God used when He raised Christ from the dead and seated Him (Christ) at His (the Father’s) right hand in the heavenly realms.
     Now I admit, I’m not a theological scholar, but it certainly seems to me that Paul is saying we have access through prayer, to the same power of God used when Christ was raised from the dead.  That is incredible power.  Simply by praying.  Again Wow.  There is no need for us to fail when we have such power available to help us along our spiritual journey.
Think on this, reflect on exactly what Paul is asking God.  Said another way, God is for us.  The surprassing greatness of God’s power is toward us who believe.  Again, Wow.
     When I’m discouraged or wondering what to pray, I know I can count on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us because the Bible says so, (Rom 8:26-27) yet I also know that when I can’t think of how to pray or what to pray for myself or others, I often turn to a prayer such as this one which shows me a practical way to prioritize prayer needs.  It is another model prayer,  one way to pray for others on their spiritual journey.  To me, that is one of the greatest privileges of all.  To intercede on behalf of others.  To ask God to work in their life.  And it is rare that I can think of something better to pray than that the eyes of someone’s heart be opened to all that God has in store for them:  All the Good, all the richness of God, all  the power to in faith ask and believe.  Have expectant hope, the knowledge of a sure thing God has promised for us.
     So I ask you, when you can’t think how to pray, where do you start?
Please let me know your thoughts about prayer and about this prayer and this reflection in particular.
*******       For further reflection or diving deeper study try looking up these verses and
                     consider what they have to say in relation to the prayer above…..                              ***********
Surrounding context:  Start at Ephesians (Eph.) 1: 15-16
     Also see
Eph. 1:3, 1:7+8, 1:11+12, Eph. 3:14-20, Eph. 4:4+5
John 14:16+17; 23-26, John 20:17
Acts 2:24, 7:2, 9:13, 26:14-18
Rom. 1:8+9, Rom 15:6, Rom. 11:29
I Cor. 2:5-10, 14:6
2 Cor. 4:6+7
Heb. 6:4
Phil. 3:21
Col. 1:9-14, 1:29

Martha L Shaw - Poet, Writer, Artist

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