WHAT TO PRAY FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS EVERYTHING - PART 1
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Wednesday, May 13, 2020.
Part 3 of Ephesians. Online Bible Study, Ephesians 1:15-19.
Welcome to online Bible study. Thanks for joining the group this evening. Before we go any further, please take a moment to share this with all your friends. Let them know what you're doing and ask them to join!
This is part 3 of a teaching series on the apostle Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus. I'm very excited to present these studies and I know your faith will be strengthened and built up by joining me.
We'll get started in a moment, but first ...
Do you get asked to pray for people - family, friends, co-workers, etc?
Suppose someone asks you to pray for them in general terms but they don't give you any more details. How do you figure out what to pray?
How do you know what to pray for your kids? Or your spouse?
Maybe you're a small group leader, how do you know what to pray for your small group members?
What if you lead a church? What should you pray for your flock?
Good prayers don't exactly pop into my mind. I have a hard time knowing what to pray without sounding repetitive and kind of boring. Who wants to bore God? I need help in the prayer department, so I often turn to the prayers in the Bible. The psalms are prayers. But my favorite go-to resource are the prayers of Paul. And my favorite one of the those is in Ephesians 1:15-23.
I call this the "prayer to pray for someone who has everything." Today and next week, I'd like us to take a close look at this prayer. I want to equip you to use this as your go-to prayer.
THE PRAYER IN EPHESIANS 1:15-23
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God's people, 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 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, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, 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.
Before we explore the four requests in this prayer, let's take a moment to get oriented to some important details that will affect how we pray for people. Before praying, remember this ...
BEFORE PRAYING, REMEMBER THIS
This is a prayer for people who know Christ as their God and Savior. Paul prays for people who are saved and are now on the lifelong journey of sanctification, which is the process of becoming conformed to the character of Christ. We know this because of verse 15, which contains a description of the saved person:
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and your love for all God's people ...
The phrase, "For this reason," points back to verse 13:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,
The prayer for those who don't know Christ should focus on their salvation; that is, for the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of their hearts to see Christ as God and Savior so that they turn to him in faith.
This prayer assures us that God has the power to hear and answer what we ask. This is revealed in verse 17:
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation ...
Here, Paul describes God as Father, Lord, and Spirit, the Triune God. That directs our minds to God's immense and unlimited power displayed in all that he has done in the world from the creation onwards (3:14-15), especially his power in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides us with "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (verses 3-14).
In verse 17, God is also the "glorious Father" or the Father of glory, which reveals that he is the source of all glory. Jesus is also the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1). In the Bible, the glory of God is related to his power, greatness, and ability; for example: the resurrection is a manifestation of the power and glory of God (1 Corinthians 6:14; Romans 6:4). Verse 19 reminds us that he possesses "incomparably great power" and "mighty strength."
This prayer (as well as verses 3-14) reminds us that God is focused on developing people's spiritual insight and Christlike character. It is not a prayer for material blessings.
This prayer can be repeated over and over. We see this in verses 16-17:
I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking ..."
BIG PICTURE OF THE PRAYER
Now, with all that background in mind, let's do one more thing before we move ahead: Let's look at the big picture and the main focus of the prayer. That will really help us to get a good handle on what to pray.
I read a story about the late William Randolph Hearst. He invested a fortune in his art collection. Once, he sent his agent around the world to track down a particular piece of art he wanted to add to his collection. After several months, the agent reported that he had found the piece. Guess where. Yup, it was in Hearst's warehouse all along. He owned it but he didn't know it.
That's a good picture of the core of this prayer. God wants us to understand and experience the great wealth we already have in Christ. We own all these spiritual blessings in Christ, but we may not know it, or we may not be living in the fullness of it. The prayer does not ask God to give us what we do not have, but to reveal what we already have and to give us the ability to receive it, experience it, and live in light of it in every situation.
When God answers this prayer, it will change us in significant ways:
We will be filled with praise and thanksgiving and a positive, overcoming attitude.
We will never doubt that we are loved by God.
We will stop striving and worrying. Instead, we'll rest in God who is good and great.
Now let's explore the first of the four requests that are at the core of this prayer for someone who has everything. Next week, we'll look at the other three requests.
This is how to pray for someone who has everything.
THE FOUR REQUESTS
Request #1: To Know God - verse 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.
Every believer has two kinds of knowledge of God:
First, there is knowledge ABOUT God, such as facts and doctrines that we develop from the faith and reason - the Bible and creation and history, etc. This is very important and necessary kind of knowledge and it is a truly wonderful and gracious gift from God. Without it, we cannot properly know ourselves, our world, our purpose or any other important insight about life. God doesn't have to reveal himself to us, but he has been doing it since the beginning when he used to visit with Adam and Eve in the Garden.
The second kind of knowledge is knowledge OF God, which is a very personal, experiential, knowledge. Knowing Psalm 23 is different from knowing the Shepherd. This kind of knowledge results in clear changes in our lives, such as:
Strong love and affection for God.
Delight in God and true, heartfelt, worship.
Waiting on the Lord, meditation, time with the Lord.
Making war on the sin in our lives.
Surrender to and alignment with God's purposes.
Courage to step out in risky, uncomfortable, faith for God's sake.
Paul's request is for this second kind of knowledge. This is the knowledge we experience only in Jesus Christ by the power of the "Spirit of wisdom and revelation." The Holy Spirit works this into our hearts. He opens the eyes of our hearts to see the true beauty, glory, excellence, grace, love and goodness of God. We can only pray this into people; we cannot push them into it.
How does the Holy Spirit work this knowledge into our hearts?
First, by revealing Jesus as God WITH us. So when we read about Jesus in the Bible, the Spirit may give us insights into the character, will, and ways of God. He makes ink on paper come alive. Jesus is the Word who reveals God to us and the Spirit can make Jesus burn in our hearts as we read the Bible or listen to a worship song or hear a prayer.
Then, the Spirit is God IN us. He reveals God to us deep in our hearts, at the core of our being; not like an object to observe, but as our very real Lord, our Father, our Friend, our Helper, our Redeemer, our Righteousness, and so on (verses 3-14).
To know God in a relational sense is the most gracious gift of all. There is nothing better than to know him like that. Psalm 84 describe someone who know God like that; verse 2: "my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." Paul wrote it this way:
(Philippians 4:8a) I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord
A person can have all the world, but if they don't have this personal, relational, internal, knowledge of God, they are missing the greatest thing. Do you remember the worship song that goes, "The greatest thing in all my life is knowing you, I want to know you more ..."? You can only write something like that if you know God in that experiential way.
Don't you think this is a great prayer for everyone we know? If God answered, don't you think it would spark a revival?
Here's the good news: In Jesus Christ, we have access to that relational knowledge of God. There is nothing in the way.
Here's the bad news: We may not know it or we may not be experiencing it.
If that's you, as it is too often me, then pray Paul's prayer for yourself and ask someone else to pray for you: "Father, please give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that I may know you better."
To know God is what you were born for. It's why God made humans in the first place. It is the goal of life. There is nothing better.
If it crosses your mind, please pray Paul's first request for me. I want to know God better. I want to know him in a way that makes everything else a loss.
The greatest thing in all our lives is knowing God.
OK. That's all for this evening. Join me again next week as we explore the rest of the prayer.