WHAT TO PRAY FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS EVERYTHING - PART 2
These are my notes for teaching our online Bible study on Wednesday, May 27, 2020.
Part 4 of Ephesians, Ephesians 1:15-19
What to pray for someone who has everything.
Last week, we began an exploration of the prayer at the end of Ephesians chapter one. I called it what to pray for someone who has everything. That's a bit of a play on words (mostly in my mind). First, most of us have everything and we wonder what to ask God for. Secondly, the first part of Ephesians 1 declares that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. In other words, we already have everything in the spiritual realm.
Last week was mostly introduction and we also looked at the first request in the prayer. I won't bore you with a long recap. Suffice it to say that the prayer asks that the Holy Spirit would enable us to experience as fully as possible everything God has given us in Christ.
The first request.
The first request is to know God better. To know about him and to know him, experientially, personally. Both are important since what we don't know about God can result in all kinds of flaky ideas, and when we don't know him in a relational way, it results in dry, dead, formalism - head knowledge without heart experience. We need both and the prayer makes that clear. Let's read the prayer and explore the three other requests.
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.
REQUEST TWO: TO KNOW OUR HOPE - v. 1:18b
(Ephesians 1:18a) 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 ...
This request is for hope. Biblical hope is not "hope so," wishful thinking. It is more like "confident assurance" for the present and future. Hope is the result of believing God's promises in the gospel and it is a defining characteristic of a Jesus-follower. Christians live in hope.
Where does hope come from? Verse 18 indicates that it comes from our calling. Let's take a moment and explore our calling and see how it can produce hope in our lives:
We are called into union with Jesus Christ: (1 Corinthians 1:9) God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
We are called into God's kingdom and glory: (1 Thessalonians 2:12) ... encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
We have been called into God's new creation - from darkness to light: (1 Peter 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
We are called into God's redeeming purpose - by God for conformity to Christ, justification, glorification: (Romans 8:28-30) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
We are called to holy living: (2 Timothy 1:9) He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.
We are called to eternal blessings: (Hebrews 9:15) For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
Our calling changes our situation in the present and in the future. God intervenes in our lives, then he transfers us into the sphere of his grace and power, and he shapes and guarantees our future. Hope rises when we make what God has done, is doing, and will do the source of our confidence for today and the future.Our hope is based on God's call in our lives, not on our plans or strategies. Whatever happens to us today cannot derail God's plan and purpose for us. That's why Paul wrote:
(Titus 2:11-14) For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
So, what is the point of the second prayer request? In my own words, it is a prayer that we will, in every situation, experience total confidence that everything God says I am, I am; everything God says I have, I have; and everything God says he will do, he will do. He will not fail but will ultimately give us everything he has promised. Therefore, we experience a calm assurance through every storm: what God has promised, he will do.
WESLEY'S MISSING HOPE
John Wesley was onboard a ship bound for the Georgia colony in early 1736 when a ferocious storm shredded the main sail and flooded the decks.
Many of the English passengers aboard screamed in terror that they would soon be swallowed by the deep. But a group of Moravian missionaries from Germany calmly sang throughout the squall. They were unafraid of death, an astounded John Wesley later recounted in his journal.
That journey marked Wesley’s first significant encounter with a small Protestant movement that would have an enormous influence on his ministry and the Methodist movement he started.
Two years later, a disheartened Wesley was back in England wrestling with his Christian faith after a miserable time in Georgia. On May 24, 1738, friends prevailed upon him to attend a Moravian society meeting on Aldersgate Street in London.
Many United Methodists can recite what happened next. That night, upon hearing Martin Luther’s preface to Romans, Wesley wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation.” Wesley’s spiritual awakening was a turning point in his life, and arguably it might not have happened without the Moravians.
IF GOD ANSWERED THIS REQUEST
Our progress through the prayer is slow, but our insights are vitally important. What should we expect if God answers our prayers to know the hope of our calling?
We should expect:
Renewed focus on and confidence in Jesus Christ, the only source of hope. Therefore, our hearts will be saturated in his person, work, and return.
(1 Peter 1:3-4) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.
Less confidence in our plans and strategies for ensuring our present and future wellbeing. Hope is not tied to anything we have or can do.
(Psalms 39:7) But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV-WS) This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
Calm through the storms of life since our circumstances can neither build nor destroy our hope.
(Psalms 20:7) Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
(Job 13:15) Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
Confirmation of the priority of hope. It is a vital element of the key characteristics of a Christian - faith, hope, and love.
(Romans 15:13) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Increased motivation to endure in faith until the end:
(Romans 15:4) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
How can we cultivate hope in our lives? Well, obviously, given that we've been studying Paul's prayer, we should pray for hope; not only in our lives, but also for others. The Lord hears and answers our prayers, especially for those virtues that he values as much as hope.
The second thing we can do is to amplify the value of hope in our lives. That may be difficult to do when life is going well. But remember, life will not always be easy and what carries us through the hard times is hope in God. The thing that keeps us in faith through the storms of life is hope. We amplify the value of hope by studying it. Learn what it is and where it comes from. You could use this Bible study to build your foundation of hope.
Finally, we can cultivate hope in our lives by using a daily affirmation. It could be a Bible passage that we memorize and speak daily (see the verses in this study), or it could be an affirmation paraphrasing and summarizing the Bible. For example:
Today, I choose to hope in God. I affirm that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. God never fails. Therefore, I put my trust in his promises and in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing and that will never change. No matter what happens to me today, I declare that God is always loving and keeping me. His Spirit is at work in me and for me. God's plan and purpose for me is succeeding and I am being conformed to Christ. In the end I will share in his glory and receive my eternal inheritance.
Something like that. Or something simple: "Today, I put my hope in God. I am who he says I am. I have what he says I have. I will be what he says I will be and I will have what he says I will have. Jesus never fails. Amen."
Or, you could use the old hymn, Solid Rock:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus's name
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev'ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
His oath His covenant His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay.
When he shall come with trumpet sound
O, may I then be in him be found
Dressed in his righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand