Thankful Prayer Eph 1:15-18 Alive@5 4.6.17 https://youtu.be/5jukDETqTE0
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:15-18)
Tonight’s passage, Ephesians 1:15-18, begins a sharp turn in the content of Paul’s writing. He now moves from a lengthy blessing offered to God for the riches of his grace to us in Christ to the first of the two great prayers in Ephesians 1:15-19; 3:14-21. At the centre of our passage is an intercession that we might know, i.e. spiritually experience, the fullness of the blessing which is already ours in Christ. This movement from praise to prayer finds its energy in Paul’s life not through some form of religious effort but because he is stirred to fervent prayer by the greatness of the gifts of God to his people. Having received a revelation of what the Father has achieved for us “in Christ” and sealed in us by his Spirit Paul prays something that reflects the shape of God’s own life for what we pray/don’t pray is the expression of the deepest parts of our lives.
v.15 “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints”
Paul is moved to pray because of how the reality of God’s great blessing to the Church had shaped people’s lives. In particular a report has reached him about “your faith in the Lord Jesus”. In a culture were many “lords” i.e. gods were worshipped e.g. Apollo, Zeus, the Ephesian Christians had remained faithful to the one Lord, Jesus (cf. 1 Cor 8:5-6). A clear evidence of their faith in Christ was that they loved all those who love Jesus. Jesus testified; ““By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:34). And Paul counsels, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10). There’s an old song which I think puts its finger on something important. “I can see in you the glory of my king, And I love you with the love of the Lord”. We shouldn’t try to love others with the strength of our own love, but with the love that God has for them.
v.16 “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
With the exception of only one of his letters to churches (which is?….Galatians; why?….turning to ‘another gospel’) Paul always gives thanks for the recipient of his writings. You definitely don’t find this thankfulness in the writings of Moses and the prophets. Paul is so excited that the Gentiles have been included in the promises of God that he even gives thanks for the Corinthian Church, plagued by division, immorality and false teaching for their own personal unworthiness did not disqualify them from receiving the blessings of the gospel (1 Cor 1:4). Thankfulness in prayer is a thread that runs through Paul showing that he is more joyful and less serious than most of us (Rom 1:8; Phil 1:3; Col 1:3; 1 Thess 1:2; 2 Tim 1:3).
Today there’s a “gratefulness” movement spawned by positive psychology (http://gratefulness.org/). At one of our local men’s breakfast’s a GP specialising in men’s health came along and encouraged us to have an attitude of daily gratitude for life and all its goodness. One of our grandchildren goes to a school where they have a little “give thanks” creed the children say daily. The problem with all this however is that no-ne in these circles is encouraging others to give thanks to the Creator! Our society has become darkened, sharing the spiritual lostness of those Paul speaks of in the first chapter of Romans; “they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him” (Rom 1:21). The solution to the lack of thankfulness in the Christian life is provided by Paul when he tells the Ephesians he is praying for their spiritual enlightenment.
v.17 “thatthe God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,” prayer addressed to the Father who is the source and object of all revelation cf. James 1:17
Recognising “God” can mean any deity from the God the Jehovah Witnesses worship to Allah etc. Paul identifies the rue God as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory”. Everything we can know about God the Father we know through his Son Jesus. There is no other God than this God. He is “the Father of glory”, the source of all glory (Ps 24:7; 29:2; Acts 7:2Ps 24:7); The Father is the source of the splendour which enlightens our hearts (cf. Eph 1:18; 2 Cor 4:4-6). The most important thing we can say about “the Father of glory” is that he is an all glorious Father because he is the Father of Jesus! Everything God does he does through his glory because it was “the glory of the Father” that raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 6:4).
Paul is praying that the Ephesians might appreciate to the fullest extent the implications of the blessing they have already received. This can only come through “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”.
It is hugely important that we pray constantly for wisdom and revelation –because this really pleases God. When the Lord appeared to Solomon in a vision and the king asked him for wisdom rather than long life, riches or victory over enemies God was pleased and granted him “a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” (1 Ki 3:1ff.). If you ask for wisdom the Father of Jesus who has placed “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” in Christ will definitely give it (Col 2:3; James 1:5).
In the Bible wisdom cannot be separated from Christ. The prophet Isaiah announced long ago spoke about Messiah, “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,” (Isa 11:2). The same Spirit who rested on Jesus rests on Christ’s people too so Jesus promised; “he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 1:33; 16:13-14).
When it comes to spiritual things the Holy Spirit will enable us to receive, test and pass on divine truths. Paul promises us later in this letter; “we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (Eph 4:14 cf. 1 Cor 14:20). “the knowledge of him” Paul refers to is not knowledge about God but a deep inner knowing of God himself (John 17:3; Eph 4:13; Col 1:10). Paul’s prayer for spiritual insight in the lives of the Ephesians was very important for Ephesus was famous as an occult centre, and the book of Acts records in coming to Christ many of the Ephesians turned away from their dark arts and destroyed their magical books (Acts 19:17-20). In many places in the world e.g. Africa, South America, professing Christians mix native beliefs with the teaching of the Bible. This is dangerous; don’t read your “Stars” in the newspaper. The wisdom and discernment of God teaches us how to live godly lives and answers those who oppose the faith (Luke 21:14-15; Acts 6:10). Above everything else wisdom in the knowledge of God means revelation of the future glory of Christ in which we shall fully share. So Paul prays more intimately;
“18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” is a beautiful expression that seems to have been coined by Paul. The New Living Translation puts it like this, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light”. Paul’s desire is that these relatively new Christians will have a more extensive and intensive inner illumination of the things of Christ (Eph 3.18, 4:13, 23). No one can grow as a Christian without this ongoing inward understanding at the very centre of their lives. Paul no doubt was praying that his readers would have the sort of glorious insight into Christ like he had on the road to Damascus.
“that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you”. The biblical perspective on hope is radically different from our popular use of “hope”. It never means hopefulness or wishful/positive thinking. Apart from Christ the situation of people is literally hopeless; “without hope and without God in the world” Paul says (Eph 2:12). In the Bible “hope” is practically the same as the thing hoped for, “the hope of eternal life” (Tit 1:2; 3:7). In the funeral services of the Anglican Church we commit people to God “in the sure and certain hope of eternal life”; our future hope is as real as the resurrection and Return of Jesus (Tit 2:13; 1 Pet 1:3). Amazing grace means amazing hope, the future expectation of the full experience of all the divine blessings extolled in 1:3-14.
This hope is something to which we have been “called”. In the New Testament Christians are called to lots of things e.g. to a new life in Christ (Rom 8:30; 1 Cor 1:9), to share Christ’s suffering (1 Pet 2:21). Most broadly we are called to be a part of all God’s purposes in Jesus. There are no qualification for this call and it is, as Paul says in Romans, “irrevocable/it can never be withdrawn” (Rom 11:29). This means once called always called; such a divine calling is an act of creation and election, that moves us from not experiencing God’s love to being loved forever. cf. “I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’….and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” (Hos 2:23 cf. Rom 9:25-26). Whatever you’re past when God calls you, you have a new future. Finally Paul prays that they know,
“what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”. It is utterly remarkable that God has an inheritance in us. This is a rich Old Testament theme e.g. “the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day” (Deut 4:20 cf. 9:29; 32:9; 2 Sam 21:3; 1 Ki 8:51; 53; 2 Ki 21:14; Ps 33:12; 106:40; 135:4; Isa 47:6; Jer 10:16; Zech 2:12). One commentator puts this well when he says; “As an earthly king values treasuries full of silver and gold, God values his people as his wealth and honour.” (Arnold). God reaps a rich harvest, consisting of his holy people/saints. This all sounds good but to appreciate it we need deep spiritual insight. The “riches of his (God’s) glorious inheritance in the saints” is intimately related to “how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27), and later in Ephesians itself, “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus….the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 2:7; 3:8 cf. Rom 9:23; Eph 3:16). We are of such value to God, infinitely beyond anything worldly riches might mean to us, because he has put the life of his utterly invaluable Son in us. When we get to heaven each of us will be fully sharing in the eternal all-glorious life of Jesus, each of us “ransomed…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 …chosen before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet 1:18-20).
Ephesians 1:15-18 is one of the most elevated prayers in the Bible and it is so lofty because Paul asks God to do everything and us to do nothing. This is exactly what prayer is meant to be! It is only when God reveals Christ to our hearts do we find the power to love, obey and serve him whatever life’s obstacles may be. This is NOT the priority in the praying of most Christians. Most of our prayers are back to front, we pray for the health and welfare of those whom we love, peace in the world and so on, somehow assuming that this will lead people to a more abundant life. It doesn’t. The easier a person’s life the less they acknowledge and thank God for all his goodness. Did Paul care about the material and relational circumstances of the Ephesians –he definitely did, as his instructions about conduct, marriage and family life later in the letter show. But first things must be first and this was to pray that God reveal himself to his hearers. This section of Ephesians is a call for a radical revolutionary reordering of our priorities in prayer, that our prayers become, if you like, more spiritual. Prayers to the glorious Father that he might reveal to our hearts the greatness of the things he has called us to in his Son. Are you downcast today? When people are anxious, fretting, depressed they look down to the earth instead of looking up to the heavenly places. Instead of looking down let’s hear the word and allow the Spirit to lift our hearts to be with Christ, let’s pray and agree that our hearts “will be flooded with light”.