It is a great privilege to be able to listen to an experienced and godly brother or sister pray. We can learn many lessons to apply to our own praying, not least from the concerns that fuel their prayers. We often think of Paul as an outstanding preacher and theologian, but he was also a man of prayer from whom we can learn much as he intercedes for the church. Consider Ephesians 1:15-19 Praying for the church.
1. Paul’s concern for the church
We have a precious insight into Paul’s pastoral heart in v16 ‘I have not stopped giving thanks for you’. His prayers for the Ephesians are a regular concerted effort on his part. That concern is not confined to the Ephesians, but extend to other churches, both established by him (Corinth) and those not known personally to him (Colossae). He expresses that concern in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 ‘my concern for all the churches’. He longed for their growth – ‘I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you’ (Galatians 4:19). This challenges us as to our concern for fellow Christians. How much do we wrestle in prayer?
2. Paul’s thanksgiving for the church
The ground of Paul’s thanksgiving is expressed in v15 ‘your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints’. Here are Paul’s priorities for them – their spiritual state: note:
(i). Faith. Their progress in the strength and depth of their faith. Faith that is growing ought to characterise a congregation. He thanks God ‘because your faith is growing’ (2 Thessalonians 1:3). That should be our concern too.
(ii). Love. Love is the outworking of faith, a love that will show itself in action. This is the outstanding mark of our faith before a watching world – ‘All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another’ (John 13:35).
3. Paul’s request for the church
The substance of his intercession is in v17-18. He addresses ‘the Father of glory’ (v17), befitting a prayer for enlightenment. He asks that the father ‘may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation’ – the ministry of the Holy Spirit who seals believers (v13). The Spirit guides God’s people into truth (John 16:132). The focus is on a knowledge of God that shapes and changes believers. It is a living experiential knowledge (John 17:3).
4. Paul’s vision for the church
Paul highlights specific areas on which he wants the light of the Spirit to be shed (v18-19):
(i). the hope of his calling. We are helped in our battle with sin when we consider the life to which the Lord has called us. Our hope is of full salvation, a sure hope.
(ii). the riches of his glory. This is bound up with what Christ has secured for us. It magnifies his grace when we consider the fulness of God’s provision for us in Christ.
(iii). the greatness of his power. By his power in us sin, Satan and death are defeated. Nothing can rob us of our inheritance in Christ, and so we are confident in service.