“Let’s Pray”

Ephesians 1:15-23

We are in the first chapter of the Book of Ephesians, a letter Paul wrote to a group of new Christian churches around the city of Ephesus, while sitting in prison. Paul had spent a couple of years planting and encouraging these congregations to grow. Unlike all of the other letters we have from Paul, this letter does not address any particular person or problem. It actually reads more like an essay.

Paul’s focus is on the development of a new covenant family with God. This new family consisted of a whole new understanding of who God loved. In addition to the Israelites, from God’s old covenant, Jesus’ life, death and resurrection now allowed non-Jews, slaves and masters. Paul knew this would take time to work out. 

So he was writing to them to explain how to live in this new community under this new covenant.  

Paul started his letter with a beautiful poem of praise to the triune God, which we read last week. We read how God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit, three in one, illuminates God’s blessings. We read how God’s plan was to create a community that comes together and is restored in the midst of a broken world.

Today we are going to start reading a prayer that Paul then writes, about these Christians who are part of this community. This passage is quite dense with lots of details and we won’t be able to address all of them but overall this passage teaches us some important things about prayer. 

First Paul gives us the purpose of prayer. Then he will share three things we should be praying for each other. 

Before we dig into the Scripture, I would like to provide an example of the kind of life Paul is praying these new Christians will exhibit. 

Two men come to my mind, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friend Friedrich von Bodelschwingh. Many of you have probably heard of Bonhoeffer, I’m not so sure you have heard of his friend Freidrich von Bodelschwingh. I came across his name while reading about Bonhoeffer. Friedrich’s father had taken headship of what is known as the Bethel Foundation, in Germany, back in 1872. At the time it was a mini village, where individuals with epilepsy could be taken care of. It expanded to provide a place for homeless men, and those with mental and physical illnesses. Today it is the largest Christian charitable care network for the mentally ill and disabled, in Europe. 

It is currently in over 14 cities, and consists of hospitals, housing, clinics that are all committed to the care of the mentally and physically disabled, in the name of Jesus. Bonhoeffer visited Friedrich many times and need I remind you that these men were both pastors during the time of WWII and the reign of the Nazis. I put a portion of the biography by Eric Metaxas in my Pastor’s Pondering. Let me read to you his description of Bonhoeffer’s view of this place Bethel. 

‘the antithesis of the Nietzchean worldview that exalted power and strength. It was the gospel made visible, a fairy-tale landscape of grace, where the weak and helpless were cared for in a palpably Christian atmosphere’ 

I think Metaxas phrased this so well by calling the town, where the gospel was made visible, “a fairy-tale landscape of grace.” 

Here was a place that lived under the rule of a different king, King Jesus. When outside this city the Nazi leaders were following another earthly king, Hitler. It is well known that millions of Jewish people were killed during WWII by the Germans, but they were not the only ones that were provided “mercy killing” because they did not fit their Aryan race. Hundreds of thousands of mentally and physically disabled people were also murdered. In fact, the Nazi police came to Bethel numerous times demanding to be allowed to take care of those living there. But Friedrich managed to hold on to the belief that he was accountable to a higher power, Jesus. Can you imagine the stress of living inside this bubble of Bethel while Hitler and the Nazis are annihilating anyone and anything that did not match what they deemed as powerful and beautiful. Yet, Friedrich took what Jesus had said to be true, that all human beings, even the weak and helpless are important in God’s eyes. 

Now you might be listening to this story and think, Wow! That’s inspiring but that doesn’t exactly fit into my life. However, I am going to challenge you right now to hold off on such a view. Because I believe this kind of life is exactly the kind of life Paul is praying for when he writes to the churches in Ephesus. It’s the kind of life that looks at the landscape of our culture and says, my allegiance is not to this world, but first and foremost to King Jesus. Whatever powers to be, or values or worldviews that  exist around me, they no longer have power over me. We live under the reign of a different king, not only as an individual but as a community of believers. Paul’s vision was that this prayer would generate little “fairy tale lands of grace” in the churches that he was praying for. 

What would motivate someone to be like Freidrich von Bodelschwingh? Basically a lot of prayer. That’s exactly what we are going to read about. 

If you are like me, as you read this prayer it seems wordy with a lot of Bibily language. This may cause us to just read right over what Paul is getting at. It’s my hope that as we read this together, we will comprehend the purpose this prayer has to provide individuals with the power needed to make large positive impacts in our world. 

Let’s begin at verse 15, 

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

At the writing of this letter, Paul is in prison, far away. It’s been a while since he has been around Ephesus. He’s heard that they are continuing in the faith and in their love for each other. That news has encouraged Paul to not stop praying for them. 

That seems a little backwards doesn’t it? 

How often do we pray for those who have faith, 

are doing well and are living for Jesus?  

Generally we pray for those we feel are in need of something. 

Paul was praying because he had heard of their faith and their love, not that they had cancer or that they were treating each other badly. Much of the time, Christians today think of prayer as crisis management. Something goes wrong so we pray. So and so needs your prayer because something bad has happened or there was a tragedy. That’s true, people do need your prayers when something bad is happening. 

But that is not what Paul is saying here. He hears they’re doing great and keeps praying for them. 


Paul sees that prayer is adding fuel to a fire that is already burning. Just like prayer is needed when the fire is going out. I think this is a great insight for us as we think about prayer. Prayer is very important in times of crisis and it is very important in times when it’s not in crisis. The purpose of prayer is for us to know God better. Therefore, we need to keep talking to God about those in our lives, always. Regardless of whether they are doing great or things are going bad. 

Let’s look next at how Paul prays. How are we supposed to pray for people in our church and in our Bible studies?

How do we pray for each other? Let’s look at what Paul prays for, 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. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened ….”

One thing I would like you to notice is what Paul is “not” praying for. He is not praying for their circumstances. It seems that one of the things we often pray for is so and so has just had an accident or surgery or something that has happened to them. We pray for their circumstances, “Lord, please provide this, healing, money, a job.” 

It’s interesting that in this prayer and many others of his prayers, Paul does not pray for their circumstances. He prays for something else, he prays for the 

“Spirit of wisdom.” 

So whatever circumstances are in their lives, that it will become an opportunity for them to draw closer to Jesus, in relationship, 

“so you may know Him better.” 

Basically, Paul is praying that whatever the circumstance, good or bad, that we could find God in the midst of it. 

Paul goes on to pray that “the eyes of (their) heart(s) may be enlightened.” 

That they will be able to see Jesus right there in their midst, going through whatever the circumstance may be. Which is who the Holy Spirit is in the Bible, God’s personal presence with every Christian. Jesus promised to be with us when things are good and when things are bad. Paul is claiming this presence in his prayer for the churches. He prays that the circumstance would open a new avenue of maturity in them through their circumstance, through the Spirit. This is a way we can pray for each other. 

Think of Friedrich, when the Nazis came knocking at the front door of the Bethel community, he would have likely thought, 

“Jesus, where are you?” 

What Paul would have prayed would have been something like, “Friedrich, you are on a journey, and this is an opportunity for you to lean into Jesus in a new way that you have never had to do before.” This becomes a moment of growth for him. 

Check in time….. What about you? 

This is a difficult pill to swallow. 

Have you ever been at a place in your life when you have wondered, 

“Jesus, have you abandoned me?” 

When, based on the circumstances, for all extensive purposes it looks like you are doomed?

Paul is praying, and so should we,

“that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened ….”

Next week we will go on to read about the three things that Paul wants them to know but today let’s focus on the purpose of prayer, that the

eyes of our hearts may be enlightened ….

so that we may know Him better””

As Christians, we are called to live “in the kingdom” where Jesus is King and in control of all our circumstances. 

So, whatever is happening, good or bad, Jesus is right in the midst, as King. Our allegiance is to the King of another Kingdom, a heavenly kingdom that will one day reign, because of the sacrifice made by the King Himself. 

Today we recognize that sacrifice by participating in the Lord’s Supper. 

I can bring this home even closer. Last year, at my school, a group of students got together, to bring me down and they succeeded in having me, convicted of child abuse. The Department of Child Protective Services investigated and decided the students were right and I was removed from the class. My teaching license was suspended and I was immediately removed from the classroom. It was ridiculous but it was out of my control. I was placed on administrative leave while there was an “investigation.” I was offered the opportunity to rebut the allegations however, I was told by the lawyer I was appointed to that it would take over a year. He also warned me that there had never been a case where the Department of Child Protective Services had claimed child abuse had been overturned. The best hope I had was to go to trial and hope to have an older judge who might actually listen to me. My superintendent offered me a severance package in hopes I would resign and they could be done with it. I knew the truth and chose to rebut.  

Let’s keep going, 

Paul goes on to pray for three specific realizations for these new Christians. Look at verses 18 & 19, 

“in order that you may know,” 

Three things…

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…”

1 – the hope to which he has called you, 

2 – the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 

3 – and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Three things he prays for them. Let’s look at these as a model of what we can pray for other people. 

Let’s look at the first thing, 

that you may know – the hope to which he has called you, 

The Christian life is about taking a posture of hope. Hope is that my circumstances don’t determine the meaning of my life. Whatever the present state of the world is, whatever the present state of your life is, those circumstances get to determine the meaning of your life… ever! Christian hope is that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, something so surprising happens. It means that our lives may suck, and the state of the world may be horrible, but I believe that God who brings life out of death, who came among us to personally bear the results of all the stupid selfish things we do, on the cross, has reversed that into life. This can spread and spread and bring new life to more and more human beings, who can grab on to Jesus. If that is the God we follow, then one of the disciplines of the Christian life and what Paul prays for them, is that we never forget this future hope that God has called us to. God is making all things new. He’s doing that right now, in the present, in this broken world and He will complete that work when Jesus returns. 

We have hope. Our present circumstances do not determine our life. Jesus Christ, the hope of glory determines our life. 

Paul goes on to the second thing he prays for the church, 

“that you may know, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” 

That sounds pretty Biblily, doesn’t it? Actually Paul has taken a handful of different Biblical phrases right out of the Old Testament, Hebrew scholar that he is. They are phrases that were used to describe the people of ancient Israel, God’s covenant family, that He rescued out of slavery in Egypt, brought to Mount Sinai and made as a covenant family with Himself. He takes these right out of the Torah, in Deuteronomy 4:20, Moses says, 

“But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.”

Moses goes on to say in chapter 7,

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you (the concept of election that we talked about last week) out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”

The idea here is not that God happens to like ancient Israelites better than anyone else. This is the theme of election in the Bible. In order to bring blessing and redemption to all the nations of the Earth, He starts by redeeming and blessing one family, making them His special and covenant people so that they can be His witnesses to the character and the mercy of this redeeming God to all of the nations. 

How does Israel do? Not so well. 

Paul’s deep conviction that out of the covenant family that God chose out of Israel, has come to fulfillment in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In King Jesus. So for all of those who reach out and find themselves in Jesus, in the King, they find themselves among the chosen ones. Which now includes both Jewish people and any other kind of people. 

He is using these words that only described ancient Israel to now describe this new family that includes even Gentiles, that have been brought together because of Jesus. Which Paul will focus on later in this letter. 

Paul is praying that we would wake up to the fact that we as God’s chosen people, are God’s own treasured, special possessions. He prays that we would wake up to the privilege and the calling to what it means to be called the people of God’s own inheritance. 

Note it’s a privilege but it is also a calling, which brings us to Paul’s third point…

Paul prays for 

1 – the hope to which he has called you, 

2 – the riches of being his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 

Here’s the third thing…Paul prays that these Christians would come to know 

3 – his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Paul wants these Christians to open their eyes to this resource of power that is apparently available to us if we had eyes to see it and would open up to that fact. 

I don’t know what you think when you hear the word power? The most part, in our cultural setting the word “power” is not a positive word. We have experienced power as being able to do whatever to heck you want. Or having the resources and ability to do whatever you want. 

So what does it mean when Paul says you have this power or resource available to you?

But, Paul is very quick to qualify what type of power he means. He says it is a very specific kind of power available to Christians if you have eyes to see it. Look at what he says, 

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.