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PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE SAINTS – Ephesians 1:15-23

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on February 22, 2017 under AM Bible Study |

AM Bible Study Group; February 22, 2017 from Ephesians 1:15-23

Theme: Paul prays that his Christian friends would receive a God-empowered knowledge of the rich blessings that are theirs in Christ.

(All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated).

The apostle Paul was a big believer in the power of prayer. His letters often feature a word or two of how he was praying for his Christian readers. And that’s also true of his letter to the Ephesians. This letter, in fact, contains two great sections describing his prayer for his readers—the second one being in 3:14-19; and the first being our passage this morning in 1:15-23. (He also wasn’t afraid to ask his readers to be praying for him; as we see in 6:18-20.)

It’s important to notice where this great introductory statement of prayer is found in his letter. He had just gotten through describing the work of the Persons of the Trinity in the salvation of his readers (1:4-14); and the things that the Persons do serve as the basis of the confidence of his prayers. This is clear by the fact that he begins his statement of prayers for them with the word, “Therefore …” And his prayers are also very purposeful; because he is about to talk in detail about God’s grace toward His readers beginning in Chapter 2—telling them about how they were dead in trespasses and sins, and of how God graciously raised them to life in Christ—beginning that section with the words “And you …” He is moving progressively toward the appeal he will make to them to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (4:1ff); and so he is eager to pray that they will clearly know the vital truths of what their resources are in Christ—and that these truths will sink deeply into their hearts.

There couldn’t be anything more vital to our Christian life than to know fully what God has given us to live that life through our relationship with Jesus. Knowing the greatness of “every spiritual blessing” that is ours “in Christ” (see 1:3) makes all the difference to whether or not we will then go on to live that life victoriously.

When it comes to Paul’s prayer, notice …


Paul wrote, “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints …” After Paul had ministered to these saints, he was encouraged to hear that they were still growing. And their growth in Christ was measurable in terms of actions that were reported to him. He had heard the news of their faith in the Lord Jesus; but more, he had also heard of their love for all other people who loved the Lord Jesus. This, by the way, was the same thing that he heard about the Colossian believers; and in their case, he saw it as an encouraging sign that a great “hope” is “laid up” for them in heaven (Colossians 1:4-5).

Paul, no doubt, would have been praying for these believers even if the news wasn’t good. But what an encouragement it is when those who have invested themselves into our spiritual walk with Christ hear that we are strong in our faith in Jesus and in our love for our Christian brothers and sisters. Both of those things are necessary—and one can’t be had without the other. We can’t love the saints without faith in Christ; and we can’t say we have faith in Christ if we don’t also love all those whom He also loves. And so; what a good thing it is when both of these things are present in our lives!


After hearing of these things, he testified that “I also … do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers …” Paul’s prayers were prayers of thanks for the grace of God that was manifest in them. He had an attitude toward them that was like his attitude toward the Thessalonian believers (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10); who were his “hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing”, and his “glory”, because of the prospect of their glory at Jesus’ coming (2:19-20).

And notice also that—in this attitude of ceaseless thanks—he would also have been unceasing in his prayers for them. We can take this, of course, to mean that he prayed for them on a regular basis; and didn’t stop his pattern of prayer for the or forget to lift them up regularly to the throne of God. What an encouragement this must have come to them! And what an encouragement we bring to our brothers and sisters when we let them know that we are also praying for them!


(vv 17-18a).

In praying that they would know certain things, he first prayed that they would have the spiritual capacity for that knowledge. He said that he prayed first “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him …” The word “spirit” here may refer to an ‘attitude’; but the understanding that he wanted for them to possess was not something that came by human knowledge or learning. No seminary could ever teach it. Rather, it came only by through a relationship with Jesus and by a gracious gift of the Holy Spirit—granting them “wisdom” by the transformation of their inner being and “revelation” to their minds through the pages of holy Scripture as a ministry of the indwelling Spirit of God.

Note also that he says, “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened …” This is in the perfect tense of the verb—suggesting a once-for-all act with ongoing results. Before this, they lived in spiritual blindness (see 4:18); and they could not perceive truth. Paul wrote elsewhere that “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But in Christ, we are given the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit as our teacher (see 1 John 2:27). Without that gracious work of God in enlightening the eyes of our inner man, we could never grasp the great truths that he is about to tell us.


Having prayed then that they would be made fit for spiritual truth, he tells them that he is praying for three specific things. Note first that he asks “that you may know what is the hope of His calling” (v. 18b). This speaks of our eternal destiny in Christ—that we will be “holy and without blame before Him in love” (v. 4). What a powerfully transforming thing it is to know—at the deepest level of our being—what it is we’re heading for in Christ! (see 1 John 3:1-3).

Second, he prayed that they would know “what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (v. 18c). And note those words carefully. It’s not just that we have a rich inheritance in Christ (which we certainly do; see v. 11); but we also ourselves are Christ’s rich inheritance—that “joy” that was set before Him that moved Him to endure the cross for us (see Hebrews 12:2). This isn’t, in any respect, because of our own worth; for he will then go on to tell us in Chapter 2 about how unworthy we were apart from God’s grace. Rather, our value as Christ’s own inheritance is because of what He has redeemed us to become in Him.

And finally, he prayed that they would know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (v. 19). It is a power that is over-the-top kind of power. But it’s not a power that resides in us in an independent way—as if we were made into some kind of great ‘spiritual battery’ that stores power on our own. It is ours only by our ongoing connection to Christ through the Holy Spirit who is at work in us (see 3:20-21). How great is that power? It is greater than any other that the earth can produce. It is

according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (vv. 20-23).

The very power that raised Jesus from death to the highest position of glory (see Philippians 2:5-11) is the same power that is at work in us! No wonder, then, we can truly walk worthy of our calling! There truly isn’t any problem or trial or temptation or need we cannot overcome in Christ (see Philippians 4:13)!

It’s no great mystery, then, that these are things that Paul would pray for us to know thoroughly! Knowing them cannot help but transform our Christian lives. May it be that his prayer is answered in us as we add our hearty ‘Amen’!

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