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How to Pray for People Who Have Everything

Back to all sermons Ephesians

Date: September 15, 2019

Speaker: Erik Raymond

Series: Ephesians

Category: Biblical

Scripture: Ephesians 1:15–1:23

Outline: Two prayers in response to the blessings of salvation

1.    Praise God for Giving Spiritual Life (15-16a)
        a.  Notice the evidence of faith
        b.  Notice the evidence of love

2.    Pray to God for Spiritual Understanding (16b-23)
        a.  to know his plan (18)
        b.  to know his power (19)
        c.  to know his purpose in Christ (20-23)

Introduction

What do you get for someone who seems to have everything? Have you agonized over birthday or Christmas presents for that friend or family member who seems to have everything they want or need?

In Ephesians chapter 1 we learn that the Christian has everything they need spiritually. Everything that we would ever need is found in Christ. Look at verse 3, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” 

And it’s this truth that has him so excited. Even though he’s in jail, he is not writing with his “inside prison” voice. If the intensity of the language is any indication, the volume is past ten.

Through the next eleven verses, he details these blessings of salvation. In Christ, God has predestined us, elected us, adopted us, redeemed us, forgiven us, given us an inheritance, sealed us with the Holy Spirit, and revealed his secret will to us through the Scriptures.

The Christian has everything. How could Paul pray for the person who has everything?

His response is instructive for us.

How should a Christian respond to these awesome blessings?

The answer to this question is my emphasis for this morning. I want to persuade you from the Bible that We must work to better understand and appreciate the blessings of salvation so we know how to pray for ourselves and others. 

And, this is what we see modeled by Paul in Ephesians 1:15-23.

The response to these awesome blessings is framed up in two words: praise and prayer. 

In more detail, we’ll consider two prayers in response to the blessings of salvation How do you pray for the one who has everything? First, you praise God for giving spiritual life (15-16a) and secondly, you pray that God would give spiritual understanding (16b-23).

Let’s look at the first response, Praise God for Giving Spiritual Life (15-16a)

 

(1) Praise God for Giving Spiritual Life (15-16a)

Look with me, if you would, at verses 15-16a, “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you.” 

If we start at the end of the verse we are helped. He writes, that he doesn’t stop giving thanks for them.

Why? He says it’s because of their faith in Jesus and their love toward the saints.

It might seem like a simple question, but it’s an important one. Who is he giving thanks to? The answer is God. He is praying to God and he is doing so with thanksgiving. He is grateful to God for what he sees. 

But, why? It is because God is the source of every blessing. But not only is he the source but he is the sphere—they are in Christ! Therefore, Paul rightly directs his praise to God for what he sees.

We’ll come back to this in a moment, but for now, remember that God is both the source and the sphere of blessings. This is why we praise him.

What is he specifically praising God for?

First, their faith in Jesus. This is shorthand for their union with Christ. They are “in Christ.” They are believers. 

The way many talk about faith or believing it’s similar to what we say when we say we believe there are certain planets, countries, or that people existed historically. The way the word is tossed around, it seems that to believe in Jesus means a little more than to just have some mental assent or agreement that Jesus existed.

Trusting Christ In order to be saved, to be in Christ, we must trust him. That is, we must come to the point where we see the futility of our works before God—our inability to earn his favor. And we must see the riches of Christ’s work in our place—his ability to earn and keep God’s favor for us. To trust in Jesus is to trust his life in our place. His obedience for us. His death for us. His resurrection for us. His past is your past. His life is your life. To believe in Christ is to see him as our only hope in this life or the next, our soul’s chief delight, point of living, hope in dying, goal in everything! 

Treasuring Christ When God in Christ does this for such an underserving one as me, how can I but praise him? How can he not be my heart’s chief treasure?! To believe upon Christ is to have our soul’s satisfied in him (John 6:35). To treasure Christ is to hear the Father say of his Son, “This is my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) and then repeat it back to him, “This is my beloved Savior, with him I am well-pleased!” Treasuring Christ exclaims not only the work of Christ but his worth! 

Mark it down: Christianity is not simply about something you believe in the past - like one day at church - but it is what continues in our lives. This faith is an ongoing, living, faith that continues to cling to, trust in, treasure Jesus above everything.

Paul looks at this and praises God. He sees people who, from a human perspective, have no business trusting and treasuring Jesus, and he says, “God did that!” So he praising God. He does not stop giving thanks for them.

Look around at. See the people around you clinging to the same hope, the same gospel, the same Christ. Why are they? Why are you? It’s because God did it. And so it should cause you and I to praise him for his work of grace in our lives.

May God forbid that we get gospel amnesia and forget that faith in Christ is a supernatural work, something unexplainable, on the level with a miracle. So that we like Paul will respond by giving thanks to God.

Second, their love for the saints. Every Christian believes and loves. These are basic graces of Christianity. Jesus said this love gives evidence of faith. 

Psalm 16:3 — 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.

Colossians 1:4 — 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

John 13:34–35 — 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 4:20 — 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

This love is characteristic of all of the churches. We see it in Peter’s letter to the church in 1 Peter 1:22; in John’s letter 1 Jn. 3:17; in the Thessalonian church in 1 Thes. 4:9; to the Hebrew Christians in 6:10. God’s love for his saints is manifested in their love for one another. 

But, their common place in the church should not bring us to under-appreciate them. They are, like new life, evidences of God’s kindness and favor.

Looking for this fruit of faith and love, should cause us to, like Paul, rejoice in God’s obvious blessing. The Christian who believes that God is both sovereign and saving expects to see fruit in the life of the church. And they respond to this fruit with the understanding that God has worked in a powerful way—the reflex to this is to praise him for it. We should be looking for fruit in one another’s life so we can heap fresh praise to God for what he has done!

Notice finally, that Paul also points it out to them. I don’t think he’s telling them that he is praying for them is an occasion to brag on the frequency of his prayers but instead to brag on the power and faithfulness of God. He let’s them know. 

Do you pray like this?

Do you look for fruit like this?

Do you heap praise upon God for his lavishing of grace upon us?

We should.

We must work to better understand and appreciate the blessings of salvation because they are so awesome.

 

(2) Pray to God for Spiritual Understanding (16b-23) 

If these blessings are so awesome, then it would follow that there needs to be an increased understanding of them. This is part of the stewardship of the blessings of salvation. The Apostle then asks God to bless these Christians with an increased understanding. We see the request in verse 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”

What is he asking? the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him 

We’ll take this apart and understand the details, but for now, don’t miss this. This is a prayer for knowledge. This is what he wants. He is praying for their knowledge to grow.

Why is this? It’s because we know that God is glorified by our holiness. And growth in knowledge of him is essential for our growth in holiness.

But he has to ask for it. Why is this? It’s because God is not someone we would naturally know. Why? For starters, he is infinite. He is beyond our comprehension. He is also invisible. God reveals himself to his creation through what is made but it is not sufficient to know him savingly.

We need more than the creation. We need God to speak to us and reveal the details of who he is and what he has done. What we need it is that personal knowledge of him in experience which involves a two-way relation, entered into by those who “have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Gal. 4:9).” (Bruce)

We need God to reveal this.

This is what Paul is after. Most likely this is a prayer directed through Jesus, to the Father, that he would in the Holy Spirit give wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.

I don’t think he is talking about the new birth here, these people have already been sealed by the Holy Spirit (v.14). But instead, the work of the Holy Spirit to illumine or provide understanding to what God has revealed in sacred Scripture.

This is why the verse goes on to speak about the heart in verse 18, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know…”

One commentator observed, “In biblical usage the heart is the whole inward self, comprising mind as well as emotion. So ‘the eyes of the heart’ are simply our ‘inner eyes’, which need to be opened or ‘enlightened’ before we can grasp God’s truth.” (Stott)

He is asking that God the Holy Spirit would illumine the eyes of the heart to see and know God’s truth better.

And we see this knowledge broken down in three areas: to know his plan, his power, and his purposes in Christ.

to know his plan (17-18)

17that 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, 18having 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, 

The hope to which he has called you

What does it mean that God has called you? There was a time when you weren’t a Christian. None of us were born in Christ. Some may have been born in Christian homes but that doesn’t mean you were born a believer. There was a time when God called you to himself. This is what theologians refer to as the effectual call of God. He powerfully and successfully brings the gospel home to you so that you believe it. And, he makes you alive in Christ. This what it means to be born-again. Or converted. God calls us.

This calling brings expectations with it. If we were to think of salvation as a train, it is a long train with interconnecting realities. The fact is our calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sealing, and sanctification (to name a few trains) are all sovereignly connected. And unlike some trains we may be familiar with, they stay on track and get to their destination perfectly on time. Therefore, we as Christians have hope. We have a certain expectation of the future to be enjoyed in the present.

Hope is the opposite of despair — it breathes a massive optimism! We are going to stand with Christ at the final press conference of the universe, and our photograph is going to be taken with him, and we are going to look like him. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will have not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). (Hughes)

One person described hope as “faith standing on tiptoe.” (Moule, quoted in Snodgrass).

Hope is certain because it is tied to the will and work of God. The hope is secured by the work of Christ on the cross. He has won the victory and secured the experience of these blessings in Christ.

Our present experience of being made more like Christ —our sanctification — is a result of his powerful calling. We have a hope that we will one day be conformed to his image.

Paul talks about the hope of glory in Colossians 1:27. We have a taste of the now as we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. This is the first installment or the pledge of what is coming (Eph. 1:14).

We have a hope that God will make all things new. Not only a new heaven and a new earth but also a new body. God has removed the penalty of sin and the power of sin, but one day the presence of sin will be removed. All of our desires will be sanctified and satisfied in Christ. And this is part of our hope.

We enjoy fellowship with God and one another now, but according to God’s calling we know that one day it will be perfect. Unimpeded by our sin. We know that one day Christ, at his second coming, will “present to himself the church invested with glory, free from spot, wrinkle, or anything of the sort, but … holy and faultless” (Eph. 5:27). This is part of our hope.

The God who makes all things new will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be destroyed. There will be no more bad headlines. No more mass shootings. No more human trafficking. No more corrupt leaders. No more abortions. No more suicides. No more drugs. No more arguments. No more apologies. One day God will bring us into a place where everything sad becomes untrue.

Paul wants Christians to know and understand this hope at a deeper level. He wants you and I to burrow down a few levels below the surface. 

The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.

We talked a bit about this last week. God has redeemed or purchased a people for himself. And Paul is pointing to this tremendous glory that’s present when God inherits the people he has set apart for himself. It is the Father’s inheritance that Paul refers to, not that of believers (cf. 1:14). “In the saints” means that the inheritance is found in, or consists of, these people. The church is his inheritance. And in the future, at the return of Christ, God will gain this final and full possession of his people (v.14).

Paul prays here that his readers may appreciate the value which God places on them, his plan to accomplish his eternal purpose through them as the first fruits of the reconciled universe of the future, in order that their lives may be in keeping with this high calling and that they may accept in grateful humility the grace and glory thus lavished on them. (Bruce)

He wants the church to grasp who they are. All of these blessings and benefits are ours by grace — a gift — but this doesn’t lessen the value. Having a million dollars is not diminished if it was given by a gift or it was the result of a lifetime of labor.

God loves his people. And he wants us to know it. He glories in his church. And he wants you to understand this so you would also. The church is not just another club or social gathering. The church is the inheritance of God, the apple of his eye. And, an occasion for his eternal glory.

to know his power (19) 

In one sense Paul hasn’t talked about power, but in another sense everything he’s said is implicitly referring to power. The mention of “God’s power here is not on God’s inherent power or on some cosmic display of force. Rather, it is on God’s life-giving power as it is specifically available for believers.” (Snodgrass) He’s looking back to God’s activity of planning and working for us and our salvation.

He uses four synonyms to make his point. Look again at v.19, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might, then verse 20 continues, …that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead”

Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. God’s power was exercised gloriously in raising Jesus. 

“If the death of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God, as Paul wholeheartedly believed (Rom. 5:8), the resurrection of Christ is the supreme demonstration of his power.” (Bruce)

And Paul wants the church to know, to understand, to have the eyes of the hearts enlighten to see that this power — this glorious demonstration of divine power — is working in the church.

How can we be timid?

How can we be pessimistic?

How can we not pray?

How can we not evanglize?

How can we not labor in the work of the Word?

How can we not give ourselves to the good of one another spiritually? 

This divine power is at work in the life of his people. Paul is praying that the Ephesians grasp this.

We should be praying like this. We should be praying that we grasp this. 

to know his purpose in Christ (20-23)

20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

  • do you pray like this? think through your prayer life…are your prayers characterized by this type of praying? for knowledge, understanding, illumination in the word of God!?
  • do you live with a pursuit toward this type of knowledge?
  • do you see the connection between the church generally and Christ’s glory?
  • do you see the connection between your growth and participation in the church and the glory of Christ?

to know his purpose in Christ (20-23)

20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Paul is praying that God’s people would have increased knowledge of the supremacy of Jesus Christ. God has exalted him to the highest station. He reigns as the resurrected and enthroned King. Notice the language of all.

In verse 21, he is above all rule and authority and every name that is named (from every age). In verse 22, all things are under his feet and he is head over all things, and his fullness fills all in all. Even the language of spatial elevation means to show us the ascending height of his supremacy. Over all.

All of these descriptions and destinations of authority are given to show that Jesus is supreme. Everyone and everything is inferior to him.

These words in verse 21, rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, refer most likely to the spiritual forces. There is no competition to Christ.

Notice also that these “all things” have been put under his feet. This is a reference to a couple of important threads in Scripture.

First, man was given authority and was to rule over creation as God’s vice-regents (Gen. 1.26-28). But this honor and responsibility were forfeited through sin. Creation became antagonistic to its authority, just as Adam did to his.

But second, there was a promise that one would come who would be exalted over his enemies. “Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool,” the “enemies” being identified as “every principality and every power and might.”

Jesus, in his role as savoir, was the second Adam, who came to triumph over God’s enemies and rule over his creation. His resurrection is the proof that he has done that. He is right now at that position of prominence and supremacy. We can have no doubt about this.

But, finally notice that Jesus is the head of the body. This means that Jesus is the life-giver and Lord of the church.

As God’s people we have a vital and organic union with Jesus. He is the source of our life. We exists spiritually and live by virtue of his life.

But he is also our authority.

  • He is the Lord of the church.
  • His Lordship rules over all.
  • He is our authority.
  • His constitution for governing is his Word.
  • The head of the universe is the head of the church.
  • The church and the universe have the same Lord.

And then we see that his fullness fills all.

  • This means that Christ is fully God, he has the fullness of deity.
  • And it is out of this fullness that Christ possesses that he supplies the church with all of her needs and power to do the work.
  • Just as the glory of God filled the temple, so today, Jesus the glory of God, fulls the church with the Spirit.

I hope you are beginning to see the connection between Christ’s glory and his church.

The church is the unique place whereby God demonstrates the invisible power and supremacy of Christ.

Conclusion

I have tried to convince you that we must work to better understand and appreciate the blessings of salvation because they are so awesome.

I suppose a first step to making this application is to reckon with the question of why we are not so captivated by these blessings.

This applies to us individually and us as a church.

To see this we only have to think about what we often pray about and for. So often we are taken up praying for temporal and physical things. And these things are important and God is certainly concerned with them. We should be praying about our health, our friend’s health, work, school, relationships, financial harships, etc. This is not something we should ignore.

But, we have to admit that the emphasis of Paul’s model prayer here, and the balance of the prayers in the New Testament, have far more emphasis upon our spiritual good and our eternal inheritance than we might first observe.

There is an emphasis upon our knowledge, growth, understanding, the illumination of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of Christ.

Friends, this is how we learn to pray in the Apsotle’s school of prayer. This is prayer 101 in Christ’s University.

We should ask, why we don’t pray like this?

Perhaps it’s a lack of knowledge. We don’t know in detail what God has done.

Perhaps it’s a lack of understanding. We don’t get it like we should.

Perhaps it’s a lack of appreciation. We don’t value it like we should.

Perhaps it’s a lack of prayer. We aren’t praying like we should.

Whatever the case may be, the response is the same.

We begin by praising God for what he has done for us in Christ.

And then, we lean into this new life and request further understanding. We ask for God the Holy Spirit to illumine the truth of the Word of God and these glorious blessings.

As we think about how to apply this passage to our lives, we would certainly be well-served to review these rich gospel blessings and pray that God the Holy Spirit would give us understanding and appreciation.