- To know Jesus more deeply
As with many things, we learn how to pray by watching others and then having a go ourselves. Paul was a master in the art of praying, and his prayer for the Ephesian believers shows us how to pray strategically for ourselves, and others.
Paul’s first passionate cry to God is that they will come to know Jesus more deeply – ‘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 (Eph 1:17).’
Salvation brings us into a personal relationship with Jesus. Like any friendship, our relationship with him should grow and deepen over time, leading to an increasing intimacy and oneness. This is how friendship works. You meet someone, and get to know them as an acquaintance. Then as you spend time together, they become a good friend. Perhaps you go on holiday together or share in a project, and your friend becomes a companion. And so it goes on, an ever deepening relationship. This is how romance works too, and in marriage the two become one, a wonderful illustration of the ‘union’ that it is possible to enjoy with Christ.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make a growing friendship with Jesus a reality, and we are to pray that he will grant us both wisdom and revelation so that we can know Jesus better. He gives us both the desire to go deeper, and the ability to recognise the presence of Jesus in our daily lives.
If you desire to know Jesus better, be sure that the Holy Spirit will make it possible for you.
- To understand God’s purpose for our lives
Paul, knowing what is required to become mature in the faith, keeps on asking God the same four things for his friends at Ephesus. He prays that ‘the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order to know the hope to which he has called you (Eph 1:18).’
I take ‘hope’ in this context to mean the vision that God has for us, the purpose for which he saved us in the first place. ‘Hope’ has always to do with the future in the Bible, and when God called us to himself it was because he had a work for us to do – good works prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). Discipleship is about responding in obedience and faith to the unfolding of God’s plan for our life. This is a very exciting prospect because the will of God is always good, and life becomes an exhilarating adventure of following wherever he leads us.
What is important is that we can see that vison for ourselves. Once again, the Holy Spirit’s ministry is vital. He enlightens our hearts and minds so that we can ‘see’ what God wants to do in us and through us. He gives us clarity, assurance and the confidence to move forward in faith.
If you desire to do the will of God, be sure that the Holy Spirit will reveal it to you when the time is right.
- To appreciate the delight that God takes in us
Paul not only prays for the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment about the hope to which God has called us, but also that we may understand ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints (Eph 1:18).’ This is a little more difficult to understand but I take it to mean the joy that God finds in his people, in you, and in me.
Christ, by his death on the cross, has made it possible for us to be set free from our sins, and to be reconciled to God – in other words to become his people, the church. This is the legacy of his death, and the multitude of those who have been redeemed are the inheritance the Father receives form the work of his son. And he delights in every man, woman and child who is in that number.
That is why today we know that the Father is taking delight in as his redeemed children. He loves us with an everlasting and unconditional love. He is not angry with us or disappointed in us. He is not frustrated by us or annoyed with us. No, he is taking delight in us!
Again, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals this truth to us, who enlightens us by taking what we know as a fact in our heads and making it sink into our hearts so that we know at the very core of our being that we are loved by God.
If you want to know how greatly you are loved, ask the Holy Spirit to pour the love of God into your heart in overflowing measure (Romans 5:5). You will not be disappointed.
- To receive the power that is available to us
Paul gets carried away at this point in his prayer, but his request is perfectly simple. It is that we may know experientially ‘his incomparably great power for us who believe (Eph 1:19). We cannot live the Christian life in our own, strength. If we try we are doomed to failure. Fortunately we don’t need to. The Holy Spirit will give us all the power that we need to turn from our sins and live a life that pleases God. And he will keep on doing that day by day until we reach heaven.
The power he is talking about is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and lifted him back to the Father’s right hand in glory. Think of the power that lifts a space rocket off the ground and propels it into orbit, then multiply it a million times. That same Holy Spirit power and energy is at work in me and available to me every moment to help me be the person God has called me to be and to do the things he has given me to accomplish. If only we realised that!
If you sense you need the help of a power outside of yourself, ask the Holy Spirit to give it to you. If he raised Christ from the dead he can deliver you and empower you for holy living and effective service.
Here, then are 4 strategic prayers that you can offer to God for your own growth in him, and for the spiritual development of those you love and serve. Ask God that you may know Jesus more deeply, understand his purpose for your life, appreciate the delight he finds in you and receive the power he offers you. Let this be your persistent, believing prayer offered in faith on the basis of God’s word