Follow Paul in Praying for your Church - Ephesians 1:15-19
Ephesians 1:15-19 Follow Paul in Praying for your Church 2020-11-15 Because God is a good and glorious Father, we can pray to him Last week, with Jason taking us through vv.13-14, we finished the first long sentence of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. This morning we begin the next long sentence, which covers vv.15-23. We’ll be taking this in two parts, covering vv.15-19 this morning and finishing next week. Paul opened with exalting God, giving praise to him for who he is and what he has done. He now moves to write to the Ephesians about his prayer for them. Passage: Ephesians 1:15-19 Giving Thanks and Praying (vv.15-16) 1. v.15 “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints…” - Even in a Roman prison Paul heard about the faith and love of the Ephesians. 1. Faith and love - the vertical and horizontal. Love for saints results from faith in Jesus. Love for saints is evidence of faith in Jesus. This can be a useful gauge and barometer of your spiritual growth. 1 John 3:10 “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” 1 John 4:20 “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.” 2. Church, I want to commend you for the love you show for the saints. Job changes, home transitions, family adjustments, health challenges, parenting struggles. Each of you are uniquely gifted, and you use those various gifts to serve one another. In music ministry, in meal ministry, hospitality, spreadsheets, prayer, counsel, encouragement. 2. v.16 “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers…” -Paul gave thanks for the Ephesian church. They were far from a perfect church. In fact, in Ephesians 5-6 he has to give marital counseling, parental counseling, and counseling to employees and employers. They were a church that, like every other church, had problems and shortcomings. But Paul’s first thought toward them was thanksgiving. 1. Paul prayed like this for many churches. This is evidence of his faith in Jesus, expressed in love for the church. Love for the church is evidence and stimulated by prayer for the church. 1. Colossians 1:9 “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” 2. 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,” 3. Philippians 1:3–5 “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Transition: Now in vv.17-19 we get to the content of Paul’s prayer. First he prays for a greater knowledge of God for the Ephesians. Praying for Greater Knowledge of God (v.17) 1. v.17 “…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him…” - Paul spent two years in Ephesus teaching in the hall of Tyrannus, so that, Acts 19:10 “This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” But even two solid years of daily teaching from Paul didn’t come close to exhausting the doctrine of God, or getting the Ephesians to a place where they had no more to know about God. 1. This knowledge of God isn’t merely intellectual knowledge, like learning about historical figures from a book. This knowledge of God is practical and experiential. 2. Do you ever, like me, get into prayer ruts, where your prayers are seeming repetitive or monotonous? I find that is often a result of focusing too much on myself in prayer, and not enough on God. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that they would grow in knowledge of God, that God would send his Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation, so that they would know God more. Not just intellectually, but experientially and practically. If growing in the knowledge of God becomes the content of our prayer we’ll never run out of things to pray for. Think about the attributes of God and pick one out. Make it the focus of your prayer. When your Community Group asks how they can be praying for you, don’t answer that you’re all good or can’t think of anything. Think about the attributes of God, pick one out, and ask that they pray for your growth in knowing that aspect of God to a greater degree. God’s power, God’s promise, God’s presence, God’s love, God’s wrath, God’s grace and mercy, God’s fatherhood, God’s holiness…. You’ll never come to the end of it! Isn’t it this that we need in the times we live in? Headlines are constantly changing and so many things seem to be in flux and transition, but God remains the same. Transition: Having prayed for a greater knowledge of God for the Ephesians, Paul now prays for a greater knowledge of God’s work for the Ephesians, which comes in three parts. Praying for Greater Knowledge of God’s Work (vv.18-19a) 1. v.18 “…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened…” - Paul prays that the eyes of their hearts would receive more and more light, that they might see more and more of the glorious work of God. Our physical eyes might dim with age, but the eyes of our hearts can continue to grow sharper and clearer and more insightful until the day of glory. 2. v.18 “that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” - Hope, as Scripture uses the word, is confident expectation in guaranteed good. People “hope” for many things, and many things are uncertain. But the Christian hope is not uncertain. It is fixed, it is guaranteed. The author of Hebrews calls it a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul (Heb. 6:19). 1. Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” 3. v.18 “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” - You’ve heard over the last couple of weeks as we’ve learned more about this inheritance that WE GET GOD! This is true - beautifully, graciously true. But there’s something else also true, and this verse can be understood in different ways. If you’re a baseball fan maybe you’ve seen those instances where a pitcher delivers a perfect series of pitches. You can tell because the batter is either completely frozen at the plate and can only smile and tip his hat to the pitcher, or the batter makes such a poor attempt to contact the baseball that he falls over. Verses 11, 14 were like those perfect setup pitches, and now here comes the strikeout. Paul isn’t saying in v.18 that we have a glorious inheritance, that we get God. This is true, but it’s not Paul’s point. Paul is saying we are God’s glorious inheritance, that GOD GETS US! I’ll let that marinate a few seconds. 1. Think about that. Psalm 74:2 “Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.” Jeremiah 51:19 says, “Israel is the tribe of his inheritance; the Lord of hosts is his name.” Deuteronomy 26:18 “And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments,” 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 2. Jesus, in his high priestly prayer, prays this - John 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Even you, teenager, feeling out of place at times and uncertain of where you fit. You’re part of God’s glorious inheritance! Mom, struggling in child-rearing and feeling like you’re doing it well. Dad, struggling to provide well for your family or fighting to balance the demands of life. You are part of God’s glorious inheritance. Believer, young in the faith, God is thrilled about you. Believer, old and established, the excitement on God’s part hasn’t worn off. 3. God has been pouring rich and generous and abundant investments into his inheritance - the saints! 4. v.19 “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…” - Paul expands on this and elaborates in the coming verses, which will be covered next Sunday. But here I want you to see that Paul was praying for the Ephesians that they would know God’s power. He calls it immeasurable power. It reminds me of a time in Bend when I tried testing the voltage on our electric fence with a cheap little voltage meter. As soon as I touched the leads to the fence it never worked again because the voltage was beyond the capacity of the meter I had. 1. But God’s immeasurably great power isn’t just flexing his muscles. It is at work on our behalf, working toward us who believe. This immeasurably great power accomplishes our forgiveness, accomplishes our sanctification, accomplishes our adoption, accomplishes our resurrection, secures our inheritance, defeats our Enemy, crucifies our flesh, empowers our life, and equips his body. Conclusion: Greatness of his power toward us wraps back to the beginning of the prayer where Paul says the Father of glory. This is who Paul is praying to, and it is who we have the privilege of praying to as well.