Thank you to everyone who commented on my post last week, either here, on Facebook or through email. It is a joy to share in the study of God’s Word. Today my reading took me to Ephesians.
A little background before we get to his prayer. Paul spent about two years teaching and preaching in Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Paul left Ephesus after a riot began regarding his teaching. In reading Acts 19:23-27, I found it interesting that Demetrius,the man who began the uproar, was not so much against Christ (he had probably never really heard the story), but rather let his fear of what would happen to the idols and temples he already believed in cloud his judgement. And I wondered how often our own fears are rooted in those same arguments. He basically said, “what would happen to our income if everyone started believing in this Jesus guy? No one would come to see the temple of Artemis or buy the silver statues of her that we make.”
I think so often that we create idols and temples without really knowing it…our jobs, our families, the culture around us. And when we hear something about following Christ which would require us to change our lives in some way we don’t listen. Not because what is being said is bad or wrong to our ears, but we fear what would happen to our idols and temples. Here’s an example, “The Lord has been convicting me about gossiping. But I’m known in my office for always having the latest scoop. I know I should stop gossiping, but my status at work, my friendships there, and even my own sense of worth will plummet if I don’t give out all the juicy details.” I wonder, are we sometimes like Demetrius, more concerned with the world we have built around us than in following Christ?
Well okay then, wasn’t that a fun little detour on our way to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, lol! The general nature of the letter and some of the wording suggests that Paul was writing to the Ephesians with the expectation that it would be shared among many churches in the area, often called a circular letter. And we see that the prayer is a bit more general as well, but definitely full of gems for us still today! So let’s look at Ephesians 1:16-19.
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 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 also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (NIV)
Again, I am convicted from the very first words. How often do I ask for things for my family and friends, or ask that I be changed in some way so that I can tolerate my family and friends, or worse, ask that the Lord change my family and friends! Instead I should be giving thanks for my them. Not for what they do or what they can do for me, but simply because they are. I should start out with a gratitude in my heart for all the people that are in my life; remembering that my life would not be as rich without them.
Then, with thanksgiving in his heart, Paul says that he continually asks the Father to bless them with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. So often I pray for wisdom (or more often a hit over the head) when I’m trying to make a choice. I want God to lead me, reveal His plan for me. But notice why Paul wants the Ephesians to have wisdom and revelation…to know God the Father better.
I was overcome this last week with a sense that God was showing me the way to “seek [Him] first” so that all the other stuff of life would fall into place. And here Paul brings it up again. We seek spiritual blessings, not so that we can become great in this world, but rather that we would know God better.
Next, Paul lists three things he prays would happen through the opening of the “eyes of your heart”. First, is to “know the hope to which He has called you.” What is the hope that Paul speaks of? Their are many things which are encompassed in this hope. The hope of eternal life with Christ, the hope of the resurrection of the body, the hope of deliverance (2 Cor 1:10), the hope of the glory of the gospel message (2 Cor 3:11-12), righteousness through faith (Gal 5:5) and others. We have hope that there is more to life than this, because we have heard the good news.
When the eyes of our hearts are opened we can see the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints. We can know that we have an inheritance and that it is beyond the world’s riches. The inheritance of eternal life sitting the presence of Jesus.
Many years ago I believe I experienced an “opening of the eyes of my heart”. For one brief moment my heart glimpsed heaven. I didn’t see anything, but the feeling of peace and joy and love in eternity caught me for a moment and I had such a longing for heaven. I truly believe that God granted that moment for me so that I would be excited for this very inheritance in heaven.
Finally, with opened eyes we see the power at work in us as believers. And not just any power, the incomparably great power that is like the working of His mighty strength when He raised Jesus from the dead. This is not just any ‘ol power. God alone has the power to speak the world into existence, breathe life into living creatures and resurrect the dead. And this power is at work in us and will work for us when we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first. It is because of this power at work in us that we can “do everything through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
Oh what riches await us as we pray this prayer. The blessing of knowing Him more, the hope and inheritance of eternal life, and the power of God Himself. Amen.