Title: A PRAYER THAT HAS MEAT TO IT
Text: Ephesians 1:15-19
How’s your prayer life? Can you say it opens the doors of Heaven? The power in prayer is not out of reach – it’s only a heartbeat away. A heart-felt prayer connects with God…and He is the power behind prayer.
Most likely all of us have room for improvement in our prayers. Some would rather take almost any other assignment than to pray in public. Perhaps that’s because real prayer forces you to be honest. You are vulnerable when you pray – because the One listening on the other end sees right through the words into the true heart. Thus it requires us to put aside the churchy phrases and lay our hearts before the Lord. But our best prayers have risen out of times of desperation – the times when things were too urgent to worry about how it sounds – you just let the cry of your heart spill out.
Paul knew how to pray. Perhaps it’s because he spent so much time in desperation. That’s why his prayers have a ring of genuineness to them…they are packed with power…he connected to God. In our passage of study tonight, we will look closely at one of those prayers. It won’t be a prayer word-for word, but it is Paul’s description of it. It is my goal that you glean some insights for your own prayers. Read Text.
1. Verse 15 states that Paul was thankful for their faith. How could you express your thanks to God about how your faith has grown over the last year? How do you think things would have turned out differently if you did not have faith in God?
Insight: Life’s problems can make you bitter if you fail to see how God has nurtured the growth of your faith. Looking back over His faithfulness of days past can strengthen your heart for the tough days ahead. The Ephesians knew that nothing could happen that the Lord wasn’t aware of and would help them through it. They lived as though they believed it.
2. Secondly, Paul was thankful for their love. It’s easy to love those who are like us. What has helped you to love those who are different, or even unkind to you? Which phrase in 1 Corinthians 13 hits home most for you that would help you to embrace believers of every variety? 1 Jn. 3:17
3. Next Paul mentions the things he petitioned God in their behalf. If you have ever lived away from a loved one who was in a difficult situation, then you can identify with Paul’s petition. Prayer may be the only thing you can do in those situations, but how is it the best thing we can do for them?
4. The first thing Paul asked for them was that they would have a knowledge of God. Since Paul spent 3 years among them teaching, it’s not likely that he means head knowledge here. What do you think he means?
Insight: Ephesus was a city where idolatry ran rampant, which included temple prostitutes, drunkenness and animal sacrifices. Paul knew that they needed a deeper understanding of God if they were going to hold fast to Christ. He most likely meant he wanted them to know God more deeply, in an intimate way. They needed to feel the faithfulness of God’s character and learn to trust in it. Jer. 24:7; Col. 2:2
5. As you have gotten to know God more deeply, what more do you know about Him today than you did last year? Let me give you some areas to tickle your memory: His lavish generosity, His eagerness to bless, His purging holiness, His infinite grace, and His love that accepts you as you are.
6. Notice that Paul prays that they would come to this knowledge through “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” What do you think that means? 1 Cor. 2:10
Insight: The Holy Spirit is the source of wisdom and knowledge, but perhaps Paul was asking God to give them an attitude of wanting to pursue and embrace His wisdom. Have you come to embrace God’s wisdom in the way He does what He does? In what areas do you find it hardest to embrace?
7. Paul next asks that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened. He wants them to become more aware of some spiritual realities. What are they? (To know the hope of His calling, the riches of their inheritance, and His surpassing great power.) Eph. 3:14-19
8. The hope of God’s calling. The meaning here is broader than a vocation for a ministry or lifestyle; it means His calling to live holy, and to look beyond our present day-to-day grind to see the glory that will one day be revealed to us. How can those of us in this group help you live up to that calling? Phil. 3:14
Insight: We live in the Christian hope that all that He has promised, He will bring it to pass…that He will bring good from any situation that comes into our lives. Even suffering takes on a new meaning when you realize the God who counts ever hair on your head is intimately acquainted with your pain. He is in it with us and He plans to use it for your benefit and for His glory. When you truly understand that, how does your attitude change? (Hopefully from resistance to acceptance…cooperate with the process.)
9. If you knew your loved ones were bound to face some suffering, what hope would you want to present them?
10. The riches of His inheritance. What does our inheritance from God consist of?
Insight: There isn’t enough space on this page to list it all, but it stems from our salvation, some we possess now, and the rest when we meet Him face-to-face. 1 Pet. 1:4; 1 Cor. 13:12
11. The surpassing greatness of God’s power. It’s hard to grasp all that’s in these few words, but “power” in the Greek is dunamis, which means capability or potential; “greatness” in the Greek is huperballo, which means unimaginably great…in another sphere altogether. Do you think you have grasped all of God’s power? How has He surprised you lately with His power?
Insight: The awesome power of God brought Christ out of a tomb…and it has taken us out of our sepulcher of sin. He spoke and the world appeared…and one day He will speak again, and all those that belong to Him will rise from the dead and appear before Him.
12. Knowing their situation in Ephesus, why do you think Paul wanted them to know God’s power so deeply?
Insight: Paul could have peace about the future of his spiritual children only when he knew they were assured that God is on their side, ready to help them meet each obstacle; that God’s power is never out of strength…it is always working on our behalf; that God is always fighting the forces of evil on our behalf; and that no human or evil power can deter God’s watchful eye over us. No wonder Paul’s prayer was fueled with such passion.
To fuel your own prayer life, remember the insights of Paul’s prayer when you are buckling under the load of a busy schedule and a multitude of obligations. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t feel guilty. But don’t stay there either, because you will miss out on an amazing experience. All that is needed is to dedicate a little time and energy in exposing your heart when you talk to God. The words don’t need to be fancy…they just need to be heartfelt. God is listening.