Many years ago a read a book suggesting that we learn how to pray for each other from the apostle Paul. Paul tells three churches—Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae—what he was praying for them about. He gives his prayers for the church in Ephesus twice, once in 1:17-23 and once in 3:14-21.
I only want to focus on the first of those prayers because it lends itself well to an outline, and its outline matches the other prayers in Philippians, and Colossians well.
Here’s his prayer:
"… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, so that you may know …
- "what is the hope of his calling,
- "what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
- "and what is the exception greatness of his power to us who believe."
1. The hope of his calling
The issue here is first and foremost eternal life. In Titus 1:2, Paul writes:
… in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began.
In another place, Paul tells us we are saved by hope, and that hope concerns those things that we cannot yet see. The context of that hope is …
[We], who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom. 8:23)
The apostle John adds, "This is the promise which he has promised: eternal life." (1 Jn. 2:25).
How many times does our Master promise us riches in heaven if we will forsake the riches of this earth? Paul, too, tells us that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us.
The writer of Hebrews, when he asks us to set aside the weights, the things that hold us back, as well as the sins we’ve done, tells us to do so with our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. If even our Master kept his eyes on the reward at the end, how much more should we!
So Paul prays that we would first know the hope of eternal life.
2. The Riches of the Glory of His Inheritance in the Saints
Paul takes the time to distinguish between the hope of our calling and the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints.
It’s important not to treat the two as the same thing.
Note that it is "his" inheritance in the saints, not "ours."
I’m sure that I’ll not be able to do this topic justice, but the adoption, the redemption of our bodies is not just something that we groan for. "The whole creation" groans and it travails like a woman in childbirth, awaiting the revelation of the sons of God (Rom. 8:20-23).
We’re going to save the universe, folks. When the sons of God are revealed, the entire creation will be released from its slavery to decay and brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.
I’ll bet you’ve heard the verse that says that the sufferings of this time aren’t worthy to be compared to the glory which will be revealed in us. I bet you have never thought about the context of that verse, which is that all creation will enter into the glorious liberty of …
All creation … our glorious liberty …
Pretty heady stuff, isn’t it?
Paul’s prayer was that we would know the hope of our calling, which is eternal life, but that, second, we would also know the incredible wealth associated with the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints. That incredible wealth is the deliverance of the creation from uselessness and decay.
The entire creation is groaning in earnest expectation of that day.
We think so small.
3. The Exceptional Greatness of His Power … Toward Us Who Believe!
The third thing Paul prays for us to know is not just the exceptional greatness of his power. We all think we know that. After all, he created the universe. He can do anything he wants. Yeah, God! He’s awesome.
No, Paul prays that we would know the exception greatness of his power to us who believe.
Paul was going for it. Nothing deterred him. He was convinced of the power of the Gospel, and even if you bottled him up in a prison, illegally beat him with whips, and stuck him in stocks, he was going to cry out praises to God.
When he did, the earth shook, the stocks fell off, and Paul preached the Gospel once more.
Well, that was for then, right?
May God grant you to know the exceptional greatness of his power to us who believe!
We’re wimpy. And we’re wimpy because we’re full of unbelief. It’s not our weakness as humans that makes us wimpy. It’s our unbelief. According to James, Elijah was just like us, subject to the same passions. But he prayed and no rain fell for 3 years.
I talked about it on this blog a few days ago. Moses, David, and even Samson were mightily used by God, and it wasn’t because they were overflowing with the power to overcome temptation beyond all the rest of us mere mortals. They just believed God more. As a matter of fact, Moses probably didn’t even believe God more. He was just in the right place at the right time.
Oh that we knew the exceptional greatness of his power!
4. The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of Him
Wait, I said 3 things, didn’t I!
This last one is not something he wanted us to know, it’s how he wanted us to get to know the other things!
The knowledge of those things does not come by my explaining them in a blog. It comes by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
The first thing Paul prays for is not that we know those 3 things I mentioned, but that we have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; otherwise, we’re just blind, carnal theologians, repeating words without power, except perhaps the power to kill, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
We’ve addressed other verses in Romans 8, let us never forget Romans 8:14: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God."
Christianity is not a religion of knowledge; it’s a religion of power; it’s a religion of revelation; it’s a spiritual religion. If you aren’t led by the Spirit of God, then you aren’t a son of God, and if you’re not a son of God, then you’re not a Christian.
Christians aren’t good people; Christians are sons of the living God.
I’ve said enough. May God give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, so that you can really be a believer, and never underestimate that incredible, universe-changing word: Believer.