I was meeting this summer with a student who asked me to help him learn to read the Bible consistently, pray effectively, and learn basic theology. I decided to take him through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The first chapter was full of doctrine (v 3-14) and we prayed through v 15-23 as a daily pattern after that initial study and discussion.
Go ahead and read Ephesians 1:15-23. Consider the implications for you and I.
1. Paul’s prayer reveals a conviction of prayer and a commitment to others following the teaching of Jesus. It shows that he felt close with people who were important to him and his faith – his example even encouraged the Ephesians to pray continually for all of God’s people (6:18).
2. Paul’s prayer is centered on God. His understanding of God and his actions were the basis of his prayer and are reflected in his prayer. It means he knew the kind of God to whom he was praying.
3. Paul’s request that God give the Spirit of wisdom and understanding means life as a Christian requires a continual openness to the Holy Spirit so we can better know God. One role of the Spirit is to help Christians know what God has given us (1 Cor 2:12).
4. Paul’s prayer offers a basis for hope. Most of us know meaninglessness, and not much hope. We have a sense that we cannot solve our problems – individually or as a culture. Hope is as rare today as it was in the first century. The truth is that all humans live oppressed lives – oppressed by meaninglessness and evil. We are taught to insulate ourselves from despair with movies, TV, and other forms of entertainment. We believe that “all will live happily ever after.” While life and God’s creation are good and to be enjoyed, we must always remember the truth that there are no happy endings – at least not in this life. We must all deal with meaninglessness, evil, sickness, doubt, and death.
God’s work in Christ addresses our meaninglessness, the problem of evil, and death. Christianity helps those who are desperate because death is not the end. Paul’s prayer points to God’s power to bring life from death – a power available both now so we can deal with the death in which we live and for the future when the dead are raised. This hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus and in Pentecost. Christians need to live “from the future” God has established – a change from meaninglessness to an awareness that God’s new age has begun and hope is given to us. [Insert a cheer here…]
Based on Ephesians 1:15-23, what kind of community should we be? A caring one – develop a depth of relationship with others who also belong to God. A praying one – develop a practice of prayer because we all belong to God and must participate in a common God-given mission. A thinking one – develop in wisdom and our understanding of God, life, and the importance of faith. Thinking is the basis for action. Use your mind to understand the implications of the gospel…know God and understand His purposes. A powerful one – access the power that comes from God, defined by the resurrection of Jesus and his exaltation as Lord over all. What we need is in Christ – relational power – that comes from being related to the One in whom all power resides. Live communally.
Love is a verb,