A Prayer For All Seasons

Bible Book: Ephesians  1 : 15-23
Subject: Prayer
Series: A Walk Through Ephesians

This morning I want us to begin by playing a little game. I’m going to list several dates—dates that have one thing in common. See if you can guess what it is:

Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Birthdays, Christmas, Wedding Anniversaries

Does anyone see the common denominator I’m getting at? Right—each of these days involves GIFT-GIVING—and I don’t know about you but since there are so many days like this I’m constantly on the look-out for the perfect gift to give my loved ones on these days—a thoughtful gift that will not only tell them how much I love them...but a gift that will also bless them in some special way. Don’t tell her—but I’ve already got my mom’s Mother’s Day gift.

That kind of attitude—always wanting to find ways to gift our loved ones in meaningful ways—well, it’s one of the things that make relationships such a blessing. How many of you feel especially loved when someone gives you a thoughtful gift? With that in mind, what I am about to say is not to get you out of PAYING for a gift—but, the BEST way to gift our loved ones on ANY day—not just Valentine’s day or birthdays, etc....but ANY day...the best way to give them the gift that TRULY blesses them is to simply PRAY for them.

Try it—I promise that if you pray for your spouse or child or friends or parents it will both bless them and deepen your relationship like nothing else! I mention this because in our text for this morning Paul gives what I have come to think of as a TEMPLATE to follow when it comes to praying for our friends and loved ones. And—Paul had become very good at this particular form of “gifting” because he did it all the time. I mean, Paul was ALWAYS praying for other people.

I think if we are honest—most of us would have to say that we are NOT like Paul in this because our prayer life tends to be SELF-FOCUSED. We pray almost exclusively for our own needs and fears and problems and desires. I’m reminded of the 40-year-old single woman who was an only child and wanted desperately to be married. She prayed, “Lord, I’m not asking for myself, but please give my mother a son-in-law.” Now of course, we SHOULD pray for ourselves. God invites us to come boldly before His throne of grace to receive the help we need...but I believe that prayer is at it’s BEST when it is sincerely focused on the needs of others.


Take your Bibles and turn to Ephesians 1:15-23. Let’s listen to Paul’s prayer “report” and as we do let’s ask God to use his example to help us learn how best to pray for our friends and loved ones.

15 - For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

16 - I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

17 - 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.

18 - 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,

19 - and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength,

20 - ...which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms,

21 - far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

22 - And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be Head over everything for the church,

23 - which is His body, the fullness of Him Who fills everything in every way.

Okay—if we were to follow Paul’s example in this text, how would we pray for others?

(1) We would begin by THANKING God for them.

And as I said, this was Paul’s regular practice. For example, he began his letter to the Corinthian church by saying, “I always thank God for you!” (1st Corinthians 1:4)

He began his letter to the Philippian church by saying, “I thank my God every time I remember you in all my prayers.” (Philippians 1:3-4)

And he does it again here as he writes to the Ephesians and the other Christians whom he knew would read his “circular” letter. Look back at verses 15 and 16 where Paul says, “Ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

I want you to be sure and note that his aspect of Paul’s prayer life underscores a very important principle. You see, if we look back at our personal pilgrimages toward Christlikeness—we can always see a network of people who have encouraged our spiritual growth...either by the example they set or by the way they took the time to lovingly help us along the road toward maturity. I know I can look back and see lots of people like that—hundreds of men, women, teens, and even children for whom I am very thankful—people who have helped me learn things about our Lord that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Many of these people are sitting in this very room today...and I want you to know that when I pray, I THANK GOD FOR YOU!

I’m thankful for these people both past and present because the fact is, I can’t grow spiritually on my own. None of us can. We need the help of others to become all God wants us to become. I’m reminded of the old saying, “Behind every successful man is a loving wife and a mother-in-law in shock.” Of course I’m kidding about the mother-in-law jab but the fact is there are always Godly people behind us, helping us to mature...and we need to express our thanks to God for these people—people He has used to help spur us on to love and good deeds. That has to be a foundational part of our prayers for these individuals...it’s one of the best ways to bless them right back for all the ways they have blessed us!

Now—what SPECIFICALLY did Paul thank God for when it came to his readers?

First, he was thankful for their FAITH—the stories he had heard of the way they were devoted to our Lord. But he was also thankful for testimonies he had heard about the way they LOVED one another. These are two things to be grateful for indeed—because when a believer’s loving loyalty to God expresses itself in a loving loyalty to others...wonderful things happen. I can’t help but remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37-40 where He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Listen. If our loyalty to God—if our Love for Him doesn’t compel or lead us to love others our “faith” becomes warped—and unfortunately history is filled with examples of this very thing.

Many of the monks of the Middle Ages had a loyalty to Christ that caused them to SEPARATE THEMSELVES from their fellow man.
The heresy hunters of the Spanish inquisition had a loyalty to Christ that made them PERSECUTE their fellow man.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had a loyalty to God that made them CONTEMPTUOUS of their fellow man.

When we ONLY love God—when we don’t allow God to love others through us—our faith becomes nothing by empty hypocrisy. Jonathan Swift once said, “How tragic it is that we often have just enough religion to make us hate but not enough to make us love one another.”

Well, Paul THANKED God for the Ephesians because they got this principle of the faith right. Their loyalty to Christ issued forth in loving actions toward their fellow man. And this reminds us that—if we want to BLESS our loved ones with the way we pray for them—we need to always begin by thanking God for lessons like this that they have taught us. What else did Paul include in his prayer? How else would he say we should intercede for our friends?

(2) Paul would say that we must ask God to give them WISDOM.

Look at verse 17: “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.”

The Greek word for “wisdom” here is “sophia” and it refers to knowledge of the deep things of God. The word for “revelation” is “apokalupseos” and it refers to something we can’t understand on our own—something that has to be explained to us. So if we put these two words together we can see that Paul prayed his readers would be led—guided—deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the eternal truths of God. He wanted them to be open to the things the Holy Spirit would reveal to them. This would make it possible for them to KNOW God Himself—better.

In verse 18 he emphasized this even more by praying that “the eyes of their HEARTS would be opened.” I say “emphasized” because in those days the HEART was thought to be the core and center of one’s being. This is why the writer of Proverbs said, “Out of the HEART flow the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) So Paul was saying here that he prayed that they would come to KNOW our Lord in the very core and center of their being. He wants them to have the kind of wisdom that comes from KNOWING God that intimately.

Well, this is a wonderful way to pray for our loved ones because no relationship blesses us more than our relationship with God. The deeper it gets—the wiser we become. But how do we do this? How do we come to understand the deeper truths of the kingdom and in that way: “get to know God better?”

We do this in the same way we deepen ANY relationship—by simply spending time alone with God. This is how I got to know Sue better. It’s how we both got to know our kids better...our friends better... It’s how we are getting to know our granddaughter better...by spending time with them. And that’s how it is with God. We get to KNOW Him better by spending time talking to Him, listening to Him, and studying His book with the constant guidance of His Holy Spirit. As someone once wisely said, “You can’t develop a relationship with God in a crowd.” We can’t—so we need to set aside time every day to be alone with God. Otherwise our lives are not as abundant as they can be! As Jesus said, “This is eternal—ABUNDANT—life: that they may know YOU, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

The old Canadian pastor, Harry Ironside once told of meeting a very Godly man early in his ministry. The man was dying of tuberculosis, and Ironside had gone to visit him. His name was Andrew Fraser. He could barely speak above a whisper because his lungs were almost gone, yet he said to Ironside, “Young man, you are trying to preach Christ, are you not?” “Yes, I am,” replied Ironside. “Well,” he said, “Sit down a little, and let us talk together about the Word of God.” Fraser opened his Bible, and until his strength was gone he explained one passage after another, teaching truths that Ironside, at that time had never seen or appreciated. Before long tears were running down Ironside’s cheeks, and he asked Fraser, “Where did you learn these things? Can you tell me where I can find a book that will open them up to me? Did you get them in a seminary or college?” Fraser replied, “My dear young man, I learned these things on my knees on the mud floor of a little sod cottage in the north of Ireland. There with my open Bible before me, I used to kneel for hours at a time and ask the Spirit of God to reveal Christ to my soul and to pen the Word on my heart, and He taught me more there on my knees on that mud floor than I ever could have learned in all the seminaries or colleges in the world.”

That is the secret of this kind of WISDOM. It is not intelligence or academic degrees. It’s simply time spent with God. God opens His heart to people who sit at His feet. This is how we get to KNOW God.

This is an important principle for us to remember because it is possible to know a great deal ABOUT God and THINK we know God...but these are two very different things.

For example, I know a lot ABOUT James Taylor. I’ve heard all his songs. I have at least three of his albums on my I-Pod and I listen to them when I run or while I’m driving to make hospital visits. I know all the words and sing along! I even MET James Taylor not once but TWICE. You see, he stayed at the Holiday Inn in Florence, Alabama where I was working while I was in college. My man, JT, had come to town to do a concert at the college and I actually checked him in late one night! That’s the FIRST time we met! Unfortunately the room we gave him was near an ice-machine and the noise kept him awake...so about 1:00AM he called down to the front desk and said, “Listen, I need to sing for a lot of people tomorrow night so I need my rest and this ice machine is keeping me up. I need a quieter room.” Unfortunately I was the only one on duty at the time so I had to ask the great James Taylor to come back down to the desk....but before I could go and meet him at the locked door I got another call so he had to bang on the back door several minutes before I could open up and let him in. But I did—and that was the SECOND time we met. Oh—by the way—one more thing—I ALSO talked to his wife at the time: Carly Simon! She called one afternoon and I was on the switchboard and she said, “This is Carly Simon. I’d like to talk to my husband. Can you connect me to his room?” I said, “Sure Mrs. Taylor! I mean, sure Ms. Simon!” So I know a lot about James Taylor. I’ve met him twice. I’ve heard his songs. I’ve even talked to his wife. But if you were to ask James Taylor today if he knows Mark Adams, he would say, “Mark who?” Because I don’t really KNOW James Taylor. I know a lot ABOUT him...including his musical ability...the name of his first wife...and the fact that he needs a quiet room to get to sleep but I don’t KNOW James Taylor!

The same can be true of God. We can know a lot about Him without really KNOWING Him intimately and, Paul prays that the believers in all those Asian churches would develop a strong “heart relationship” with God...so that they would REALLY KNOW HIM. Having this particular prayer answered—gaining the wisdom that comes from a deep RELATIONSHIP with God is an amazing blessing....because you see, the better we KNOW God...the bolder we will be in doing His will. The better we KNOW God the less the fears of the world will plague us. As Buchanan puts it, when we know God—when we REST in our knowledge of Him..we will risk for Him.

I’m reminded of the story of a man who was attempting to cross the frozen St. Lawrence River in Canada. Unsure whether the ice would hold, this man first tested it by laying one hand on it. Then he got down on his knees and gingerly began making his way across. When he had crawled cautiously to the middle of the frozen river still trembling with fear—not to mention cold—he heard a noise behind him. Looking back, to his horror he saw a team of horses pulling a carriage down the road toward the river. And upon reaching the river they didn’t stop, but bolted right onto the ice and past him, while he crouched there on all fours. If only he had known how firm the ice really was! When we KNOW God—when we KNOW how much He loves us—when we KNOW how infinitely WISE and POWERFUL He is...in this KNOWING...our “footing” is FIRM and SURE and we can go forth boldly, KNOWING He is at our side!

So, Paul would say, “If you want to GIFT people with your prayers. If you want to BLESS them with your intercessions on their behalf...THANK God for them...and then pray that they will come to KNOW God better and better.” He would also say...

(3) Pray that they would know the extent of their WEALTH.

And when I say WEALTH—he was referring to the priceless HOPE we have in Christ as believers. Look at verse 18: “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.”

Now—HOPE is indeed a precious thing—especially in the troublesome times you and I endure these days. To get through life—we need HOPE. We tend to give up without it. Maj. Harold Kushner, who was held by the Viet Cong for five and a half years during the Vietnam war, says that among the prisoners in his POW camp there was a tough young marine. He was 24 years old and when Kushner arrived this young soldier had already survived two years in that horrible prison camp life in relatively good health. The reason for his well-being was the fact that the camp commander had promised to release the young man—if he cooperated. Since this had been done before with others, the marine cooperated. He turned into an informant. He became a model POW and the leader of the camp’s thought-reform group. But as time passed the soldier gradually realized that his captors had lied to him. When the full realization of this took hold this young tough marine became a zombie. He refused to work. He rejected all offers of food and encouragement. He just laid on his cot sucking his thumb. In a matter of weeks he was dead.

That’s the way it is for us—when we don’t have hope—we give up and begin to die inside.

So HOPE is a precious blessing indeed. This is one reason our Christian faith is such a wonderful thing because the hope we have in Christ touches every aspect of our lives. We can be hopeful about the PAST because through Christ we know our sins have been forgiven. As Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We can be hopeful about the PRESENT because we know that “...neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) We can be hopeful about the FUTURE because according to Romans 8:18, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” No matter which direction we look—in Christ we have a sure and steadfast hope! As Ephesians 2:12 says, we were “...once lost and without hope,” —but as 1st Peter 1:3 says, we now have a “living hope” that encourages us day after day.

So, when you pray for your loved ones—thank God for them—pray that they will grow in their WISDOM of God and in their understanding of their WEALTH as Christians...the HOPE they have in Christ.

(4) Then Paul also says we should pray they would understand their WORTH in God’s eyes.

Look at verse 18 again where Paul says, “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know...the riches of His glorious inheritance IN THE SAINTS.”

Please note. This phrase does not refer to our inheritance in Christ...but rather to His inheritance in US. And this is an amazing truth—think of it! Paul is saying that God looks upon you and me as part of His great wealth. I don’t know about you—but that makes me feel blessed indeed!

If you are a parent or a grand-parent then you understand how RICH children and grandchildren make you feel. When I look through all our family photo albums of Daniel and Sarah and Becca growing up...or when I see the pictures of Lydia that Ashley sends our way...I feel WEALTHY indeed! I understand the Psalmist who wrote: “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”

Well, here in the opening verses of Ephesians, Paul is saying that God feels about us like a father feels about his children. We make Him feel rich. In other words, we are God’s prized possession! Isn’t that a blessed thought to think! We are His church—His BRIDE—and we know how a groom feels about his bride! That’s the way God feels about us!

Johnny Lingo was a handsome bachelor in a village where the custom was that a man would pay a dowry to the father in order to be granted permission to marry the daughter. The average dowry price for a maiden was three cows, although an exceptionally beautiful girl might go for as high as five cows. One day, Johnny Lingo went to the father of a girl named Sarita to negotiate a dowry. Tongues immediately began to wag, for it was well-known that Sarita was not very pretty. In fact, she was considered to be rather plain. And, Johnny Lingo was known for being such a sharp negotiator that some speculated that he might be able to obtain Sarita for as low as one cow. However, Johnny Lingo did nothing of the sort. He marched up to Sarita’s father and offered eight cows for her hand in marriage. Eight cows! It was unheard of! No one had ever paid such a high price for a bride—especially for such a “plain Jane” woman as Sarita! But after the wedding, a strange thing happened. Sarita began to take on a noble bearing. Her head was held high. Her eyes sparkled. She beamed with an inner glow. And in the years that followed, she became renown as the most beautiful woman in all the village. People would come from afar to see her as her radiant grace became almost legendary. One day, Johnny Lingo was asked why he had paid such a exorbitant price for a wife. He replied, “I loved Sarita and wanted to express the high value of our marriage. Her self esteem has been greatly elevated as she realizes that her dowry price was higher than any other woman in the village.” Then with a grin, he added, “But the other reason I had was that I always wanted to marry an eight-cow wife.”

Listen. God paid the highest possible price for you. Not in mere cows of course—but in the life of His only begotten Son. And that makes you a prized possession of inestimable value. Think of it: God owns all the heavens and numberless worlds, but WE are His treasures!

So, Paul would say that if we want to BLESS our loves ones, begin by THANKING God for them. Then pray that their WISDOM of God will grow. Pray that they will realize that the HOPE Christ brings—makes them WEALTHY indeed. Pray that they will begin to grasp their WORTH to God Himself...

(5) ...and then Paul would say that we should pray that they would understand the power they have to do God’s WORK.

Look at verse 19. Paul says, “[I pray that you may know God’s] incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms...” Think of it! The same power God used to raise Jesus from the dead is at our disposal!

And I am convinced that there is no greater joy to be had in this life than to do something that could only be done through the indwelling presence and power of God. To do things through Christ Who strengthens us—that is abundant living!

The late John Stott used to tell the story of a time in 1958 when he was leading a university outreach in Sydney, Australia. The day before the final meeting, Stott received word that his father had passed away. In addition to his grief, Stott was also starting to lose his voice. Here’s how Stott describes the final day of the outreach:

“It was already late afternoon within a few hours of the final meeting of the mission, so I didn’t feel I could back away at that time. I went to the great hall and asked a few students to gather round me. I asked one of them to read, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2nd Corinthians 12:8-9) A student read these verses and then I asked them to lay hands on me and—pray that those verses might be true in my own experience. When time came for me to give my address, I preached on the broad and narrow ways from Matthew 7.

I had to get within half an inch of the microphone, and I croaked the gospel like a raven. I couldn’t exert my personality. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t use any inflections in my voice. I just croaked the gospel in monotone. Then when the time came to give the invitation, there was an immediate response, larger than any other meeting during the mission, as students came flocking forward. I’ve been back to Australia about ten times since 1958, and on every occasion somebody has come up to me and said, “Do you remember that final meeting in the university in the great hall?” “I jolly well do,” I reply. “Well,” they say, “I was converted that night.” Stott concludes, “The Holy Spirit takes our human words, spoken in great weakness and frailty, and He carries them home with POWER to the mind, the heart, the conscience, and the will of the hearers in such a way that they see and believe.”

I don’t know about you—but I can relate. I can look back and see times when I was weak—but I prayed and God’s strength filled me. Those times when I feel God’s power flowing through me—those are blessed times indeed!


I’d like us to close our time of study—by practicing what I’ve preached. I’d like you each to bow your head—and bring to mind a loved one—a family member—a spouse—a neighbor—someone you feel led to pray for. And let’s all pray for this person by applying the “prayer lessons” we’ve learned by looking at Paul’s example. I’ll guide you.

First—THANK GOD for this person—Thank our Heavenly Father for the lessons their walk with Jesus has taught you. Now...ask God to reveal Himself to this person anew. Pray that their knowledge of Him would grow and grow so that they KNOW GOD better. Now...intercede on their behalf and ask God to instill in them a fresh understanding of the sure and steadfast HOPE we have in Christ...a HOPE that affects our past, present, and future. Now...ask God to put His arms around that person and remind them how much they are WORTH to Him. Ask God’s Spirit to whisper in their ear how precious they are to Him. Close by asking God to EMPOWER them to do something for Him that they could never do on their own. Pray that they could experience that wonderful blessing.

“Father God, Thank You for these precious people You have put in our path—fellow Christ followers whom You have used to help us grow and mature. We ask that You would bless these people—as You have blessed us. And we ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.”