Ephesians 1:3-16. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… 15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints. 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Paul doesn’t just give thanks for the saints in Ephesus and for their spiritual blessings. He knows that they have a long way to go (so do you and I) and so he also prays for them.
John Calvin said that prayer is “digging up treasure.” And that is the case here in Ephesians 1 for sure. Paul says that we already have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. So what’s left to pray for? As we will see in the upcoming verses Paul does not pray for these blessings (we already have them). He doesn’t ever pray for love, or pray for forgiveness, or pray for help even.
So what is prayer?
Prayer is us agreeing with God about the treasures we have in Christ. It isn’t so much about transforming God as it is about transforming us. Our mindset. Our attitudes. Our faith. Our will. First and foremost prayer is recognizing what God has already done for us in Christ.
Maybe that’s why Paul’s prayers always start with a simple “thanks.” Thank you God for our spiritual blessings in Christ our Savior. Thank you for faith and love. Thank you.
The thank you is the beginning of faith based intercession. Without it the prayer for ourselves or for the saints would most likely be rooted in works of the law. This is why what we see in Paul’s praying is basically this pattern: “Thank you God for all that you have done by your grace, now cause us to be instruments of your grace.” Here it is in 2 Thessalonians:
2 Thessalonians 1:3. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. 11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Notice in Ephesians 1:16 Paul also says that he doesn’t cease to give thanks and pray for them. Why? Because he knows that there is no spiritual growth apart from God, no understanding of our blessing in Christ, no appropriation of our union with Christ and no work of the Spirit. This is why we pray. We pray to remind us of our complete dependency upon God. Not to change God’s mind or to “word of faith” God into doing things. But to remind us that this life is all about God’s grace and our faith in that grace. Prayer then is an exercise of that faith. Prayer is the battle cry.
A song about spiritual warfare and prayer (and Black Panther)…not bad.
For Paul, prayer was a spiritual habit. It was part of his daily liturgy. The way he told and re-told the gospel story to himself. Maybe he kept with the Jewish tradition of praying three times a day. Maybe he kept lists of the churches and their spiritual needs. Maybe he used an app. OK maybe not. But you can. Have you made prayer for the saints a consistent part of your life? What about the Christians that you are discipling? Do you pray for them without ceasing? That is, do you regularly pray for them to understand and appropriate their spiritual blessings in Christ? Have you made prayer a way for you to tell and re-tell the gospel story to yourself and others? Do you pray in faith knowing that God will, by the Holy Spirit, manifest the life of Christ in others as we ask him to? Do you pray seeking the glory of God?
“To live is Christ” is not one and done. It is a life of growth into the image of Christ. It is a life of conformity and change. It is a spiritual battle. And this is why we pray for one another. This is why we intercede. Because we know that apart from God we can do nothing, and because we know that in Christ we are never apart from God. Together this means that prayer is a great necessity and a great delight. By our union with Christ we know that we can boldly enter God’s presence and be welcomed by the One who loves us and will never ever turn us away. What glorious grace!