This Fall our Wednesday night Bible study has been going through the book of Ephesians. It has (so far) been a good study full of intentional study and deep questions. One of the elements of Ephesians that really stands out are the prayers found in Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21.
These prayers for the Ephesians are different than the way we tend to pray. In general, we tend to be really good praying for the needs of people, especially physical needs. If someone we know is sick, has an upcoming surgery, or fighting a long term illness then we tend to be incredibly reliable at lifting them up in prayer. Along with physical needs we also tend to be quick to pray for other hardships that people are going through. Again, if someone is experiencing grief from the loss of a loved one, struggling with finding employment, or having family troubles then we can be counted on to faithfully pray for them. The way we tend to pray is admirable. Our prayer tendencies speak to our care for the wellbeing of others, and to our belief that God can be actively at work in the world. However, this is not how Paul prays in the prayers he writes in the book of Ephesians.
The two prayers in Ephesians do not focus on physical needs or any kind of hardship or problem. Instead the focus is on growth and a deeper faith. For instance, in Ephesians 1:17 Paul prays, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Then in Ephesians 3:17-18 Paul also prays, “I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all of the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”
This is an altogether different approach to prayer than we tend to bring. We often ask people “how can I pray for you”, and to know the width, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ is not usually the kind of prayer request that gets offered up. Coming to a deeper understanding of God’s love is always an appropriate thing to pray for someone else. We believe God answers prayers, so what might happen if we prayed more like Paul? What if, instead of praying just for the needs of each other, we pray for each other to better know and love Jesus? Perhaps, these are the kind of prayers that have the potential to change lives and transform communities.
In this month I challenge you to read the two prayers found in Ephesians and consider how you can change your own prayer life. Consider not just praying for the needs of others, but pray for growth in the faith of others, pray that they know Christ more, and they dive deeper into the depths of God’s infinite love.