The Prayers of Paul: Knowledge


Paul prays unceasingly, and with that teaches believers to pray unceasingly for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of their heart. Just as a child needs education, the believer who has the indwelling Spirit needs divine illumination from day to day to know God and the spiritual life he bestows. This life is so supernatural and such a divine mystery that without spiritual wisdom and understanding we cannot comprehend it. [Andrew Murray, Living to Please God: Light for Your Pathway to Spiritual Maturity, (Vereeniging: Christian Art Publishers, 2004), eBook edition]

The ancient city of Ephesus was the center of the cult of the Roman goddess Diana (Artimus for the Greeks). It was the premier deity for Asia Minor. The new Ephesian church felt pressure from their culture as well as from the Jewish contingent living in the area. They felt pressure to conform and include idol worship and Jewish tradition into their lives and faith.

Paul, from his prison cell in Rome, writes to this fledgling body of believers. He gives them a lesson in Christian theology and practical guidelines on how to live lives to reflect their faith in Jesus Christ. Before he begins the epistle’s teaching, He prays for the people:

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church,23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:15–23 NASB)

Here, in the epistle’s preamble and before Paul begins his teaching, he prays for the people asking God to give them knowledge. He knows the people in Ephesus faced challenges at the very core of what it means to be a Christian—both in faith and in practice. He wants to protect the people against both current and future problems by encouraging them to be mature in their faith, and he begins with a prayer for significant knowledge.

Why is knowledge so critical to believers? Pastor John MacArthur wrote, “Paul prays for God to give believers true comprehension and appreciation of who they are in Jesus Christ, in order that they might begin to have some idea of how magnificent and unlimited are the blessings that already belonged to them in their Lord and Savior [John F. MacArthur Jr., Ephesians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 41].”

When we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we receive an inheritance. All we ever need to live our lives is present, but we need to develop it. And how do we develop those Christ-given qualities? We build our faith and the attributes Jesus espoused through knowledge.

Paul uses two words in his prayer to describe the kind of knowledge the Ephesians, and we, need. The first word is WISDOM. The Greek word Paul used is sophizō. It means to make wise and instruct, but it implies the cultivation of the mind and an enlightened understanding. If we read another of Paul’s letters, 1 Corinthians 1:18–24, we discover that the world did not know God by its wisdom. We cannot understand much of God’s redemption of humanity through worldly wisdom alone (the Greek Gnostic approach to life). We need God-inspired spiritual wisdom to provide the knowledge that enables us to fully live the life given by God (Colossians 1:9).

Re-reading the Andrew Murray quote at the beginning of this post reminds us that spiritual knowledge, and experiential knowledge of God in all his glory and goodness is not academic or theological. It is knowledge in the world of the Holy Spirit, and we need to grow in that knowledge through wisdom.

The fact is God’s promises can seem incomprehensible in our human wisdom and knowledge, but as we cultivate spiritual wisdom, our faith will grow. Paul, in his prayers for knowledge, is praying that we continue with this spiritual education to progress further and further into spiritual adults and gain the benefits outlined in James 3:13-18.

The second word Paul uses is REVELATION. The Greek word is apokalupsis, and it means an uncovering, a bringing to light of that which had been hidden or obscurely seen. In essence, Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be spared from frantically searching for what was already theirs, but instead would see that the great God who is their God is the source of all they need and has it ready for them if they are open to receive it. Such a receptive attitude requires that God Himself give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  (1 Cor. 2:9–10, 12) [John F. MacArthur Jr., Ephesians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 41].

William Barclay wrote, “The Christian life could be described as getting to know God better every day. A friendship which does not grow closer with the years tends to vanish with the years. And it is the same with us and God [William Barclay, The Letters to the Galatians and Ephesians, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 104].”

I can testify. I’m not the same person I was thirty years ago, twenty years ago, ten years ago or even last week. Why? The most precious time of my day is time with the Lord and studying what He says to me in the Bible. Through wisdom and revelation, He reveals who He is. He reveals His plan, He reveals His promises, and He reveals His Power I see it every day in my life, and you will see as well. The key is committing to spend time in His Word and digging out what (wisdom and knowledge) He, through the Holy Spirit, is revealing to you.









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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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