Some Insights on Prayer
As I read Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:15-23, three things grab my attention.
#1: Paul provides a model of persistent prayer.
Many of us have a tendency to be erratic or haphazard about praying. Ben Patterson sums it up well: “Prayer is always getting nudged aside, neglected, or perfunctorily performed as more pressing concerns take center stage. Many of us feel we just have too much to do to have time to pray. That is the problem. At the bottom, we don’t believe we are really doing anything when we pray—other than pray, that is.” (LEADERSHIP Journal, Winter, 1995, p. 93)
But Paul writes to the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” For Paul, bringing people to God in prayer is a persistent matter because Paul recognizes the value of prayer.
Paul Kreeft comments, “I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”
I can recall several times, in my own life, when I have felt the urge to pray for someone, and I prayed for the person, and I found out later how timely my prayers were. I can also recall times when I have felt the urge to pray for someone, but never got around to lifting up a prayer. I wonder about what I missed.
#2: Paul sets an example of expressing gratitude in prayer.
He says to the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.”
Near the end of my mother’s life, she began to repeat herself frequently. What she repeated most often were stories. Sometimes they were stories about me. Quite often they were stories about my children. I never minded hearing her repeat her stories because they were all full of love. As a father, I was always delighted to hear her speak with such love about my children.
Don’t you think that’s how God feels when we pray with thanksgiving for people in our lives—people whom God loves even more deeply than I love my children?
I sometimes think that my prayers for others ought to be focused on asking God for good things for them, and that it is a waste of time simply to thank God for them. But the deeper truth is that when we thank God for those whom he loves, we come close to the heart of God, and nothing that brings us close to the heart of God is ever a waste of time. I would like to learn from Paul to let my prayers for others abound with thanksgiving for them.
#3: Paul prays for things that matter deeply.
Often my prayers for others stay as shallow as praying for good health of for success on a particular venture. But Paul goes deeper. Listen to what he prays for on behalf of the Ephesians in verses 17-19: “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.”
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians helps me to see that God is interested in more than simply stringing together a record number of nice days in a row for us. God is most interested in the kind of people we are becoming. Phillips Brooks advises, “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, but pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself—at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.”