There are people in your life God has called you to pray for. You are their prayer warrior. You cannot be everyone’s prayer warrior, but God has placed them in your life and is calling you to pray for them. They need you to pray for them. They need you to intercede on their behalf. God is calling you to pray over them. The devil hopes you don’t. Part of their victory in life is your prayer life. You will have one or two people you will sense the need to pray for daily. You will have some you will need to pray for weekly and others you will pray for as God lays them on your heart. There is no doubt, there are people in your life who desperately need you as their prayer warrior.
So, how are you going to pray for them? God’s Word gives us an example to follow in Ephesians 1. Let’s take a look at it.
Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. 19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. (NLT)
If you were to summarize all that, Paul is asking God to do four things in their life. He is asking God to show them their
- incredible potential (17).
- amazing future (18).
- tremendous value (18).
- remarkable power (19)
We are going to focus in on verse 18 and our amazing future in Christ and how to pray for other in that context. To help guide us through this, I want to frame our thoughts around four words: dedication, illumination, intuition, and conviction.
The first word is dedication and I see it in the phrase, I pray…. Paul had made a commitment to pray for others. He was dedicated to lifting others up to the Heavenly Father. Before we go any further, let’s make sure we can say I pray.
I pray for my spouse. I pray for my children. I pray for my parents. I pray for my brothers and sisters. I pray for my church. I pray for the elders. I pray for the deacons. I pray for my pastors. I pray for my neighbors. I pray.
I pray on Monday. I pray on Tuesday. I pray on Wednesday. I pray when I feel like it and I pray when I don’t feel like it. I pray when things are going great, and I pray when things are difficult. Let’s join Paul and be a praying follower of Jesus.
God used Paul to write Ephesians, but God also used Paul to write Colossians. Listen to what he says in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to pray with an alert mind and a thankful heart” (NLT). When you devote yourself to something you are committed to it. You arrange your schedule for it. You make time for it. God wants us to devote ourselves to prayer. He wants you to be a person who says, I pray.
Paul says something else about prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for your who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). Your sinful nature and the devil do not want you to pray. You are going to want to give up on prayer. You are going to feel like quitting. You will be tempted to think what’s the use. God’s Word says don’t stop praying. Persevere. Stay committed. Stay dedicated. Don’t give up. Keep praying. Be that believer who says, I pray.
To make sure we get this God uses Peter to say something about being committed to prayer in 1 Peter 4:7, “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers” (NLT). The idea of being disciplined is to be organized, systematic, regular, or methodical. The idea is to have an intentional and strategic approach to praying for others that is organized and consistent.
Let’s be dedicated in our prayers. Be relentless, strategic, and devoted to interceding for others.
One more thing before we move one: When you examine the prayer list of the people in the Bible they are dominated by and emphasize how we see our lives, how we think about our circumstances, and the development of our character (Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-12). Listen carefully, Paul is not asking God to give the Ephesian believers what they do not have, but rather prays that God will reveal to them what they already have.
So, what should we pray for others according to verse 18? This takes us to our second word.
Our second word is illumination. Paul says, I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light…. (NLT). What does he mean and what are we praying for?
Paul is praying about their heart (kardia).[i] The heart refers to your mind, your will, and your emotions. Your heart involves how you think, what you believe and how you feel. This is who you truly are. This is the core of you. Whatever affects your heart will determine how you live, your priorities, your perspective, your worldview, your values, your actions, and reactions.
What are we to pray for regarding their heart? We are to ask God that their hearts be flooded with light. Some translations word this as the “eyes of their heart may be enlightened” (CSB, NASB, ESV). What does it mean to have our hearts flooded with light or enlightened? Let’s break it down.
- The phrase “flooded with light” (photizo) comes from a Greek word that means to cause light to shine upon some object, in the sense of illuminating it. The emphasis here is being able to see something clearly so you can understand it. This is the work of the Holy Spirit where he enlightens us so that we can grasp, experience, and apply God’s Word to our lives.
We are asking God to take His truth (especially about their future, as we will see), flood it with light (put a spotlight on it) so they see it clearly and we are asking God to help them understand what they see.
Even though this prayer for enlightenment can apply to all of God’s Word, Paul mentions three things specifically. Paul tells the Ephesians that he is asking God to illuminate, enlighten, and flood with light on three specific things that deal with where they are headed, who they are, and what they have.
- First, Paul says he wants them to understand their confident hope. This refers to everything God has promised them that is to come. Everything heaven offers. Everything Christ did for them. Everything dealing with their salvation – past, present, and future. We will look at this in more detail in a minute.
- Second, Paul says he wants them to understand that God sees them as His “rich and glorious inheritance.” You know what makes God feel rich? You. If you were to ask God to show you His most prized possession, He would put you on display. You are the apple of His eye. You are the one He bought with the death of His Son. To God, you are His most valuable possession. You are His rich and glorious inheritance! That’s makes you valuable. God wants His people to know how valuable they are.
- Third, Paul says he wants them to understand the “incredible greatness of God’s power” for those who believe in Him. God’s power is at work in you and through you. Whatever God wants you to do, you can do. When God calls you to do something He is going to empower you to do it. God wants His people to know and understand that.
Paul is saying, “I am asking God to show you your incredible future, your tremendous value, and your remarkable power as a follower of Jesus.”[ii] Let me be clear, Paul is not asking God to the Ephesian believers these three things, because the Ephesian believers already possessed them. Rather, he is asking God to reveal to the believers what they already have. His desire is for them to see they already have an incredible future, they already have tremendous value, and they already have remarkable power. He understands that if their heart sees this and understands this then they will live a life out of this.
- When you understand your incredible future, it impacts how you live today.
- When you grasp your tremendous value, it drives what you say yes to and what you say no
- When you are deeply aware of the remarkable power God has given you then you are courageous to do what God has called you to do.
Paul understands that when you see this, grasp it, and understand it you will live like it. You will live life based on who God says you are. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (NASB).
This brings us to our third word, intuition. Because of time, I want you to see how this works in one of the areas Paul mentions. So, Paul says in verse 18, that he is praying for their hearts to be flooded with God’s light so that [they] can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called.[iii]
There is something interesting going on with this word understand (eido, oida). Some translations use the word “know” like the NASB when it says, “so that you will know what is the hope of His calling.” There are two types of knowing or understanding in the New Testament.
- The first is experiential knowledge (ginosko). Paul referred to this experiential knowledge in verse 17 when he told the Ephesians he was asking God to give them spiritual wisdom and insight so that they might grow in their “knowledge of God” (ginosko). As they apply spiritual wisdom and insight to their everyday life, they are going to experience God at work in their life and they are going to experience God’s truth at work in their life. As a result, they will grow in their experiential knowledge of God. The believer will be able to say, “I know that God is real because I experienced His provision, His forgiveness, and His grace in my life.” They will also be able to say, “I know God’s Word is true because He promised this, and He delivered. I have experienced God’s Word at work in my life.” Experiential knowledge.
- The second is intuitive knowledge (eido, oida). This is instinctive in nature. Paul is not just talking about intuition. He is talking about spiritual intuition. This intuition (knowledge) is based on a connection with God. It is supernatural. It is spiritual. That gut feeling you get that this is right and that is wrong, this is what God wants you to do and this is what God wants you to stay away from. You hear this intuitive knowledge when Christians say something like, “I sense that God wants me to go to this college and not that one or take this job and not that one. I feel like God wants me to give you $100. I think the best thing I can do is to forgive them and let it go. I feel like God just wants us to be friends.” That is intuitive spiritual knowledge.
So, Paul is saying, “I want you to understand the confident hope that you have. I want you to have intuitive spiritual knowledge of how that confident hope impacts, drives, and directs your life. I want this confident hope to have so much impact on your heart that you think differently, feel differently, and believe differently. Intuitively, I want your mind, will, and emotions to be impacted by this hope you have in Christ.”
This brings us to our final word, conviction. Paul says in verse 18, I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called. What does Paul mean by confident hope? When it comes to hope in the Bible there are two types.
- The first type is natural hope. Natural hope is that desire you have when you want something to happen. Natural hope says, “I sure hope you can come visit us soon” or “I hope we get some rain today” or “I hope I get the promotion.” John was writing to a friend of his named Gaius and said in 3 John 2, “I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit” (NLT). You see statements throughout the Bible using natural hope (2 Cor. 1:13; 5:11; 8:5; 10:15; 11:1; Philippians 2:19; 1 Timothy 3;14; 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:2, 14). There is nothing wrong with natural hope. It keeps you optimistic, aspirational and in some cases ambitious.
- The second type is confident hope.[iv] Confident hope is not wishing something will happen but expecting it to happen. Confident hope is convinced that something is going to happen. However, confident hope is not based on what you desire, but on what God promises.
To help us understand confident hope, let’s compare it to faith. Generally speaking, when the Bible talks about faith it’s talking about trusting God in the present. For example, a few chapters later in Ephesians 6, Paul will say, “Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil” (Eph. 6:12). Start trusting God right now and use your faith in God to protect you during spiritual warfare.
When we place our faith in Christ for salvation, we are immediately saved. Faith has more to do with what is happening right now in your life. We walk by faith. We use faith with each step of our life. Faith is trusting God for the present.
However, confident hope is trusting God for the future. Faith causes you to focus on your race, while hope causes you to focus on the finish line. When you are living by faith you are trusting God for the present. When you are living by hope you are trusting God for the future. Faith is trusting God to do what He has promised to do in your life, while hope is trusting God to do what He has promised to do in the future. Faith gives you strength to pick up what is in front of you, hope gives you strength to carry it for a while.
Our confident hope as followers of Jesus is always connected to the return of Christ and the rewards and blessings, He is bringing for His children. Listen carefully to Colossians 1:3-5, “We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News” (NLT).
When you have confident hope about what God has promised in the future regarding the Lord’s return and heaven it moves you to think eternally rather than earthly. You gain a kingdom mindset. Your confident hope in the future helps you to live for God now. When the Holy Spirit helps us comprehend our future with Jesus, we start looking forward to our future and living for it.
Let me give you an example of how this works. Imagine I told you that five years from now you would win 1 million dollars. How would that change your life today? Would it make your current financial problems more bearable? That’s how your confident hope in heaven should affect you now. This is what Paul is praying for. He is asking God to help the Ephesian believers to see and intuitively understand their glorious future so they can live for His glory now.
Let me give you an example of this. Look what God’s Word says in 1 John 3, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3, NIV). Our confident hope in Christ and the future He brings gives us the assurance that we are going toward something better than this present life. Knowing with absolute certainty where we are going should give us the confidence to live for Him now.
Let’s look at one more example in Titus 2:11-13, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NIV). While you and I wait for the Lord’s return we should be motivated that blessed hope to say no to things of this world, to live self-controlled, and godly lives.
Throughout God’s Word, the “blessed hope” always refers to that which is coming, to that which is ahead. I’m convinced the single greatest problem for many Christians is that they don’t “understand the confident hope” they can and should have. They don’t know the reality of the Lord’s return. They don’t know the certainty of heaven. As a result, they constantly strive for material things and are continually caught up in worldly pursuits. They don’t see the big picture of eternity.
So, what are we going to take away from all this?
- Let’s be people who can say, I pray.
- Let’s ask God to reveal to us and others the amazing future He gives us.
- Let that amazing future drive us, motivate us, inspire us, and change us to live for Him, die to ourselves, and be a people who is madly in love with Jesus.
[i] Heart (Kardia) in Ephesians (1:18; 3:17; 4:18; 5:19; 6:5, 22).
[ii] NET NOTE: has an interesting comment that a paraphrase reads “Since you are enlightened by God’s Spirit, I pray that you may comprehend the hope to which he has called you, the spiritual riches that await the saints in glory, and the spiritual power that is available to the saints now.” Thus, the prayer focuses on all three temporal aspects of our salvation as these are embedded in the genitives—the past (calling), the future (inheritance), and the present (power toward us who believe).
[iii] Paul is praying for the Ephesians to be able to supernaturally grasp the truths in Ephesians 1:3-14 where we see that saints are (1) chosen (Eph 1:4+), (2) predestined (Eph 1:5+,, Eph 1:11+), (3) adopted as sons (Eph 1:5+), (4) accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6+ – see article Accepted in the Beloved), (5) redeemed through His blood (Ephesians 1:7+), (6) forgiven (Eph 1:7+), (7) sealed with the Holy Spirit (Ep 1:13+) and (8) given the earnest of our inheritance (Ep 1:14+). In addition to a holy calling, saints also have a high (“upward”) calling (Php 3:14+) and a heavenly calling (Heb 3:1+). Paul desires that they truly know these magnificent, priceless truths! He knows that future hope has the potential to motivate us to present obedience.
[iv] (Rom. 5:4; 12:12; 15:13; Eph. 1:18; Col. 1:3-5; Heb. 3:6; 7:19; 10:23; 11:35; 1 Peter 1:13, 21; 3:15).