This sermon answers the question, “What does it mean to ask God to give others spiritual wisdom and insight based on Ephesians 1:17?”

As a church, we are about to enter a 40 Days of Prayer. We are going to teach on prayer, we are going to provide a prayer guide, and we are going to provide prayer gatherings each week for you to join me and others in this 40 Days of Prayer. The 40 Days of Prayer begins on May 4, the National Day of Prayer. I’m asking you to join me at the Cook’s house at 6:30 pm to pray for Genesis Church, our community, and our nation.

To help guide us in our prayers, I want us to take an in-depth look at what Paul prayed when he prayed for others, especially other believers. The question we are going to answer is, “How do I pray for the people I love?” How should you pray for your parents? Your children? Your grandchildren? Your spouse? The elders and deacons of your church? What are you to pray about?

The answers to those questions are in Ephesians 1. Let’s take a look.

Ephesians 1:15-23

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 (v. 17)
  • amazing future (v. 18)
  • tremendous value (v. 18)
  • remarkable power (v. 19)

All of that is possible because of their relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The first half of Ephesians 1 is about our salvation in Christ and in the second half it is about experiencing that salvation in the real world. Paul’s prayer is about them experiencing everything they are and everything they have in Christ.

Today, we are going to concentrate on request number one with laser like focus. We are going to take a hard look at asking God to reveal to other their incredible potential in Him. In verse 17, Paul says he is asking God… to give [them] spiritual wisdom and insight so that [they] might grow in [their] knowledge of God. He wants them to know and experience their incredible potential to know God and to live for God. Let’s break it down into bite size pieces. Four things you need to know today.

You are asking God to give them a spiritual blessing

Number one, when you are praying for others, you are asking God for a gift. Notice that Paul says to the Ephesians that he is asking God to give them something.[i] You are asking God to give or grant them something you cannot. You cannot give this to them. You cannot force them to develop it. God is going to have to provide it to them. You are asking God to give them a gift. Your responsibility in this prayer is to ask God to give it to them. You are asking God to give them a blessing called spiritual wisdom and insight. So, what is that? That takes us to number two.

You are asking God to give them spiritual wisdom

Number two, when you pray for others, you should ask God to give them spiritual wisdom. In verse 17, Paul says I am asking God… to give you spiritual wisdom…. If you look at different translations, you will quickly notice that some refer to this spiritual wisdom as the Spirit of wisdom (with a capital S) or the spirit of wisdom (with a little S). What is Paul talking about? What are we praying for?

  • If you translate it as Spirit of wisdom (with a capital S) you might think Paul is asking God to given them the Holy Spirit. However, Paul is not asking God to give them the Holy Spirit. They already have the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). It is true the only way you can get spiritual wisdom is by the Holy Spirit.
  • If you translate it as spirit of wisdom (this with a little “s”) then it refers to an attitude of wisdom. To have an attitude of wisdom is to be drawn and attracted to wisdom. A person with a spirit of wisdom will seek out God’s wisdom and desire it.
  • If you translate it as spiritual wisdom, you are combining the two together. What Paul is praying for is for the Holy Spirit to energize the human spirit with God’s wisdom.[ii] Paul is praying that God would ignite a desire to receive wisdom from God’s Spirit for their daily life.

With that cleared up, what are we praying for when we are asking God to give someone spiritual wisdom? Two things.

First, Spiritual wisdom refers to the attitude of wisdom. I have already mentioned this but let me elaborate on it. Let’s focus on the word spiritual. The word spiritual (pneuma) refers to the disposition, attitude, or mindset of the person.

When you have spiritual wisdom, you have a hunger for God’s wisdom. When you have a spirit of wisdom you seek out wisdom, you search for it, and you long for it. You have this desire to be a wise person and to live wisely.

When you have spiritual wisdom, you have a mindset that is based on wisdom. You see circumstances, relationships, and trials from a spiritual perspective.

An attitude of wisdom is a way of thinking. You think about life based on what God says about it. You think about finances, marriage, parenting, death, business, politics, career, time management, prayer, and worship based on what God says about it.

Having spiritual wisdom is having an attitude of wisdom. It embraces wisdom. Searches for wisdom.

Listen to Proverbs 4:7-8, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you” (NIV). Spiritual wisdom includes having a desire for wisdom. When you have an attitude or spirit of wisdom you see wisdom as extremely valuable and are willing to sacrifice to get it.

Having spiritual wisdom refers to having an attitude of wisdom that desires wisdom and searches for wisdom, but it also means something else.

Secondly, Spiritual wisdom refers to the application of wisdom. Let’s focus on the word wisdom. The word wisdom (sophia) refers to the practical application of God’s truth to life situations. Wisdom takes God’s truth and makes it tangible Wisdom enables you to take God’s Word and see how it is lived out in the real world, in your daily life.

Biblical wisdom is not being a champion at Bible trivia. Wisdom is not being able to quote 100 Bible verses. Wisdom is the ability to take that Bible trivia and those scriptures and know why they are important and how they apply to daily life and do it.

Spiritual wisdom hears Ephesians 6:4 which says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (NLT). Spiritual wisdom wants to hear this, wants to understand it, and wants to apply it. A dad who has spiritual wisdom will understand what unnecessarily provokes his son or daughter to anger. He will discover how to motivate them, inspire them, discipline them, and encourage them in spiritual matters that communicate to them. The reason this dad does this is because he has spiritual wisdom.

And this is what we are praying for! This is what we are praying for moms, dads, husbands, wives, pastors, elders, young adults, leaders, children, and a host of others. What want God to bless them and give them spiritual wisdom.

You are asking God to give them spiritual insight

Number three, when you pray for others, you should ask God to give them spiritual insight. In verse 17, Paul says I am asking God… to give you spiritual wisdom and insight…. When it comes to insight there are two aspects to it. There is a revealing and a receiving component to this. Let’s look at each one.

First, spiritual insight refers to God revealing His truth. The word “insight” (apokalupsis) means to uncover, disclose, or unveil.[iii] Some translations will use the word revelation, rather than insight. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to the follower of Jesus the meaning of God’s truth. God’s Word says that the Holy Spirit was given to reveal “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). God wants to give you insight into His Word and how to apply in your unique situation.

Second, spiritual insight refers to you receiving God’s truth. Wisdom and insight must go together. You cannot separate the two. The Holy Spirit is going to give you insight into God’s Word on what it means and how to apply it resulting in wisdom. You cannot get to wisdom without insight. You cannot get to wisdom without God revealing and you receiving His truth. God is going to reveal it, you will receive it, but you must be looking for it.

When we pray for others, we are asking God to give them spiritual wisdom and insight. Spiritual wisdom focuses on applying truth, insight focuses on receiving truth. This deals with God giving them knowledge that they need to make a wise decision. We are asking God to help them be able to take God’s truth and apply it to their situation.

You are asking God to give them spiritual growth

Finally, when you pray for others, you are asking God to give them spiritual growth. In verse 17, Paul says I am asking God… to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. When a person receives spiritual wisdom and insight, they are in a position to grow, but what are they growing in? They are growing in two things.

The knowledge of God refers to knowing God

The phrase, knowledge of God, refers to knowing God.[iv] Spiritual wisdom helps you to know who God is. It helps you to understand the love of God, grace of God, mercy of God, wrath of God, power of God, presence of God, holiness of God, sovereignty of God, immutability of God (He does not change), righteousness of God, judgement of God, goodness of God, justice of God, faithfulness of God, truthfulness of God, trustworthiness of God, reliability of God, and the patience of God. Without spiritual wisdom and insight, you and the person you are praying for cannot and will not grow in the knowledge of God.[v] I’m convinced that one of the ways you know that spiritual wisdom and insight are operating in your life is when you have a hunger and desire to know God more and more. When you pray for others this way, you want them to grow like this because you are growing like this. You understand the significance and impact of growing in the knowledge of God.

The knowledge of God refers to God’s knowledge

But there is something else you need to know about this knowledge of God. It refers to God’s knowledge. It not only refers to knowing God, but also knowing some things that God knows.

God has shared some of His knowledge with us in His Word. Later on, in Ephesians 5:33, God’s Word is going to say, “Each man must love his wife” (NLT). God knows something about women you don’t. God knows something about wives you don’t. God knows something specific about your wife that you don’t. Spiritual wisdom and insight let you in on that knowledge which lets you know how to love your wife. Spiritual wisdom and insight give you God’s knowledge about loving your wife in a practical and relevant way that is meaningful to her.

The same is true for the wife. Ephesians 5:33 says, “… and the wife must respect her husband” (NLT). Again, God knows something about men you don’t. He knows something about husbands you don’t. Specifically, he knows something about your husband that you don’t. Spiritual wisdom and insight allow you to tap into God’s knowledge about how to show him respect in a practical way that is meaningful to him.

This applies to every area of your life. You need spiritual wisdom and insight regarding who your friends are, who you date, who you marry, how to make that marriage work, whether you should get married or not, manage finances, what job to take, what career to pursue, how to deal with conflict, raise and train children, who to pray for and how to pray for them, how to encourage others, how to love, bless and forgive others. You need spiritual wisdom and insight on how to manage stress, time management, and a host of other situations and relationships in your life.

Without spiritual wisdom and insight, you and the person you are praying for are not going to grow in knowing God and knowing what God wants you to know. It is essential for your spiritual growth and the growth of the one you are praying for.


As we enter a 40 Days of Prayer pray for spiritual wisdom and insight for the people on your heart. Pray this over your children, over your spouse, over your parents, your pastor, your Life Group leader, over the people in your Life Group or Discipleship Group.

[i] May give (1325) (didomi) means to give based on a decision of the will of giver no merit of recipient and thus can carry the ideas of bestow, grant. Paul prays that God might give the spirit of wisdom and revelation to the Ephesians. Note that some Greek sources state that give is in the optative mood, which expresses a wish or desire in prayer (as in 2Th 3:16Ro 15:52Ti 1:16,18)

[ii] The Holy Spirit produces four spirits in our lives: a spirit of adoption as sons (Rom. 8:15), a spirit of gentleness (1 Cor. 4:21), a spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17), and the spirit of truth (1 John 4:6).

[iii] Revelation (602) (apokalupsis from from apó = from + kalúpto = cover, conceal) is an unveiling of something hidden. Here apokalupsis deals with God’s imparting knowledge to us (Wisdom is proper use of this knowledge in daily living). Revelation conveys the idea of “taking the lid off” and means to remove the cover and expose to open view that which was heretofore not visible, known or disclosed. It means to make manifest or reveal a thing previously secret or unknown. Revelation has to do with the imparting of knowledge (in context) of spiritual things whereas wisdom has to do with the proper use of such knowledge in our daily lives. Originally in secular Greek apokalupsis was not an especially religious word (other words were used in secular Greek to designate divine revelations) but meant simply the disclosure of any fact. It was used to mean “uncovering” as of one’s head. It was used to describe the “disclosing” of hidden springs. In contrast apokalupsis as used in the NT always has theological meaning. Apokalupsis – 2x in Ephesians – Eph 1:17Eph 3:3

[iv] A more in depth look at the word knowledge (epignosis). It is important to understand Paul’s use of the noun epignosis (which he also uses in similar prayers Colossians 1:9-10 and Philippians 1:9-10 because epignosis  describes a more intimate, personal relationship than gnosis (knowledge). To say it another way,  Paul’s prayer for epignosis is not for the saints to merely have more “head” knowledge (“facts”) about God, but that they would have greater heart knowledge which in turn produces  transformed lives. Paul is not praying for something “mystical.” Of course, the saints would still need to study the truths in Ephesians 1:3-14, but the prayer functions much like a “catalyst” in a chemical reaction, supernaturally energizing the Holy Word and the Holy Spirit, in such a way that the saints would experience greater intimacy with their Father. 

[v] Wiersbe notes: The believer must grow in his knowledge of God. To know God personally is salvation (John 17:3). To know Him increasingly is sanctification (Philippians 3:10). To know Him perfectly is glorification (1 Cor. 13:9-12). Since we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28), the better we know God, the better we know ourselves and each other. It is not enough to know God only as Savior. We must get to know Him as Father, Friend, Guide, and the better we know Him, the more satisfying our spiritual lives will be.