Praise and Prayer
Introduction: We all love to be praised. How many of us equally appreciate someone praying for us? What would your reaction be if someone told you, "I'm going to pray that you get a lot smarter?" Is that an example of both prayer and praise? In our study this week, Paul praises the Ephesians, and then prays that they "get smarter." Let's jump into our lesson to learn more!
- Last week, we studied in Ephesians 1:13-14 that the believers in Ephesus were "sealed" with the Holy Spirit. That seal was their security deposit assuring them of heaven. Read Ephesians 1:15-16. Paul starts out "For this reason." For what reason? (Paul's understanding that they are saved.)
- What other good things has Paul heard about the Ephesians? (That they have faith in Jesus and they love each other.)
- Do you pray for those who seem to have their act together spiritually?
- Why would Paul consider the salvation of the Ephesians one of his own blessings? (It shows his "fatherly" attitude towards them.)
- Why would Paul flatter the Ephesians with the inside knowledge that he thanks God for them?
- Prayer, Wisdom and Encouragement
- Read Ephesians 1:17. Imagine that during the prayer time in church someone stood up and said, "I pray all the time that God will give(insert your name) the spiritual gift of wisdom." How would you react to that?
- Add the fact that the person praying for you has recently been in some sort of conflict with you. What would you be thinking? Would you stand up and say "I've also been praying that (the other person) would be given some wisdom by God, starting with the nature of their public prayers about me!"
- What Paul writes could be taken as an insult. Tell me what specific technique Paul uses to keep this from sounding like an insult? (The first thing Paul did was to praise them for their spiritual progress. The second thing he did was to suggest that he wanted them to grow in knowledge. Since everyone can grow, this is not an insult. Third, he addressed it to the group, and did not single out any specific person who was especially in need of wisdom.)
- Notice in Ephesians 1:17 Paul also prays that they will have the Spirit of "revelation." What do you think that means? (When I looked this up in the Greek, and looked at the way the word had been translated elsewhere, I got the feeling that it was a cross between a greater understanding of Jesus and His plan for His Second Coming.)
- What is the purpose of this additional wisdom and revelation which Paul requests for the Ephesians? (To know Jesus better.)
- We have discussed our reaction if someone else prayed for greater wisdom for us. Do you pray for greater wisdom and revelation for yourself? How about your pastor? Your family?
- Recall that Paul started out saying that the Ephesians were saved - they were sealed by the Holy Spirit. They loved each other. What does Paul's prayer teach us about being satisfied with mere salvation? (The Christian's life is one of progress. We should desire to keep moving towards greater knowledge of Jesus, greater wisdom and holiness.)
- Prayer for Our Future
- Read Ephesians 1:18. Paul has another "you need to know more" prayer for the people. What is it?
- I'm not sure my anatomy is the same as the people living in Ephesus. My heart does not have eyes. How about yours?
- Seriously, when Paul refers to the "eyes" of the "heart" what does he mean? (He is not really talking about the heart or the eyes. He is talking about spiritual understanding. Something that you know "inside.")
- What does Paul want us to know inside? (Our future. Our inheritance as saints.)
- Have you ever prayed that God would more clearly reveal your future reward to you?
- When I was young, I thought and planned about what I intended to accomplish in my life: what education I needed, what would be my profession, my professional goals. As I get older, I think more about "semi-retirement," where I will live as I grow old, whether I will have enough money, health and mental ability to get along until the day I die. How about you? When you think about the future, on what are your thoughts centered? (Paul is teaching me that my thoughts are certainly inadequate. I need to be contemplating my "semi-retirement" in heaven. You need to be contemplating and learning more about God's heavenly reward for you.)
- Prayer for Power
- Read Ephesians 1:19-21. Paul has another prayer for the Ephesians, a prayer for power. Would you like to become "powerful?"
- For whom does this power exist? ("For us who believe.")
- What kind of power is this? How great a power for us does Paul request? (This power is like what God the Father used to raise Jesus from the dead and seat Him on His throne in heaven.)
- Would that kind of power take care of all of your "power" needs?
- When I was young, during the "muscle-car" days, I mostly drove European sports cars. These cars were designed to be fast around corners, but they had little "muscle" in the engine department. However, one American car I owned was much different. It was a Mercury Cyclone GT, with a huge engine (390 cubic inches), a "dual-feed" carburetor, an aluminum hood held down by racing pins, and various other things designed to allow it to go fast. Unlike the European cars, it was terrible going around corners. The problem with the Cyclone was its tires. They were pretty narrow and that kept the car from effectively applying all of the power of the engine.
- Paul tells us that we have this tremendous amount of power available to us. What do you think is keeping us from effectively applying all of that power? What is the equivalent of the tire problem in my Cyclone?
- What keeps us from having "traction" with the power of God?
- Read Ephesians 1:22-23. Who has all authority today? (Jesus. God placed "all things" under His (Jesus) feet.)
- Where do you come into play in this text? (We are the body, the church. Jesus is the head of the church, and we are the hands and feet - the body.)
- What does this suggest about the power of God available to us? (It suggests a couple of things. First, that the way in which the power of God is applied is decided by Jesus. He is the brains of the operation. Second, it is the body (us) who actually apply the power. My brain decides what my body will do, but my body performs the action.)
- What does this analogy to the body suggest about the answer to our question about applying the power of God? What could be the problem? (It suggests the lack of power in the church exists because Jesus has decided not to fully apply it, or it could be that the body is not in close enough contact with the head - so that the instructions from the brain are not getting through.)
- Which answer do you think applies? (Notice again that in Ephesians 1:18-19 Paul prays that the "eyes of the heart" of the Ephesians would be "enlightened" to know about this "incomparably great power." This implies the problem exists with us.)
- Friend, Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be wiser and more aware of the power available to them from God. Will you pray that same prayer for your church and for yourself?
- Next week: The Church: God's Workmanship.