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PRAYERS THAT PLEASE THE

FATHER
Ephesians 1:1523
Opening Thought
1) Consider the following prayers:
Lord, bless us today. Forgive us where we have failed you, and help us to
live for you today.
Father, please help me find a parking spot close to the entrance.
Whats right with these prayers? What (if anything) is wrong with them?
Are they typical of Christians you know?

Background of the Passage


At the closing of chapter 1, Paul spontaneously erupts into a prayer of
thanksgiving and praise. Remember, this was a church that was near and
dear to him (Acts 20:1738). His affection for this particular flock and his
passion to see them grasp the glorious riches of grace drove him to his
knees. With the backdrop of Gods cosmic plan of salvation, and in light
of eternity, Pauls intercession takes on a weighty quality. He makes no
trivial requests here. This prayer serves as a wonderful model for how we
are to pray for those we love, and for those whom we have been given
responsibility to care for in the faith. This prayer also reveals the priorities
that are on Gods heart for his people.

Bible Passage
Read Ephesians 1:1523
Pauls Prayer for the Ephesians
15

Therefore, because I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love for all the saints, 16 I never stop giving thanks for you as I
mention you in my prayers.

17

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the most glorious
Father, would give you a wise spirit, along with revelation that comes
through knowing the Messiah fully. 18 Then, with the eyes of your hearts
enlightened, you will know the confidence that is produced by God having
called you, the rich glory that is his inheritance among the saints, 19 and the
unlimited greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the
working of his mighty strength, 20 which he brought about in the Messiah
when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the
heavenly realm. 21 He is far above every ruler, authority, power, dominion,
and every name that can be named, not only in the present age but also in
the one to come. 22 God has put everything under the Messiahs feet and
has made him the head of everything for the good of the church, 23 which
is his body, the fullness of the one who fills everything in every way.

Understanding the Text


2) What characteristics of the Ephesians prompted Paul to be thankful (vv.
15-16)?
answer: starting with v. 15, Paul began thanking God for his readers after
he heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the
saints. The mention of Paul only hearing about the faith and love of his
readers, shows that these expressions of distance between Paul and his
readers are natural, since Paul wrote Ephesians after an absence from the
city for 7 years, and near the end of almost 5 years of imprisonment [Acts
24:27; 27:9; 28:11, 30]. Much had changed even in the house churches that
had some connection to his original ministry, and some Christians in the
city never had a loose connection to his ministry there [Acts 18:2428].
3) Paul prayed that their eyes be enlightened and that they might come
consequently into a deeper knowledge of God. Why was this foremost
among the apostles concerns for his flock? How does Paul describe the
power of God? What is significant about the fact that Paul prays for the
Ephesians to know this power rather than to receive this power (vv.
17-19)?
answer: starting with v. 17, Paul prays that the most glorious Father,
would give you a wise spirit.

The heart of Pauls request is for their knowledge of God to increase. Paul
knows that this is not just a matter of intellectual apprehension. The Holy
Spirit needs to be operative in their lives to impress the truths about God
and his plan of salvation onto their minds and into their hearts. Paul makes
explicit the theocentric aspect of both the wisdom and the revelation that
he prays God would give his readers with the phrase knowing the Messiah
fully. Paul prays not for knowledge generally but that Gods Spirit, who
reveals wisdom and understanding to Gods people, might reveal the
knowledge of God to the believers who read this letter. Hilary of Poitiers
[4th century bishop] said it best: Where Jesus Christ is, there is God, and
where there is glory, there is the Father.
Next in v. 18, Paul speaks of the eyes of your hearts enlightened, using
imagery that was common in both Greco-Roman and Jewish thought, for
gaining religious knowledge and insight. Ovid [1st century poet] wrote,
There was a man here, Pythagoras, a Samian by birth, who had fled
Samos and its rulers, and, hating their tyranny, was living in voluntary
exile. Though the gods were far away, he visited their region of the sky, in
his mind, and what nature denied to human vision he enjoyed with his
inner eye. The Qumran Community Rule instructs the priests to bless the
community with the prayer that God may illuminate your heart with the
discernment of life and grace you with eternal knowledge.
Paul wants his readers to know, therefore, that they are of great value to
God: they are his rich glory and they are his inheritance. Clement of
Rome [1st century Pope] notes a remarkable connection to Deuteronomy
32:8-9 by stating: Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit,
lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and
merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect.
For thus it is written, When the Most High divided the nations, when He
scattered the sons of Adam, He fixed the bounds of the nations according
to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion
of the Lord, and Israel the lot of His inheritance. The old Israel was
promised an inheritance on earth. The Church is given an inheritance in
heaven. The everlasting rich glory is assured to all the saints, and
Gods faithfulness will be vindicated in them. It should also be noted that
the Greek word for saints [hagioi] technically refers to heavenly beings
with whom the readers of the letter will be spiritually united.

In the Judaism of Pauls time, the term means holy ones, who are in the
heavenly realm [Psalm 89:5-8]. The Qumran community also spoke of
Gods people on earth dwelling in the company of such beings: I thank
you, Lord, because you saved my life from the pit, and from the Sheol of
Abaddon have lifted me up to an everlasting height, so that I can walk on a
boundless plain. And I know that there is hope for someone you fashioned
out of dust for an everlasting community. The depraved spirit you have
purified from great offence so that he can take a place with the host of the
holy ones, and can enter in communion with the congregation of the sons
of heaven. You cast eternal destiny for man with the spirits of knowledge,
so that he praises your name in the community of jubilation, and tells of
your wonders before all your creatures. [Hodayot 11:19-23]
It is what the early Church thought of as deification. We are not just
saints. We are more! We are holy ones. The time is coming when we
will rule angels [1 Corinthians 6:3], because we are Gods inheritance.
Athanasius [4th century Bishop of Alexandria] said it beautifully: The fact
is, then, that the Word is not from things created but is rather himself their
creator. For this reason did he assume a body created and human: so that,
having renewed it as its creator, he might deify it in himself and thus might
introduce all of us in that likeness into the kingdom of heaven. A man
would not have been deified if joined to a creature, nor if the Son were not
true God; neither would a man have been brought into the Fathers
presence if he had not been the Fathers natural and true Word who had
put on the body. Since we could have had nothing in common with what is
foreign, we would not have been delivered from sin and from the curse if
that which the Word put on had not been natural human flesh. So also, the
man would not have been deified if the Word which became flesh had not
been by nature from the Father and true and proper to him. The union,
therefore, was of just such a kind, so that he might unite what is man by
nature, to him who is in the nature of the Godhead, thereby assuring the
accomplishment of salvation and his deification. Let those, therefore, who
deny that the Son is by nature from the Father and proper to his essence,
deny also that he took true human flesh from the ever-virgin Mary. In
neither case would it have been profitable to us men: if the Word were not
by nature the true Son of God, or if the flesh which he assumed were not
true flesh.

Finally in v. 19, Paul speaks of the unlimited greatness of his power. The
Greek word for power is dynamis. In Greek theology, the concept of
divine power is understood cosmologically. Ecphantus [Pythagorean
philosopher in the 4th century b.c.] was the first to conceive of divine
power as among the primordial realities of the cosmos which to him was
by nature divine, that the gods are the forces of nature: The deity, say
they, is a living being, immortal, rational, perfect or intelligent in
happiness, admitting nothing evil into him, taking providential care of the
world and all that therein is, but he is not of human shape. He is, however,
the artificer of the universe, and, as it were, the father of all, both in
general and in the particular part of him which is all-pervading, and
which is called many names according to its various dynamis.
Hellenistic Judaism reflects these developments. The powers of the
universe were identified with the angels: For on the first day he created
the heavens, which are above, and the earth, and the waters and all of the
spirits which minister before him: the angels of the presence, and the
angels of sanctification, and the angels of the spirit of fire, and the angels
of the spirit of the winds, and the angels of the spirit of the clouds and
darkness and snow and hail and frost, and the angels of resoundings and
thunder and lightning, and the angels of the spirits of cold and heat and
winter and springtime and harvest and summer, and all of the spirits of his
creatures which are in heaven and on earth. [Book of Jubilees 2:2]
Pauls request is for the Ephesians to be able to grasp the vastness of
Gods mighty power at work in their lives. Why does he pray for this?
Because spiritual power is a huge issue for these people [as seen in the
context of Greek theology and Hellenistic Judaism]. They are accustomed
to seeking spiritual power through their magical practices. With language
that is emphatic, Paul assures them that Gods power is beyond that of any
competing spirit power, god, or goddess. Not only do they serve the most
powerful God, but he manifests his power in their lives for protection,
growth, and service. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that God was able
to raise Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the
heavenly realm [v. 20].

4) How should the truth that Christ is exalted above all alter the way
Christians live every day (vv. 2023)?
answer: starting with v. 20, Paul uses Psalm 110 in regards to the
Messiahs exaltation to Gods right hand [v. 1]. The psalm played a role in
1st century debates about the identity of the Messiah, as Jesus used it in
debates with his opponents [Matthew 22:4146]. Paul then supplements
his use of Psalm 110 with Psalm 8, portraying humans as a little less than
divine, but you crowned him with glory and honor. You gave him dominion
over the work of your hands, you put all things under his feet [vv. 5-6]. In
other words, as exercising a divinely given sovereignty over all the earth,
the kind of linkage between divine and human rule that the psalm found
between human beings and God [Genesis 1:26], Paul alludes instead to the
incarnation of Jesus. Next in v. 21, Paul wants to assure these new
believers they that need not concern themselves with discerning the names
of spirit entities or with worrying about some being that may rival Christ
in power and authority. There is no conceivable spiritual force outside of
the dominion of Christ. The name of Jesus alone, not his name in addition
to others, is sufficient for them.

As seen here on this potsherd, someone wrote the names of four deities:
Sambathis, Artemis, Koura, and Dionysus. Finally in v. 23, Paul says that
the church, as Christs body, is filled by Christ who is himself continually
and completely filled by God.

The messianic king, whom God has made victorious over all the cosmic
forces ranged against his people, is united with the church, which because
of this union is also victorious over these evil forces.

Summing Up
In vv. 1519 Pauls praise of God for the salvation of his readers through
their hearing and believing the gospel gives way to thanksgiving to God
for the report Paul has heard of their sound commitment to the gospel. This
thought, in turn, becomes intercession on their behalf. Pauls thanksgiving
was motivated by his particular interest, as apostle to the Gentiles, in the
genuineness of his Gentile readers conversion. Pauls intercessory prayer
for his readers focuses on his request that the Spirit might reveal the
knowledge of God to them. He is concerned that they understand, in
particular, three theological truths:
1. that they have a firm hope for a bright, eternal future because God
has called them to be his people;
2. that, as Gods people, they are his glorious inheritance;
3. that God has put his vast power into effect for their benefit.
In vv. 2023 Paul explains more fully what he meant by saying in v. 19
that he prayed for his readers to understand the greatness of the power that
God had exercised on behalf of the church. In vv. 2022 he explains more
specifically what he means by Gods great power: it is the power that has
raised Christ from the dead, seated him victorious at his right hand, and
placed all the cosmic enemies of God beneath Christs feet. In vv. 2223
Paul explains more specifically what he means in saying that God used his
power for the church. God has given Christ to the church in his role as
victor and head over all things, including the enemies of God and his
people. Christ and the church, his body, are one; thus Christs victory is
also the churchs victory.