Scripture: Ephesians 1:15-23
For a church or churches that he has personally taught for over 3 years,1 for the saints who he knows have received every spiritual blessing from God, for the believers for whom he thanks God unceasingly for their faith in the Lord and their love toward others, the apostle Paul offers this prayer to God: that the Holy Spirit2 may give them wisdom and illumination and that the eyes of their hearts may be opened in order that they may know God even more/deeper.
Oh, how we need the same prayer, or even more!
If it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the wisdom and illumination3 needed in truly understanding and experiencing God, then we need to ask God for His help. Paul describes the spiritual blessings and some details on what he means by knowing God, so he expects believers to know about God with their mind and intellect, but for truly knowing Him by heart, he offers his prayers. We need the same help from the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for for such an understanding.
Note also that he is not praying just for new believers lacking in information about God. The church(es) he is praying for is at least 10 years old and have been taught by himself. His prayer is for a deeper understanding beyond head knowledge. From the descriptions which follow, we know it is not some kind of mysterious or mystical knowledge either. Rather, it is a true understanding and experience of God’s spiritual blessing.
Study God’s Word
One extreme is that we try to study everything with our own intellect but forget to rely on God. The other side of the extreme is the thought that knowing God can be attained through just prayers and special illumination of the Holy Spirit and that we do not need to study God’s word. If prayer is all that is needed, we would probably have just a word of prayer from Paul without the rest of the Epistle to the Ephesians. We might not even have any of the letters in the Bible as Paul or other apostles could have written to different churches and simply ask them to pray and wait for the illumination from the Holy Spirit!
The facts that the Bible is full of teaching, encouragement, explanation, illustrations of how we should live our lives, correction, and even rebukes, tell us that God expects us to reasonably understand His words in order to live a life that is pleasing to Him.
Ephesians 1:15-23 is a long sentence or prayer which can be outlined as shown below:
I have not stopped praying for you:
- giving thanks for your faith in Jesus and your love toward the saints.
- praying that the Holy Spirit of wisdom and revelation may help you to know God better.4
Applications for us
- stay strong in faith
- love one another
- pray for deeper understanding of God, no matter how long we have been in Christ
- study God’s word for deeper understanding of God, no matter how long we have been in Christ
“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that can be invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:15-23 TNIV)
- See Acts 20:17-20, 31; also check the considerations given in the “Additional Information” section in “Praise be to God: A Call to Praise.” ↩
- While the “spirit” might refer to the Holy Spirit or our human spirit, Paul is most likely talking about the Holy Spirit here. A lot of discussions based on context and Biblical usage have been given in many commentaries, and the readers are encouraged to consult them. Perhaps the main consideration is that the spirit here is described as “spirit of revelation” and the word revelation / apokalypsis (ἀποκάλυψις) is always used in the Bible as an act of uncovering (and not discovering), as in the uncovering of a pot or container. In terms of God’s truth, it means the uncovering/revealing of the truth. Such revealing of God’s truth is the work of the Holy Spirit rather than human spirit. Also, Paul’s prayer here is about human’s seeing and understanding of the truth, so it seems unnatural if he describes human spirit as the spirit that uncovers/reveals God’s truth. Thus most commentators take “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” as the Holy Spirit. ↩
- Since Paul explains that believers have the Holy Spirit in them (Ephesians 1:13-14 and many other passages in his letters), it does not make sense if he is asking God to give the believers the Holy Spirit here, so the prayer that God “may give to you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation” is an expression that means “may the Holy Spirit give you wisdom and illumination on the revealed truth.” ↩
- This is similar to what we had before, but I have added the Holy Spirit here since we have discussed about it. ↩