This study is titled ‘resurrection prayer’ because the resurrection of Jesus brings a difference to how we pray. It would make us pray very differently than if we hadn’t had it. So far in this series, we’ve looked at 3 implications of the resurrection:
The first is resurrection doubt. In Luke 24, the disciples believed that Jesus rose from the dead because they were forced to. Initially they thought it was a hoax or a vision until they meet the resurrected Jesus and understood the Bible’s teaching about the risen Christ.
Second, we learned how resurrection is not a theory, and mentioned three types of evidence to prove it that would hold up in a law court: personal eyewitness, multiple testimony, and Scripture.
Third, we learned what it means at the cosmic level that Jesus lives: all of us will be raised in the same way, not living on a cloud, but living and dining and being able to be touched. Without the truth of the resurrection, our truth wouldn’t exist. In the hymn “He Lives, He Lives”, there’s a line that goes, “You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart.” Paul would listen to that and shout “NOOO!” Jesus lives because he lives.
In Jesus, God made all things new. That’s why we’re here now. If we know that real life exists in the future, how do we pray? What do we ask Him for? Tonight we’re going to look at Paul’s priority, petition and purpose. Priority in that the thing he puts at the front of his mind is dependence upon the triune God, petition in the thing that he actually asks for, and purpose in why he is praying. Let’s jump right in.
(A): Priority: Dependence upon the Triune God (Eph 1: 15-17)
What is Paul’s two observations of the Ephesians in verses 15 to 17? In verse 15, Paul states that he had “heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints”. The verb ‘heard’ applies to both clauses. His first observation is their faith in the Lord Jesus, and the second is their love for all the saints. How does Paul, who was not in Ephesus, hear about their faith in Jesus and love for all the saints? Christians would usually ask for reports on other Christians: this is seen at the end of Ephesians when Paul mentions Tychichus in 6:21-22. Isn’t it such great news to hear about Christians being Christians? Paul was so thankful to God for them.
When someone says they have placed their hope in Jesus, there will be proof. You can’t place your faith in Jesus and not have anything about you change. In John 13, after Jesus issues his two commandments, he states, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” The Christian life is one of fruit-bearing. That is the basic motivation for his prayers. Don’t cease to give thanks for the changes in people’s lives.
How does Paul pray? He doesn’t just reach for his favourite references for God, like ‘Lord’. Jesus’ favourite reference was ‘Father’. When Paul prays that God may give them a spirit he also reaches for a reference to God when he says, “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, glorious Father” (Eph 1:17). What attribute of God is he reaching for? The Hebrew translation of glory is kavad which means ‘weight’. Paul refers to Him as an infinitely great, significant God. Here God is not just a relational figure: Paul is saying that God is the supreme, mighty God.
What does Paul ask God for? He asks Him for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. Who is this ‘him’? Jesus Christ, of whom God will send you a spirit to help you know him. Paul’s main dependence is on the triune God, but not just as a catchphrase. The Father, Son and Spirit are three persons with whom we are to interact. We interact with them by asking God to send a ministering Spirit to help us know Jesus. Paul thinks that what is most critical for us is not that we are powerful or have nice clothes or go to a good school. His concern is ultimately what you do with God—how you respond to God. The good news is that we are free from sin and can respond to God in ways that we couldn’t without him.
Matt 7:7-11 gives us an assurance that if we ask, God is a good God who knows what to give us. Jesus Himself says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” God’s character is in giving you good things that you can never lose. Why would you bring to Him petty requests that ultimately don’t matter?
(B): Petition: Christian understanding of the hope, worth, and power of the resurrection (Eph 1:18-20a)
Paul’s actual request for the Ephesians is to have “the eyes of your heart enlightened” (Eph 1:18). Why is that necessary? The eyes of our heart are commonly closed and we just respond to what we think is of value. Paul wants people to have the clarity to understand what their real priorities are, to be able to see what’s important. “God, open their eyes”—that’s what Paul praying for. He’s praying for three things: that you know what hope you are called to, that you know the glorious inheritance of the saints, and that you know God’s incomparably great power.
Hope involves seeing what is real and good amid challenges. Inheritance involves understanding the value of the amount promised you, what you have instead of what you don’t have. It determines how you see yourself. Power involves knowing that God’s power is so great that it can’t be measured. It determines how you understand your everyday. These mean that we can feel safe and secure, able to worship Him with true adoration even if anyone takes things from us. What Eph 1:14 is saying is that when we professed faith upon hearing the gospel, we are saved and promised His Spirit, which helps us also to understand all that we have in Christ.
(C ) Purpose: Christ’s glory and authority over all, but especially the church (Eph 1:20b-23)
What these verses also mean practically for the Christian is that when you face struggles that are like mountains that you think are too big for you, all you really need to understand is that there’s another mountain behind you, a mountain of gold of an inheritance we can’t even count. The same power that saved Jesus from the dead is the same power that is working in you right now. There’s a power drawing you away from sin and idolatry, telling you that God wants you to come to Himself. More than that, there’s a power in you to raise the dead. Paul’s saying that it’s God’s power that raises Jesus: he is enthroned by God’s power in an untouchable seat of power and authority.
In the real world you can have layers of authority, where requests only get approved after they move up a social hierarchy. Jesus’ rule is not like those things: nothing can touch it. When something shocks you, remember that Jesus has rule and power and worth and dominion.
This is Paul reflecting on what enlightenment looks like. When you know that the power that worked in Jesus is the same power working in you, then you believe that God is committing you to good. Nothing can break the purpose He has for you, not even Satan, if the power at work in us is this power. This goes full circle to the church, even when the church has awful people in it. He is especially over the church, because the church is His body.
We need to have our eyes opened to see Christ in us. He has all the authority and power in the cosmos for the church. If you can’t find something in Jesus, you probably don’t need it. You have a king who’s ultimate over all. He’s been raised from the dead and enthroned in power. Only a God of that kind of glory can make him that high.