By Chandra Bennett
The apostle Paul didn’t mince words. He magnified them.
Speaking of interesting prayers, let’s take a fresh look at the apostle Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus: “This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him” (Ephesians 1:15-17).
Remember [mneia (mni’-ah) in Greek]: This word means “to be mindful” of someone. Remember (in this form) is used seven times in the New Testament, all in the writings of Paul. Six of the occurrences relate to prayer. To remember someone in prayer is more than a casual happen-to-think-of-you prayer. Paul was intentional when he prayed. Many scholars believe Paul kept a written list as proof of his intentionality to remember others in prayer.
Paul most likely wrote this letter from Rome while under house arrest. He was excited about how “faith in the Lord Jesus” (v. 15) was dramatically changing the Ephesian Christians. The gospel was transforming every aspect of their lives. How do we know this? Jesus said love for one another is proof of true discipleship (John 13:34). According to Paul, what was striking about the folks in Ephesus wasn’t their worship center; it was their “love for all the saints” (v. 15).
Near the beginning of most of his letters, Paul gave thanks to God for his readers (see Romans 1:8; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3). In the Ephesus letter, he added something extra: “I never stop giving thanks for you.”
Since Paul was doing time, he could have talked to God about his personal situation — his release, his fears, his needs. But he didn’t. Instead, he focused on others. His appreciation and genuine love for the Ephesians was evident. Paul didn’t just pray a one-time, generic “bless them, Lord” kind of prayer. He couldn’t be with the Ephesians as they worshiped, studied, and served together. He couldn’t be present to encourage them on a daily basis. He could, however, fervently pray and thank God for them, and that’s exactly what he did.
WISDOM, REVELATION, & KNOWLEDGE
Notice Paul’s specific request in verse 17 for “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.” Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians demonstrates that God’s will is for all Christians to grow in spiritual insight — something far more valuable than anything money can buy. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would gain the spiritual wisdom needed to understand God’s plan and power.
How might the lives of your family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors be different if you were remembering them in prayer? How might they have a deeper understanding of Christ’s desires for their lives if you were asking God to give them spiritual insight?
All day, every day, you’re given opportunities to converse with your Heavenly Father. All day, every day, you can make the expression of thanks, the commitment of remembering, and the desire for spiritual insight vital reasons to connect to God for your sake and others.
This doesn’t mean you’re to ignore unbelievers when you pray, and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make requests of God (that wouldn’t be biblical). However, when you see a fellow church member mentoring a fatherless boy week after week, give thanks! When believers in your church have grown as a result of joining a Bible study group, give praise. Ask God to bestow additional spiritual wisdom on these individuals. Add their names to your prayer list, and follow Paul’s habit of remembering them. This will make giving thanks and remembering essential aspects of your ongoing communication with God.
3 LIFE-CHANGING HABITS
1. PRAY DESPITE PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES. Oswald Chambers said it best: “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” Even if everything in your life isn’t peachy, talk to God regularly. Like Paul, you’ll live above your circumstances when you constantly communicate with the sovereign Lord of the universe.
2. PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE LIVING EXAMPLES OF FAITH IN ACTION. Think of someone whose spiritual transformation has made a difference in your life. Thank God for that individual’s dedication to doing God’s work. Pray that each day you’ll become someone who truly does what matters for God’s glory.
3. PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS, NOT MATERIAL STUFF. It has been said that you can buy a good mattress, but not a good night’s rest. And you can accumulate more stuff, but it doesn’t mean you’re living the good life.
You can accumulate more stuff, but it doesn’t mean you’re living the good life.
Chandra Bennett is the editorial team leader of LifeWay’s adult magazines and devotionals.
This article originally appeared in the September 2012 issue of More Living. To subscribe click here or on the magazine cover.