Praying for the lost to come to Christ is a critical part of our walk with the Lord (Romans 10:1–3), but today’s post is about praying for believers–about interceding for those who enthusiastically embrace Jesus’ words: “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
When you pray for believers, what do you pray?
Consider Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, a masterful work where the first three chapters contain only one command: “Remember!” (Ephesians 2:11). In chapters 1–3, Paul infuses his readers, identified as faithful saints (Ephesians 1:1), with a description of who they are in Christ. Then, right smackdab in the middle of this letter, Paul exhorts them: “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). This admonition is the launching pad for at least forty additional commands for how to walk in a manner worthy of your calling.
Before the saints are ordered to “remember” what life was like prior to salvation in Christ (Ephesians 2:11), Paul tells them of his ceaseless prayers for them in Ephesians 1:15–23.
When you pray for believers, what is your stated purpose?
Paul’s first purpose is to give thanks. Paul tells the faithful saints about his initial motivation to pray for them when he says, “For this reason I do not cease giving thanks for you” (Ephesians 1:15–16). The reason for his prayer points back to what he wrote to them in Ephesians 1:4–14, namely, that they have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. A sample of these blessings can be found in Ephesians 1:4–14: God chose them before Genesis 1:1, He predestined them to be His adopted children through Christ, He redeemed them, forgave them, and caused them to know the mystery of His will. They received an inheritance from Him; they listened to the message of truth and believed (which is the precise moment in time they were sealed with Holy Spirit).
Second, Paul’s purpose is to remind the Ephesians of their spiritual sight. He prays that “the eyes of their heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18). The word “enlightened” means “illuminated.” In fact, Paul indicates that their eyes have already been, and continue to be, enlightened. He does not command them to have their eyes illumined; he urges them to recognize that God already turned on the lights of their eyes.
Paul’s third purpose in his prayer is for them to know three very important matters. These are introduced by the words “what is.”
- What is the hope of His calling (Ephesians 1:18)
- What is the riches of His glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:18)
- What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward believers (Ephesians 1:19)
Notice, Paul continually cries out to the Lord on behalf of these faithful saints for a purpose: so that they will KNOW something. He is not praying for their feelings, health, wealth or prosperity. He prays for their mental awareness, that they will have an acute understanding of God’s redemptive purpose for believers.
Paul prays for them to be aware of “what is the hope of His calling.”
Paul implores these saints to remember that prior to salvation they were “separate from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Paul articulates this kind of hope for the Colossians as “the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:5). However, his prayer is not only about eternity future, but also about living in light of knowing how to behave in a manner consistent with their calling (Ephesians 4:1). Since faithful saints are called by God, they have hope! God’s calling richly supplies hope which informs the downtrodden and faint of heart—the perfect elixir for the depressed.
Based on his own experience, Paul has an intimate knowledge of biblical hope. While traveling to Damascus, Saul is without hope. He is a trespasser, a sinner, a dead man, and a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:1–3); simultaneously, he is also Jesus’ chosen instrument to bear His name before Gentiles, kings, and sons of Israel (Acts 9:15). Saul’s wicked actions are against Jesus; nevertheless, God chose him from before “the foundation of the world” so that he “would be holy and blameless before Him” (Ephesians 1:3–4).
Paul’s testimony gives us hope because this redeemed murderer understood the hope of God’s call on his life, and so should everyone else—pray that they do. Pray that they assimilate the wealth of God’s magnificent inheritance so that God’s glory takes center stage in their lives.
Paul prays for them to understand “what is the riches of His glorious inheritance.”
Paul prays for these believers to be acutely aware of “what is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Paul does not appeal to them to understand their inheritance, but he does pray for them to grasp the riches of the magnificence of God’s inheritance residing in the saints. He uses the word “riches,” better understood as “wealth,” to reveal more about the extent of God’s inheritance resident within the saints. James Rosscup puts it this way, “Believers need to live now like inheriting sons.”
Pray that believers in your life comprehend their eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15), their right to the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34), the gift of eternal life (Matthew 19:29), and salvation (Hebrews 1:14).
Paul prays for their intimate awareness about “what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
Paul, in rapid fire succession, paints in graphic detail the greatness of God’s power.
- His power raised Christ from the dead (Ephesians 1:20; Acts 3:15, 4:10, Acts 10:40, Acts 26:8, Hebrews 13:20; Romans 8:11; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 17; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).
- His power seated Jesus at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20).
- He is more powerful than all rule, authority, dominion and name (Ephesians 1:21). “Rule,” “authority,” “dominion” and “name” are references to evil beings (Ephesians 6:11–12, 16; 4:8, 27; Romans 8:33–39). Jesus, as the head of the church, is “far above all” both now and into the future (Ephesians 1:21).
The end result of Paul’s prayer is that the eyes of our hearts have been enlightened to know what is the hope of His calling so that we can walk worthy of His choice of us (Ephesians 1:4, 4:1).
So when you pray for believers, remember Paul’s pattern of prayer so they can be fully aware of God’s call on their lives, to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which they have been called.