Powerful Praying with Paul – 1. Open My Eyes, Lord
Ephesians 1: 15 - 23
I wonder if we would be happy if our prayers were published for others to read. In this series we’re looking at the “published” prayers of Paul. It takes courage to write down your prayers, but these prayers deserve to be studied because they are unlike most of our prayers. They set a very high standard, which if followed, would radically transform our own prayers.
I am making 3 assumptions as I begin: 1. Most people pray. 2. Most of us feel inadequate in prayer. 3. Most of us would like some practical help in prayer. That’s what this series is all about. As we study the prayers of Paul, we are going to discover new patterns of prayer that will help us talk to God more effectively.
Let me suggest 2 things to consider: 1. What a person prays for others is ultimately what he wants for himself. 2. How a person prays for others demonstrates the firmness of his faith.
Let’s turn to this prayer - first of 2 great prayers by Paul in this letter - other in Ephesians 3. The Greek text - one long, complex sentence, filled with phrases and clauses piled on top of each other. It’s easy to get lost in the details and miss the message. If it starts as a whisper it ends in a roar. What begins as a trickling mountain stream becomes a mighty torrent of truth by the end. The key is at the end of v. 17 - “That you may know him better.” That’s the whole prayer right there. Paul is writing to and praying for believers who already have some knowledge of God. “O Lord, I pray that these people who already know you might come to a new and deeper knowledge of who you really are.” Greek - number of different words - “know.” This verb means to know deeply, personally, intimately.
Ephesians 1: 3 -14 is a doxology of praise to God. That doxology is followed by this long prayer that they might know God better. In v. 3 he says we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. So the prayer is not, “Lord, give us new blessings,” but “Help us to realise the blessings we already have.” Not “Give us new truth,” but “Help us experience the truth we already know.” Spiritual truth can be academic, cold and formal. So he’s praying, “Lord, turn them on to the truth.” “Lord, they know you, now make them excited about knowing you."
1. The Request: “To Know Him Better” v. 17
3 things strike me – 1. “I keep asking.” Paul did not believe that if you made a prayer request, you never had to make it again. When Paul prayed for the Ephesians, he prayed the same request over and over again—that they would know God better.
We don’t pray to inform God of anything. He knows what we are thinking long before we voice our prayers. But if he knows all, why pray at all? The simple answer is one you have heard before: “He’s God and we’re not.” We pray to express our total dependence on him for everything. As we continue to pray for the same things for our loved ones over and over again, the godly desires of the heart grow stronger and we are reminded that every day we must be 100% dependent on him. We can’t live on yesterday’s blessings and we can’t depend on yesterday’s prayers. So just like Paul, we “keep asking” on behalf of our loved ones.
2. Only God can give us what we truly need. If we are Christians, the Holy Spirit lives within us, but we must pray that the Holy Spirit will grant us the wisdom we need to understand the things of God. Education alone will never meet our deepest needs. We have knowledge coming out our eyeballs – sermons, CDs, Christian radio and TV and books galore crammed with information. If knowledge alone would make us holy, we would all be honorary apostles. But the thing we need is for the Holy Spirit to do what only the Spirit can do—give us wisdom and revelation to make the truth come alive in our hearts.
3. The request itself—to know God better. 3 Levels of Knowing God – 1. Level of experience. All of us who know the Lord have some experiences with him that we can use to help others. 2. Level of knowledge. This comes from going to church, listening to sermons, reading the Bible, reading good books. Most people consider knowledge a higher level of the spiritual life – but its not enough. 3. Level of wisdom. This level comes only by prayer. We begin to see things through God’s eyes and less through our eyes. Peace only comes from this level. It is not measurable, explainable nor understandable.
God invites us to seek his face. He wants us to know him better. It’s not as if our Heavenly Father is hiding himself from us. But we can only have a close relationship with him if we will seek it in prayer.
2. The Means: “The Eyes of Your Heart Flooded With Light” v. 18a
This is the heart of the prayer. Only time the phrase “the eyes of your heart” appears in NT. Significant truth that demands our attention. The heart has eyes. Did you know that? When Paul speaks of “your heart,” he’s not referring to the organ in your chest that pumps blood. “Heart” refers to “the real you,” the place inside where the decisions of life are made. The heart is the place where you decide what values you will live by and what direction you will go and how you will live your life each day. Every important decision you make is made by your heart. Your heart has eyes that can be opened or shut. When the eyes of your heart are closed to the light of God, you stumble blindly through life, making one stupid choice after another. You fall into sinful patterns, you break God’s laws, you end up driving into the ditch, you make the same mistakes over and over again, and you enter one dead-end relationship after another. Why? Because the eyes of your heart are shut and you can’t have moral vision. The light of God is shut out of your life. That means you can see and be blind at the same time. You can have 20/20 vision with your physical eyes but the eyes of your heart can be blind to the light of God. There are lots of people like that in the world. Physically they can see but spiritually they are totally blind.
I think a lot of Christians live like that. They know God but their eyes are so filled with the things of the world that they are blind to the truth. Take a Christian young man who has been raised in a Christian home. He’s been going to church for years—Sunday School, Holiday Club, children’s ministry and the youth group. Now he finishes school and at last he’s on his own. He meets a girl and they start going out. Soon they are sleeping together. When his parents hear about it, they are furious and worried and upset and they wonder what to do. They argue, plead, threaten and quote Scripture, all to no avail. What is the problem? The eyes of the heart are shut to the truth of God. Until those eyes are opened, all the yelling in the world won’t make much difference.
Here is a liberating truth - Paul prayed for the Ephesians that “the eyes of your heart might be opened.” One translation - “that the eyes of your heart might be flooded with light.” Opening blind eyes is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He and he alone can do it. But he can do it, and this is the source of our hope. This is why we pray for our children, grandchildren, family members, friends and loved ones who today are far from God. As our children grow older, we discover how little control we have over them. We cannot compel their obedience because we cannot compel their hearts. But we cry out to God, “O Lord, open the eyes of their heart. Help them to see the light of truth.”
Christ at the Centre of Life
Eugene Peterson - last part of this chapter - The Message - unique sentence. “At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.” There are 2 radically different ways of looking at things. Either the world is at the centre and Christ is at the periphery or Christ is at the centre of life and the world is off at the edges. So many Christians have bought into the notion that this world is all that matters. They’ve pushed Christ to the periphery of life. But when Christ comes to the centre, the world is seen for what it really is—something on the edges.
If our young people sleep around, or if they get drunk on the weekends, if they cheat and cut corners, if they are rebellious and unmotivated, those things are only symptoms of a deeper, more fundamental issue. They’ve never made a personal commitment to get serious about Jesus Christ. They’re sitting on the bench when they ought to be in the game. I tell you this with total certainty, once you get into the game, once Christ becomes the centre of life, no one will have to tell you not to sleep around, and “Don’t get drunk.” You just won’t do it. Once the eyes of your heart are opened, the light of God’s truth will come flooding in and you’ll never look at anything the same away again.
Sometimes we worry too much about the symptoms without dealing with the root issues. We should pray, “Open the eyes of their heart, Lord” - when that happens, life will radically change.
3. The Result: “That You May Know …”
As Paul prays, he has 3 things specifically in mind that will result from the eyes of their heart being opened. First, they will know …
A. All That God Has Given v. 18b
Looks back to the moment of their conversion. v. 3 - 14 list some elements of that hope: Blessed with every spiritual blessing, Chosen in Christ, Adopted as sons, Recipients of his grace, Redeemed through his blood, Forgiveness of sins, Wisdom and understanding, God’s plan made known to us, Included in Christ, Sealed by the Holy Spirit. All this is ours - the permanent possession of every child of God. We are rich and blessed beyond measure. Prays that we might understand how rich we already are.
B. All That God Has Promised v. 18c
Looks ahead to the end of time when we will see the Lord face to face and receive all that he has promised. It is beyond our capacity to describe the glory of that moment. Sometimes we wonder what heaven will be like. I think it will be everything we dreamed of and nothing like we imagined. Going to heaven is not so much going to a place as it is going to a person. If you’ve been away - may say, “I can’t wait to get home again.” Not talking about the literal bricks and the literal carpet. It’s not as if you come in - “Hello, curtains, I’m glad to see you again. Hello, dining room, I missed sitting in those chairs.” Something wrong. No, home is precious because of the people we love who live there. It’s the same thing with heaven. The glory of heaven is not the streets of gold or the pearly gates or even the River of Life or the angels. The glory of heaven is Jesus. Heaven is where Jesus is, and when we finally get to where Jesus is, we will be home for all eternity.
C. All That God Has Provided v. 19a
4 different Greek words for power - “dynamite”, “energy”, “muscular strength” and “courageous power.” God’s power is sufficient for all we need. Often we are gripped by fear, inadequacy, insecurity, and a feeling that we are powerless to change things. The good news is, God’s power is wrapped up in a person, Jesus Christ. This is the power that exploded when Christ rose from the dead. If you know him, you have the greatest power source in the universe living within you.
I don’t know about death by personal experience, but I know who stands at the door to make sure we make it safely through to the other side. Why should we worry? Why should we fear? Why should we doubt? Why shouldn’t we go out singing? Our God has given us all we need. Oh, that we might know the hope of our calling, the riches of our inheritance and the amazing power of God. It’s all ours and it’s all wrapped up in one Person, Jesus Christ. Oh, that we might know him better. Oh, that our eyes might be opened to see things clearly. Oh, that we might love him and serve him and make him the centre of life.
What a magnificent encouragement this passage is. Pray, pray, and keep on praying. Pray for each other. Husbands, pray for your wives, and wives for your husbands. Pray for new Christians - pray that they will be turned on by the truth of God. There are so many ways we might apply this message.
1. Good guide to praying for our children. How long should we pray? What should we pray? Answer - never stop praying for your children. Paul said, “I keep on asking.” We can always know God better than we do. When you pray, ask the Lord to open the eyes of their heart to let the light come flooding in.
2. We should pray this for ourselves. “O Lord, help me to know you better. Open my eyes, Lord. Let the light come flooding into my heart. Help me to know all that you have given, all that you have promised, and all that you have provided for me.”
What if you don’t know Jesus at all? Reach out and take him by faith. He loves you and he died for you. Receive the gift of eternal life through Christ. Open your heart. Crown him as Saviour and Lord of your life today.
“Lord Jesus, come by your Spirit and meet us where we are. Forgive us for hearing the truth so often and never being changed by it. Some of us have kept you at the edge of life for far too long. Lord, open our eyes to see you clearly. Amen.”