A lot of prayers of supplication involve asking for material things or for earthly events. This is only natural since this is where we’re at and we interact with a physical, tangible world. However, as much as we need God to provide so that we have food, shelter, and the other physical things, there are some spiritual things that are of far greater value. That’s why Paul didn’t pray for physical things for the church in Ephesus. Rather, he prayed for spiritual things:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might – Ephesians 1:17-19, ESV
This is what Paul prayed for:
- that the Ephesians would receive the Spirit of wisdom
- that they would receive the revelation in the knowledge of God
- that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened
- that all of this would happen so they would understand the hope they had in Christ
- that they would know how awesome a believer’s glorious inheritance is
- that they would understand God’s great power working on the behalf of those who believe
There was nothing there about food or shelter or a job or safety or anything of that sort. While those things are important, what Paul was focusing on was more important to the believer. Now one of the things that catches my attention is that Paul prayed that they would receive the Spirit of wisdom and the revelation in the knowledge of God. They should already have those things as believers, right? They did. However, Paul still asked for those things. Why?
Simply because he desired that they would continue to grow in their knowledge and wisdom of God, that their hearts would continue to be changed to be more like God. I was reading an article about a professional wide receiver entering into his third year. His teammates indicate that he’s so much better now than he was even last year at this time. They don’t talk about his physical traits being better, but rather his knowledge and understanding of the position of the game. This is a guy who has played football all his life. However, there’s a marked difference in performance levels for a wide receiver between the pros and everything else. Most of us would read a story like that and go, “That makes sense. He’s getting more football savvy.” The same is true with respect to our knowledge of God and our relationship with Him. We should be growing in both over time.
That’s why Paul prayed the way he did. Food, shelter, the ability to earn a living, and other needs based prayers are important. Paul surely knew that. However, he was focusing on what was most important. He was asking God on their behalf to grow their knowledge and wisdom of our Lord, to open their hearts to be like His, and to give them a taste of what they had in God, both in inheritance and in His power. When we pray, we should pray for these most important things in our own lives and in the lives of believers we know. We should ask urgently for these spiritual blessings. Let’s cover the other needs, too, but not neglect our spiritual need to grow in Him.