Praying For One Another - Part 1
We continue our study of Ephesians chapter 1, but in a very real way we change gears with today’s sermon. Up until this point we have learned all about who we are as individual Christ followers. Blessed. Chosen. Adopted. Redeemed. Insiders. Heirs. The first 14 verses are the Holy Wow of who God made us to be.
With the beginning of verse 15, Paul uses the phrase, “For this reason…” He transitions to the next topic. But let’s not let these 3 little words escape us. For within these words, “For this reason,” we have the whole of everything we’ve been talking about these past two months. We could translate, “Because you are blessed, because you are chosen, because you are adopted, because you are redeemed, because you are insiders, and because you are heirs.” Because all of this is true… I have the following to say to you.
But then Paul stops. He picks his stylus up. He thinks about it for a minute. And then he adds one more because statement. And this is our first point this morning:
#1 - I make my faith KNOWN.
“… because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints.” Ephesians 1:15
What is it that Paul suddenly remembers? Their faith. Their faith in the Lord Jesus. He says he “heard” about it. You can almost see him going through the portraits of each person in his mind and thinking about their faith. There’s Don and his faith in Jesus. He has such a heart of compassion for those who are down and out. There’s Brandi and her faith in Jesus. I just love how she prioritizes worship in her life. There’s Brian and his faith in Jesus. He has such a desire to know God’s Word. There’s Georgiana and her faith in Jesus. She has been faithful to me now for 98 years! There’s Vanessa and her faith in Jesus. I love how she uses her ukulele and her voice for Christ. There’s Cheryl and her faith in Jesus. I just love how she rallies the church to prayer each week! There’s Chris and his love for Jesus. He uses his business training to keep the church going. There’s Leanna and her love for Jesus. I just love how she gets up 3 hours earlier than everyone else on the west coast so she can manage the worship stream each Sunday.
There’s a connection between “faith for Jesus” and “love for the saints.” Don’t misunderstand the word saints. It simply means other Christ followers. The NIV translates this “your love for all God’s people.” Here’s the point. Love is not just a feeling. Ever. Love is an action. When I love you, I act in a loving manner toward you. I think of you. I consider your feelings and your needs. I consider my resources and my talents. Love means I put you first. Love means I think first of you and what I might do to show my love to you, NOT thinking of me first and what you might do for me.
Paul is also specific here in his mention of fellow Christ followers and not just all people. Yes, we should demonstrate Christ’s love for everyone we come into contact with. But especially the saints. Paul lays out this priority perfectly in Galatians 6:10 -
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
So as we prepare to talk about Paul’s prayer example for us, let’s first stop and ask ourselves the question: “Is my faith memorable?” Would my faith in Jesus cause anyone to stop and thank Christ for me? Does my faith go beyond warm heart feelings and actually express itself in love for another Christ follower? What have I done to cause someone to step up and notice that I DO HAVE FAITH in Jesus?
#2 - Praying For Others - GIVING THANKS.
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:16
The starting point when we are praying for others is so different in Paul’s example than what it is in our daily practice. How do we usually pray? Lord, Jerry is in the hospital. Would you heal him? Lucy isn’t feeling well today. Would you encourage her? Jim and Sherry are struggling in their marriage. Would you help them out? As your pastor, I am not in any way saying this is wrong. God has made it very clear that he wants us to come to him with our needs. He wants us to pray for the sick and the hurting.
However, Paul gives us a different track - one we should focus some thinking about. He remembers people’s faith. And that causes him to thank God for them. One by one. Let’s call it “Positive Prayer Attitude,” - PPA! Paul starts by recalling the faithful actions of love of saints towards saints. He remembers the person. He remembers their commitment to Jesus. He remembers their change in heart and life. He remembers their love for Jesus and their demonstration of love towards other Christ followers. And… he… thanks! Giving thanks is important because:
(A) I’m reminded of God’s forever love. 7 different times in the Bible we are reminded of this important truth:
“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 107:1
It’s easy to get focused on what we don’t have rather than on what we do have. We always have God’s love. Never are we without God’s love. His love for us endures forever. Yet sometimes in the here and now we can forget this important fact. We can get bogged down in the struggles of life. So when we see a fellow Christian really showing up and loving someone with their actions, it causes us to say YAY God! Thanks for that person’s love from you. And BTW, thank You for Your love to me!
(B) I’m reminded of God’s good gifts.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” James 1:17a
In so many ways and no matter how old we become, we truly are children when it comes to thanking God for His good gifts to us. We just forget to say thank You. We take God’s goodness for granted. It can be easy to see the immediate struggle rather than the forever victory.
This past Sunday I had the absolute joy of being a part of my grandson Matthias’ 5th birthday party. He was so excited. A 5th birthday party is even better than Christmas, because every single gift is for him! As he tore through the presents, his momma stopped him at each one, and made him go and thank the person who gave him the present… even when the present was just clothing and not a toy! Ha!
We can easily become the 5 year old in our own life, disregarding the love God demonstrates in taking such good care of us. When we deliberately sit down to pray, and begin with thanking God for the Christian people in our lives who are demonstrating their faith by their love for other Christians, we are stopped dead in our tracks. We remember to say thank You to God for all that He does for us.
(C) I’m reminded to thank God in tough times.
“In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
We are to be thankful to God in every situation, even in the difficult circumstances. Admittedly this is a challenge. Yet it absolutely changes our perspective from one of being a victim to one of being victorious. Beginning our prayer by focusing on other Christians who are living faithful and loving lives helps us to get our thoughts off of ourselves and onto the great good God is doing.
Try this GRATEFUL PRAYER this week. Start your prayers be thinking of other people and the good they are doing. Thank God for them. Thank God for His faithfulness in their life. Keep a list of all the good things you see other Christians doing. Thank God for each one of them. See if this doesn’t dramatically change your attitude and your gratefulness and your own faith.
#3 - Praying For Others - KNOWING GOD.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” Ephesians 1:17
When someone gives you a gift that you are truly grateful for, what is your heart response? Don’t you want to reciprocate? When you are full of God’s love, you aren’t selfish. You are loving. You receive a gift. You want to give a gift. It’s the most natural thing in the world.
This is true in our prayer life too. When we start off by thanking God for the faithful and loving examples of Christ followers we know, we just naturally want to give a gift to these same wonderful people. And the best gift of all is to know God even better!
So how do you pray for this? Of course you can simply pray, God may Jim know you better. But if we stop and think about it for a moment, that is a really tough prayer to pray… logically speaking. God is a God of love. He wants us to love Him, to choose Him. He never forces Himself upon us. He gives us the choice to choose. If we pray that Jim would know God better, in a way we are saying, “God, force Jim to know You!”
Paul goes a different route and it’s so beautiful! It also tells us a great deal about how God works in the life of a Christ follower. Paul prays for the Holy Spirit living inside the Christ-follower to give them two things: wisdom and revelation.
(A) Wise up to know God. Wisdom is more than knowledge. It is knowing what to do with knowledge. It’s street smarts. It’s applied knowledge. God, may I not just know You in theory… may I know you practically! May I see You in every aspect of my day! May my every choice resonate with You in my life. May my every choice remind me of You in my life! I want to know you more! That’s wisdom!
(B) Greater Revelation of God. To reveal something is to pull back the curtain that separates. To see behind the scenes. To be able to go beyond the simple, easy excuse of coincidence and see the God-incidents in my life. The Holy Spirit can reveal Himself and all of God’s will and working in my life in ways that go way beyond explanation. It’s the God Whispers that I hear as I go about my day.
CONCLUSION: Paul has a lot more to pray as he sets the prayer example for us in how we should pray for one another. But we’ve talked about everything we have time for today. We’ll pick this up again next week with verse 18.
For this week, will you make a commitment that you will change your prayer life? Many of you are already praying. I commend you for that! I’m not trying to suggest that there is a right way or a wrong way to pray to God. He loves you. He is a Father God to you. He wants you to climb up into His lap and tell Him all that is on your mind.
God has also given us His Word and inside it He has given us many examples of how to pray. We are most familiar with The Lord’s Prayer! What a great example! But it’s not the only one. Here we have Paul’s prayer. Specifically - how to pray positively for one another.
Try it this week. Start your prayer time by thinking of other Christ followers. Think of their faith. Thank God for their faith and their love and their actions. Pray then for each one of these fellow Christians that they might know God even more. And see if in the midst of these grateful prayers for other people if God doesn’t do something beautiful and wonderful in your own heart. See if at the end of the week if you don’t find yourself more grateful and more filled with the wonder of God’s working in your own life.