What do you do when other people come to mind? What is your natural reaction when you think of your family members or your neighbors? What does your mind default to when your church family comes to mind? As Paul writes his letter to the churches of Asia Minor, he explains what he does when he is reminded of the believers there – pray. I wonder what our conversations would look like if this was our default. Imagine if someone came up to you and mentioned a family from your church and how they were having a rough time, and instead of merely acknowledging the inconvenience that they are in, you looked at your friend and said, “That makes me want to pray for them.” Imagine being at home watching TV or playing a game, and suddenly a friend is brought to mind, and instead of ignoring the thought and moving on, you default with a prayer to God for their spiritual growth and well-being.
This default heart of prayer that Paul describes here would be a great thing for us to develop. We must see further however that Paul’s prayer for those believers in Ephesus was not just a generic prayer. Often when we think of praying for someone, we think through the physical needs that they have, and finish with “well, I don’t really know anything going on their life right now,” and instead of lifting them up in prayer to God, we go on ignoring their needs. Paul doesn’t pray for Aunt Helga’s knee, or Cousin Edith’s pancreas, or Jimmy’s neighbor’s job, rather, Paul prays for the entire congregation in deeply meaningful spiritual ways. There must have been people in the congregation that had joined the church since Paul had visited them. He couldn’t possibly have known all of the people there and the physical things they were going through. So instead, Paul prayed for their spiritual needs. It is not bad to pray for the physical needs of others, but that was not Paul’s main focus.
As Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus, he prayed for some very specific spiritual needs. In verse 16, Paul says that he thanked God often for the work that God is accomplishing in the believers. Do you ever pray and thank God for the spiritual growth you see in those around you? He continued by praying that God would grant them “wisdom,” and “understanding” from the Scriptures. This assumed that they were regularly involved with the word of God. Here Paul prays for them that they might continue in the Spiritual Discipline of Bible Intake and in their perseverance, and that God would use His Spirit to open their eyes and teach them the truths of Scripture. Do you ever pray that those you know and love would grow in their understanding and wisdom of God’s word? Do you think in these terms? Do you default to praying for others in this kind of way?
Continuing his prayers for those in the churches of Asia Minor, Paul prayed in verses 18 and 19 that the believers would realize the riches that they had inherited because of Christ, and that they would see the power that was offered to them from God himself. This was crucial to their living a Christian life of obedience to God. They must see that they had been delivered from sin, and given power to do what was right. Now, Paul was praying this specifically for them. Do you ever pray that those around you would understand and live in the promises and power offered to them by God? I fear at times, we are so busy with entertainment or work that we fail to think of others the way we should. Perhaps today, as you see the example of relentless meaningful prayer in the life of Paul, you will be challenged to pray for those that come to your mind throughout the day.
Reflect: Perhaps after seeing Paul’s spiritual prayers for those around him, you could be challenged to pray for the same spiritual needs of those around you.