Prayer is essential to the Christian life. Our life with God begins with prayer; a prayer of as we reach out to the God who has been pursuing us. Indeed that first prayer we utter to God to save us is the most important prayer of our lives as sinners. Once we become born again followers of Jesus, what should we pray for? How should we pray for others?
Certainly we know the importance of prayer for it is our communication to God. Prayer is the means that we communicate to Him and more importantly how He communicates to us. We pray as individuals and as a church. We gather for intentional prayer meetings. Yet we often struggle with what to pray. Our prayers for us and fellow believers tend to be for concrete, tangible requests such as physical healings, broken relationships restored, financial issues solved, a job, cars, and a home. Praying for these concerns is needful but are they the most important things we can pray for? What would God want for us? What is His greatest desire for us? In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul gives us by example the most important prayer request for ourselves and others.
The city of Ephesus was the seacoast city in Asia, and was one of Asia’s great religious, political, and commercial centers. The famous temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was situated in Ephesus. It was a religiously and cultural diverse city, and one of the main industries in Ephesus was the business of idol worship and prostitution. When the gospel first came to the city of Ephesus it brought great change in people’s lives. Paul lived and taught in that great city for three years, establishing the church there during that time.
As Paul writes his famous letter to the church at Ephesus he is in prison in Rome. He writes to the “dear saints” there as he is concerned for their spiritual condition. They have had to overcome many cultural and religious constraints in order to follow Christ. They have suffered persecution for their faith in Jesus and some have lost their businesses and livelihood. They must still live and raise their families in a culture fraught with cult worship and demonic activity. It is in this environment that Paul writes his prayer for the Ephesians and for us.
“ I always remember you in my prayers,asking the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you will know him better.” Ephesians 1:17-18
Paul does not pray for relieve of suffering, nor financial gain, healing of sicknesses, nor even for peace; but he does pray that we might KNOW GOD. Paul knew that knowing God was the key to the abundant life Jesus spoke of. The term “to know” in this verse implies an intimate personal relationship, one that comes from experience. Why did Paul feel that this was important above all else?
Knowing God leads to holiness. To know God as he is, is to love him as he is and to want to be like him. Knowing God leads to a confidence in our faith. Knowing that God is sovereign brings us peace about our future. Knowing that God is loving and full of grace gives us confidence to come to him when we sin, knowing we will be forgiven. Knowing that God’s Spirit goes before us in preparing the hearts of others gives us boldness is sharing the gospel message. Knowing that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, and an eternal home for us gives us hope and comfort in our suffering. Knowing God gives us strength as individuals and as a church helps us to stand strong in the face of adversity. “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action” (Dan. 11:32).
Jeremiah wrote, “This is what the Lord says: Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord. “Jeremiah 9:23-24
The New Year is often a time of new beginnings. Why not begin this New Year with the most important prayer for yourself and for those you love;
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you will know him better.