“Praying to Know God” A Prayer for Holy Spirit-Empowered Insight and Revelation to Know God Part 1
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 1.15-17
Open your Bibles to the Ephesians chapter 1. Our text this morning is Ephesians 1:15-18. We have just concluded a section in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which Paul describes with great depth the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. As we’ve seen in verses 4-6, the Father elects in eternity past and we also saw in verses 7-12 Christ’s redemption at the cross in our present age and then in verses 13-16, we saw the Holy Spirit and how He seals us and how He is Himself the deposit of our inheritance in the future.
And of course these blessings are of infinite value. There is no estimation of value that you can place upon them. They are indeed blessings for which we should praise God. But Paul also argues that these blessings are themselves the foundation for every other spiritual blessing that we have in Christ, as he says in verse three. Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
And God can bless us with every spiritual blessing because of the blessings we just went over: the Father chose us and Christ redeemed us and the Holy Spirit has sealed us.
So not only do we have those blessings from each member of the Trinity, but we also have spiritual blessings like wisdom and understanding. We have insight, we have the fruit of the Spirit and answers to prayer. We have, as verse three says, every spiritual blessing.
We do not lack in any of the blessings. God would not have formed up our assembly if He did not believe that within our assembly there was the ability to carry out a ministry of the local church. We have gifts from God to accomplish his purposes by his grace in our assembly. We have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
Now, in verses 15 to the end of the chapter, Paul tells the Ephesians what he prays for them about.
And so what do you pray for someone who has every spiritual blessing? What do you pray for someone who has everything!?
ILL: It’s kind of like asking, “What do you get someone for Christmas who has everything?” What else can you get him? A boy may have all of the toys, but take away the batteries, and it’s no fun. That boy needs batteries to more deeply experience those toys.
At our house we have a remote control car. And for the longest time, we did not put batteries in the car and so we couldn’t enjoy the car and get it to do what it was designed to do. And what Hudson needed to enjoy the car and to get it to do what it was designed to do was batteries. He needed power to enjoy the car. He could have asked me and I would have put batteries in his car.
Just like Hudson could ask me for batteries for his car so that he could more fully experience the car, Paul prays for the believers in our passage this morning that we would fully experience the truths that we just described. And in this case, the power does not come through batteries, but the power comes with knowledge. Knowledge is the power that will equip us to enjoy and to live this salvation from sin we have. Spirit-empowered wisdom is required to know God. This is why knowledge and understanding is crucial to the Christian life and why doctrine is so important. That focus of knowledge is in our text this morning.
And so let’s read Ephesians 1:15-18 and you see if you can count the number of times Paul uses a word referring to knowledge in his prayer.
Ephesians 1:15-18 15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Did you catch how many? Five. In the main part of his prayer request in verses 17-18, Paul uses five different words to describe the burden that he has for people’s Christian life. Verse 17 wisdom … revelation knowledge. Verse 18 … Enlightened and finally he is praying these things so that you will know.
Paul’s burden for believers is for a true Holy Spirit-empowered comprehension of divine truth. And this is true throughout Paul’s letters. Turn a few pages over to Phil. 1. Just 1 book further. If you do a study on all of Paul’s prayers you will discover that his big burden is this: Holy Spirit-empowered comprehension of divine truth.
Philippians 1:9-11 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent [his prayer for their love abounding in knowledge is that the Philippians would… ]be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ
See the focus there on knowledge, discernment, and approving. These are words for wisdom.
Keep going to the next book to Colossians 1. It’s the same focus here. Paul writes out his prayer and he says…
Colossians 1:9-12 9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will [what He means by that is the gospel … filled with the knowledge of the gospel] in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 [this knowledge has an effect] so that you will live in a manner worthy of the Lord,
You really can know what a person’s burden is by listening to what they pray for. Paul’s not praying for his people’s deliverance from trials… He’s not praying that they set up safeguards to guard against sin. He’s not even praying that they read the Bible through every year … He’s praying that they have Spirit-filled knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. He’s praying for real discernment and revelation and the knowledge of God.
The reason he’s praying this is because he knows that true spiritual understanding will lead to a fruitful life. What would your life look like if you had this? What would a ministry look like that carried Paul’s burden for wisdom and knowledge? Would the preaching of that ministry be mainly application based? Or would that ministry be mainly focused on knowledge, spiritual wisdom and understanding so that these things would enable us to live in a manner worthy of the Lord?
This is why, of course, I preach the way that I do. The Scripture is informing us that what we need is depth of knowledge and wisdom and understanding so that when we receive this, we will be able to live in a manner worthy of the Lord.
You can turn back to Ephesians 1. In Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians in verses 15-23, Paul is burdened that God’s people receive knowledge. And it’s knowledge of three specific things. And we are going to go over just 1 of them this morning.
Paul is praying what he does for the Ephesians for 3 reasons. He has three goals for the Ephesians as he prays for them.
And these three things in the rest of the chapter are easily marked out for us by the little word “what.” Two of them are found in verse 18.
Paul prays what he does so that believers will know first, in verse 18…. So that you will know what is the hope of his calling… Secondly he prays what he does so that believers will know, the end of verse 18, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.
And thirdly, verse 19, Paul prays what he does so that believers will know what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe.
Paul wants us to know the hope of His calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These 3 things that Paul wants us to understand are in the realm of God: his calling, his inheritance, and his power.
So what does Paul pray so that we know these things? The answer to that is in verse 17, when he says that he was praying that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” Verse 17 is the main request of this prayer in verses 15-23. And the 3 things we just mentioned are why Paul is praying this. Paul is praying a simple request: that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”
What that means is this: Paul is praying that God the Father would give to believers Holy Spirit-Empowered Insight and Revelation to Know God
In short, Paul is praying that we would know God. So I would like to preach this morning on “Praying to Know God.”
This is a prayer to the Father for Holy Spirit-Empowered insight and discovery concerning knowledge of God. You need Holy Spirit-Empowered insight and discovery to know God.
Thanksgiving for Ephesian Believers (1:15-16a)
First, before he prays for them, he gives thanks for them in verse 15 and in the first part of verse 16.
Ephesians 1:15-16 15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;
Paul does not cease giving thanks for the Ephesian believers. That means that he is regularly giving thanks to God for them. He always has these believers on his heart.
But I have a question. “Why does he always thank God for them?” And the reason is because he has heard a report about them that’s found right there in verse 15. He thanks God for the Ephesian believers because he has heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among them.” And he also thanks to God for the Ephesian believers because he’s heard ….in that same report … at the end of verse 15… Paul has heard of their love for all the saints.
Paul is so thankful that these people have believed and that they are faithful to Jesus Christ. He is also very thankful to God when he hears of the love that they have for one another.
And what is motivating Paul with this thankfulness? It is the blessings that were just described in verses 3-14. Paul is motivated to pray because of these awesome benefits that we have in Jesus Christ. And he is thankful that the Ephesian believers have trusted in Christ have received these great benefits.
APP: Notice then that Paul is not motivated to pray merely by a crisis. If we only turn to God in prayer when there is a crisis and we fail to pray to him at other times, God very well may bring crisis upon crisis in our lives. We should be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should be thankful for the great benefits that we have in Christ and because of one another’s faithfulness to him and for our love for one another.
And just think for a moment what it required of these believers to love one another. Remember, this church is a unique mixture of Jews and Gentiles. In the first century, Jews and Gentiles were not known for getting along with one another, to put it mildly. They are naturally hostile toward one another. And God is saving both Jew and Gentile and putting them into his church. The love that is required is something that we have never really experienced before. There is high tension in this assembly because of racism. And their love in Christ for one another would have to transcend that.
It would have been difficult to seek the highest good and the will of God for someone whom you naturally hate from birth.
But we do not have the same exact difficulty. However for us, seeking the highest good and the will of God for each other would include not showing preference for one over another and bearing one another’s burdens, and caring for each other spiritually and materially.
And the focus here is the love we have for fellow believers, as Jesus says John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So Paul is motivated to pray because of the glorious truths that we have in Jesus Christ, as described in the previous passage. And the Ephesians, to whom Paul is writing, are believers and he is thankful to God for their faith and for their love for each other.
TRANS: So Paul is thankful for their faith and love, but Paul knows that just because he wrote down the truths he did in verses 3-14, that they don’t completely understand these things. Paul knows it’s one thing to understand the facts about the Father’s election and Christ’s redemption and the Holy Spirit’s sealing us … It is one thing to understand those facts, but it’s quite another thing to have Holy Spirit empowered insight concerning those things.
And we all know that just because we preached a series of messages on those verses that does not mean that we have complete and perfect knowledge of those truths to the point that it affects our everyday lives. Unbelievers can understand the grammar and explanation of a Bible passage and can listen and understand a sermon. What people need is, yes the facts, but we need Holy Spirit-empowered insight into the true nature of these things.
Truth will fall on deaf ears when preached or when read unless there is the power that comes through prayer and by the Holy Spirit. “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down,” the hymn writer says. And then the hymn writer gives the plea, “Will you pray with all of your power as we try to preach the word?”
So Paul prays and asks God that the Ephesian believers would know God intimately. That’s Paul’s main request here, that we would know God intimately.
Request: To Know God Intimately (wisdom and revelation; 1:16b-18a)
At the end of verse 16 Paul is thankful to God for the believers, but he also prays for them…
He makes mention of them in his prayers … and his request, verse 17, is that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of glory … Paul is praying that God the Father who is all glorious who receives all the glory and who owns all the glory … That God the Father would give to you, verse 17… “A spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”
And I could argue extensively as to why the word “spirit” here must be referring to the Holy Spirit. The New American Standard does not capitalize this and so they mean it to refer to the human spirit.
If it is the human spirit, it would have the idea of kind of an attitude or spirit about you. That you would have a spirit about you that’s characterized by wisdom and revelation.
But the word “revelation” means an unveiling… It is the unveiling of truth that God has hidden in Himself and cannot be known apart from God revealing it. How do you have an attitude like that? An attitude of unveiling… but only God can give us this revelation and the Bible teaches us that it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can really come to comprehend truth in a real and spiritual way. Only the Holy Spirit can give revelation.
So Paul is praying that the Holy Spirit who indwells believers would empower us to receive wisdom, or “insight” and revelation concerning knowledge of Him or, knowledge of God.
Believers have the Holy Spirit indwelling them but Paul here is praying for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and revelation in our hearts.
This revelation or “the lifting of the veil” happened when we first received Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:15-16 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
So revelation or the unveiling of our hearts happens when we receive Christ, but that same kind of revelation occurs as we grow and spiritually comprehend the truths of God’s word. This revelation happens in salvation and in sanctification.
This is a prayer request for true insight and revelation concerning knowledge of God. Paul prays that we would know God intimately…
…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the all-glorious Father, may give to you Spirit-empowered insight and revelation concerning knowledge of Him.
APP: What does it take to receive Holy Spirit-empowered insight concerning knowledge of God? What does it take to know God? Here in this passage, it takes prayer. Of course, academic understanding of God’s truth is first and that’s what Paul just gave us in verses 3-14. But it also takes a prayerful consideration of those truths. We must pray for one another that we would receive knowledge of God.
Do you pray for yourself and for others that they would know God? That you and others would increase in the knowledge of God?
ILL: I remember talking to someone who had trusted Christ some years back and I said, “what is God’s main purpose for you?” And of course one of God’s main purposes in your life is that you grow in Christ. This is foundational. Are you praying that you yourself and those whom you love would grow in your knowledge of God? This is foundational … First-base Christianity. I explained this and asked them if they pray this for themselves … and this was a new concept…that we should pray for our own growth in Christ. And this is what we were talking about when we were saying these past couple weeks that you need to get plugged into God’s program. Make God’s heartbeat your heartbeat. God is all about saving people and making them more like his Son. Are you praying that that happens in your life?
Of course this first takes the study of God’s truth. And for some of you, you may need some help in personal study of the Bible. Some of you may get lost in attempting to read a passage of Scripture and coming to know what it says. Did you really pray and expect God to reveal truth to you? Really pray that the Holy Spirit would empower your ability to understand God’s truth. This is what we call illumination.
Also, you might want to consider a topical study. Young person, what does the Bible say about friends, food, peer pressure, or clothing? What is gossip? You might get a list of verses and begin to journal about them and ask your parents for help on how to look up verses. Parents, suggest Bible studies to do.
APP: And pray! Pray that you increase in the knowledge of God. Your sinful flesh and distracted life and your cold hearts can all keep you from receiving divine truth. Pray, you must pray for this!
No God honoring life change takes place apart from the reality of this answered prayer. You need to mark that down. No God honoring life change takes place apart from the reality of Paul’s answered prayer here.
There will be no God-honoring changes in your life apart from God the Father giving you Holy Spirit-empowered insight into knowledge of Him. You may not even pray this exact prayer or you may never pray this, but God in His grace may do this for you. It’s only when He does do this that you grow in knowledge of him and then and only then you will live godly.
Godliness will not come about in your life if I give you helpful tips on how to manage your family. Although this is helpful, of course. But you will not become more godly if I teach you how to put up physical barriers that guard against you turning to sin. Now, putting up physical barriers can create an atmosphere in which godliness can flourish, and is necessary sometimes, but just the physical barriers themselves will not make you godly.
And I can preach against certain sins of gossip, anger, and lust (and we will as we reach those portions of Scripture) … but if God doesn’t bring Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of himself into your heart, you will not grow and participate fully in the life of Christ.
TRANS: And the reason Paul can pray this for these people is because they have had their eyes enlightened. And this is verse 18.
Translation of v18: I’m just gonna make a quick note here. You can see in verse 18 of the New American Standard that the first three words are italicized. That means of course that these words are not in the original text.
Literally this reads “having the eyes of your heart enlightened.” This is a reason why Paul can pray the way that he does for these people. He can pray what he does in verse 17 because verse 18 the eyes of their hearts have been enlightened.
The verb form of the word “enlightened” indicates that these folks had their eyes enlightened in the past and that that enlightenment continues on to this day. And no doubt the first time they received enlightenment was when they trusted Christ. The eyes of their heart, at that time, were opened.
Someone told them the message of truth…of how God came to earth and how, as the promised Christ, He died and was raised again from the dead. Someone told about this historic event to these folks and they trusted Christ and turned away from their sins and asked Jesus to save them. That simple message they trusted and then the Holy Spirit opened their eyes. And by God’s grace that’s happened to many of us here today as well.
TRANS: Now that God has opened the eyes of your heart and saved you, and as God gives you Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of Himself, you’ll know 3 things. The main request is for Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of God. And if God gives this to you, you’ll know 3 things.
Paul knows that it takes Holy Spirit illumination for us to comprehend these three things…What are the 3 things?
Verse 18, first the hope of his calling, second… the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints … Or simply “the glorious wealth of his inheritance in the saints” and third verse 19 …we need the Holy Spirit’s insight for us to be able to comprehend what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe.
And so these are the goals of knowing God intimately … Somebody asks you… do you want to know God? And you say “yes” and then they say … “why do you want to know God? And you can say, “I want to know God because I want to know these three things more intimately.”
Our knowledge of God goes somewhere … It has a goal. If we know God, then we will also know the hope of his calling and the glorious wealth of his inheritance in the saints and we will also know the surpassing greatness of his power toward us who believe. And this will enable us to live godly.
APP: Somebody asks, “What will my life look like if I actually do come to comprehend these things and this prayer for Holy Spirit-empowered insight and revelation to know God is made a reality?” The answer to that is in chapters 4-6 but you can’t skip ahead yet to all of that application. If you really comprehended and had intimate knowledge of God, you would understand the hope of His calling, and the importance of the glorious wealth of His inheritance, which is in the saints, and you would understand what is the surpassing greatness of his power toward you.
And it is at that point that you will be empowered to live worthy of the calling that you have been called to. Just as Ephesians 4:1 says Ephesians 4:1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk [live] in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,…
Then in chapters 4-6 he gives us a picture of a life lived worthily for Christ.
So to live in such a way that is worthy of the calling that you have requires that you know what is the hope of his calling. And that’s Paul’s goal for believers when he prays that we would be empowered to know God. Paul’s first goal for us in knowing God is that we know what is the hope of his calling.
Past: What is the hope of His calling (1:18b)
Well, what is that, then? Paul’s desire is that we would know the certainty that we have because of God’s calling of us in salvation. Again, Paul’s desire is that we would know the certainties that we have because of God’s calling of us in salvation. That’s what “the hope of His calling” means.[What does the hope of his calling mean? It means the certainty that we have because of God’s calling of us in salvation]
The word for “hope” is, again, not a flippant wish, but the opposite. It is a certainty. We have God’s promises for the future. They will be fulfilled.
We were brought into these promises by God’s call at salvation. Believers have promise of everlasting life and many other promises of God that he will accomplish on our behalf. And we received these when we received Christ, that is, when he called us.
Paul desires that we would come to know more fully the certainties that he has given us when he called us in salvation. Basically, that we would know and have confidence in God’s promises!
So what are God’s promises for us? In context, they include Ephesians 1:9-10 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him.
And we preached on these verses when we described in detail the future in the coming of Christ and the inheritance that will be ours because we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. Without Spirit-empowered comprehension of these things, we will not live a life worthy of this calling. We’ve been called by God to receive his great and precious promises in salvation. We have great expectation and certain promises of the future.
Now, without our confidence in God’s promises for us, we will not live a life worthy of this calling. To live a life that is worthy of God’s calling upon us demands that we have confidence in the certainty of God’s promises. To live a life that is worthy of God’s calling upon us demands that we have confidence in the certainty of God’s promises.
Our goal as believers in knowing the hope of his calling is this then: that our confidence in God’s promises match the certainty of God’s promises. We must as God’s people have our confidence in God’s promises match the certainty of God’s promises.
If I waiver in unbelief concerning God’s promises, I will not live a life worthy of God’s calling upon me. But my confidence in God’s promises must match the certainty of God’s promises. It’s only at that point will I be able to live a life that is worthy of God’s calling upon me.
Let me illustrate it this way…
ILL: My kids don’t like slightly intense cartoon shows. Bearenstein bears, Franklin, and “Ky-you,”have all sent my kids screaming out of the room! One day, we were watching a Berenstein bear video. We watched “the Bearenstein bears and the Hollowing cave!” Brother and Sister Bear go into a cave and it’s dark, and there’s a bear that scares them.
But suppose I let them watch the end of the story first and then we watched the entire story. It all ends up okay … they go back safe at home in their little tree house…ok … You would think because they know the end of the story, that they would be okay when it gets scary.
But of course, that does not happen. No matter how much they understand the end of the story, they still will get terribly frightened in the middle of the story. And that is because they fail to have their confidence match the certainty of the good ending. Their confidence of the promise of a good ending did not match the certainty of that ending.
And it is the same with us. God has shown the ending of the story, the summing up of all things in Christ. If your confidence in that certain promise measures up to the certainty of the promise, then in your trials and in your difficulties of life, you will not get scared and frightened like my kids when they see the scary bear screaming at brother and sister bear…and here they are … running out of the room!
So, we must pray! You must pray that we would receive Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of God. When we receive that kind of knowledge of God, our confidence in the certainty of God’s promises will begin to line up and match and then we will live a life worthy of God’s calling upon us.
So pray for knowledge of God! Pray for wisdom and insight into an understanding of who God is and what he is doing in the earth!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 1.15-17
A man by the name of John Hyde prayed this for others and encouraged others to pray this. John Hyde was an American missionary to India in the late 1800s. He grew up in Carrolton, IL and was a student in a school in Carthage IL, which is actually about 45 min. from where I grew up. In 1902, he had to sail back to America in order to regain his health.
When he was in America, he emphasized the need for the power of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of God’s people and the need for united prayer of God’s people. READ pg. 130-132 (“They Knew Their God” Vol. 1).
John Hyde and God’s people were affected b/c there was prayer made to God that God’s people would be revived. Folks, this is revival. And praying Hyde received a deeper understanding of divine truths. This prayer of Paul really is a prayer of revival. If Paul’s prayer here was 100% answered in each of our lives, we’d experience revival.
And we’ll discuss the need to know His inheritance in the saints and His power in a later message but the greatest power shortage today does not happen with a wind storm or when you run out of gas. It happens in you when you fail to pray that you and others would increase in knowledge of God. Will Paul’s prayer be answered in your life? Will you, starting today, pray that you would have Holy Spirit-empowered knowledge of God? If you do, you will begin to know more fully what it is to have confidence in God’s certain promises.
462: sing a prayer about this: Be thou my vision.