The Apostle Paul was concerned about the church in Ephesus’ being shepherded properly. He labored there, instructed her elders, and wrote letters to the church and their pastor Timothy to that end. Yet how did Paul shepherd this congregation when he was absent? By prayer.
Years after planting this church, Paul’s letter from prison describes his prayers for them. “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:16). Paul was a constantly bubbling fountain of prayer for this church. How can church leaders constantly flow in prayer for the church as Paul did?
He prefaced this account of his prayer by saying that there was a reason for his praying this way (v. 15). What was it? In the opening verses of Ephesians, he testifies to the salvation of the triune God: these saints were chosen in love by the Father, redeemed by the blood of the Son, and sealed by the power of the Spirit (vv. 3–14). Consequently, Paul flowed with triune prayers that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation” (v. 17).
Paul’s joy over hearing reports of the Father, Son, and Spirit’s work in the Ephesian congregation moved him to pray for even greater revelation of that salvation (vv. 15–16). Elders do well to reflect often on the wonder of God’s salvation at work in His people. This practice moves hearts to pray.
The Puritan William Gurnall stated, “The child is not learned by art or example to cry, but instructed by nature; it comes into the world crying.” Clearly, no parent needs to take his or her children to a class to teach them how to cry. Gurnall then uses this truth to instruct on prayer. “Praying is not a lesson got by and from rules of art but flowing from principles of life itself.”
Seeing the principle of salvific life at work in the Ephesians led Paul to cry out in prayer. He asked that the Holy Spirit enlighten their hearts further to all that they possessed in Christ. Just as you cannot stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, with all its immenseness and beauty, and not express awe to others about it, so we cannot gaze at the church created in redemption by Christ without praying for it.
Paul directed these prayers so that the church would experientially know three wondrous truths (vv. 18–19). He wanted them to know the hope of their calling as Christians, that their hearts would be convinced that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). He also prayed that they would fully possess the riches of their wondrous inheritance so that they would live every day as citizens of heaven. Finally, he desired that they would experience the greatness of Christ’s resurrection power by escaping the guilt and power of sin.
The same triune God who saved the church will move its shepherds to pray for the Trinity’s ongoing work.