Do you find it easy to pray for people? It is easy to be stirred to pray for an immediate need (especially if we have personal experience of a similar dilemma), but often that sense of urgency fades quickly. An immediate specific prayer need, with an immediate answer, does not demand endurance: more complex issues and delayed answers do. As far as we know, Paul's persistent prayer for the believers was not stirred by any crisis in the church. But without this prayer, relationship will be lost – as appears to have happened some time later (Revelation 2:4-5). So, Paul prays for their relationship with God, that it will grow deeper with greater understanding of who the Lord is and how much He loves them (Ephesians 4:13).
In a multi-cultural and pluri-religious culture, it was necessary for Paul to be quite clear who God is. Amid the plethora of so-called gods who have no personality or power (Psalm 115:2-8), how do you identify the real God? Paul repeatedly uses a Trinitarian 'formula' in his letters, as he does here (Romans 15:30; 2 Corinthians 13:14) to stress that the real God is to be known in the unique relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The true God is defined by His intimate relationship to Jesus Christ, who the Father has appointed to be Head over everything (Ephesians 1:22). He is our only sin-bearer and mediator with the Father (1 Timothy 2:5). In other words, those who dismiss the Lord Jesus Christ as God the Son, may claim to know God … but do not know the only true God (John 17:3).
The Apostle's prayer is for those who have come into relationship with God the Father, through submitting to the Lordship of the suffering Saviour, Jesus Christ. Paul prays that God the Father will send the Holy Spirit (John 14:26) to be active in the believers' hearts for a specific purpose: that they will know how to understand and apply what is in the Apostle's teaching, including the gospel. The purpose is that they will know God better; that their relationship with their Creator and Saviour will grow as the Holy Spirit infuses God's people with truth and wisdom. God's truth cannot be made up or logically deduced - it needs to be revealed to us (Romans 16:25-27). Bible truth needs to be personally explained to our hearts: which is what the Holy Spirit does. God's wisdom is His way of applying truth practically - so that we will rejoice, others will be blessed, and God will be glorified.
It is right to ask Father God that the Holy Spirit will open our Christian friends' eyes to His wise truth; and give them the way to do it so that Christ will be glorified. These should be major priorities for every Christian, despite (or even because of) the intense pressure at work. It is not 'strength to cope' that we all need, as much as 'knowing the Strong One'. It is the believer's greatest need, that we might have a much bigger awareness of the Lord who knows, both, what is right, and how to do it. We can sometimes assume that our relationship with the Lord runs on auto-pilot. It cannot: like any relationship, we need to get to know Him better (an active process that we choose to engage in) and find out what pleases Him (Ephesians 5:10). So why not start by selecting one Christian you know, and pray this prayer for him or her? Then why not ask the friend to pray the same for you? Why not start praying that today?
© Dr Paul Adams