Mentors in Prayer

Praying for Spiritual Enlightenment

Ephesians 1:16-22

Teaching t10558

Introduction

Briefly review series title and rationale.  We can get a lot of help by studying how the New Testament authors pray, what they tell us to pray, what they tell us they’re praying, etc.  This morning we’ll study a passage that tells us how to pray for spiritual enlightenment.  It is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Christians (read 1:15-18a NIV).  Paul thinks this is so important that he asks God to grant it to them (and presumably this reflects his own prayers for himself).  This means it should be a key focus of our own prayers for us and for others. 

Before we go any farther, we need to understand what Paul means (and doesn’t mean) by spiritual enlightenment.  Photizo means to “flood with light” so that you see something with clarity (1st MORNING IN ROCKY MT. NATIONAL PARK).  Spiritual enlightenment is the Holy Spirit enabling us to grasp the personal significance of the Bible’s message about Jesus.  As we read/listen to and consider what God has given us through his Son, the Holy Spirit enables us to comprehend and sense its reality.

We need initial spiritual enlightenment in order to come to Christ.  Read Acts26:17,18.  Through Paul’s teaching, God would open people’s eyes to see their own spiritual plight and Jesus’ provision so that they turned to his provision for them.  No one comes to Christ without first being spiritually enlightened.

Before I met Christ, I knew what the Bible said about salvation.  I knew it said that God loved me, that he sent Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, that he wanted me to receive his forgiveness and become his child.  I knew all of this—but it meant nothing to me personally.  Then one night as I lay in bed, shattered by a broken relationship, something happened that made this information relevant to me.  That “something” was spiritual enlightenment.  God opened my eyes to see that I was incompetent to lead my own life, that Jesus was able and willing to do this, and that I needed to ask him to come into my heart and lead my life.  (I hadn’t prayed for this, but I found out later that others had been praying for this for me.)  I didn’t come up with this insight—I simply responded to it by saying, “If you’re there, come into my life and show me you are real—and I’ll follow you.”  This was the pivotal moment of my life.  How many of you have had this kind of spiritual enlightenment?  If you are receiving it currently, please respond!

We need ongoing spiritual enlightenment is also necessary in order to grow in Christ (see Eph.1:17 “that you may know him better”).  This is why Paul’s prayers focus on this, and we should imitate him in our prayers for ourselves and one another. 

Most of our prayers focus on asking God to change our circumstances, make people treat us nicely, make us feel better, etc.  God often lets these prayers go unanswered—not because he doesn’t care about us, but because he knows this isn’t what we really need (ASKING EYE-DOCTER TO PAY HIGHER INSURANCE PREMIUMS, GET CITY TO USE BIGGER STREET SIGN LETTERS, BANDAGE SHINS FROM BUMPING INTO THINGS).  We need a deeper grasp of what he has already given us though Jesus.  When our vision is filled with this, we will rise above our circumstances, love others regardless of how they treat us, and to be thankful and confident regardless of how we may feel.  Let’s unpack this...

“Enlighten me to the wonderful future you have promised me”

Read 1:18b (NIV).  The NLT translates this “the wonderful future he has promised to those he called.”  This refers to eternal life in God’s kingdom that will begin when Jesus returns.  The New Testament lives in the shadow of this eternity, and is chock full of information about what life in God’s kingdom will be like—glorified bodies, perfect creation, reunion with believing loved ones, permanent deliverance from sin and evil and sorrow caused by them, deep and unending joy from experiencing God’s love, etc.  (Recommend “The Next Life” series.)

This is not something that we might receive—it is something that we will receive.  “Hope” doesn’t mean a future possibility; it means a future certainty.  It’s certain because it’s based not on what you do for God, but on what Jesus already did for you.  Jesus’ death guarantees our admission into God’s kingdom, because this forgives you fully and permanently.  Jesus’ resurrection (historically verified) is God’s guarantee that he will finish this restoration project.  If you know Jesus, this is the most certain fact about your future!

What would happen if this promise filled your perspective?  How would it affect the way you viewed the negative aspects of your present life?  Explain the VACATION PRINCIPLE: pressures and stresses are easier to handle when you are about to go on vacation.  Listen to how enlightenment about this affected Paul’s perspective (read 2Cor.4:16-18 NLT).

How often do you read and reflect on this future that God has promised you?  How often do you ask him to open the eyes of your heart about this so that his vision of eternity fills you and transforms the way you look at your present situation?  What would happen if you began to do this more often?

“Enlighten me to the great value you have placed on me”

Read 1:18c (NASB).  Notice that Paul does not say “what are the riches of the glory of your inheritance from God”—this would be a repetition of 1:18b.  He says “what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.”  (“Saints” refers to us—all who belong to God by receiving Christ.)  Paul is saying that we are God’s inheritance, God’s treasure—that he places great value on us.

Now, this language is hyperbole—purposeful exaggeration to make a point.  Technically, God is already infinitely rich and glorious within himself—he needs nothing, and nothing can increase his glory.  But Paul is using this language to emphasize a mind-boggling truth—God places great value on me, his adopted child.  In spite of my many sins and problems, I have incredible value to God, not only because I was created in God’s image (Ps.139:14 NLT), but also because I was rescued by God’s Son (Eph.2:10a NLT; “bride;” “beloved”).

Why is it so important to be gripped by this truth?  Because the alternative is shame.  Shame is different than guilt—guilt is the painful awareness that I have done wrong things, but it doesn’t have to do with who I am.  Guilt can be good because it can move me to repent, but shame is never constructive.  Shame is the devastating awareness that I am dirty, unacceptable, an embarrassment to those whose love I crave.  Shame is what Johnny Cash felt when his brother died because his father told him, “The wrong son died.”  Shame is what abuse victims wrestle with because people who should have loved and protected them used and exploited them (“There must be something wrong with me.”).  All of us feel shame sometimes; some of us live with a shame-based identity, and this cripples our lives—destroying our confidence, making us mistrustful of other peoples’ love, driving us alternately to arrogant boasting and despairing self-recrimination, convincing us that God tolerates us because he has to, etc. 

There is only one thing that has the power to overcome shame and breaks its destructive power—and that is experiencing the love of God in your soul.  When you discover that God values you so much that he is proud that you are his child, when this begins to come home to your heart, it will transform your life beyond your wildest imagination.  The love of God humbles you and yet fills you with confidence.  It will enable you to approach God with humble confidence, it will enable you to accept God’s love from others and know that you have something to offer them (yet without becoming arrogant), it will make you thankful to be alive, etc.

How often do you spend time reading and reflecting on how God views you as his treasured child?  (Recommend Walking in Victory?)  How often do you pray that God will open the eyes of your heart to know the love of God that surpasses knowledge (Eph.3:19)?  What would happen if you began to do this more often?

“Enlighten me to the amazing power & authority you have made available to me”

Read 1:19a (NIV).   The third thing Paul prays for is that they may begin to understand the amazing power God has made available to them.  Notice how many modifiers he uses to describe this power (“incredible greatness;” “mighty”).

This is not an impersonal power source that we can tap into and use for our own selfish ends (OCCULT WIZARD).  This is the very power of God himself, which he exercises to overcome his enemies (not mine) and accomplish his redemptive purposes (not my agenda). 

Still, even with those qualifications, Paul is still saying something that boggles my mind.  Read 1:19b-21.  This is power far beyond the largest power plant, the most terrible storm, the greatest human ruler, etc.  This is far beyond the authority of the most powerful human ruler who ever lived.  The unlimited power and authority of God that raised Jesus from the dead and defeats demonic rulers is available to me as I serve him.  This means that no one and nothing but my own unbelief can prevent me from accomplishing God’s purpose for my life.

When I am focused on and gripped by this promise, it affects my life in several ways:

It reduces my fear of those who oppose and threaten me (both people and demons).  God is with me, and as long as I stay close to him they cannot ultimately harm me.  God will either remove their opposition, or he will use it to advance his plan (as in Jesus’ crucifixion)—but I am ultimately safe because his power protects me.

It combats my fatalism about my personal problems.  God’s power will one day completely free me from death and all sin.  And until then, God’s power will gradually but substantially deliver from sin’s crippling power.  I have already seen him free me from horribly enslaving and destructive habits.  There is no problem in my life that he cannot overcome.

I begin to get God’s vision for my life—and take risks for him rather than live in light the humanly possible.  I begin to bank on his promise to empower me as tell others about him, as I use the gift of teaching that he gave me, as I supply spiritual leadership to others, as I pray for what we need to represent him in this broken world, etc. 

How often do you spend time reading and reflecting on the redemptive power that God makes available to you?  (Recommend Acts)  How often do you pray that God will open your eyes of your heart to grasp how he can change you and work through you to change others?  What would happen if you began to do this more often?

Assignment

Summarize.  Read Eph. 1:3-14 (preferably in NLT) every day this week, praying for spiritual enlightenment beforehand and thanking him afterward.  Pray along these lines at least twice with a brother or sister in Christ.