Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 1:17 Introduction
Paul prayed for the Ephesians (v. 16), and had a specific purpose in mind. Verse 17, which reveals certain details of his intercessory prayers, is a profound petition, applicable to all believers, and worthy of imitation by all who wish to excel in the area of intercessory prayer.
Eph. 1:17a “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,. . .”
Let there never be any doubt as to which God we pray. We pray to the God whom Jesus acknowledged and revealed to us, the same God our Savior prayed to in His humanity. Jesus so emptied Himself in the incarnation that the One who had forever been His Father became His God.
In His darkest hours, Jesus looked to the Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (LK 22:42). His dying words were, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (LK 23:46). Jesus trusted the Father. We can, too.
Eph. 1:17b “. . .the Father of glory,. . .”
God is the ultimate source of “glory,” perfect, manifest excellence. He dwells in unapproachable light. To see Him is to die, but to believers He is “Father,” One who gave His only begotten Son to prove His love for us, One who invites us to Himself, One whom we can approach in prayer.
Ruth and I have parents who never let us forget they are parents. Though our income exceeds theirs, they continue to give and give and give. Their love forbids them to be distant, stingy, or negligent toward us. They have helped us better understand the concept of God as a parent.
When approaching God, consider both “Father” and “glory.” Come with the freedom of a child approaching a parent. At the same time, revere God and expect Him to answer prayer with a revelation of His glory in some way. Expect things to happen when you pray.
Eph. 1:17c “. . .may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and
revelation. . .”
Paul prayed for nothing physical or material. He did not ask for them to be free from persecution, or to have honor and pleasure. The Apostle instead spoke of things which last forever. Always let the spiritual have priority in your prayers.
Paul wants God to give the Ephesians a right spirit, a proper attitude. The Apostle desires for them a suitable disposition, a state of mind which will correctly govern their lives. He prays they will have a desire for increased spiritual perception, and a desire to seek it in the right place.
“Wisdom” refers to seeing into the heart of things and being able to perceive them as they really are. Wisdom seeks to understand the ultimate realities of the cosmos.
“Revelation” is the realm in which wisdom finds its success. Revelation means to disclose, to uncover what has been veiled. In the spiritual realm, revelation refers to truth which is not discernable by ordinary human faculties, and thus has to be made known.
Revelation reached its zenith in the unveiling of God and His mysteries during the incarnation. All of Heaven, its mysteries, its wonders, its glory–all seemed to be profusely poured upon Earth in the coming of Jesus. Revelations abounded. Fortunately, these revelations were compressed into a product, recorded in a book, namely, the Bible. Holy Writ conveys to us the revelations of the incarnation era.
“The spirit of wisdom and revelation” is thus, for all practical purposes, a disposition to ever be seeking more wisdom, and to seek it in Scripture. Since all spiritual wisdom is found in the bounds of revelation, our desire should be for a spirit which makes us want to unlock the treasures of holy writ.
“The spirit of wisdom and revelation” requires profound humility. It requires us never to be content with what we know. “The knowledge of the godly is never so pure, but that some dimness or obscurity hangs over their spiritual vision” (Calvin).
Our humility is intensified by having to acknowledge spiritual wisdom is found not in self, our own ingenuity, human books, or man’s philosophy, but solely in “revelation.” We need a humility which forces us to admit our need of wisdom and forces us to seek it only in the Bible. Why?. . .
Eph. 1:17d “. . .in the knowledge of him.”
Here is the objective of our search for wisdom in revelation–that we might know God. The reference here is not to a knowledge of events, dates, things, or facts, but to a personal knowledge of God Himself. We are in pursuit of the Person. We seek direct contact with God.
Human philosophy, based on a worldly wisdom which has a consuming preoccupation with self, takes man for its center and says, “Know thyself.” Christianity, on the other hand, takes God for its center and says, “First and foremost, know God.”
This word in our text for “knowledge” is intensified. It means to know precisely, thoroughly, fully. Paul is not praying about casual acquaintance or superficial knowledge. His intent is profound intimacy with God.
The ultimate goal of seeking wisdom in revelation is the enjoyment of union with God. This is the sweetest knowledge of all. We have enjoyed this first chapter of Ephesians. We have reached dizzying heights. Can knowledge go any higher? Can anything be better than to know we are predestined to salvation, and to be sure we are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and to know He is the earnest of our salvation? Yes! The summum bonum of Christian experience is knowing God.
“To know God” ought to be the exciting motivation for all we do–reading of Scripture, listening to sermons, exercises in religion. We should invite God to significantly share these things with us, to commune with us in them as Friend with friend. “Come, Lord, let us do this together, and in the doing of it be drawn closer to one another.”
Are you sensitive to God’s presence? When you pray, do you know God is there? When you read God’s holy writ, do you know God is speaking? Have you ever known the overwhelming awe Jacob experienced when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place” (GN 28:16). He was in a field, outside, yet said, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven” (GN 28:17). His reference was not to a building, but to an all-encompassing, surrounding presence.
Your walk with God ought to be a partnership, a sharing of the same life, an extended, ongoing, intimate friendship. When washing dishes, doing laundry, completing ledgers, or handling clients, do you find yourself yearning for the next manifestation of God? Do you look forward to private time? Can you sing with meaning the words of Fanny Crosby,
O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God,
I commune as friend with friend. . . .
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
When your spiritual life wanes, do you miss the intimacy of God? I am not speaking of losing your salvation–this is an impossibility. I am speaking of your absolute delight with God. When time goes by, and you have not enjoyed sweet fellowship with God for a while, do you miss Him?
I have recently moved a long distance away from my parents. I miss them. Have you ever felt the same way about God? Do you long for a closer walk? Do you yearn for deeper intimacy? Have you ever sighed with David, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God” (PS 42:2)?
Often I ask questions like this, and see a blank look on the faces of my listeners. At such times, I have to ask myself the question, “What are we doing as believers?” If our whole lives are not wrapped up in God, then what are we about? Religion without intimacy with God is Pharisaism.
Paul’s life exemplified his message. He practiced what he preached and what he prayer. Many years after his conversion, Paul still counted it as the goal of his life, “That I may know Him” (PH 3:10a).
Another example is Moses’ ultimate request for intimacy (EX 33). After the golden calf fiasco, Moses’ intercession stayed the executing hand of God. The Lord, however, said He would no longer lead the people personally, but would use an angel instead. Moses, a lonely man, asked God not to do this. Again the Lord yielded to the leader’s request. Moses, having spent forty days with God, sensing an extraordinary level of intimacy and familiarity in YHWH’s voice, made the boldest of requests, “I beseech thee, show me thy glory.” In other words, “Reveal yourself to my eyes.” It was the request of a man wanting to know God as no one had ever known Him before. Moses wanted all obscurity and distance removed.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Augustine. He desiringly prayed, “Lord, hast Thou declared that no man shall see Thy face and live? Then let me die, that I may see Thee!”
Let us follow the faith of Moses, Paul, and Augustine. Be suspect of a faith which wants no more of God today than it did yesterday. May God give unto us “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”