Bible Study

Ephesians 1:15 –19

Empowering faith through praying for others. by Major Valerie Carr

Traditionally, prayer requests are received through a telephone chain, a church bulletin list or perhaps a weekly email. Recently there has been an increase in using modern technology and instantaneous ways to pray for other people. There are several apps that will share prayer requests, connect church members and communicate prayer needs within a group. A radio station has developed a system through their website, along with an app for your mobile device, that lets you share personal prayer requests and pray for others. The app will even send you a notification if someone prayed for your request. The “Daily Prayer” app, a digital guide for Liturgy of the Hours, has a “prayer wall” where prayers from users scroll by during use and prayer requests can be added while using the app to have others pray over individual needs.

Continuing in our series on prayers of the Bible, this month we are looking at Paul’s prayer in his letter to the Ephesian church. We will explore what Paul has to teach us about praying for one another. Scripture is clear that as believers, we are urged to pray for one another. James writes that our prayers have power to produce results in each other’s lives (5:16). In Galatians we read that it is the “law of Christ” to “share each other’s burdens” (6:2). The early church was marked by their dedication to praying for others (Acts 2:42). If the Bible says we are to pray for one another, we are left with the question of how to do that.

The Book of Ephesians is a letter written by the apostle Paul. He is writing while under arrest in Rome and it is part of a series of letters he wrote during that time known as “the prison letters.” Ephesus was an influential and important city of the time, and served as a center of religious worship for various deities. Paul had been in ministry in the city of Ephesus with Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:19 – 26). After helping to establish the church composed of Gentiles, he is writing to his family in Christ. His intent is to reach out to them, encourage them and share some needed instruction for situations they are facing as a church body.   

In the opening part of his letter, Paul tells the church in Ephesus that he has “heard of [their] strong faith in the Lord Jesus and [their] love for God’s people everywhere” (1:15). Their reputation as believers has reached Paul. He has been told by others of their faith and love, which are the hallmarks of a believer. This update regarding his friends has prompted Paul to “pray for [them] constantly” (1:16). The catalyst for his fervent prayer on behalf of his friends in Ephesus is the update on their progress as believers. His love for them as brothers and sisters in Christ has moved him to carry them to the throne of Heaven in prayer. God prompts Paul, and Paul responds by praying regularly for the believers in this church.  

In our own lives God prompts us to pray for others as well. He brings people and situations to mind in unexpected moments. We are called to be open to hearing the prompt to pray, as Paul was available to hear about his friends. Sometimes we are guilty of becoming so self-absorbed that we fail to recognize where God might desire to use us to bless others. If we want to be intentional about praying for other people, we must ask ourselves if we are opening our hearts, eyes and ears to how God is leading us to pray for them. 

To pray for others in the same fervent manner that Paul’s example gives us, we are challenged to be available to the Lord’s voice. Perhaps it will come through a digital means such as a text message, a prayer app or an online community. We can make a rule of praying for someone as we are reminded of them. Some might benefit from keeping a journal or a note on a phone to jot out prayers and prayer requests for others as they become aware of them. There are some who make a habit of regularly praying through the list of their social media friends. Whatever the tool we use to keep track, the important practice is responding when God makes us aware of praying for our friends and family in Christ.

Paul is prompted to pray because of the faith of the believers in Ephesus. His prayers for them are a good model for what to pray for the people in our own lives. Paul prays that the Ephesians will know God better: “to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God” (1:17). His prayer is that they will become spiritually stronger. He desires that they grow and mature in their faith and understanding of God. Paul also prays that they will experience hope, abundance and the power of God in their lives (1:18 -19). He not only prays that they grow in faith, but that they grow in their experience of the goodness of God in their circumstances. It is significant that his prayer isn’t for better health, increased income or stable community circumstances. His prayer asks that God will teach them more about Himself and that they will experience things only accessible through a life of faith based on Jesus Christ.  

When God prompts, we pray. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians encourages us to pray similar things for the people on our hearts and minds. We are called to pray that our friends and loved ones know God better. We ask God to give them hope, abundant life and experiences of His power in their circumstances. We seek His heart and will for their lives and we do so knowing that He will be faithful to their needs (2 Timothy 2:13). Our prayers match up with God’s promises for His people. We ask the Lord to bless the people in our lives in ways that will grow them as the people of God. We pray for them to experience His love and presence in ways that change their outlook on their struggle or challenges. We pray for God to move in their hearts so that they may grow in their knowledge of Him and that their lives would be a testimony to their faith.  

Sometimes we only pray for the sick, the struggling or the sinful. These are important prayers, but we can be challenged by Paul to pray for more. Paul’s prayer empowers us to also pray for growth of the saints. Praying for other people helps elevate our prayer life past selfish needs and wants or being solely focused on our own struggle and circumstances. It reminds us that we are part of a community and we are called to support each other. Believers who pray for each other make the family of faith stronger by their support. God is honored when we bear each other’s burdens in prayer. Our family of faith is bolstered when we carry each other’s needs to the altar. It isn’t a question of whether God is prompting or if our prayers matter, but a question of whether we are paying attention. 

Questions to ponder

  • What methods am I using to keep prayer requests of others as part of my daily prayer habits?
  • Who is the Lord prompting me to pray for? What is He prompting me to pray for them?