Summary: Knowing the church in Ephesus was surrounded by materialism, Paul sought to encourage them in the spiritual prosperity they had in Christ. What they received in Christ was far greater than anything the world offered.
A Prayer for Prosperity
Ephesians 1: 15-19
Our text today comes from the letter Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus. This letter is one of the “prison epistles,” written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. The church at Ephesus was dear to the heart of Paul, having spent about three years there in ministry.
Ephesus was the crown jewel of Asia Minor. History reveals there were some 230 cities along the coastline of Asia Minor, and Ephesus was the largest. It was founded in order to command one of the major highways of commerce throughout the region. While other cities had natural harbors, facilitating trade and travel, the harbor in Ephesus, along with its proximity to the major highway, made Ephesus a favorite of many. Eventually the harbor filled with silt, hindering its ability for shipping, but the city continued to thrive. It boasted a temple to the goddess Diana, which created a lucrative business for gold and silversmiths who made idols for those who came to Ephesus to worship.
Ephesus was a prosperous city, in more ways than one. Paul knew those who were saved by grace were rich beyond measure. Having shared the varied spiritual blessings available in Christ in the opening of his greeting, Paul desired the church there to comprehend the spiritual wealth available in Christ.
While this letter was written thousands of years ago, its truth remains relevant for all in Christ. We have much more than we can possibly imagine. As we examine the aspects of Paul’s prayer, I want to consider: A Prayer for Prosperity. While Paul did not subscribe to the unbiblical prosperity gospel so prevalent today, he did know there is spiritual prosperity in Christ!
I. Paul’s Devotion to the Church (15-16) – As you read Paul’s epistles, his devotion to the church is immediately evident. Ephesus was certainly no exception. Consider:
A. Their Reputation (15) – Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints. Clearly, the testimony of the church in Ephesus was known far and wide. Paul had received reports of the church, and the influential reputation she had developed. Paul mentioned:
1. Their Faith – Ephesus had a reputation of faith in the Lord Jesus. These were not fringe believers who were willing to accept Christ along with the many other gods and goddesses within Greek culture. These were born again believers, completely surrendered to Christ, and Him alone. (Are we known for our faith in Christ; it is evident in our daily lives?)
2. Their Love (15) – Paul had not only heard of their faith in the Lord, he had also received word regarding their love for all the saints. Their love was not reserved for those within their own fellowship, or those with whom they always agreed. The church at Ephesus had developed a love for all the saints. They genuinely loved fellow believers. It is apparent they had watched Paul’s life and the infectious love he had shown for all men, especially those of faith.
This is quite challenging and convicting. It is easy to love those within our circle of friendship within the local body, but what about those with whom we may disagree with from time to time? What about those believers half-way around the world we have never met? Could it honestly be said that we have developed a love for all the saints?
B. The Supplication (16) – [Wherefore I also] Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. Having heard of their faith and love, Paul revealed that he diligently prayed for them. We find:
1. He was Faithful – Paul did not waver in his commitment for the church. He continually offered thanksgiving unto the Lord for them and the ministry in which they were engaged. While they lived in an uncertain, ever-changing world, they could be confident of Paul’s continued support and gratitude. He was fully devoted to the church, faithful to support her in any way possible.
I am convinced we need more commitment and faithfulness in our day. You might argue that Paul said nothing of that in the text, but I see it clearly. If he was committed to continually offer gratitude for the church, he was committed to her well-being. If we reach the place in life that we are continually thankful for the Lord and His church, commitment will naturally come!
2. He was Prayerful – Paul also was committed to continual prayer for the church in Ephesus. He daily prayed for their needs, interceding on their behalf. Paul refused to be distracted by the cares and hindrances of this world; he made prayer a priority in life.
How many of us complain about the lack of time we have to accomplish all we feel is necessary? How often have we complained – I just didn’t have the time? I know this sounds harsh, but it’s true – we make time for needs that are important. If prayer were a real priority, we would make time for it daily. I admit, I need to make more time for prayer, and less for excuses!