Summary: Paul prays for power, for inner strength, a foundation and experience of love and an awareness of the fullness and glory of God.
One way of telling what a Christian’s chief concerns and priorities are is to study the contents of their prayers. We all tend to pray about what concerns us, and tend to forget to pray about the things that don’t. At the same time it can be good to listen to others prayers so we can learn and broaden our own prayer life. So it’s a good thing that Paul records for us in a number of places the content of his prayers for his converts. We looked a few weeks back at the prayer in chapter 1 that the Ephesian Christians would have their hearts enlightened so that they would know in a personal way the hope to which God had called them and the incomparably great power of God for those who believe in Christ. So too today we find a prayer of Paul for the Ephesians, that God’s eternal plan would be fulfilled in their experience.
The Privilege of preaching the gospel
Paul has just finished explaining to them how God’s plan is that all people should be brought together into a new single humanity, and now he turns to prayer.
He begins "For this reason, I Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--" And then he stops. It’s as though he’s just had a thought, as though he thinks to himself, "There’s more that I can say about the reason for this prayer before I actually say what the prayer is. The fact that I’m a prisoner shows just how much I believe in this prayer. And at the same time he thinks that he doesn’t want them to be discouraged by the fact that he’s a prisoner on their behalf.
In fact not only shouldn’t they be discouraged, the opposite is actually true. The privilege of sharing the gospel far outweighs any suffering that might accompany it. I wonder do you struggle with this sometimes? Whether it’s worth the cost of being active as a Christian. I remember when I left engineering and went to Ridley, people would say how amazing they found it that I would give up all that to be a minister, as though the cost was too much. Others have found that to be a person of integrity in the workplace has meant speaking out and losing favour with those in power. But if you ask them whether they’d do it again they’ll probably say yes. Because the privilege of being an ambassador for Christ far outweighs the cost involved.
Look at what Paul says. He outlines two great privileges that are his in being a servant of the gospel. Both are accompanied by the phrase: "God’s grace that was given me". As we look at these I want you to also think about how these gifts, these privileges are yours as well.
- The revelation of the mystery of the gospel
First he says "surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words." The first outpouring of God’s grace to Paul was the revelation of God’s plan for the world, given to him on the Damascus Road when Jesus spoke to him and called him to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles. He refers to this as the mystery. Now to our minds a mystery is something that needs to be unravelled by a detective, to solve a crime. But in Paul’s day the term was used of the inner workings of a religion that were revealed only to the initiated. That is they were truths that some people knew about and so could reveal to others. But here, the mystery, we’re told, was known to no-one but God. Not even the angels in heaven knew about it until it was revealed through the apostles and the prophets (NT prophets that is.) But now the mystery has been revealed. In fact Paul himself has been instrumental in revealing it to all peoples. You could liken this idea to those scientists who are working to unravel the secret of DNA, so they can understand more of the mystery of life. The more they unravel, the more the mystery is revealed.
So what is the content of this mystery? (v6) That the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel of the same promise, the promise to Abraham; that they’re fellow members of the same body; and that they’re fellow sharers in the promise: of eternal life, of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, of forgiveness, etc. And this shared privilege is at the same time "in Christ" and "through the gospel." In other words, it comes about as the Gentiles are incorporated into Christ. And how does that happen? Through the preaching of the gospel.