Summary: Do we realize that God is eager, excited to answer our prayers? But of course what we are praying for is important to this process. What are the prayers that God is excited to answer?
There are some things that we, as parents, love to hear. "Mom, could you show me how to clean my room better?" Or, "Dad, could you teach me the very best way to wash the car?" Or, "Mom and Dad, what makes you love each other and us so much? How can I make sure that my marriage is like yours?" These little requests that would be so wonderful to hear and cause us to drop dead, would be children praying to the will of their parents, asking according to their will. "Dad, could you come and help me with my homework. I’m struggling with this and I just wondered if you could help me here?" "Mom, is this a good dress to wear out in public?" "No!" "Okay, I’ll go change." Asking according to the parents’ will.
We’ve seen, as we’ve looked as some issues of prayer, that we need to get past some ideas that we may have about God that He is disinterested or that He is cruel or that He is too busy or that the smaller things of life just aren’t that interesting to Him or that we have to be just so absolutely perfect in our behavior otherwise He won’t listen to us. But, His revelation of Himself is that of a loving Father, one who desires to hear from His children, to meet our needs according to His infinite wisdom and His infinite love and grace. Now, it could be easy to take that kind of teaching and say, "Oh, good. Then God’s kind of like a genie in a bottle I rub the bottle and He comes out and gives me three wishes and whatever I want, I get. And so I should ask for is a lot of money and then I can buy all kinds of stuff with that money. We could recognize or believe that God is like that or we could recognize that what a Heavenly Father really wants to give us is gifts of tremendous eternal value and ask for those for ourselves and for other people.
Now the first century Christians to whom Paul was writing here in Ephesians, they had plenty of physical needs. Certainly in a church like that, in the middle of a pagan society, one of the cities that rioted when Paul brought the Gospel (rioted for several hours), they would have had a lot of physical things to pray for: health, wealth, for God’s intervention on their behalf and they should have prayed for those. As we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, those are the kinds of things that God wants us to bring to Him, our needs, to be able to cast every care upon God and lay every burden down at His feet. But, in addition to those, there are other issues that really go beyond those. And while we pray for those issues of physical reality, Paul gives us here in the passage in chapter 1 of Ephesians, a great model and example of what this first century church-planter prayed for the people of the church that he planted. There’s some great prayer requests in this passage that we want to look at this morning.
The first one is this: Paul says, "I prayed for you Ephesians that you would pray to God, ’teach me who You are.’" You know what? One of those things that we’ve discovered as human beings is there is a great gap that exists between who God is in reality and who we think He is in our minds and hearts. There’s a huge gap that exists there. Now, this gap is just a natural consequence, a natural result, of sin. Our ability to understand God, which Adam and Eve had in the Garden, was terribly damaged and destroyed by the fall. There was this gap of fellowship that existed between God and between Man at that point when Adam and Eve chose to go their own way that included a gap of knowledge, a gap of understanding, a gap of wisdom. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us, "The man without the Spirit [the man who has broken fellowship with God] does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned." When we lost our ability to understand spiritual things, we lost our ability to understand God. That is why the smartest people in the world today who do not have the Spirit of God living in them can be very intelligent about all kinds of things except anything to do with God. At that point, the curtain falls.
Now, that may be the natural state, but something has happened to these Ephesians. Look at verses 13 and 14 of Ephesians 1, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possessions, to the praise of his glory." In other words, something has happened to you. Through your faith in Jesus Christ, you have received the same Spirit who Paul talked about in this verse. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that comes from the Spirit. But, what does that mean? It means the man with the Spirit has now the ability to believe God.