We are in desperate need of hope right now. In a recent Pew Center survey, Americans are not optimistic about our future. The majority of people see a decline in our future well-being in many areas. There is widespread depression, drug abuse, addiction and loneliness. Americans are purchasing ammunition and guns in record numbers over the past months. There is widespread anxiety.
Where do we turn in our age of anxiety? We turn to an Almighty God in prayer.
Imagine you were diagnosed with such a lethal condition that the doctor told you that you would die within hours unless you took a particular medicine — a pill every night before going to sleep. Imagine that you were told that you could never miss it or you would die. Would you forget to take your medicine? Would you take the pill every other day when you remember to take it? No — it would be so crucial that you wouldn’t forget. In fact, you would never miss. If you don’t pray, you’re not going to make it because of all we are facing. You have to pray, we can’t let it just slip our minds.
We need the hope of God infused into us again. We need to turn to God for HOPE in prayer again.
In Ephesians 1, we have a prayer for Christians to better see their hope in God.
How much hope does your prayer life give you? Are you interested in seeing the habit of prayer change you? I want to help you GROW YOUR HOPE by growing your prayer life. Rate your prayer life right now for me, will you?
Stage One: I’m in the “Preschool Prayer ” Phase
The preschool phrase is when you only pray when you feel like it or when you think about it. None of us should be embarrassed to admit it, we are in the preschool phase of prayer at one point in our Christian journey. All of us start here at one time or another. Just as there was a time when you did not know your ABC’s, you must learn how to pray. In this stage, you’re not really sure what you are doing when you pray and you struggle to pray for anything coherently. You are not even sure if prayer makes any real difference because you do not feel more hopeful after you pray.
Stage One: The Preschool Prayer Phase
Stage Two: I’m in the “Middle School Prayer” Phase
Here’s where you are when you have a little growth behind you in your prayer life. Prayer is becoming more of a habit. You pray daily for whatever comes up in life. Yet, when prayer is mentioned, you feel guilty quickly. Your prayers are routine and if you had to admit it, they lack any real power to them. You know you should pray more. But still, your prayer life has little rhyme or reason. You are not sure where to turn for help but your eager to improve my prayer life.
Stage Two: I’m in the “Middle School Prayer” Phase
Stage Three: I’m in the “Upperclassmen Prayer” Phrase
Here’s where you pray fairly consistently and you only rarely miss time praying. You have a prayer journal where you begin to write out many of your prayers. The prayer journal allows you to analyze your prayer life for balance. And it’s here that you learn to enter what I call “the Echo Chamber of the Bible.” The Echo Chamber is when you pray the prayers of the Bible. You become familiar with praying the Lord’s Model Prayer in Matthew 6. You don’t pray this wrote by rote as a robot might repeat words with no meaning. Instead, you personalize the prayers of the Bible as your own. It’s the Praying in the Echo Chamber of the Bible.
Your prayer life is soon to become an adult and you are a force for Satan’s demons to be reckoned with. You are feeling more hopeful as you pray.
Stage Three: I’m in the “Upperclassmen Prayer” Phrase
Stage Four: I’m in Graduate School of Prayer.
Here you are ultra-consistent in your prayer life – you never miss praying morning, noon, and night. You move up to a minimum of three times a day. You regularly rotate through the prayers that are embedded in Bible: the Lord’s Prayer, Paul’s prayers, and even many of Psalms, etc. You may even have a dedicated space for your prayer closet. You have read some books on prayer. You have patterned your prayer after Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17. You know lives have been changed and miracles have happened because I have prayed. Nothing could deter me from praying consistently throughout my day because I personally know God works through prayer.
So where are you in your prayer life? What phase are you in? For the next few moments, lean in with me as I want to you to “level up” in your prayer life.
If God dictated your prayer life, how would it look different? I know your prayer list has you winning the Powerball this week. I know your prayer list includes the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl and the Rangers winning the World Series. Your prayer list includes your children marrying really successful people. But what if God took over your prayer life?
If God were to take over your prayer life, He desires you to pray for you to possess clearer sight to see a greater hope.
Hope is a powerful thing, wouldn’t you agree? More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave his famous I Have a Dream speech. In it he says,
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
King made a reference to a “stone of hope” from the book of Daniel. Again, hope is a powerful thing. And God wants you to pray to have greater hope. God wants you to pray to spiritually see the hope that is yours already in Christ. Much prayer, much hope. Little prayer, little hope.
1. Praying for Clear Spiritual Sight
God is praying for your spiritual sight so that His hope is ever in front of you: “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18).
Everything depends on clear eyesight. Think of it: the day can beautiful where the sun is out and the wind is light but if your sight is gone, you cannot behold any of this beauty.
Many of you know the name of Samson immediately. The Bible’s strong man whose strength laid in the fact that God blessed him with unusual favor. At the end of his life, God’s enemies cut Samson’s hair which was synonymous with His unusual strength. He was led him into captivity and they gouged out his eyes (Judges 16:21). Here is this shell of man who was led to the town of Gaza which sat on the Mediterranean Sea. Yet, Samson could not enjoy the beauty of the sea or the splendor the ancient Philistine city. It might as well have been the Sahara desert for Samson was concern. For Samson was blind and could behold no beauty of the city or the ocean. With his eyes gouged out, he could see nothing of the city’s tiled palaces and hanging gardens and brass gates This is how the Bible says it is for every human being. We are as blind as Samson and we have no spiritual sight. We miss hope because our spiritual sight is missing.
1.2 The Heart’s Eye
So God tells us to pray for clear spiritual sight: “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18).
Did you see where the eyes were located? These eyes aren’t located in our head but in our heart. Why the heart? Because the heart is seen as the critical component of spiritual insight in your Bible. Because it’s not just what you think or what you see but what you want to see.
The true eye of the believer isn’t the head but the heart. Your heart is seat of power for you – it’s your throne room where you make your critical decisions for life. There are a billion spiritual realities God has made that we will never cease unless our heart’s eyes are clear to see! God is seen much better by the heart rather than the mind.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). The pure heart is the heart whose eyes have been enlightened. When you are born again, your heart’s eyes are made so you see!
Years ago, my oldest son and I were in a deer blind in Northwest Arkansas. It was one of our first hunting experiences together and he was only 8 years old or so. We had been joined that day with a friend who was a guide for us and he had a wonderful pair of binoculars. When I looked through my Bushnell binoculars, I could see well-enough but when I picked up his pair… … it was like I could see the unseen! The difference was incredible as the images in front of me were so clear. Far off objects were as close to me as my hand. I could see the texture of objects hundreds of yards away. I pulled the binoculars from eyes to see the name brand, Swarovski (s wore off ski). I pulled out my phone to see the nearest place where I could purchase these binoculars. Then, I saw the price of such quality and had a case of sticker shock. My son says, “Dad, these are really good. We need a pair of these.” “Put the binoculars down, son. Give the nice man his binoculars.”
Great sight is worth a great deal. And greater sight into spiritual realities is worth even more.
1.4 A Prayer for Believers
Now, remember the prayer of this text is a prayer for believers.
People who already see need to have their eyes enlightened to see even more. Again, this is a prayer for the converted; for the one who has already placed their faith in Christ and His cross. Even though they see, God is pressing us to pray for even more clear sight. God is calling on us who already spiritually see to pray, “Jesus, touch my inner eyes so that I may see!”
1.4 The Non-Believer’s Sight
And if a believer needs to have their spiritual eyes enlightened, how much more so those who have yet to receive Christ: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The Bible says that if you are outside of Christ you are altogether blind. You were born spiritually blind and the “god of this world” has blinded you. Satan is working overtime to keep you from seeing spiritual life in Christ.
1.5 The Dimmer Switch
Yet, even those who do see Jesus are commanded to pray for even greater spiritual sight. So spiritual eyesight in one sense in binary, either you have it or you don’t. But in another sense, spiritual sight is also by degrees. Like the dimmer switch in our dining room, spiritual sight can be increased. God is calling on you already see, to pray that the dimmer switch would be increased so more light can flood our hearts and souls.
1. Praying for Clear Spiritual Sight
2. Praying to See Real Hope
If we have better spiritual eyes, what are we going to see? Pay attention to the three “whats” in verse 18 and 19 with me: “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (Ephesians 1:18-19).
Did you the three “whats” in verse 18-19? God says we are to pray to see the hope to which He has called…
…the riches of His inheritance…
… and the greatness of God’s incredible power.
You will have a better handle on all of these when you spiritual sight is clear. Like a laser I want you to pray to understand hope that is already yours in Christ.
2.1 The Hope of His Calling
Here’s the first “what” that God is praying for: “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18).
What exactly is the hope of God’s calling on your life? And why should you pray for it? Because hope is a powerful antidote against anxiety.
2.1.1 The Hope of His Calling
Yes, you already own a boatload of spiritual hope. So what exactly is the hope of His calling? As believers we have a rich hope that covers every aspect of our futures. You hope to be under God’s divine hand of protection forever and ever. You hope God’s rich divine love will yours forever and ever. You hope to have God’s very everlasting arms underneath you all your years, whether you live long or short. You hope that the Lord will be your shepherd and you shall not want. You hope that goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. You hope when it is time to depart this life for the next that Jesus Himself will and meet you.
This is your hope of His calling.
You can expect life to be a stormy voyage, but because Christ is at the helm of your life, you hope to arrive into the harbor of calm waters at the end of your days. You can expect to be tempted, but you hope to be upheld. You can expect to be slandered, but you can hope to be cleared. You can expect to be tried in this life, but you hope to triumph.
Yes, this is your hope of His calling.
What else do we hope for? We hope for absolute perfection. The God who has changed our hearts will continue the good work of sanctification until He has taken every sin out of us, every desire for sin out of us, and every possibility of sin out of us. We hope and even expect Him to renew our minds and prevent our making so many mistakes in our judgment. We hope and even expect Him to renew our hearts so that our desires are for the things above (Colossians 3:2).
Yes, we hope to be perfect just as our Heavenly Father is perfect. Yes, dear Christian friends, this is your hope of His calling. And we hope and even expect that our body shall be raised. And we hope that when our body wakes from death’s sleep, what has been sown in corruption shall be raised in incorruption. And what has been sown in weakness shall be raised in power! Yes, we hope that our body will be just like the body of Jesus Christ Himself in the next life. We are looking forward to a time when we shall be done with all of our aches and pains…
… with all of life’s weariness and frustration…
…with all of this old age along with the sickness that goes with it. Yes, we hope to be rid of even death itself. We hope and even expect to be continually young all of eternity’s day in our resurrected bodies. We hope that this unmitigated joy of our eternal life will move through our every nerve, muscle, and fiber of our being.
This is your hope of your calling: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). We shall be blessed, at the right hand of God where there are pleasures for evermore.
This is your hope of His calling.
Now what good do this hope do us? What good is this hope when I head into work tomorrow morning?
2.1.2 Watching a Game
Are you someone who is so emotionally entrenched with a sports team that when they do well, you soar emotionally. But at the same time, when they are losing you are down in the dumps. We have a family member who will run away from the TV when their favorite team is in a really close, nail-biting game. We laugh about it but they will run to bathroom and lock themselves in there until the game is over. Some of you are like this at some level and it’s so embarrassing to you. Did you know that missionaries will often watch their favorite teams a day after the game.
I did this very thing as I watched the Super Bowl a couple of years ago with some missionary friends. Because are you are 12-13 hours ahead, you record the game and watch it the next day. All this makes me think of a man named Archie was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan back in the day. He lived in Japan and watched the games after he already knew the outcome. Archie just couldn’t take the anxiety of the drama of not knowing what happened to his team. His emotions would dip into the dumps when Roger Staubach was sacked for a loss or Tony Dorsett was hurt and on the sidelines. So he waited until the game was over and then he found out if the Cowboys won. He listened to the game the day before on the Armed Forces Radio back before the invention of the Internet. So he already knew how the game was going to turn out. It was only then would he watch the game. Then, when Roger, the Dodger was thrown for a 20 yard loss and his team was 20 points behind, he could watch it with happiness. He knew they would mount a comeback and win the game. It was the only way he could handle the anxiety of the game. He could handle it emotionally because he knew about the future.
What does it mean to know the hope of His calling? Would good is this to your life right now? If you are a Bible-believing Christian, you’re like Archie watching the old Cowboys games. You can handle the emotions of the present because you know your future. The hope of His calling is an emotional ballast for the storms life throws out at you.
2.2 The Resurrection
“that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 1:20).
This is our hope: Jesus Christ rose from the grave and we will rise right alongside of Him (Ephesians 1:20). The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a glimpse into the world’s future. The future entered into the past to steady you in the present. People who go completely to pieces over the present, don’t understand their future.
No power can thwart the very hand of God, not even death itself. This is the hope of our calling that we shall see His face. We shall see the face of our very Creator and be one with the only Son of God who died for us.
Believers - Invitation
Remember, if the doctor were to give you a pill to cure and conquer a lethal condition. You would be sure to take the pill every night without missing even one. Why? Because you are convinced that you will not make it unless you pray! God invites and commands you to pray so that the eyes of your inner heart would be enlightened so that you would know the hope of your calling. Look, life is rough but when you know how the game is going to turn out, you’re not worried about when life sacks your quarterback. When you pray to know the hope of His calling for your life, you have an emotional ballast when you are rejected by dream school. This hope can pull you out of despair wants to pull you down. Pray that you know the hope of God’s calling.
Non- Believers - Invitation
Don’t you want to have a secure future in Christ?