Concerning the nature of prayer, The Lighthouse Catechism asks,
Q45: What is prayer?
A. Prayer is pouring out our hearts to God in praise, petition, confession of sin, and thanksgiving.
This concise and helpful definition of prayer encompasses the various ways believers do indeed pour out their hearts to God. When we pray we praise, petition, confess sin, and give thanks. Of course, there are other ways to pray, but these are the main four. In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul offers a prayer to God as he writes to the saints at Ephesus. Within this pastoral prayer for a beloved congregation, Paul both praises God and gives thanks for the church. It is a moving example of both divine and brotherly love. Love for God and neighbor abounds in this short prayer. This prayer is both a praise and thanksgiving to God for his work in the church at Ephesus and his work to redeem the world through Christ.
Paul’s Ephesian prayer is first that of a thanksgiving. In verse 16, Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Paul tells the church in Ephesus that he never stops thanking God for them. It goes without saying that Paul deeply loved the Ephesian believers. The motivation for Paul’s ceaseless prayers is their “faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (v. 15).
Christians and churches that please God do two things: they trust Jesus and they love each other. Jesus once said that the two greatest commandments in the whole world are to (1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to (2) love your neighbor as yourself. Love God. Love others. Those are the two greatest commandments. Paul loved this church and thanked God for them because they loved Jesus and loved each other. In fact, they proved that they had faith in Jesus by loving each other.
How are you proving that you have faith in Jesus? Is there love for God and others in your life? Or are you just focused on yourself? God has called you and he has called us as a church to trust Christ and love one another. When we do those things, we show the world something it can only hope for.
Paul’s Ephesian prayer is also that of praise. Paul closes this part of his letter by praising God for what he did in Christ. It is only because of what Jesus did that we are able to trust him and love one another. Paul praises God for raising Jesus from the dead, giving him a heavenly throne, giving him power over everything and everyone, and placing him in charge of the church.
In Jesus, we have a Savior-King who rose from the dead so that we may live.
We have a Savior-King who is reigning on high from a throne over us and all our enemies.
We have a Savior-King who has power over everything on earth and in heaven.
We have a Savior-King who is the supreme leader of the church.
In him we never have to be afraid. In him we are free to trust and love without fear.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a M.Div student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mathew is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.