The Scope of Christian Prayer

Ephesians 1

Michael Hardt

No matter is too trivial for prayer: the food we take (1 Tim. 4:3–5), our physical constitution — ‘all your care' should be cast upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7), yes, we should make known our requests (Phil. 4:6).

It would be a pity, however, if our prayers were to be limited to our practical circumstances. First, they should include ‘thanksgiving' (Phil. 4:6), but even the requests themselves should not focus on practical needs only. A number of prayers in the New Testament demonstrate the vastness of the scope of Christian prayer.

Take Paul's prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:9–12). He gave thanks for their faith and their love towards all saints. He prayed that they might be filled with the full knowledge of God's will, for their fruit-bearing and for their knowledge of God. We do not read that Paul prayed that they would be spared all difficulty but that they might be ‘strengthened with all power according to the might of his glory unto all endurance and longsuffering with joy'.

Or take his prayer in Ephesians 1 (vs. 15–23). His concern was that the Ephesians might be able to take in the vast scope of their spiritual blessings; that God would give them ‘the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of him'. In order for this to occur there was a need for them to be ‘enlightened in the eyes of [their] heart'. Paul desired that they might know ‘the hope of his calling' , ‘the riches of the glory of his inheritance' and ‘the surpassing greatness of his power'. In Ephesians 3 (vs. 14–21), again, the focus is on ‘the inner man', that Christ might dwell, through faith, in their hearts, and their ability to apprehend the full extent of God's vast counsel and ‘the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge' .

Prayer, of course, is not lecturing. It is not about rehearsing the truth. Surely, this is not what Paul did in his prayers. Rather, what characterised them was a focus on the interests of Christ. May the Lord enrich our prayer lives — not to the exclusion of ‘all our need' (Phil. 4:19), including practical ones, but to the inclusion of spiritual prosperity, our own as well as that of others.