To the Praise of God’s Glory

Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians

Paul hears about the Ephesians’ faith and love, which causes him to have unceasing thankfulness and prayer to God. The content of his following prayer is simply remarkable and is structured with a multi-layered purpose. Paul prays for spiritual revelation[1] in the knowledge of God in order that their hearts will be enlightened. He prays that their hearts would be enlightened so that they could know the hope to which they are called, the riches of God’s glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power.

Thesis

Why these three things? Why does he pray for these things and not something else? I believe Paul prays for these three things to happen so that it would ultimately result in the praise of God’s glory. My main argument will be to use what Paul has already said in his letter, before his prayer, to explain why Paul prays for those three things (i.e., hope, glorious inheritance, immeasurable power) to be known because it will result in praising God’s glory.

Hope, Glorious Inheritance, and Immeasurable Power

The section immediately preceding Paul’s prayer (Eph 1:3–14 ESV) discusses God at work for the praise of his glory. He does powerful, loving, and gracious works which are all to result in praising how great and wonderful he is.[2]  The works that God does in this section are closely linked with the content of Paul’s prayer in the next. There is a hope to which the Ephesians have been called, a glorious inheritance that awaits them, and immeasurable power that is expressed.

The Ephesians were called and chosen by God before the world ever began.[3] In fact, Ephesians 1:3–14 as a whole discusses the great hope to which the Ephesians have been called, which is Christ. It is in Christ that every spiritual blessing comes,[4] and that adoption and the forgiveness of sins by God are made possible.[5] It is in Christ that all things are united,[6] that a glorious inheritance is obtained,[7] and that being sealed with the Holy Spirit is possible.[8] Therefore, Christ is the great hope to which the Ephesians have been called, and Paul states that “we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12, emphasis mine).

Every believer is called and sealed by the Holy Spirit to a rich, glorious inheritance that is to come.[9] This obtained inheritance is “according to the counsel of his will,” which is “to the praise of his glory.”[10] God’s redemptive purposes are “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”[11] The reason for stating this verse is because it is in Christ that every spiritual blessing, including the glorious inheritance, happens and Christ’s work was accomplished because of the riches of God’s grace and his perfect counsel. The Ephesians are guaranteed to inherit this glorious inheritance, which again is “to the praise of his glory.”[12]

One way that the immeasurable greatness of God’s power is shown is God seating Jesus in the heavenly places. God seated Jesus “at his right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named … and he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church” (Eph 1:20–22, emphasis mine). The reason for emphasizing this is because it is in Christ, in the heavenly places, that the Father blesses his children with every spiritual blessing.[13] It is through the resurrected and ascended Savior that all spiritual blessings flow to the believer. God’s immeasurably great power raised Christ from the dead, seated him on high, and rains his blessings upon his children, all to the praise of his glorious grace.

Conclusion

Why did Paul pray what he prayed in Ephesians 1:15–23? Why did he pray that the Ephesians would know the hope to which they are called, the riches of God’s glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of God’s power? It is all to the praise of God’s glory. Paul maps out incredible realities for the believer before he even gets to his prayer. Paul is eager and insistent that his fellow brothers and sisters experientially grasp the deep realities of God’s rich and unending grace. They have been called before the stars were breathed into existence to the great hope of Christ, who sits in the heavenly places, and from whom all spiritual blessings flow to them. Knowing this great hope, inheritance, and power from God will result in the believer praising God for his glory and grace.



[1] tn Or “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation,” or “a spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Verse 17 involves a complex exegetical problem revolving around the Greek term πνεῦμα (pneuma). Some take it to mean “the Spirit,” others “a spirit,” and still others “spiritual.” (1) If “the Spirit” is meant, the idea must be a metonymy of cause for effect, because the author had just indicated in vv. 13–14 that the Spirit was already given (hence, there is no need for him to pray that he be given again). But the effect of the Spirit is wisdom and revelation. (2) If “a spirit” is meant, the idea may be that the readers will have the ability to gain wisdom and insight as they read Paul’s letters, but the exact meaning of “a spirit” remains ambiguous. (3) To take the genitives following πνεῦμα as attributed genitives (see ExSyn 89–91), in which the head noun (“S/spirit”) functions semantically like an adjective (“spiritual”) is both grammatically probable and exegetically consistent.

tn Translator’s Note—explains the rationale for the translation and gives alternative translations, interpretive options, and other technical information.

ExSyn Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament.

Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005).

[2] “To the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:5). “So that we…. Might be to the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:12). “To the praise of his glory” (Eph 1:14).

[3] Eph 1:3–4.

[4] Eph 1:3.

[5] Eph 1:5–7.

[6] Eph 1:10.

[7] Eph 1:11.

[8] Eph 1:13.

[9] Eph 1:13.

[10] Eph 1:11–12, emphasis mine.

[11] Eph 1:7–9.

[12] Eph 1:14, emphasis mine.

[13] Eph 1:3.