One of the great tools of the church are her prayer books. This comes as no surprise as the Bible itself contains the Book of Psalms; a book that may be described as much a hymnal as a prayer book. Prayer books are collections of prayers written by various saints throughout history. They are valuable for a host of reasons.
Prayers from the early church provide us with a window into how the disciples of the Apostles came near to God with their petitions. Though some time after, Augustine prayed to God saying, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Prayers from the medieval church remind us, especially as Protestants, of how Christ was preserving His church. Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century prayed, “O my God, teach my heart where and how to seek you, where and how to find You . . . You have made me and remade me.”
The Reformation era is no different. There we see how the Spirit of Christ was guiding the Reformers as they rediscovered essential components of the Gospel. Martin Luther, the man who kicked off the Reformation in Germany prayed thus, “Behold Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in faith; Strengthen thou me. I am cold in love; Warm me and make me fervent that my love may go out to my neighbor.”
Time does not allow us to consider all the wonderful prayers which have been preserved for us by the saints of Christ. As far as these prayers and others are faithful to Scripture, they are living expositions and elaborations of that original written prayer given to us in Matthew’s Gospel; the Lord’s Prayer.
We find another prayer in the book of Ephesians that is given not only as a model of what was once prayed by the Apostle Paul, but a prayer we ought to take up for ourselves as well.
The Apostle Paul after presenting his ceaseless thanks for the faith and love of the church in Ephesus presents three petitions to the Lord in prayer. A petition is simply a request. Whenever we ask God for something we are petitioning him. The Lord Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer that it is good and right for us to petition God for all our needs; both in body and in soul.
What was the Apostle Paul’s requests for the Ephesians church? Firstly, to know “what is the hope to which He [that is God] has called you” (Ephesians 1:18 ESV). Secondly, to know “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:19 ESV). Thirdly, to know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19 ESV)
Taken together what the Apostle Paul is praying for is that Christians know God more deeply and have that knowledge impact every portion of their lives. Let us consider the immediate relevance of these requests. Do you need hope today? Hope for work? Hope in your marriage? Hope with your family? Hope to make it one more day? What about the riches Christ has purchased for us as His saints? Which of you needs to be reminded that our Heavenly Father owns the cattle of a thousand hills, a thousand times a thousand times infinity? Which of you needs to be reminded that our God is strong? He is strong enough to handle what crushes us daily. Strong enough to handle our wayward hearts which are so easily deceived.
Though these three petitions are distinguished from one another, they are not separated. They are a petition that God would increase in us the true knowledge of Himself and how He transforms the rest of our lives. The Apostle’s prayer is that by the work of the Holy Spirit every believer might grow in personally knowing the hope that is theirs in Christ, the riches that are theirs in Christ, and the limitless power of God.
What does that mean for you? Are you defined as hopeful? Are you described as wealthy? Do you know something of power? We may find that we too stand in need of what Paul is praying about. As Christians, we must be a people characterized by hope. Now there are foolish things into which people place their hope. Not all hope is well grounded.
The Apostle Peter reminds us that it is by God’s mercy alone that “[God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Peter 1:3 ESV) Hope in this sense is not mere sentimentality as if blind optimism is the fruit of the Spirit. Instead, this Spirit-gifted hope can peer through every hardship with expectation that somehow God will be glorified regardless of what we face.
Why can we have such hope today? How can this be especially when our hope so often appear to defy our senses and thoughts? We have hope because of Christ. The Apostle points us towards that. The hope we’ve received is grounded in the power of God which has been most chiefly displayed in the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our King is precious to us. Our God is infinitely powerful. Whatever lies before us is in His hands and whatever difficulties may come pale in comparison to what God has prepared for us who love Him in Christ. May we pray in the same manner as Paul did, seeking after the knowledge of our hope, the riches of Christ, and the limitless strength of His might.