Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians
“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:15-16).- Ephesians 1:15-16
Modern scholars who approach the biblical text with the presupposition that God cannot deliver an error-free revelation to humanity tend to deny that Paul authored Ephesians. We saw last week that they base many of their arguments largely on the presence of a different style in the letter to the Ephesians, arguments that ultimately offer no reason to deny Pauline authorship. Another argument for denying Paul’s authorship makes use of today’s passage, so we will address it in order to help us respond to those who use this passage to challenge biblical authority.
In Ephesians 1:15–16, Paul speaks of having “heard” about the Ephesians’ faith and the love they had toward all the saints. According to those against Pauline authorship, this phrasing reveals a more distant relationship between the author and the Ephesian church than would be the case with Paul, who had spent many years ministering in Ephesus (Acts 19:1–10). Apparently, some scholars believe the writer does not refer to the Ephesians as intimately as he should (he had merely “heard” of the Ephesians’ faith and love). Aside from the fact that this argument is based on the unfounded premise that an ancient writer must conform to modern conventions of intimacy, this contention is also unsustainable because nearly ten years passed between Paul’s stay in Ephesus (AD 52) and his writing of the letter (AD 60–62). There were probably many people in the Ephesian church the apostle had never met at the time he wrote. Charles Hodge aptly comments, “It is … not unnatural that the apostle should speak in this way about so large and constantly changing congregation after being absent from them for a time. Besides, the expression need mean nothing more than that he continued to hear about their general welfare.”
Having heard of the faith and love of the Ephesian saints, Paul says his practice is to give thanks and remember them unceasingly in his prayers. As we saw in Colossians 1:9, this does not mean the apostle did nothing but pray all day; rather, he always made intercession for the Ephesians during his regularly scheduled prayers. For an ancient Jew such as Paul, this would have meant daily morning, noon, and evening prayers. Whatever our prayer schedule may be, let us also never cease to pray for the people and needs of which we are aware.
Many people find it hard to pray regularly, which is unfortunate because prayer is among the most powerful tools for advancing the kingdom of God. If you find it hard to pray regularly or are easily distracted when going before the Lord, you might want to consider just setting aside a short amount of time each day — five minutes or so — for prayer. You can increase this length gradually so that you are spending ever more time on your knees.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 5:17