A lot is said about power these days. Power evangelism. “Powerful” church services. There is even a power-Bible. Is praying for power wrong for Christians? Does it conjure up images of witches and warlocks mixing potions and reciting spells, while requesting power from some evil, occultic being? Is prayer for power legitimate and biblical?
Ephesians ch. 1 has a great prayer for Christians in Africa, especially considering our backdrop of African Traditional Religions with their strong belief in spirits, spiritual powers and the influence of the ancestors.
Thankful for your faith
(15) For this reason I also having heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and the love towards all the saints, (16) I never cease giving thanks for you. (Ephesians 1:15-16)
Paul began his prayer by thanking God for his readers – the Christians in Ephesus. In Ephesus it was not unusual for families to offer public thanks to the Greek goddess Artemis, such as dedications inscribed in stone. In 1:15-23 Paul wanted to publicly thank his God. The reason Paul thanked God refers back to 1:3-14, especially 1:13-14, where the eulogy was applied to Gentile believers who were now in Christ and on an equal footing with Jewish believers. Paul had good reason to thank God for his work in the believers’ lives, especially because the Ephesians had heard and believed the gospel and were sealed with the Holy Spirit. The phrase “having heard of your faith” explains why Paul was giving thanks and. The brevity of this thanksgiving report may give credence to the theory that this was a circular letter intended to various home churches. It should be remembered that Paul had not been in Ephesus for a few years and there were most likely many new converts whom he did not know personally. The recipients’ faith was “in the Lord Jesus”. Their faith was originally in Artemis, but now it was in the Lord Jesus.
For many years the letter to the Ephesians has been regarded as a general epistle or letter, addressed to wide variety of churches and therefore containing very general instruction with no specific historical context or church issue in mind. This general nature was believed to have set Ephesians apart from the other New Testament letters for which it is plain that some or other issue in the church caused or facilitated the letter being written. For example, in Corinth there was sexual immorality in the church, lawsuits amongst believers, and a wrong understanding of what it meant to be spiritual that caused Paul to write 1 Corinthians. In Galatia it was the Judaizers promoting a false gospel of faith and circumcision, and so on.
Ephesians seemed to have no such particular issue, save perhaps the general challenge of Jewish and Gentile relations in Ephesians chapter 2.