How should we pray for others? In Ephesians 1.15–23, Paul describes his prayers for the Ephesians. His words offer us a marvelous example of prayer.
First, we should be aware of what is going on in the lives of the people we are praying for. Paul writes, “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints” (verse 15). Even though he was not physically present with the Ephesians, Paul kept himself informed of their way of life. Why? Because the Ephesians were dear to him; he was their spiritual father and the founding pastor of their church (Acts 18.18–20.38). We cannot pray effectively for others unless we know how they are doing in the day-to-day routine of their lives.
Second, we should be thankful for the good things God is doing in their lives. Paul writes, “I do not cease to give thanks for you.” Notice how often Paul gives thanks for the Ephesians: whenever he prays for them. Paul is not thankful on rare occasions; he is always thankful for what God is doing for the Ephesians. Sometimes, when we pray for others, we focus so intently on asking God to solve their problems that we forget the many solutions he has already provided. It is always good to begin with thanks.
Third, we should pray that God would help them grow in their relationship with him. Loving God is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22.37–38), so growing in our love of God should be our most urgent and important prayer request. Paul prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (verses 17–19). Knowledge of God is not just head-knowledge or theory; it is heart-knowledge and personal relationship. Out of that relationship with God spring hope, blessedness, and confidence in God’s saving power.
Finally, we should pray that God would bring wholeness to every area of their lives. Paul writes about the power that God “worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (verse 20). He mentions both “this age” and “the one to come” (verse 21), i.e., both the present and eternity. And he says that God’s ultimate purpose is to “put all things under [Christ’s] feet” (verse 22). When we pray for others, we do not merely ask God to bless and guide them in their spiritual lives. We pray for God to bless and guide them in every area of their life: relationally, intellectually, physically, emotionally, financially, etc. “All things” are proper topics for prayer.