It can be scary for children to wake up at night in a dark room where they cannot see anything. That is why a lot of parents have a nightlight in children’s rooms. When children wake up and the nightlight is on, the purpose of the nightlight is so they won’t be as afraid of what they cannot see, find peace and hopefully resettle back to sleep quickly.
It can be the same in our lives. We all go through dark times in life, times of pain, grief, doubt, illness, uncertainty, and more. In these dark times, we need light to help us find peace and rest. That is why Paul prays in this part of Ephesians that the readers of this letter will have the eyes of our hearts enlightened. Paul’s understanding of ‘enlightenment’ is for God to give his people hearts that are full of his light so we can find peace and rest in life through faith in Jesus. In his prayer for his readers, which also includes us, Paul asks God to help us know three key things.
The first is hope. In the darkest times of life, one thing that we need is hope – believing that the way things are now is not necessarily how they will remain in the future. Life can change for the better, and this is the hope to which God calls us. We can look forward in hope to a perfect life in heaven, but we can also hope for this life. In 1 Corinthians 15:19 Paul writes that Christians have hope both for this life and for the next. In Christ we have the hope that God brings life from death, light from darkness, good things from chaos. As Paul writes in Romans 8:28,
… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
As we grow in knowledge of God and his creative work in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can also grow in the hope of a better tomorrow, no matter how dark today might seem.
The second thing Paul prays for is that we might know ‘the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.’ An inheritance is something we receive because another person has died and left their possessions to us. Paul is saying that when Jesus died, he gave what he possessed to us as an inheritance. Jesus possessed all the fullness of God: holiness, purity, glory, a special and privileged relationship with the Father, and more. Jesus gives us all of these possessions, everything he has, when he died on the cross for us. Paul prays that we might know these riches that God gives us through Jesus’ death in the same way that we might open a treasure chest and take out the jewels and gems, piece by piece, marvelling at their beauty and value.
Finally, Paul prays that we might know God’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe.’ He explains that this is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and lifted him up to the highest authority at God’s right hand (vv20,21). We can think of this power as God raising us to new life on the last day to be with him forever. However, Paul’s prayer is that we might know that power in our lives now. This is God’s ability to raise us up to new life every time that the world, sin or the devil try to rob us of life. To know the power of God is to trust that he brings us into the light of his love and grace when everything is dark, he sets us free when we are bound by fear or guilt or shame, he heals our hearts, minds and bodies when we are wounded or broken, he restores our relationships when we are divided by anger, accusations or condemnation. To know God’s resurrection power means to live in the fullness of life that Jesus promises in John 10:10 here and now, not just when we go to heaven when we die. It means living in real hope, peace, joy and love through faith in Christ who died in our place and is risen again to give us life in this world as much as in the next.
We have all this – hope, the riches of God’s inheritance and his resurrection power – through God’s gift of his ‘Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ (v17). Paul says the purpose of the ‘Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ is to help us know God better in our relationship with him. As we get to know God better, the Holy Spirit will enlighten our hearts so we can know the hope, the riches of his inheritance and his resurrection power which he gives to us through faith in Jesus.
No matter how dark life may seem, no matter how difficult things might be, no matter how hopeless our circumstances may appear, Paul’s prayer for us becomes my prayer for you: May the eyes of your heart be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe, through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again for us.
More to think about:
- How important is it for you to have a light on when you are in the dark? Why is that?
- What are some dark times that you may have experienced or are experiencing in life?
- Do you find it difficult or easy to hope for a better tomorrow? How can the good news that God is with us in our suffering and he raises us to new life in Jesus give you hope in your life?
- Spend some time thinking about all that Jesus possesses as the Son of God in a human body. How might knowing that Jesus gives you all this as an inheritance help you through dark times?
- Do you think about God’s resurrection power being something you will experience in this life or in the next? How might trusting in God’s power to raise Jesus from death help you get through the dark times of life?