Little Greek Gems: Confidence in Prayer – Ephesians 1:18

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, NIV

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,  ESV

Is Paul praying for the Ephesian believers that the “eyes of their hearts” would be opened for the purpose that might be able to understand OR is he praying confidently for something, knowing that the eyes of their hearts have already been enlightened?  Let us consider…

Greek Grammar:

In Ephesians 1:18, the Greek verb photizo (to enlighten or to give light) is a perfect, passive, participle.  This tells us a number of things:

  1.  the verb being “perfect” in tense means that the action took place in the past and that the impact or effect of the action is continuing.
  2. The verb being a participle, becomes a verbal adjective.  It might have an object and it might qualify a noun.
  3. The verb is passive.  The subject of the verb was not acting, it was acted upon.

Context:

Ephesians 1:18 is not a full sentence.  It is part of a much longer sentence.  (Paul does like long sentences!)  The sentence starts in verse 15 and ends in verse 21.  Wow – that is long!

Understanding the importance of verse 18:

Here is the argument, or the flow of Paul’s thought.  (You might want to have your Bible open and follow along!)  Paul starts: “For this reason” – Verse 15 is explaining why Paul does not stop giving thanks for the Ephesian believers remembering them in the time of his prayers.  He does not stop giving thanks and praying for them (v. 16) BECAUSE (v. 15) he has heard of their faith in Christ and the fruit of the Spirit (love) which they have for all the saints.  Paul has evidence that they are believers.  What does he pray for?  He prays (v. 17) that God would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.  This is not some extraneous “spirit”, this is the Holy Spirit, who is characterized by wisdom and comes to give revelation of Christ.  [Remember Jesus said that the Father would send the Spirit and the Spirit would teach us all things and bring to remembrance all that Jesus said. (John 14:26)]  Paul is able to pray this with confidence because they are believers, and if believers, (now we get to verse 18!) Paul knows that the Holy Spirit has acted to enlighten their hearts (their hearts were the passive recipient of the Holy Spirit’s enlightening action) at some time in the past and that this action of bringing light to “the eyes of their hearts” has a continuing effect.  Paul’s reasoning might read:  “the fact that you are believers means that the eyes of your hearts have been enlightened, and continue to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I can pray that God will continue to give you the wisdom and revelation that comes from the Spirit because I know you are able to receive it and understand it.  You have: (Col 1:13) “been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son.  Verses 18 and 19 present three specific areas that Paul wishes the Holy Spirit to give them revelation.  He prays that they would know:

  1. the hope to which he has call believers
  2. the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and
  3. the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.

Each of these things is a treasure trove for the believer to explore, understand, appropriate, and rejoice in!  Each are worth an article individually!

The Take Home:

            If a person professes faith in Christ and there is evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, you can pray for them with confidence, because you know that the Holy Spirit has already been at work, bringing them to faith, giving them a heart of flesh in place of stone, giving them the ability to change, to choose increasing Godliness.  (Ezekiel 36:26)  The work of the Spirit is not a “one and done”, it has lasting, ongoing impact.  This is merely another way of understanding God’s promise “to bring to completion the good work he has begun in every believer”.  (Phil 1:6)  Start praying for the Spirit to teach your brothers and sisters the three things found in verse 18-19 (listed above).  Pray with confidence – if they are believers, their hearts are enlightened – they have the ability to understand and God has promised to teach!

Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002.  He is a counselor at the Biblical Counseling Institute in Pittsburgh.  Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological  Seminary (MDiv).  Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and 2 grand children.