“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ*, the Father of the glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the recognition of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us who are believing, according to the working of the power of His might…” -The Apostle Paul, Ephesians 1:17-19, YLT
Just about everyone would agree Paul probably had a pretty good idea of what was needed and helpful for those following Christ, so looking at the things he prayed for others can be very helpful. Paul’s primary desire for the Ephesians seems to be that they would have understanding. Maybe the need for understanding seems simple or obvious, but we MUST recognize that this isn’t “understanding” like we think of it in our natural lives, which has to do with a mental grasp of something. The understanding Paul refers to is spiritual; it is obtained and functions very differently than natural understanding used in one’s natural life.
By his own words, the understanding he prayed for has two components: a God-given “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the recognition of Him” and involves “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” It’s common and easy to assume we know what these things truly are or that we possess them, but assumptions are so dangerous. We will never truly know God, in an intimate and real way, unless He grants to us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” and unless the “eyes” of our understanding are “enlightened.” So what does that mean?
“Revelation” is basically an uncovering or an exposure; it’s seeing the essence of something, without filter or distortion. “Wisdom” is more of a spiritual concept and is harder to define, but I would define it here as “an impartation of the mind of God.” I think Paul is basically saying this: “I pray God would grant you, by His spirit’s working within you, a connection and agreement with the mind of God and an unclouded, undistorted vision of spiritual reality, that you can truly know and experience union with the Father, that your understanding would be based on spiritual light…” And he goes on from there. The reason he prayed this is because there is a great tendency in man toward understanding spiritual concepts with the non-spiritual, carnal mind. The carnal mind can be religious and good, but it cannot receive spiritual revelation, rejects “enlightenment,” refuses to subject itself to God, and is both fearful of and opposed to the true knowledge of God. This is why Paul prayed the Ephesians would spiritually possess wisdom and revelation, and have enlightened eyes of understanding. Enlightened = spiritually perceptive, as opposed to naturally perceptive.
I hope that makes more sense. I pray these same things for myself and all fellow believers, because without sight, understanding, wisdom, and revelation, we are like a blind man trying to navigate an unfamiliar journey alone and without help. At that point, there are really only two options: stay put but pretend you can see and are making progress, or admit you are blind and helpless, and cry out for mercy and grace to remedy your pitiful situation. I hope more and more are rejecting the pretense of claiming to see while blind, and coming to see their destitution. It’s at that point that desperation sets in and things can change.
Father, may those of us who name the name of Christ recognize and admit our blindness and destitution, seeing that all our good works and good will haven’t truly connected us with You or furthered Your kingdom, but only our imagination of it. In desperation and longing, may we cry out to You, to grant us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of You, an enlightened understanding, eyes to see and ears to hear. We want to be able to see and hear You according to Your way, so we can cooperate with You in establishing Your kingdom, for Your glory. Amen.
*Jesus had a God? Interesting…