I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you . . . “
When I was 14, I stayed with a German minister and his family as part of a school exchange. On the last evening, at supper, Pastor Johannes prayed for me and gave thanks to God for my time with his family. I had never openly been prayed for before. I had never had the sense that anyone was giving thanks to God for me before. I sat there, trying not to cry, because I was really moved at being loved, and God somehow being part of that.
In Ephesians 1.15-end, the author returns to the theme of thanksgiving that has already dominated the letter’s opening verses, bringing into focus the hope and blessings that are embodied in Christ’s followers. Thanksgiving moves into encouragement, as we are enjoined to grow in our knowledge and love of God. And encouragement moves into praise, with the writer almost losing himself in the wonder of the blessings he prays for.
The passage is quite stylized – it follows traditional patterns of offering gratitude and thanksgiving. But these words aren’t formulaic. The author is genuinely thankful for his readers and concerned for their spiritual growth. This enables him to carry us through with him into deeper appreciation of the power of the exalted Christ. Gratitude builds up faith.
There are many ways that we can show our gratitude for each other and for the gifts that God has given to each of us. Imagine what Twitter could be like if it were used more as a message board of thankfulness than as a place to tear others down – as well as quite rightly being a being place of debate and for the sharing of news. How would our emails to each other sound if we more often included some appreciation of what each other is teaching us about God and the good news of Jesus Christ – as well as getting through business and sometimes needing to bring difficult things to each other’s attention?
I benefitted from being held in the prayers of my German exchange family, because they taught me about God’s gifts and because they let me know that I was loved, by them and by God. Youth work reaches many young people today in similar ways, giving them patterns of love and care, which can be lifelong gifts.
Thanksgiving for those who journey with us in faith reminds us of our inheritance among the saints and of the greatness of the gift that salvation through Christ offers to each of us.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you . . .“ and I am full of gratitude at sharing ministry with you.