There is a strange phenomena in the church when it comes to praying for people. Obviously this is a generalization, but I have observed it enough to suggest that it may be a pattern.
When people become followers of Jesus, our prayers for them seem to change. Before they are saved, we pray for God to work in their lives and circumstances, for their hearts to be drawn to Christ, for the spiritual blindness to be taken away, etc. Once they trust Christ and are in the family, then what do we pray for? Often it seems to shift to the more mundane matters of health and career.
This is not just the case in church prayer meetings, but also among leaders too. I know that I am tempted to pray more fervently and more “spiritually” for those who are outside God’s family, or for those who are on the fringes. But for those who seem to be doing well in human terms? It is tempting to assume all is well.
Take a look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in 1:15-23. He begins by referencing how thankful he is for their faith in Christ and love for the saints. These are healthy believers—they have a vertical relationship that is spilling into their horizontal relationships. These are the kind of people I am tempted to bypass as I pray. Not so for Paul!
The One Thing—He goes on to make clear the one thing that he prays for them: that the Father might give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him! That is, Paul prays for these believers to know God. Simple. Or is it profound?
Clearly he doesn’t mean that he wants them to “come to know” God, but to grow in their knowing Him. He wants their relationship with God to go deeper, that the union they have with Christ should become more vibrant and developed. (Remember that “in Christ” occurs almost 40 times in Ephesians—union with Christ is a massive theme in the letter.)
I suspect many of us who have a passion to see the lost brought to salvation may fall into the trap of then missing the growth potential that exists for a believer. There is so much more than just getting saved and then telling others, there is massive potential for spiritual growth and maturity.