Prayers that Get to Heaven
There are many prayers that only make it as far as the ceiling; they don’t make it to heaven and so they have no effect on the world. But in Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul is absolutely confident that his prayers are not like that. He believes that his prayers are heard in heaven and he expects the world to be changed as his prayers are answered. So what gives him that confidence? Paul’s confidence in prayer is grounded on the truths about Jesus in Ephesians 1: 19–23, since Jesus has ascended to heaven, your prayers are heard by God and effectual for changing the world. The prayers that you make in Jesus’ name are Ascension-powered prayers.
As Paul prays in Ephesians 1, he is depending on something that was promised in John 14:13 that when Jesus departed from the earth, He would ensure that His disciples’ prayers were answered. Paul is depending on something that is confirmed in Romans 8:34 that Christ Jesus not only died and was raised, but that He is now presently at the right hand of God interceding for us. And Paul is depending on something that is explained in Hebrews 7:22–8:2—you have an eternal, sinless, perfect, powerful high priest interceding before God on your behalf, a high priest who ministers in the very presence of God, seated at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven.
The Power of the One Who Hears
And so this is one of the greatest blessings of the Ascension, the prayers that you make to God through Jesus make it to heaven because Jesus made it to heaven. The Ascension bestowed great honor on Jesus, but it also meant that He was entrusted with great power. And it is this combination of access and authority that makes your prayers both heard and effective. Your prayers are effectual because Jesus sits in the place of power far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
This means that when you come in prayer to Jesus, you will never hear Him say, “Let me check with my supervisor.” You know how frustrating that is here on earth when you have to work through the chain of command, spending days on hold, jumping through hoop after hoop, trying to talk to the one competent and capable person who can actually help you. The Ascension means that since you know Jesus, and since Jesus is at the very top, whenever you have a need or a problem or a request, you get to talk directly to the one who sits in the place of supreme authority at God’s right hand.
Expecting Things to Change
Because Jesus ascended in heaven, you have access to God. And since in heaven, Jesus is about the business of running the world, your prayer in Jesus’ name affects the way the world is run.
When you pray, you want things to change. You want God to act in power and might to bring deliverance, to bring healing, to bring salvation. And the only reason it makes sense to pray for these things in Jesus’ name is that Jesus has ascended to heaven to take up the rule of the universe.
This is why Christians look first to Jesus, not to politics, first to Jesus, not to education, first to Jesus, not to medicine. Jesus is in charge of all those powers and dominions; He’s above them. It’s not that they are worthless or that we don’t need them; not at all! But without His blessing, they don’t mean a thing; they can’t help at all. They are like hands and feet–they don’t move except at the direction of the head. Jesus is the head over all things, and so whatever it is we want to be different about the world, we take it to Jesus, who was given to be the head when He ascended up to God’s right hand.
This is the foundation to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. He knows that his prayers ascend with Jesus into heaven. He knows that when Jesus hears, He has the power to change the world in response to the prayers of His people. And so as you worship the Christ who ascended on high and gave gifts to men, thank God for this gift: because Jesus was lifted up, God hears the prayers that you lift up in Jesus’ name. And because Jesus rules from God’s right hand, God changes the world in answer to your prayers.