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Why does Paul pray “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18)?

that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened

In Ephesians 1:15–23, the apostle Paul prays for the Ephesian believers to be filled with spiritual insight to know Jesus better and understand the fullness of God’s blessings in Christ: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray 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 his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (verses 17–19).

Throughout the Bible, the “heart” often represents the center of a person’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual life—the whole inner person, encompassing the mind, will, and emotions. Thus, “the eyes of your heart” refers to our inner perception. Our “inner eyes” are “enlightened” when they open and light is cast on them, allowing them to see and understand the things of the Spirit.

Paul prays for the Father to give believers the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” True spiritual enlightenment can only come from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; John 14:25–26; 16:12–14; 1 Corinthians 2:9–16). The natural mind cannot comprehend the things of God. Christians “have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us” (1 Corinthians 2:12, NLT). The Spirit of God opens the eyes of the heart to see, receive, and understand the truth in God’s Word (Psalm 19:8; 119:18).

Paul says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” because he wants all believers to comprehend the great hope, riches, and power they have received in Jesus Christ. Paul himself would have remained a blind Pharisee had the eyes of his heart not been opened on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:1 says Paul (then Saul) was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (ESV). While on his way to arrest followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus, Paul was struck down by a blinding light. He heard the voice of Jesus calling him to salvation. Three days later, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and his sight was restored (Acts 9:17–19). The restoration of physical eyesight symbolized Paul’s inner transformation as the eyes of his heart were enlightened to see the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Paul tells the believers in Corinth that the same God who spoke light into existence in Genesis 1:3 “has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6, NLT). The apostle wants Christians to grasp three things: the hope of our calling (Romans 8:30; Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Philippians 3:14), the riches of our glorious inheritance (Colossians 1:12; Ephesians 1:14), and the matchless power that is available to us who believe (Ephesians 3:7, 16; Philippians 3:21; 4:19).

The Christian life is an ongoing experience of growing in our faith, knowledge, and understanding of God and our relationship with Jesus Christ. Before salvation, we lived in darkness until the true light of the world shined in our hearts (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16; John 1:9; John 8:12; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 5:8). But once we come to know Him through salvation, the eyes of our hearts are opened (John 17:3; Hebrews 6:4). He becomes our Savior and Lord. Jesus says to us, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” Matthew 13:16 (NLT).

If we keep seeking the Lord throughout our lives, we will increasingly get to know Him through experiential sanctification (Philippians 3:10–16). We will discover that He is our “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15), “Good Shepherd” (John 10:10–16; 1 Peter 5:1–4), and “Bright Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). We will slowly transform into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22–24; Colossians 3:9–10) until one day the eyes of our hearts are fully enlightened, and we know Him “face to face” in complete perfection (1 Corinthians 13:9–12).

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Questions about Ephesians

Why does Paul pray “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18)?
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This page last updated: February 6, 2023