The Prayer to Effect Change in a Counselee

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Counseling and Prayer

PRAYER: Biblical counselor, here’s expert insight into how God effects change in a counselee. Focusing on the “linchpin,” today’s guest writer is pastor and professor Howard Eyrich turns to Ephesians. Read more about him here. This article originally appeared at on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission. BCC logo

A New Insight into Ephesians

Many of you reading this blog have sat through a preaching series on Ephesians or perhaps even taught the book of Ephesians. Others reading this blog have cited various portions of Ephesians to teach, reprove, rebuke, and exhort counselees on a variety of topics. Still others of you hold some type of Bible college or seminary degree which means that the book of Ephesians has been the focus of a course along the way. In my Th.M. (Masters of Theology) program in seminary, I had an entire course on Ephesians in which we worked from the Greek text. I could not give an accounting of the number of times I have read and studied this book in part or entirety. So, we are each intimately acquainted with this book. Nonetheless, about three weeks ago a new insight into this book occurred to me as I read through it one morning in a quiet time. I discovered the linchpin of this book—the fulcrum or essential requirement on which the entire book depends and pivots.

Ephesians and Biblical Counseling

A typical preacher or college professor will tell his class that the book of Romans is the Bible in miniature. On occasion I’ve quoted this and said “and the book of Ephesians is Romans in miniature.” Many of us have told a class or a counselee that chapters 1-3 are foundational doctrine and chapters 4-6 are the practical out workings of that doctrine. Many of us have also used Ephesians 1 to encourage a counselee struggling with the assurance of salvation pointing out that God took action in eternity past on his/her behalf. Or, we’ve reminded another counselee from Ephesians 2 that it was by grace that they were spiritually resurrected without an iota of works on his/her behalf. Every biblical counselor involved in marital counseling has cited Ephesians 5:21-33 to instruct couples in appropriate marital roles. I teach our FELLOWS program regarding marriage and cite this passage as the means of reversing the consequence of the curse in marital relationships. Every biblical counselor has challenged counselees with respect to spiritual warfare. Connecting Peter and James with Paul, we instruct a counselee to “humble yourself” (1 Peter 5:6), “submit to God,” and thereby resist Satan (James 4:7), and armor yourself (Ephesians 6:10-17) to conduct spiritual warfare. In many respects, if the only book of the Bible a biblical counselor had in hand was Ephesians, she/he would have sufficient data about God, humanity, the dynamics of change, and the goals of change to conduct a biblically successful counseling enterprise.

What Has God Done for Us

Ephesians 1:1-3:12 answers the question, “What has God done for us?”

  • He blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.
  • He chose us in him before the foundation of the world.
  • He predestined us to the adoption of sons.
  • He bought redemption through His blood.
  • He revealed the mystery of His will.
  • He provided us an inheritance.
  • He sealed us in him with the Holy Spirit of promise.
  • He made us alive in Christ.
  • He raised us up with Christ.
  • He joined us with other believers in the church.

What Does God Desire from Us?

Ephesians 4:1-6:24 answers the question, “What does God desire from us?”

  • Develop biblical unity (4:1-10).
  • Develop spiritual gifts (4:11-16).
  • Develop Christlike godliness (4:17-6:9).
  • Deploy spiritual armor (6:10-19).

The Linchpin

Counseling and Prayer

Ephesians 3:13-21 is the linchpin and answers the question, “How does God expect us to be able to change?” The linchpin is Paul’s prayer. Paul prays that they would be strengthened with power in the inner person in accordance with the riches of Christ’s glory (think power). Paul extrapolates this by looking to a three-fold outcome.

  1. First, that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith. The Ephesians lived in a world dominated by faith and minds that dwelled on the goddess Diana. She determined their life practice. So Paul is praying that the work of the Holy Spirit will produce in the Ephesians an alternative mindset or worldview by making Christ the object of their faith—dwelling or controlling their thinking.
  1. The second desire of Paul’s prayer is that they would comprehend the love of Christ to the point that it is inexplicable (surpasses knowledge).
  1. Third, Paul prays that they would be filled with the fullness of God. Paul is praying that the power of the Holy Spirit working in the inner person would lead to an all-encompassing awareness of the love of Christ which in turn would motivate them to obedience (putting off the old man and putting on the new man) by the mind renewal that comes from Christ’s indwelling.

So, here is what happened in my quiet time. The Holy Spirit focused me on the linchpin. In a very dramatic way, after practicing biblical counseling formally since 1969, I was shaken to the core of my being with the incredible simplicity of my and my counselees’ dependence upon the Holy Spirit to effectively implement Ephesians 4-6 in the counselees’ lives as they grasp what God has done for them outlined in Ephesians 1:1-3:13. The result has been that this Pauline prayer now resides under the glass at my counseling desk. It has been become my daily reminder to humbly seek God asking both for wisdom for myself and the work of the Holy Spirit in my counselees’ lives even as Paul prayed for this Ephesian church. If the apostle Paul desired and needed to pray this prayer, then certainly I do. May God encourage you to do the same as you engage your counselees and their world, a world not unlike Paul’s world.

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How would it impact your life and ministry if Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:13-21 became your “linchpin” prayer?

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