For those of you who are regulars, I apologize for the recent lack of posts. I got hit with a bad case of the flu and then (though not quite better) preached at our State Convention’s pastor conference. I’m better, I’m back, and we’re picking back up where we left off in Ephesians 6.
One Puritan pastor writes, “Now because of ourselves, we are as children, and no better able to wield this Armour of God, then David the Armour of Saul, the apostle adds that heavenly exercise of prayer.”
Last we saw Paul telling the Ephesians how to stand against the devil, but we left off the last part. Paul says, “Stand therefore … praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (6:14,18-20).
Here we are given a picture of prayer that shows it to be foundational for the deployment of all other weapons. It is in the context of prayer that the armor is put on and the sword is put into action. Thus, prayer is crucial if we are to stand firm in the spiritual battle. So how do we pray to stand? In this post, we want to look at the first part of our praying–how we are pray. In the next post, we will look at what we are to pray for.
1. Pray in the Spirit
What does it mean to pray in the Holy Spirit? The thing to always consider is context. Here, the context comes from verse 7: “take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (6:17-18). I think the key to understanding what Paul means here is seeing the connection between the word and prayer. The New Testament is clear that God’s Spirit doesn’t work about from God’s Word. People need to hear the gospel for the Spirit to convict. People need to hear the Scriptures explained for the Spirit to mature them.
Likewise here, there is a relationship between the Spirit and the Word. The Word is the Spirit’s sword – he is the one who makes it sharp and effective. If Paul wants us to pray in the Spirit, surely he wants us to pray in a Spirit-directed way. That is, we should allow him to direct our prayers as we better understand God’s will from his word. To pray in God’s Spirit is to bring your request into conformity to the Spirit-inspired word. The painful truth then is that our prayers are only ‘in the Spirit’ insofar as they conform to God’s Word.
Thus, the great puritan William Gurnall will say,
Prayer is nothing but the promise reversed, or God’s Word formed into an argument, and retorted by faith upon God again.
Furnish yourself with arguments from the promises to enforce your prayers, and make them prevalent with God. The promises are the ground of faith, and faith, when strengthened, will make you fervent, and such fervency ever speeds and returns with victory out of the field of prayer . . . . The mightier any is in the Word, the more mighty he will be in prayer.
2. Pray at all times
It’s easy to pray in the midst of trouble, but here we are told to pray at all times. The good, the bad, the ugly; times of blessing and peace as well as poverty and conflict. We should pray in the morning, and throughout the day, and before we rest our heads on our pillows at night. We should pray on vacation; we should pray at work. We should be praying before the conflict comes, not just in the midst of it. In the immediate context, we are to be praying at all times, because that is what keeps us strengthened in God’s armor. Thus, John Newton wrote in one of his hymns, Prayer keeps our armor bright.
3. Pray with all prayer
When my dad was little, all he liked to eat was hamburgers – plain hamburgers. No ketchup, no lettuce, no onion, no pickle – nothing. And if they went out to eat somewhere that didn’t have hamburgers he wouldn’t eat anything. Eventually, he parents broke him of that stubborn habit. And with good reason, what kind of nutrition was he going to get from only eating hamburgers? Similarly, when we think of our spiritual health, how can we be nourished spiritually if we only pray the same kinds of prayers all the time? When we look to the Scriptures, there are all kinds of prayers.
That means we must mingle together our prayers, including praise of God. This is worshipful pray for what God has done, not only in our lives, but in years past in the lives of biblical saints. Confession of sin is essential for warfare praying. The devil delights to come at us with accusations, playing to our guilt. But by confessing and repenting of our sins, because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we will be encouraged, and well equipped to ward off such attacks.Thanksgiving is another important part of the Christian’s prayer life. Thanksgiving works in tandem with our petitions like the double action of our lungs – in petition we seek something for God, and in receiving it, the natural response is to exhale our grateful prayers of thanksgiving. Finally, there is supplication. This comes in two forms – requests for ourselves and intercession for others. Like Moses for Israel, Abraham for Sodom, and Jesus for Peter, we must learn to intercede to God on behalf of others.
4. Pray with all perseverance
The Gospels tell us that Jesus told his disciples a parable, “to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Then he went on to give this teaching:
He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ”  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:2-8)
Do you give up easily in prayer? Do you get frustrated and pout, not giving things over to God in prayer? Do you get down and disappointed and so lose heart, not seeking encouragement from God? I am the kind of guy whose emotions can go up and down with ease. It doesn’t take much to excite me, or get me in the dumps about something. There is no way I would be able to continue in this ministry without prayer. One pastor has rightly said: “We must always pray or else we will give up” If we are not praying, we will easily be choked by life’s riches and pleasures. We always make time for that which is important for me. We will not make time for prayer unless we understand how important it should be.
5. Pray for all the saints
Paul has made clear that our enemy is a spiritual enemy. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget who that enemy is. Sometimes we mistake other people as the enemy–specifically, other Christians. Instead of fighting against spiritual forces, we want to fight each other. But Paul here, corrects that sin. He says, “make supplication for all the saints.”
We aren’t fighting a private war. We are all units in the same army, fighting on the same lines. Therefore, we must pray that others may be able to stand and persevere as well.
Do you remember what Jesus told Peter? Luke 22:31-32 – “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
We have a calling to pray for other Christians. Have a list–friends, church members, church leaders that have national or international influence. And pray for these people regularly.