In our last post on spiritual warfare, we were finishing up Ephesians 6 seeing what it means to pray to stand against the schemes of the devil. We saw how we were to pray, here we want to see what we are to pray for. Today, spiritual warfare is presented many times as performing exorcisms, battling the occult, having power encounters with demonic beings. But Paul says it is much simpler and much harder than any of that.
Spiritual warfare is, at its heart, about the gospel. Paul says, “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” (6:19-20).
Though, I don’t think this is meant to be an exhaustive teaching on the kinds of things we should be praying for, Paul does here emphasize what we too often don’t pray for in the context of spiritual warfare–the advancement of the gospel. He says if we are to stand firm in spiritual warfare, we must pray for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters in two ways.
1. Pray for courage in sharing the gospel
Paul is not a proud man; he embodies humility. Here the great apostle is not ashamed to ask for prayer: “[pray] 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.”
Notice what he does not pray. Paul does not ask for comfort, protection, or release from duty. I don’t know about you, but those are the kinds of things I am likely to pray for – take the burden away; remove that frustration in my life; make life easy for me! But Paul doesn’t ask for that; instead, he asks for courage. He says give me courage to proclaim the gospel to proclaim it to the soldier guarding me, the prisoner chained next to me, to all I share with.
A while bacl, I was reading a ministry newsletter from one of my favorite preachers who gave a testimony to the way God is using his radio ministry. He told of being in a mall in Washington, D.C. several years ago, and being able to witness to a man named Tony sitting on a bench outside a Footlocker store. The man said that he was a professing Christian, but was living with his girlfriend, and she was not a Christian. It would have been very easy for this pastor to simply “be nice” to the young man. After all, he probably wouldn’t see him again. Why waste time condemning him? Just befriend him and hope that is enough to someday bring him around.
Well, that’s not what he did. Instead, he had courage. This pastor prayed with him and encouraged him to go home and tell the girl that he was wrong and that they could no longer live together. The minister recently shared that on one of his broadcasts and in response received an email which said this:
“I listened to the … broadcast about repentance and was quite encouraged to hear Mr. Alistair Begg mention the testimony at the end…. The story was so encouraging because I was the girl that Tony was living with. [Tony] did exactly as God had directed him to do through you. He came home and shared the story with me and within a few days I was to move out. Needless to say, as an unbeliever I was quite hurt and upset, but I knew it was coming. It all turned out to be a huge blessing not just for Tony, but for me as well. You see, I gave my life to Christ about a month after that and I have been walking with the Lord for four years now.”
The minister could have easily blew off the conversation, doing his own thing while was on vacation, hanging out at the mall. Instead, he was courageous in his presentation of the gospel and its implications for how one lives his or her life. Very often Satan whispers in our ear: “This just isn’t worth it; live a comfortable life; do your own thing; ignore all the troubles.”
But even in prison, Paul doesn’t stop, and we shouldn’t either. Instead, we should pray for ourselves and for our brothers and sisters to have courage in standing firm against our spiritual enemy, as we share the gospel.
2. Pray for clarity in sharing the gospel
Paul says pray “that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.” Paul has the mystery of the gospel to set forth and he asks for words to be given to him. That is, he asks for clarity of speech as he presents the gospel.
It’s interesting that as you read through Acts and some of Paul’s letters it becomes pretty clear that Paul was not a great speaker in the sense that he did not employ rhetoric or was something impressive to look at. In that regard, Apollos was the great speaker. The Corinthians even complained that Paul was boring; not impressive at all. And it’s interesting that Paul isn’t really concerned with that. He doesn’t ask for incredible speaking abilities. He doesn’t ask for great illustrations or a witty sense of humor or more charisma. Instead, he asks for clarity in his speech. He doesn’t care if he is the big name like Apollos. He just wants to be clear in what he says – he wants to be able to share the gospel in such a way that those he’s speaking to will understand him. He says, ‘pray that when I speak the gospel, I will speak clearly.’
The same should be true for us. We may not have all of the apologetic arguments down, or being able to hold a large group captive with our speaking abilities. But we should love Christ and the gospel and be in prayer for the clarity in presenting it when we are given the opportunity.
Are you making time to pray? In his sermon on this passage, Lloyd-Jones says:
“I ask a question at this point – what is the place of pray in your life? What prominence does it have in our lives? It’s a question that I address to all – what part does pray play in our lives and how essential is it to us? Do we realize that without it we faint and give up? Do we practice in the way that the apostle indicates here? Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer lives.”
Do you want to stand firm in the battle? You cannot avoid the battle, for it encompasses all of life. So, again, do you want to stand firm? If you do, then you must pray. You must pray because you have an enemy and you need strength. That strength only comes by prayer.
Furthermore, you must pray in the Spirit, at all times, with all prayer and supplication, with all perseverance, for all the saints. We must pray that we can share the gospel with courage and clarity. Prayer – this is the key and measure of our lives as Christians. This is the key to standing firm.