SPIRITUAL WARFARE Part IV PRAYER Ephesians 6:18-20

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1 1 SPIRITUAL WARFARE Part IV PRAYER Ephesians 6:18-20 The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil... mocks at our wisdom... but trembles when we pray. --Samuel Chadwick When we work we work; when we pray God works! --Anonymous Communication is key to any battle. This is why prayer must pervade all aspects of our spiritual warfare. Putting on God s armor is not a mechanical operation but an expression of our dependence on God, as prayer itself is. So it is no surprise that Paul ends this section on spiritual warfare with an exhortation to pray: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). THE CHARACTERISTIC OF PRAYER Prayer is to be in the Spirit (6:18). Jude said virtually the same thing: But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20). Zechariah, the prophet, declared, Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty (Zech. 4:6). This means that prayer is to be energized by the Spirit of God (Eph. 6:18). Righteous people understand this since they know they are totally dependent upon God. James points out that it is the prayer of a righteous person that is powerful and effective (Jas. 5:16). Our prayer life is no more effective than our walk with God. Integrity is critical to genuine communication. Without it prayer becomes hypocritical and hollow. Although the phrase in the Spirit may refer to the gift of tongues as we find in I Corinthians 14:14-19, it does not always refer to that. In Romans 8:26-27 we find it means praying in tune to the Spirit of God in accordance with God s will. If praying in the Spirit always means praying in tongues, then the only kind of prayer we should ever pray is praying in tongues. The contrast in Scripture is between praying in the Spirit or praying in the flesh.

2 2 The simplest definition of praying in the Spirit is, We pray in the Spirit when the Holy Spirit prays in us. It matters little whether that is in English or any other tongue or language. The important thing is that it is He, the Holy Spirit, who prays in us. To pray in the Spirit is to pray: Pray in the name of Jesus, that is, consistent with His nature and character (Jn. 14:14; 16:23) Pray in a way that is consistent with His will (Jn. 15:7) Pray under the Spirit s control (Eph. 5:18) Pray with the power of the Spirit (Gal. 4:6) For it is the Spirit who helps us in our weakness; for we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express; and He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God s will (Rom. 8:26-27). We see here that praying in the Spirit has at least three components. First, it is acknowledging that it is the Spirit who is praying through us (v. 26). He is our source. Second, praying in the Spirit is praying with the Spirit s cooperation (v. 27). Third, it is also praying in the Spirit s communion. Communion with God is the highest sense of prayer as it speaks of the deepest and most sacred intimacies of love which are both human and divine. Such intimate prayer is often wordless ( with groans that words cannot express as Paul put it). R. A. Torrey put it: If I pray in the Spirit and look to the spirit to teach me God s will... He will lead me out in prayer along the lines of that will. And He will give me faith that the prayer is to be answered. THE FREQUENCY OF PRAYER Prayer is to be made on all occasions (Eph. 6:18) since we are constantly in the world which is run by Satan. Paul says, be alert and always keep on praying (v. 18). Throughout His ministry Jesus emphasized the need for watchfulness in view of the unexpectedness both of His return and of the onset of temptation (Mk. 14:34-38).

3 3 The apostles also echoed this same admonition (I Cor. 16:13; Rev. 3:2-3) for the following reasons: The devil is always on the prowl like a hungry lion (I Pet. 5:8) False teachers like fierce wolves (Acts 20:31) So that we are not overtaken by surprise by the return of Christ (I Thess. 5:1-8; Rev. 16:15) Our tendency to sleep when we should be praying (Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2) Watch and pray Jesus urged. It was failure to obey such an order that led the apostles into their disastrous disloyalty as they all fled when Jesus was taken to stand trial and be crucified. Similar failure leads to similar disloyalty today. In speaking of the end of the age, Jesus warned, Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man (Lk. 21:36). Jesus practiced what He preached! He provides us with an example as to when to pray: In the morning (Mk. 1:35) All night (Lk. 6:12) Before important business (Lk. 6:12-13) In times of crisis (Mt. 26:36) Before temptation comes (Lk. 3:21-22; 4:1) After some great achievement or victory (Mt. 14:23) When unusually busy (Lk. 5:15-16) The early Christians devoted themselves... to prayer (Acts 2:42) and the Godfearing Cornelius who was the recipient of the message of salvation through Peter prayed to God continually (Acts 10:2). And Paul assured Timothy, a young pastor, that he prayed for him night and day (II Tim. 1:3). It is no wonder then that Paul urged his people to regularly devote themselves to prayer (Rom. 12:12; Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2). Prayer, more than any other spiritual discipline, most accurately captures our relationship to God dependance and our rich privilege with God fellowship. Then Paul says that we are to pray THE VARIETY OF PRAYER with all kinds of prayers and requests (Eph. 6:18).

4 4 We are to offer up a variety of prayers: all kinds of prayers and requests. This is crucial because the battle with the enemy of our souls is persistent and creative. Even if the soldier is armed from helmet to sandals with his equipment thus being in perfect condition, what good is he if he goes to sleep as he stands on sentinel duty? What good does his armament and good intentions do him? A soldier s duty is to be alert at all times (Eph. 6:18). Peter warns the dispersed and persecuted Christians in the early church, The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray (I Pet. 4:7). Anticipating the end times, particularly Christ s return should influence our attitudes, actions and relationships (II Pet. 3:11-14). As Christians we are to be characterized by reason so that we make wise, mature decisions and that we have a clearly defined, decisive purpose in life. Otherwise we will not be in a position to pray much less know how to pray. To pray effectively is to pray sensibly, with a clear mind and understanding. Paul s specific prayer request was that whenever he opened his mouth, words would be given him to that he would fearlessly (mentioned twice in this verse) make known the mystery of the gospel, for which he was an imprisoned ambassador (Eph. 6:19-20). Since our greatest problems and challenges are spiritual, our greatest prayer concern should be for spiritual protection, strength and healing. Although it is legitimate to bring physical needs before our heavenly Father, our sharpest focus should be for our spiritual needs: forgiveness of sin, victory over temptation, courage for witnessing, etc. Since the context of Paul s call to prayer is spiritual warfare, our prayer should certainly be about such warfare. Our chief concern, whether for ourselves or fellow believers, should be that we will be victorious in our battle against the enemy of our souls. THE RECIPIENTS OF PRAYER Paul ends his exhortation to prayer by pointing out that the recipients of our prayers is all the saints (Eph. 6:18). Although we are told in other places in Scripture that we are to pray for various people such as government officials, unbelievers, enemies, etc., here the focus is on saints. This makes sense since only saints or Christians are involved in spiritual warfare. It is important we notice that we are not challenged to pray for ourselves. This is not to say it is always inappropriate or wrong to pray for ourselves, but that Paul practiced praying for others rather than for himself. Throughout his letters we see Paul praying for the spiritual well-

5 5 being of the people of God (I Cor. 1:4-7; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-11; II Thess. 1:11-12). He did, however, ask other believers to pray on his behalf, as he does in the next two verses in the passage on spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:19-20). What greater thing can we do for a fellow believer, and that they can do for us, than to pray? Samuel said to the people of Israel, As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you (I Sam. 12:23). With the Holy Spirit to indwell us (Rom. 8:15-16) and help us in our praying (Rom. 8:26), what excuse can we give for not praying or for not praying more, for our fellow believers? Freedom is what Paul longs for, but not freedom from confinement, but freedom to preach the gospel (Eph. 6:19-20). When Paul asks for prayer for himself he does not ask that they pray for his sore ankles as he was chained in a prison cell nor did he pray for healing or even release from his miserable environment. Rather he wants prayer for courage and boldness, that as he was tempted by Satan to keep quiet about his witness in the dungeon (prison), that he would be bold in faithfully proclaiming the gospel by which he sought to rescue people from the devil s dominion turning people from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. (Acts 26:18) As a leader, Paul recognized his great need for prayer as leaders become special targets of Satan. Jesus warned: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered (Mt. 26:31 quoting from Zech. 13:7). Since the fall of leaders have such an enormous fallout, it only makes sense that Satan will go after them especially hard. And since God s leaders are to equip the saints for the work of service (Eph. 4:12), if Satan can thwart the leaders in any way he will thwart the equipping and the works of service of other Christians. Here we see a domino effect. Push the leader over and his followers will go with him. Why extend unnecessary energy in going after Christians individually if they can be reached through one or more leaders. So this is why Satan targets leaders. And this is why fellow believers need to uphold leaders in prayer continually. Paul s exhortation to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests... [being] alert and always keeping on praying for all the saints (Eph. 6:18) too often translates to Christians praying sometimes in the Spirit and sometimes in the flesh, with some kinds of prayers, with some degree of perseverance, for some people. This explains partly why Christians are not experiencing victory over Satan, why they are not living life as Jesus meant it to be lived life to the full (Jn. 10:10).

6 6 In a letter written shortly after Paul s request for prayer as recorded in Ephesians 6, he testified: Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. (Phil. 1:12-14) Here we see that the prayers of the Christians in the region of Ephesus were answered. It was Paul s boldness that attracted the Praetorian Guard to the gospel and that same courage inspired other believers in being bold in their witness for their Master. APPLICATION 1. Nourish a lifestyle of prayer because the armor of God is only effective when the soldier is led and empowered by the God of the armor. When we do we will exercise our position in practical experience against the accusations and deceptions of the dark powers and enjoy consistent victory in spiritual warfare. 2. Put on each piece of the armor with prayer as the hymn, Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus urges. Such contact with God makes triumph possible. When we work we work; when we pray God works!

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