… praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel … Eph 6:18-19
Here Paul concludes his teaching on the Christian’s spiritual battle, calling us to all prayer and supplication; he uses both words mainly to add intensity to the idea. The words “with all” which in Greek, precede “praying always,” are linked to the exhortation to stand in verse 14. So although prayer is not linked to any specific piece of armor, it is included in the manner in which we as Christians take a stand against the devil. There are times in Christian warfare where we will feel unable to even wield the sword of the Spirit – at such times, even at all times, in everything, let us call upon our all powerful God in prayer (See Rom 8:26-27, 12:12, Phil 4:6, Col 4:2-3, 1 Thess 5:16-18, 1 Tim 2:1-2).
Paul runs one idea into the next in this text detailing the manner and objects for which he is calling upon us to pray:
a) praying always
b) with all prayer and supplication
c) in the Spirit
d) being watchful …
e) with all perseverance and supplication
f) for all the saints
g) for me …
First as the manner of prayer, it is to be offered always – literally in every season. The specific context of spiritual warfare tells us that this is an exhortation to pray under every season of conflict. There are times in every Christian’s life where we need to cry out to God with increased intensity because the dire circumstances necessitate us to do so. In such circumstances we become utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit in our prayers, as we can only pray with His divine assistance (Ro 8:26, Jude 20). Praying ‘in the Holy Spirit,’ means to rely on His power and wisdom as you pray; it means submitting your thoughts, will, and desires to the Word of God, until we intuitively ‘think God’s thought’s after Him,’ and develop instincts that are keeping in line with His will. To pray with all prayer and supplication, means that we are to offer all kinds of prayers to God including petitions. Philippians 4:6-7 both reminds and invites us to: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication , with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; promising us that: the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Remembering that the primary context is prayer in the midst of battle, such ‘warfare prayer,’ requires vigilance and perseverance. Do not forget that the ground in which Christ is building His church is a territory occupied by an enemy; so alertness is warranted. The word ‘watchful’ conveys the idea of the military soldier who is on watch, who must stay awake and alert on his guard duty. With all perseverance, suggests determination or resoluteness as opposed to growing weary and giving up (see Mark 13:33, 14:38). Prayer is the expression of the life of a disciplined soldier for Christ who is in constant communion with God.
Secondly the text tells us the object for which we pray: “For all the saints.” Charles Hodge said, “No soldier entering battle prays for himself alone, but for all his fellow soldiers also. They form one army, and the success of one is the success of all.” Every time we address “Our Father,” we address God corporately with the saints, but we are also to pray for the saints – for one another – beginning with those in our local assembly, but then extending to believing peoples of all nations, particularly those living under regimes that are hostile to the Gospel. Sinclair Ferguson writes, “No stronghold of Satan is safe from the remotest saint who knows what it is to pray!” Lastly Paul asks for prayer for himself, in particular that he would be bold in his preaching of the Gospel. Pastors and ministers today need much prayer if their congregations are going to hear preaching with Gospel boldness. Brethren, pray for me.
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