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Intro: As we have moved through the final verses of the book of Ephesians, we have been dealing with the issue of spiritual warfare. I think most believers really dont believe that we are engaged in battle with an unseen, yet very powerful enemy. It doesnt change the fact that we are.
Satan, the enemy of God, is also the enemy of the people of God. His desire for us is to defeat us, destroy us, and devour us. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (1 Peter 5:8 KJV)
Using what the Bible calls wiles (Ephesians 6:11), which speaks of deceit and diabolical schemes, he seeks to trick us.
James 1:14 reminds us, every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
The words drawn away are taken from the world of hunting and fishing, where the hunter and the fisherman use various means to lure they prey from a place of safety.
The word enticed means, to catch by a bait.
Satan is like a master hunter, or a master fisherman, he sets his traps, and baits his hooks. He lies in wait to capture and destroy the unsuspecting Christian.
If we are not sober and vigilant as the Bible tells us to be, we will be assaulted, or worse.
We do not have to become victims of Satans traps and devices. God has equipped us with everything we need to stand against the devil and attacks. If we use the means God has given us, we will not become casualties in this spiritual war in which we are engaged. That is the promise of God, Ephesians 6:13.
We have considered the pieces of the armor that are listed in Ephesians 6:14-17. I will not go over those verses again. I want to move beyond the pieces of the armor to the final, and perhaps greatest, provision we have been given by the Lord, the provision of prayer.
I want to consider the truths laid out in Ephesians 6:18-20 and preach about Spirit-Filled Prayer. These verses have a lot to say to us about the matter of prayer, and about how prayer should be utilized in our spiritual conflicts.
Paul does not put forth prayer as a weapon, but as the means for utilizing the armor he has already talked about. Prayer is how we put on the whole armor of God.
I want to point out three truths from this text. Let me share with you about The Concept Of Spirit-Filled Prayer; The Context Of Spirit-Filled Prayer; and The Content Of Spirit-Filled Prayer. Lets talk about Spirit-Filled Prayer.
I. THE CONCEPT OF PRAYER
As is clear from the context, this passage is about prayer. Specifically, it is about how we are to utilize prayer in our daily lives, and in the context of spiritual warfare.
Lets begin by defining prayer.
The dictionary defines prayer as a request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God.
The word used here speaks of general requests made to God.
So, if we take that definition, and I think they are pretty good, prayer is simply talking to God.
I would define prayer as the breath of an redeemed soul, exhaling its needs and its worship toward God.
This idea of prayer being the breath of the soul was in Martin Luthers mind when he said, To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.
Mahatma Gandhi, who was not a Christian, but a Hindu who prayer to his gods, said this about prayer, Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. While Gandhi was wrong about the gods he worshiped, he was right about prayer.
Thus, anytime we turn our attention toward God, and speak to Him, we are praying. Our praying can take many forms.
We pray in private, at other times we pray in public.
We pray in loud voices, other times we whisper our prayers, and sometimes we pray in silence.
We set aside times for prayer, and at other times prayer is a spontaneous occurrence.
We pray in all types of positions and postures: we sit, we stand, we kneel, lie down.
We pray when we walk, when we drive, and when we rest.
We pray at home, at church, at work, or on vacation.
We pray with our hands up and heads down, or with our heads down and our hands up.
We pray with our eyes open or closed.
The Bible talks about many forms of prayer, places of prayer, postures for prayer, and circumstances of prayer. Yet the Bible does not exalt any form, place, posture, or circumstance for prayer above another.
Jesus prayed while He was here. He prayed standing, sitting, kneeling, and possibly in other positions as well.
We can pray anywhere, at anytime, about anything, and in any posture.
That is what prayer is, this passage also tells us when we should pray. Paul says, praying always. The word always carries the idea of at all times, in all seasons, at every opportunity.
The Jews in Pauls day had several set times per day when they prayed. The Muslims in our day have five specific times for prayer every day.
Christianity also has a specific, set time for prayer. Our time for prayer is always. The Bible speaks of this in several places.
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;(Romans 12:12 KJV)
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2 KJV)
Pray without ceasing.(1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV)
There is no time when we do not need to pray.
There is no time when we cannot pray.
There is no time when God will not be listening and when He will not hear us.
To pray always does not mean that we walk around in an attitude of formal prayer. Neither Jesus not His disciples did that.
To pray always does not mean that we follow ritualistic prayers that are recited manually from books.
To pray always does not mean that we count beads or repeat memorized prayers and prayer phrases. That is what the pagans do, Matthew 6:7.
To pray always does mean that we live in a constant awareness of God and His presence.
To pray always does mean that the soul is ever reaching up toward God.
To pray always does mean that we see everything and every experience as a kind of prayer to God.
When we are tempted we call on Him, asking for hIs help.
When we see sin and wickedness, we call on Him to work in the situation to make it right and to work it out for His glory.
When we see something beautiful, we give thanks to God for that.
When we enter a time of trouble, we look to God for help and deliverance.
When we weep, we lean on God for support.
When we are happy, we lift our hearts to God in thanksgiving.
When we meet a lost sinner, we ask the Lord to convict them and save them. We also ask for His help to witness to them.
When life is lived in that way, it becomes an ever-ascending prayer to the Lord. There will be times when we get alone with God to pray. Most of the time, however, our lives should be a continual exhalation of the soul breathing out its love for, and its dependence upon, God.
That is the idea behind the phrase watching thereunto with all perseverance. This means that we are to be on the alert, with our eyes open to the needs around us. We are to be steadfast, constant, and persistent as our souls reach upward to God for the help we and others need.
God honors the always prayers. God honors the watchful persevering prayers of His people.
In two parables, Jesus addressed this matter.
In one parable a persistent man continued asking for bread from his neighbor in the middle of the night. He asked until his request was granted. At the end of that parable, Jesus said this, And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9 KJV)
In the second parable, Jesus spoke about a widow who petitioned a judge about her need. She continued to aggravate the judge until he gave in and granted her request. At the end of that parable, Jesus said this: And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?(Luke 18:7–8 KJV)
The point of both those parables is that God answers the specific, persistent prayers of His people. It is always too soon to stop praying. Ever let your soul release its breath toward the Father in Heaven.
I. The Concept Of Prayer
II. THE CONTENT OF PRAYER
This text tells us some of the things that should fill our prayers. Paul divides our prayer lives into two parts.
He mentions prayers - This refers to prayer that is general in scope. Paul calls this kind of praying all prayer. That literally means all kinds of prayer.
It is the kind of praying we do that is sometimes non-specific. For instance, there are times when we will pray for faithful preachers and missionaries. We pray for our persecuted brethren around the world. We pray for our fellow churches. We pray for many other things in the same way.
We dont necessarily call out all the names, places, and needs involved, but we pray for those people and situations in a general way. I believe God hears those prayers, and I believe he answers them. He knows our hearts, and He knows the specific needs far better than we do.
I dont really know what you need. I sometimes dont know when the church needs. I dont know what the church down the road needs. I dont know what the Pastor across town is going through. But, I know Who does. So, I go to Him with all the things aI dont know, and I look to Him to take care of those things as He sees fit.
The fact that we care to pray for people we will never meet, and for needs that will never touch us, says something about the condition of our hearts. It says that we have a burden for the things God cares about. He honors that.
He mentions supplication - This word refers to prayers that are very specific in nature. In these verses, Paul some specific areas that should occupy our praying.
- All saints - Ephesians 6:18 - Remember supplication refers to specific requests. While I sometimes dont know what you need, there are other times when I do.
- If you have a sickness, I can pray specifically about that.
- If you have lost people in your family, I can pray specifically about that.
- If you have a financial need, I can pray specifically about that.
- If you have a burden, I can pray specifically about that.
When the need is known, the prayer should be specific. When we pray specifically, and God answers our prayer, it gives us confidence in our prayer lives, and assurance in the power of God to both hear and answer our prayers.
For me - Ephesians 6:19-20 - Now, Paul makes some specific requests for himself. He reminds his friends in Ephesus that he is in bonds. He assures them that his imprisonment is for the glory of God by calling himself an ambassador. His request for prayer is that he might be given utterance, that he might open his mouth and speak boldly, and that he might make known the mystery of the gospel. He asks for prayer that he might preach as he ought to speak.
Pauls request for himself is that he might preach the Gospel in a way that God can use to draw the lost to Himself. His prayer is that God will bless his preaching and that God will use him and his imprisonment to bring others to Jesus. By praying for him in this way, the Ephesian believers would be allowed to share in Pauls success in Rome.
This passage highlights two great truths.
It highlights the needs for specific praying. Paul asks for some very specific prayers to be prayed. These requests were for tangible matters that could be verified.
When all of our praying is general in nature, we will never know when or if the Lord answers. When we pray specifically, and the Lord answers, there will be no doubt that He is the One Who answered.
Jesus repeatedly calls on us to prayer specifically.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13 KJV)
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (John 15:16 KJV)
It reminds us that it is okay to request prayer for oneself - There Is no indication here that Paul prayed for himself, but he did ask others to do just that. When we have a need, we should call on the saints who know the Lord to pray for us and for our needs.
There is a caution we should keep in mind here. Our primary focus should be on others. A healthy believer is more concerned with the needs of others than he is with his own needs. The root of all psychological and spiritual sickness is a preoccupation with self.
When our focus is on our needs, more than on the needs of others, it reveals a serious flaw in our character. That same preoccupation with self usually makes our own problems worse because it alienates the very people who could offer us the fellowship we need, and who could help us carry our burdens to the Lord in prayer.
We should pray for the needs of others and trust the Lord to care for our own needs. He has already committed Himself to take care of us, Philippians 4:19; Matthew 6:25-34. We are to leave our concerns in His care, and trust Him to see to what we have need. He can be trusted.
Paul requested prayer for himself, but he did so for the glory of God. His primary concern was the mystery of the gospel. His primary passion centers on the need to make Christ known. Paul doesnt request prayer for an ingrown toenail. He doesnt ask them to pray for his bad back. He wants them to pray that the lost will hear the Gospel and be saved.
So, in short, the content of our prayers should be supplication for all saints.
I. The Concept Of Prayer
II. The Content Of Prayer
III. THE CONTEXT OF PRAYER
Paul says that all of our praying should be done in the Spirit. Just as the Christian life is to be lived in the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:16, all prayer is to be prayed in the Spirit.
When we speak of living in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit, we are referring to a live that is controlled by the Spirit. When the Spirit controls of lives, He reveals His control of our lives by producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, Galatians 5:22-23.
When we offer prayer and make supplication in the Spirit, He will make His control of our prayer lives evident as well. What does it mean to pray in the Spirit?
It means that we pray in the name of Jesus. That is how the Lord commanded us to pray. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13–14 KJV) that does not mean that we can attach a magical in Jesus name at the end of our prayers and that God has to answer every request prayed that way. When we pray in Jesus name means that we ask for the things He would ask for. Which means, we pray for things that would glorify the Father.
It means that we pray according to the will of God and the nature of God. We read what the Lord said about Himself in the Word of God, and we pray about the things He says He wants. In other words, we allow His Word to shape our prayers.
It means that we pray in cooperation with the Spirit of God within our hearts - Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.(Romans 8:26–27 KJV)
The Spirit of God guides our praying by promoting us to pray about those things that bring glory to the Father. All true prayer, as I have said in the past, begins with God. The Spirit in us knows what the Father wants. He moves us to pray about those things, helping us to conform our prayers to His will. The Father hears the prayer that had been shaped by the Holy Spirit, and that has been offered through a faith relationship in Jesus, and because the prayer honors the Father and is prayed according to His will, He hears it and He answers it. Thus, all prayer is circular. It begins with God and ends with God.
Soren Keirkegaard, the Danish theologian said, Prayer does not change God, but it changed the prayer. And that is the point of all true prayer. It does not serve to alter the plan of God, it does serve to change the one who prays. So, pray in the Spirit about all everything He places on your heart, knowing that He has promised to hear you, and to answer you for His glory.
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. (Jeremiah 33:3 KJV)
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24 KJV)
And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. (Matthew 21:22 KJV)
Conc: Prayer is a valuable resource. We should make it one of the top priorities of our lives. To be in contact with the Lord, and to know that He hears us, and answers our prayers is a blessing beyond belief.
For centuries, one of the chief problems faced by armies had been battlefield communications. Soldiers in battle must be able to speak to their leaders, and leaders must be able to communicate strategies to their armies.
For many years this was an almost insurmountable problem. Most armies depended on runners to carry messages back and forth. With the advent of the telegraph and telegram the problem was alleviated to some degree.
Now, in modern times, armies communicate using satellite relays. At any time, soldiers in the field can make contact with their superiors, regardless of where they are located in the world. Nearly instant contact is now possible. Orders can be relayed, battlefield updates can be passed up the line, replacements and provisions can be requested, and decisions and change can be made that will have immediate impact on the outcome of battles.
Christian soldiers have possessed this capacity for thousands of years. At any time, we can call on the name of the Lord, and we can request His help, share our burdens with Him, and address any situation that arises.
This should give us great confidence as we serve the Lord in this world. Lets commit ourselves to Him and seek His help to be the prayer warriors He would have us to be. Let us labor to make the most of prayer, at all times, in all things, that He might be glorified in this world and through His church.
Paul closes this letter to the Ephesians with a prayer for grace, love, and peace for all the saints of God. I praise the Lord for what I have learned as I have studied and preached my way through this great book. Like Paul prayed in verse 22, God has truly comforted my heart by teaching about who I am, and what I possess, in Jesus Christ.
Now, Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.