“18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. 21 But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. 22 And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:18-24, NASB).
B) The Place of Prayer in a Believer’s Life
It is quite impossible to discuss all that is said of prayer in these verses in any detail. We have in a limited way already discussed some of the words used for prayer. For the sake of focus, let us ask ourselves a question about prayer. “What do we know about prayer through this passage of Ephesians 6:18-24?” We might miss some of the lesser points on other matters but at least we will glean those that have to do with prayer.
1) Prayer is a key aspect of the believer’s life. - Integral, important, crucial
2) Prayer includes conversation and requests. - Talking with God, asking God
3) Genuine prayer is made in the Spirit. - The Spirit of God actively works
4) Prayer targets on the needs of others. - Edify believers
5) Prayer strengthens & empowers His people. - Advance God’s kingdom
6) Prayer needs to be specific. - Share prayer requests
7) Prayer brings God’s will into being. - Prayer is a means of grace
1) Prayer is a key aspect of the believer’s life (6:18).
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times...” (Ephesians 6:18).
Prayer is at all times. There are no times that we are safe without prayer. Experience is great folly if it does not train us to pray and be more dependent upon the Lord. Without prayer we would be like a person who does not use his mouth. We are made to use what God has given to us. Like a sword prayer must be exercised to be rightly used. Skill comes as one uses prayer. Although God equally listens to the simple prayer of the new believer as a pastor, we should recognize that those who have mastered prayer as a discipline have found that they can accomplish great things on the behalf of God.
- There are no times that we are okay without prayer.
- There are no times that we are safe without prayer.
- There are no times that we can withstand temptation without prayer.
- There are no times that God’s kingdom will advance without prayer.
It is incredible that many Christians go about their life without taking prayer seriously. I understand that some might think what Paul says here, ‘Pray at all times,’ is impossible. If it is impossible, then why is it that he says it? Did you notice that while he wrote this book that he was also praying!
He does not mean that we should close our eyes and pray with our eyes closed to the world. This is good for children who get easily attracted, but we should pray with our eyes open and see all the needs about us. We have a choice to see that irritating colleague as a nuisance or as a man needing someone to pray for him. When we look at Jesus life, we find that He was always reflecting on His life on earth with His Father in heaven. Even when He had an incredibly busy schedule, He still stayed up all night praying.
Foolish conclusion: “I don’t have time to pray.”
2) Prayer includes conversation and requests. (6:18).
Prayer can be distinguished by its various forms and expressions. Here he speaks of prayer and petitions.
General prayers will include the praise, the description of a situation, the humble conviction of sin, the meditation of certain glorious truths or even the narration of a complaint. We can see these kinds of prayers in the Psalms. Nothing is too sacred to pray about.
Petition are the requests brought to God that are sometimes accompanied by tears, with desperate hearts or even sometimes with laughter and delight. But it is always the exercise of faith in which we believe God will hear our prayers. There is perhaps no more profound activity as asking the mighty God to do something that we ask Him. He is not our slave but our Heavenly Father who told us to ask Him.
Either we will consider prayer the most presumptuous activity one can do or the most holy. We are the most foolish if we have concluded that we do not want to bother God with our requests. God has set the terms. If we do not pray, we will not get. If we pray a little, we will get a little. If we pray a lot, we will get a lot. What do you choose?
Foolish thinking: “I don’t want to bother God with my prayers.”
3) Genuine prayer is made in the Spirit. (6:18).
Prayer needs to be in the Spirit. There is no capital ‘S’ in the Greek original. The Greek texts we have today have been put into small letters, but the original ones were all capitalized letters called uncials. They did not even have punctuation. Without the word ‘Holy’ attached to the word ‘spirit,' we are unsure of whether Paul is speaking of the Holy Spirit or a spirit. We need to look at the context to know what he means.
The Christian lives in a very spiritual world. All around him are spiritual things not seen with eye but perceived by faith. In 1 Corinthians 2 it clearly states that prayer is a matter done through the Holy Spirit. Now we know that much prayer, if not most prayer, is not done in the Holy Spirit. Paul says this here to remind us to break away from the prayers of religious efforts which are mere chants, repetitions or pre-configured prayers.
Instead we are interested in those prayers through which God exercises His will on earth through our lives. He is at once both communing with us as well as using us in our prayers to carry out what He is doing. Genuine prayer combines the work of the divine God stirring up our earthly hearts. He leads us to pray. Truly, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. In times when we do not know how to pray, the Spirit of God comes and gives us a prayer. Never fear to pray, only fear to pray without the Holy Spirit moving and motivating you. It is noteworthy how prayer played a key role in Nehemiah’s life. Each prayer was relevant to the situations that he was confronting rather than some repeated prayer. God does not care for professional prayers but only sincere prayers given in the name of Jesus.
Foolish thinking: “I say the same prayer each day.”
4) Prayer targets on the needs of others (6:18b).
“Pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints...”
Prayer is the means by which we strengthen and help the lives of believers around us. It is for this reason the church is so important. We hear of a need far away or nearby and we respond in prayer. We heard about a new brother Lak in India who needed money for a heart operation. As a church we responded with our prayers and donations. Praise God we now hear that the money is raised for him to have an operation.
It is also for this reason that a prayerless church is an absolute embarrassment to any community or individual. Never join a church which does not pray for it reveals in its practice that it does not really believe in God and prayer.
Prayer is not ultimately about us but God and His people. Prayer forms a special card which we send to God, and He delights in viewing and doing what we ask Him. We sometimes want prayers to be answered in a flash, but He has His own purposes and timing. He says we must persevere. Our prayers must stand firm. We must really care about those people and believe our prayers will make a difference.
Most people do not pray because they do not really think prayer makes a difference. In such cases, God seems so powerless. People are not changed. Worship services go on as usual, but we do not see the great and mighty power of God at work. When people do pray, it is often for themselves. It is not wrong to pray for ourselves or even to ask others to pray for ourselves. We will see that in the next points. However, when we only focus on what we need and are blind to those around us, we are cut off from God’s grace. Focusing on our selves is a dead end street and in the end is a form of evil.
Foolish thinking: “I live for myself.”
5) Prayer strengthens and empowers His people (6:19).
“And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”
We quickly note here that asking prayer for oneself is not wrong at all but good and right. The apostle greatly desired others to pray for him. Although he had belief in a sovereign God, he knew that God works through His people’s prayers.
We also see, though, in contrast to selfish praying, that Paul was focused on the needs of others. He wanted extra grace but it was for the purpose ‘to make know with boldness the mystery of the gospel.’ Each of us needs to spur on the other.
Prayer is the main means we advance the kingdom of God. Paul himself, with all his experience, wisdom and gifts, having far more than any of us, asked for prayer. Perhaps he remembered how Peter fell because he did not pray. The flesh is weak. We need the prayer of others to urge us onward. God’s kingdom will go forward, there is no doubt here. Do not think because you engage in television viewing rather than prayer interceding that God’s will is frustrated. God has others who will pray.
Where people pray, God actively works. Everything can change in a flash if we become a praying church. He has set before us the good works that He wants to accomplish through us (Ephesians 2:10). We must go from religious to real, from self-seeking to God-seeking. We might rightly ask ourselves if we really are a Christian, why cannot we find time or burden to shake the throne of God with our prayers? Why is there no passion in us? Why are we so worldly relying on wealth and education to get things done rather than through the mighty works of the Spirit of God?
Why is there no passion in you? Why are we so worldly relying on wealth and education rather than the mightily works of the Spirit of God? Our brothers and sisters are on the distant mission fields. They need our prayers. Our pastors here need our prayers. If you are tempted to complain, are you there at their side as an unflinching prayer partner? Our prayers turn complaints into great feats of faith in prayer. If your leaders are weak or soft or immoral, is it not because we God’s people tolerate it rather than chase it out of them through the work of prayer? But this is the negative side. What about the positive side?
When we pray, those like the Apostle Paul gain more boldness! Those that minister will be more successful and strong. Why? Because we prayed. God answered! We should never fall to the lie of the devil that makes those who are not clergy to be the watchers, viewers or entertained. Not at all. We as the body follow the leading of the Head.
Foolish thinking: “I can get by on my own.”
6) Prayer needs to be specific (6:21-22).
“But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. And I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.”
Prayer is fed by hearing the needs of God’s people. I have been in ministry for more than 25 years and have made known our prayer requests to others. Why? I believe that it is through these prayer requests that people can bring our needs up to God together. This is true in times when we are weak but also the times when we feel effective. God desires that all His believers are fully using their prayer tools. Just think how many people come to our church now. We see this is happening because, let us say, 7 people pray daily for the church and 14 people pray regularly.
- What if all of a sudden this number doubled? Would we see more power in the preaching and teaching? Sure.
- Would we see more people touched by the Spirit of God? Yes. As a result we would be revived.
I am not one for measuring prayer with works of God, but I know there is a connection. I am each day challenged whether I am upholding the kingdom of God. We need to share what is going on so that we can bring these requests to God. If we fail, and you are home alone suffering, it is because you do not believe in prayer or God. It is not that God cannot help but that you were bewitched by the evil one thinking you were not important. Each of us are important and we need to pray and make petition that we as a whole body are in the image of Christ fully helping one another. Help others form specific prayer requests trough our honest sharing.
Foolish thinking: “I only have general prayers.”
7) Prayer brings God’s will into being. (Ephesians 6:23-24)
“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with a love incorruptible” (Ephesians 6:23-24).
Prayer is the means God’s glorious will, love and peace is made known to His people. Paul closes with a benediction in Ephesians 6:23-24. These two verses are possibly set apart from the previous topic of prayer. This is quite possible.
We must remember that this doxology is also a prayer. Perhaps it was this reason Paul so smoothly stepped into a prayer closed the Book of Ephesians. Prayer is, after all, the means by which God’s peace, love and grace are supplied to His people. There is a reason Paul ends with prayer. There is a reason he says ‘with all prayer and petition’, and ‘pray at all times in the Sprit.’ We will miss God’s great purposes if we learn about prayer but never implement it. The question will again and again come to us, especially when we give up going to prayer meeting and making your prayers so short you wonder if you prayed at all, “Do you really want God’s peace, love and grace in your lives and those around you?”
Peace comes through prayer. Whether it is the outward conflict or the inward disturbance of the soul, prayer is stepping into God’s presence with the matter. If we just respond on our own, surely we will not have the means to rightly handle difficult situations. Impatience and frustration are two fruits of the lack of faith. Nor will we find that inner reserve to handle the anxiety about us. It is for this reason the Apostle Paul writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6).
Love must accompany the faith that comes from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many people talk about love. Couples speak about ‘falling in love,’ but one sees them a few months later telling everyone how the love did not hold. The key principle about love is the faith that is needed. When someone you have committed to love, be it spouse, colleague, neighbor or enemy, it is faith that will take you over the hurdle of disappointment, despair, fear or worry. Faith makes all the virtues possible because it takes us into the spiritual realm, the heavenlies. We obey our God rather than our feelings. We trust God’s Word over what we see with our eyes. Speaking of our Master and setting a pattern for us in Isaiah, “And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear” (Isaiah 11:3).
Grace is like oil to a machine. Without it we waste away. This is what happens when we do not forgive another or stop having special and tender times with the Lord. If our love for the Lord is going to be incorruptible, it means that no matter we are tempted with or struggles we face, our love the Lord will go onward. Grace is the abundance of His goodness expressed to us who deserve no good thing. Once our love for the Lord grows cold, we will begin to see the joy, peace and love leave our faces and hearts.
Prayer is the way we persevere in our Christian lives and make ourselves useful for the Master. Let me go on and close with one final thought. What do you believe about prayer?
Foolish thinking: “God will bless me and others without prayer.”