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Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:18

 

Are you equipped for battle? The Christian life involves a bitter warfare! That is the context here in Ephesians 6:10-17. This passage is a call to battle: “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (v. 10). There are many today who have the notion that the battle of the church and of the people of God is against social injustice, poverty, homelessness, human rights violations, and the like. Be not deceived! If these were the enemy, we would have nothing to fear. But the Word of God tells us that this battle is spiritual. We must stand against the wiles of the devil! We face all the powers of darkness, with the devil as their commander-in-chief.

We are ordered, as soldiers of the cross, to put on “the whole armour of God” (v. 11). All the pieces of this armor are intimately connected to the Word of God— the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. God’s Word is our only sure protection and the only weapon with which we can fight the enemy. This implies that we know and love the truth.

But according to the verse before us there is more: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit….” The apostle says, as it were, “Take and carefully put on all of these various pieces of the armor and use them diligently in the battle; but in addition, at all times and in every circumstance, keep on praying!” An old hymn puts it this way, “Put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer.” From this perspective we fight the battle on our knees! Maybe that sounds strange. Perhaps that sounds like a very weak position. But that is the way we must fight. The saying is true, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” Pray! Pray for all the saints, for our fellow soldiers of the cross.

As soldiers of Jesus Christ, we are exhorted to pray. This is war! There is no let-up in the fighting. There is no hope for a cease-fire or a truce. The enemy is fierce and dangerous. The battle rages throughout our earthly life. By God’s grace, we put on the whole armor of God. But that armor which is provided for us by God cannot be employed effectively except in communion with God. We may never suppose that the armor of God protects and equips us mechanically or magically. The danger is that we feel that as long as we have put on the armor, as long as we have and know the truth of Scripture, we can relax; we are safe and secure. Such a notion is folly! We would surely falter in the battle. The fiery darts of the wicked would surely find their mark in us!

“Praying always….” How vital is prayer unto this spiritual warfare! The point is that we cannot effectively use the armor apart from receiving strength, power, and grace from God through prayer. The truth of the Word of God must live within our hearts through prayer. The apostle Paul is really re-emphasizing what he has already set forth in verse 10: “Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” How is it that we become strong in the Lord? By praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. For we are utterly dependent upon God and His grace. We need the fellowship of God’s covenant that is manifest and experienced through prayer. As soldiers of the cross, the life of prayer is essential.

Look at the Lord Jesus Himself. As the Son of God in our flesh, He knew the Word of God; He perfectly understood the truth; and He often displayed that knowledge, frequently to the amazement of the scribes and Pharisees. But consider how frequently He turned aside to pray. He would spend a whole night in prayer! Christ was in constant communion with His heavenly Father in prayer. It is not surprising that Jesus taught His people that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). We must always pray lest we falter in the battle.

By God’s grace, we know and love the truth, putting on the whole armor of God. But if that does not lead us to prayerful lives, there is a grievous lack. Something is seriously wrong. Be not deceived by a tactic of the enemy. Satan would say, as it were, “You know the Word of God; you have the armor; you are good to go!” In foolish pride we agree, “Yes, I’ve got this; I can handle anything that comes my way.” Being puffed up, we are a prime target for a fiery dart of the evil one.

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The apostle instructs us in this matter of prayer, “Praying always, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit….” The general term here is “praying.” “Praying with all prayer” refers to all kind of prayers. We pray in private, the prayer of our closet. There are public prayers as we come together for various meetings and assemblies. There are regular offerings of prayer when we rise in the morning and when we prepare for bed at night, as well as at meal time. There are also those spontaneous prayers we utter throughout the day—just a sentence or sometimes even a word. Sometimes it is just a sigh, a groan, a cry from the heart. We must always be in that spirit of prayer, living in conscious communion with God. In the context here, prayer is especially the expression of dependence. We must realize the severity of the battle and the power of the enemy. We must realize our own weakness, frailty, and helplessness apart from God.

Notice too that Paul specifies a certain type of prayer—“supplication.” Prayer consists of adoration, praise, worship, thanksgiving, and confession, but also of supplication. In supplication we bring our needs before the throne of grace. We come with our petitions. It is especially in our supplicating pleas that we acknowledge our dependence upon God and His grace in the battle. We are exhorted in Philippians 4:6, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Paul urges us to bring, and keep on bringing, these supplications, these specific requests, these particular petitions as we fight the battle of faith.

This leads us to see the character of true prayer—that it is “in the Spirit.” This is the essence of prayer, the very life of prayer! The apostle says in Ephesians 2:18, “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” We have the same idea in Romans 8:26: “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.” (See also Jude 20, which speaks of “praying in the Holy Ghost.”) The Spirit here is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the exalted Christ. To pray in the Spirit means that we pray as controlled and influenced by Him. Then too our prayer is according to the Word of God, as Christ taught us to pray. It is praying in the Spirit that we are able to stand in the midst of this fierce battle. Praying in the Spirit is the reaching out of our souls to the living God to receive His grace in whatever position in the battle He may place us.

This means that our prayers are not just a formality. They are not cold and heartless. They are not the vain repetitions of the heathen against which Jesus warns. Prayer must not be just a custom or habit because we feel it is the right thing to do. For we are to pray in the Spirit, “watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” We must diligently see to it that we are always praying in the Spirit. We may not doze off in this spiritual conflict. We must always be alert, on guard! We must know the enemy and his wiles—his purpose to devour and destroy. Always we must be mindful of our own weakness and our dependence upon our heavenly Father. We must persevere in prayer and supplication in the Spirit.

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But for us, as soldiers of the cross, who are to be the objects of our prayers and supplications? Obviously we pray for ourselves. That is implied in all that has been said about the battle, about the enemy, about our own weaknesses, about our dependence upon God. We make known before the throne of grace our own needs, our problems, the temptations we face. We must look unto our faithful Savior to supply all of our personal needs. He is the armory, the military supply depot, as it were. We must go to Him continually that we might be renewed for the battle day by day.

Yet the emphasis here is on what is called “intercessory prayer.” We are to pray, making supplication, for others. The apostle says, “…watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” The supplication is for all saints. It is not for all men, head for head, but for all saints, holy ones, our fellow soldiers of the cross. This means, struggling saint, that you are not in this battle alone! Thanks be to God that we are not alone! As saints, we are soldiers together in the army of our Lord. As such we are engaged in the same fight. We face a common foe and are subject to the same weaknesses and struggles. We are members one of another. In a battle line, if there is a faltering at any one point in that line, it affects the whole army! As the apostle tells the Corinthians, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” (I Cor. 12:26a). How wonderful is the communion of saints!

The devil would like us to forget this blessed reality. He would like us to believe, as many do, that religion is just a personal thing, that commitment to the church is unnecessary, that we are in this battle alone. With that attitude we become self-centered. We are inclined to view things in a very subjective manner—my needs, my struggles, my temptations, my battles! And we easily become anxious, discouraged, and afraid. Let us not be deceived by this tactic of the enemy! We are not only individuals. We are together members of the body of Christ! Let us make supplication for all saints. Pray for one another! Do you want to be uplifted yourself? Then pray for someone else! To a considerable extent, we know each other’s needs, burdens, and struggles in the battle. Make supplication for all saints!

The answer to our prayers and supplications will not be that the conflict will cease or that the battle will be finished. That will not be the case in this life. But the answer is that we will be able to stand! We will be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! We will hold our position in the midst of the battle. For Christ is the Captain of our salvation! Even now we are more than conquerors through Him. As we sing from Psalter #407, stanza 4:

For this is His word: His saints shall not fail,
But over the earth their power shall prevail;
All kingdoms and nations shall yield to their sway.
To God give the glory and praise Him for aye.