Some Christians are known as “prayer warriors.” They may not hold any church title, office, or position. Yet they are easy to identify. They are the ones members go to when they need prayer. It is good for the church to have members who are devoted to prayer and know how to get a prayer through. But this designation should not be for an elite group that is specially trained in warfare prayer. Every Christian is to be a prayer warrior. That is the message of Ephesians 6:18.
Ephesians 6:10-20 is the most clear and comprehensive statement about spiritual warfare in the Bible. The Christian life is a battleground, not a playground. If you live for Christ, Satan will fight back. Ephesians 6:10-13 calls us to combat readiness: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand firm.”This passage focuses on how to stand firm, not deciphering the enemy’s schemes.
Verses 14-17 train us how to be dressed and ready for battle:
- Fasten on the belt of truth tightly.
- Put on the breastplate of righteous.
- Wears the gospel of peace as shoes.
- Deflect attacks with the shield of faith.
- Put the helmet of salvation on your head.
- Arm yourself with the sword of the Spirit.
The armor of God equips you to stand your ground. But spiritual equipment will not win the battle without spiritual energy. Ephesians 6:18 tells us how to train for combat: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”Though Paul drops the military metaphor here, he still talks about spiritual warfare. The armor he describes was based on Roman soldiers’ battle gear. But the Roman soldier had nothing to compare to what the Christian soldier has in prayer. Prayer is the believer’s secret weapon that guarantees spiritual victory.
Restraining prayer, we cease to fight.William Cowper
Prayer keeps the Christian’s armor bright.
And Satan trembles when he sees,
The weakest saint upon his knees.
Note the word “all” occurs four times in verse 18. Defeated Christians pray sometimes, with some supplication, some perseverance, for some of the saints. Victorious Christians wear and work the armor of God through prayer. What does it mean to be a prayer warrior?
To pray sincerely is to make prayer your first response, not your last resort. Verse 18 says we should pray “at all times.” What does it mean to pray at all times?
- It does not mean you should do nothing but pray.
- It means you should do nothing without prayer.
Do not wait until the threat emerges, the enemy attacks, or the battle rages to pray. Pray at all times. View every occasion as a call to prayer. On good days, thank God in prayer. On bad days, trust God in prayer. W. Graham Scroggie said, “Pray when you feel like it, pray when you don’t feel like it, pray until you feel like it.”
Daniel’s enemies sought to bring him down by seducing the king into signing a decree that required everyone to pray to him alone for a month. Daniel 6:10 says, “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel was able to pray in a crisis because he prayed before the crisis. He prayed at all times.
You cannot pray sincerely if you are in the flesh. Verse 18 says pray “at all times in the Spirit.” The biblical pattern is to the Father through the Son in the Spirit. To pray in the Spirit is not about speaking in tongues. It is to have the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts, guard your heart, and govern your words in prayer. It’s the difference between praying and saying prayers. Ephesians 6:17 says to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Then verse 18 tells us to pray in the Spirit.
- We pray for the wrong things.
- We pray with the wrong attitude.
- We pray with the wrong motives.
But the Holy Spirit is our prayer partner. Romans 8:26-27 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Verse 18 instructs us to pray “with all prayer and supplication.” These terms are synonymous. Yet, there is a distinction between the terms. “Prayer” translates the most general word for prayer in the New Testament. It simply means to talk to God. Prayer is a wonderful privilege, not a burdensome duty.
- Do not reluctantly say, “I have to pray.”
- You should eagerly declare, “I get to pray!”
Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Paul distinguishes between prayer and supplication to advise us that prayer should not only consist of supplications. Prayer is more than asking God for things. It is communication and communion with God. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When you delight in the Lord, you can ask what your heart desires with confidence that he will hear and answer. This is why prayer is linked here to supplication.
“Supplication” is a request, entreaty, or petition. It is an inferior asking for favor from a superior with confidence in the superior’s goodwill to meet the inferior’s need. Matthew 7:11 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
- Prayer is talking to God.
- Prayer is trusting in God.
The key to prayer is a heart of dependence. Prayer advertises our dependence upon God. The things you pray about are the things you trust God for. The things you do not pray about are the things you think you can handle on your own. Do you trust God?
The first bar was built in a “dry” town that had not permitted the sale of alcohol. A group of Christians from a local church responded by having an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. Soon after that prayer meeting, lightning struck the bar, burning it to the ground. The bar owner sued the church, claiming their prayers were responsible. Not wanting to be financially liable, the church hired an attorney who argued that their prayers had nothing to do with the fire. After reviewing the case, the presiding judge stated, “No matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The tavern owner believes in prayer, and the Christians do not.
Do you trust God to hear and answer your prayers?
Verse 18 says, “To that end, keep alert with all perseverance.” To stand firm in prevailing prayer, we must keep alert. The Greek term means “no sleeping.” It is to be watchful. A soldier guarding his post must be awake, alert, and aware. If he falls asleep, the enemy may catch him unaware. A faithful soldier must keep alert at all times.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked Peter, James, and John to pray with and for him. Matthew 25:40-41 says, “And he came to the disciples and found sleeping. And he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’” This is true of all of us. Your spirit may be willing to be there for Jesus. But the flesh is weak. You will fall into temptation if you do not watch and pray.
A soldier was court-marshaled after his superiors found him apparently sleeping on his post. His defense was that he was not asleep. He was praying. Of course, the authorities didn’t buy that story. During the hearing, the prosecutor mockingly challenged him to pray in court. And he did. Right there, he passionately and confidently prayed to God. When he finished, the case was thrown out. It was concluded that he would never have been able to pray like that under pressure if he hadn’t been practicing that kind of prayer before the pressure.
How can I keep alert? Verse 18 says, “To this end, keep alert with all perseverance.” “Perseverance” is patient endurance regardless of circumstances. Marvin Vincent wrote, “One must watch before prayer, in prayer, after prayer.” Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The imperatives are in a grammatical emphasis that denotes continual action or habitual activity. Jesus says, “Keep asking, seeking, and knocking.”
Persevere in prayer. Don’t stop praying. Pray until something happens. Luke 18:1 says we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Colossians 4:2 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing.” Jesus told two parables about persevering in prayer.
- Luke 11 records the Parable of the Friend at Midnight.
- Luke 18 records the Parable of the Unjust Judge.
God is the anti-hero in both parables. If a sleepy friend will give you bread just to get back to sleep, you can trust God to provide what you need if you preserve in prayer. If a crooked judge will help a widow just to get her off his back, you can trust God to take up your case if you persevere in prayer. Don’t stop praying!
You cannot be a healthy, growing, and fruitful Christian if you do not pray for yourself. Likewise, you cannot be a healthy, growing, and fruitful Christian if you only pray for yourself. We are not to think only of ourselves when we pray. Supplication should overflow into intercession for others. Verse 18 ends by saying we should be “making supplication for all the saints.” We should pray for one another by name and by need. Stephen Motyer wrote, “Prayer binds the whole body of Christ together in love. We love people by praying for them.”
Verses 19-20 give a personal and practical illustration of how to intercede for others: “And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
The Apostle Paul is the church’s most outstanding pastor, missionary, and theologian. Yet Paul needed prayer. No Christian is strong enough to win spiritual battles on their own. We all need to be covered in believing prayer. Paul’s prayer request reflected spiritual priorities. He did not ask them to pray that he would be released from prison. He asked for prayer that he would proclaim the gospel faithfully, clearly, and boldly. Victorious prayer is gospel-driven, Christ-exalting prayer.
Many passages that call us to prayer are accompanied by a promise that God will answer. In this text on warfare prayer, there are no promises. Paul’s silence about the results of prayer here reminds us that the act of prayer is more important than the answer to prayer. Yes, it happens after prayer. It also happens as you pray. Prayer takes the situation out of your hands and puts it in the hands of God. Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there!
A league of nations rose up against Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat responded by calling for a time of national prayer and fasting. Then he went to the house of God to pray. 2 Chronicles 20:12 says, “O our Lord, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” The Lord answered through Jahaziel. Verse 17 says, “You will not need to fight this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” Jehoshaphat believed God and organized a choir to lead them into battle. Verse 21 says the sang, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” As the people praised the Lord, the Lord set an ambush against the enemy!