Ephesians 6 v 18a
For several weeks we have been examining the 6 pieces of the Christian’s Spiritual Armour supplied by the Lord God. We need it to fight in the Spiritual Battle against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places. But we cannot leave it hanging in a cupboard – we must put it on! And we cannot relax and lounge about wearing the armour – we need to stand firm and move forward day by day, hour by hour and moment by moment.
I want you to imagine for a moment that it is your birthday and you have just received a gift. It has come in a large box wrapped in paper with a label telling you that it is from someone who loves you very much. You tear off the paper, and you open the box – and you discover that it is a set of armour – a belt, a breastplate, shoes, a shield, a helmet and a bright shiny twoedged sword. You did not know that you were a soldier up until this point – but the sender includes some instructions on how and when to wear the armour. The first instruction is to put on the armour immediately. The second instruction is to keep it on. And the third instruction is how to use the armour – in fact you will need to apply for further instructions. Because of the authority and character of the loving person who has sent you this armour you comply with the order to put it on straight away. You put each piece on, and begin to read the rest of the users instructions – and you are ready to fight!
Now this is designed to illustrate what happens to each of us when we are converted. It is our Birthday – our New Birthday – our spiritual birthday, the very beginning of our spiritual life. The sender of the parcel is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who with tender love has sent you your protective armour. You are vulnerable to the attacks of Satan right from day one of your Christian life so you need the equipment and the instructions to go with it. We have so far DESCRIBED the armour and we have encouraged each other to wear the armour knowing the specific uses and purposes that each of the 6 items have.
But now we need more. We have the hardware so to speak –
have your loins girt about with truth; have on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; take the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit,
- now the software – the operating programme – and it is contained in verse 18
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
You see the armour is not magical. We have been given all the pieces but we still need to depend on God the giver of the Armour in PRAYER. We are introduced now to the general character of the individual believer’s prayer life. These are the instructions for the use of the Armour – but they are brief – pray – pray always – pray submissively – pray watchfully – pray persistently – and pray for others. Just as there are 6 pieces of armour so there are 6 elements to these Christ sent instructions on Prayer.
Verse 18 appears to have been quite difficult for our translators to put into English from the Greek. We can tell this from the word order.
This is how the order of words appears in the Greek New Testament – compare them as you scan verse 18 in your Bibles.
“By all prayer and supplication, praying in every season in the Spirit, and unto this very thing watching with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”
The basic meaning is the same – that by means of prayer we are to take up the armour and fight the enemy and at the same time defend ourselves from his attacks. The words that Paul uses here are important.
Praying and prayer are related words – a verb and a noun – from the same root. It’s the Greek word PROSEUCHEO the most frequent word used for addressing God in prayer.
Four times the apostle uses the word PAS meaning ALL – in different forms but the same basic word – always, or in every season, all prayer, all perseverance and all saints.
Twice the word SUPPLICATION appears – supplication is to plead earnestly, to implore or beseech. It comes originally from the Latin for two words - knees and to fold – therefore to supplicate is to fold, or bend, your knees in pleading prayer. It is used particularly to indicate petitionary prayer or intercession for others.
On the other hand PROSEUCHEO prayer is all kinds of prayer.
So we leave the word study and focus first on
1. The Power of Prayer to wage the war.
18 Praying with all prayer and supplication
There are so many different kinds of prayer to almighty God that enable us to wage war against Satan. There is oral prayer, our spoken prayers out loud when we pray either alone or in our prayer meetings. There are mental prayers that we pray when burdened in our minds and cannot say anything – but the Lord hears them just the same. There are arrow prayers that we pray when in acute danger or in particular need. Then there are formal prayers such as those that we follow in our public Meetings for worship when we say ‘Amen’ to the minister’s prayer.
How do these relate to taking the armour?
1. We actually obtain the power to use the armour by Prayer.
We have to ask for the Power – we have to ask constantly.
Luke 11v 9 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. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
E.M Bounds said, “Prayer is not a little habit pinned on to us while we were tied to our mothers’ apron stings; neither is it a little quarter of a minute’s grace said before an hour’s dinner – but it is a most serious work of our most serious years.”
Since we are to be involved in serious conflict should not our prayer life be the most serious department of our Christian experience? Since we have to constantly be applying to the Lord for power to fight why then do we give so little time to prayer? These are challenging questions. I ask them of myself and I have no easy answers – indeed a life of prayer is no easy road. Just because we have the promise of the supply of the armour does not guarantee that we will have the power to use it – we have to ask! We have to pray. We have to come to plead with the Lord to supply us with daily help and strength to serve Him faithfully all the day. We have to ask because it is necessary to ask and God always promises to answer our prayers for necessary things.
2. We learn how to use the armour by prayer.
There is not a soldier in any army who could walk in on the day of enlistment and be fully equipped for the task of being a soldier. First of all he has to be trained to use the equipment. He may be issued with his equipment but that is not sufficient. The first thing that a serviceman learns when he gets his uniform is to keep it smart and clean – to polish buttons, belts, boots and his cap badge. Sometimes a man will find it hard to learn these skills. He will pray – he will ask his mate, or even his corporal, if he is brave enough, to help him – to show him what is needed in the task. These things have to be taught and learned well before he gets on a firing range to learn how to use a rifle. And it comes before being trained to drive a tank or fire a large artillery gun.
So it is for the believer, the Christian soldier. The use of the armour, putting on truth, wearing righteousness, defending against doubt and discouragement – do not come naturally – the saviour teaches us how to use them. He guides us into all truth; He calls us to recognise and enjoy His righteousness and to trust His salvation. He does it through such encouraging scriptures as Jeremiah 33:3
Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.
3. We learn spiritual warfare by prayer.
It is only the Lord Jesus Christ who fully knows the wiles of the devil. So we have to go to Him and be in touch with Him in order to discern the strategies of the evil one. Isaiah describes the Lord as One who can assist us. He is, according to Isaiah 11 v 1,
a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
This is the person whom we need, one who will guide us by the spirit of His counsel, give us the spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord and will make us of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord. Satan’s devices are all known to Him and even though we are unskilful in combat he will give us the tongue of the learned. King David acknowledged this in Psalm 144 v 1
Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: 2 My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me.
We read from Daniel 6 earlier in the service. What an example of prayer that godly man was. Satan was up to his wiles again using the wicked counsellors to fool the King that all of them had agreed to the decree. Daniel would not have countenanced such an ungodly move. When the decree was signed Daniel had no other recourse than to continue to do what he had always done – lay hold on God in prayer and trust himself to God’s mercy in prayer. He wore the armour of God – the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation. He knew that His sovereign Lord God was in control of all things and would work out His perfect will through him. Satan was defeated and the lying counsellors were put to death.
Another Biblical example of prayer is Moses. Exodus 17 v 8 – 13.
8 Then came Amalek, and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. 10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Who prevailed against Amalek? Joshua’s sword or Moses prayer? It was prayer that prevailed in the battle; while Moses’ hands were raised to God in prayer the Israelites were winning.
God’s man during the time of the Judges, Gideon, knew of his need to depend on God utterly. In Judges 6 we read of God’s approach to the young man Gideon and thereafter we see how Gideon had a dialogue with the Lord, at every stage he consulted with God. He destroyed the grove of Baal; he gathered an army; under the Lord’s direction he whittled the number down to 300 men; and he sought the Lord’s confirmation that he would be victorious. And as those 301 men went into action they cried, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”
Prayer was a principle feature of Gideon’s action as he triumphed gloriously that day.
Now contrast King Saul of Israel. This man had a vast army at his disposal – but he was a self-reliant man and only gave nominal acknowledgement to God and His ways. He knew better than God and left the Lord right out of the picture in his warfare against the Philistines. This is fatal in war my friends, and that is what we are in. Saul even was prepared to involve himself in the sacrifice without a priest – he could not wait for Samuel – and he fell flat on his face in the end – because of no reliance on the Lord in prayer. When God took His blessing and His spirit away from Saul, then he prayed – but it was too late! Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft! What a warning Saul is to us who also are in the battle. Oh my friends – this should be our watchword –
Psalm 18 v 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
Write this scripture on your hearts and have it on your mind – you need to call on the Lord for power to wage the war!
2. The Power of Prayer to maintain the war.
18 Praying ALWAYS with all prayer and supplication
This word always is probably the most important word in the whole verse. We are to pray ALWAYS. Let us notice what this does not mean.
It does not mean that we will be always saying prayers. There is a children’s hymn that goes thus –
I often say my prayers, but do I always pray? And do the wishes of my heart go with the words I say? I may as well kneel down and worship gods of stone, As offer to the living God a prayer of words alone. For words, without the heart, the Lord will never hear, Nor will He to those lips attend, whose prayers are not sincere.
All of us know how to say our prayers – but do we all know how to pray always?
It is not a question of torrents of sentences that come pouring out of our lips – indeed the Lord Jesus Christ said that we are not heard because we speak a lot –
Matthew 6 v 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
So what DOES praying ALWAYS mean? Praying always is the “when” of prayer.
If you ask anyone in the street today “Do you pray?” he will say “yes.” Because it is fashionable to pray when you are in trouble. People cry, “Oh God help me.” In times of great calamity you will find people praying. News items could be collected which report people in dangerous situations – miners trapped hundreds of feet down – public prayer is made; a plane crashes and people are missing presumed dead – before they are found prayers are said; a child has been abducted from home and TV appeals go out from distraught parents – often prayer is mentioned. But people seem to have to have a crisis of some sort before they pray. Americans have one day per year set aside and endorsed by their government, to give thanks for their country, their wealth and their existence as a nation – it is called Thanksgiving Day. It is intended as a National Day of Prayer. One day out of 365?
Here the Apostle Paul admonishes us quite clearly – take hold of God at every occasion not just crises or special days – but all the time – pray always! In another letter Paul says
“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5 v 17.)
Be in constant communion with the Lord – or as one commentator has put it – “keep the receiver off the hook so as always to have a hotline to God.”
If you will, permit me a personal illustration. Wherever I go if I am not with my wife I make sure that at some time during any day I am in touch with her, these days by telephone. In recent years there has not been any day when we have not spoken to each other – because when I have been elsewhere there is that facility to be in touch.
But I well remember the strange feeling that overtook me when I went, with five other men, to Eastern Europe to take supplies and equipment to needy believers in Romania. It was a dangerous expedition fraught with potential problems for the dear Christians should we have been discovered helping them. While we were behind the iron curtain (this was 1988 before the fall of communism in Europe) there could be no communication with home. We telephoned from Budapest before we left for Romania and then for three days no one knew how we were getting on. We had a whole church praying for us at strategic times of the day, every day – such as when we were crossing the borders. And while there we knew that any attempt to phone home or send a postcard would have been intercepted by the Stasi, the secret police. It was an eerie feeling not to be in communication with those whom we loved.
As soon as we got back across the border into Hungary, on our way out, one of the first things we did was to find a phone and make that call – back in touch again.
My friends there are no such difficulties with prayer to the Lord God! Wherever we are, in whatever situation, we can call to Him and know that He will be there to answer.
Indeed it is our end of the prayer line that is at fault – not His!
1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers:
Therefore WE are the ones who have to be admonished to pray always!
Philippians 4 v 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Romans 12 v 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
The next thing then is to ask -
Why should pray always?
Because we are always subject to attacks and temptations from Satan. He knows how to surprise us and especially when we have forgotten to pray always without ceasing.
Part of our problem is that we do not cultivate regular times of prayer. Let alone praying always. There is no minimum time for the Christian to pray. David tells us in Psalm 55 v 17
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
Surely this is a good method and pattern to have – but is this enough? If we are in a battle should we not be constantly in touch with headquarters? David found this scheme to work for he says in the next verse of Psalm 55 v 18
He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
This then is a start – out personal prayer time should be regular and frequent. But what about family prayers? It seems to me that the Family Altar, as it has been called, has fallen into disfavour amongst Christian people. Family reading of the scriptures and prayers morning and evening are such a blessing to every member of the family – let us see a revival of the practice.
Prayer can be made at any time of the day. If you awake in the night then pray – if you have a few moments when your duties are not totally absorbing your mental faculties – then pray – not because you HAVE to – but because you need to – it is the only way to keep the armour bright.
Remember the ability of the evil one to strike when we are weakest – when we are tired, when we are hungry, when we are frustrated or worried – he knows our weak spots – therefore these are the times when we need to be covered by prayer.
Is this our experience my friends? Again may we take a leaf out of David’s book – when he was under attack he tells us what he did –
Psalm 118 v 10 All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them. 11 They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
The enemies of the Christian can be destroyed in the name of the Lord when prayer maintains the war. Which leads us finally to
3. The Power of Prayer to Depend on God.
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication IN THE SPIRIT.
Praying in the Spirit is praying submissively – it is prayer that is prepared to ask according to God’s will. The Spirit that Paul mentions here is the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many times the scriptures lead us to believe that we should pray to God the Father, through God the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8 helps us to understand this –
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. 27 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.
These verses teach that we can only pray in the will of God when we pray in the Spirit. Well, you may ask, how else can we pray?
We can pray in the flesh – we can pray with our minds or emotions only. We can pray selfishly and that is always out of the will of God. We can pray mechanically in a repetitive way – this too is out of the will of God. God has a chosen way for us to offer prayer to Him. In the old Jewish temple there was a small golden altar on which incense was burned. This burning was a picture of prayer. The incense had to be mixed according to God’s word and could not be counterfeited by man. We offer our prayers in the will of God and the Holy Spirit ignites them and a sweet smoke of prayer rises up to God.
How then are we to pray? In the flesh, with our own agenda and desires? It is possible to pray like this – even to pray very fervently like this - but we will never get through to God.
However when we pray quietly and submissively, ready for the will of our Lord Jesus Christ to be done however it may affect us, then we are praying in the spirit and we can and will see God’s hand do great things.
Do we want to experience real prayer my friends? Do we want to experience power as we wear the armour? Then in the midst of the battle let us pray in the Spirit – for then the ranks of the enemy will melt away – because they are desperately afraid of the Holy Spirit. May we all know the Power of prayer to wage and maintain the war and to depend utterly on the Lord God in prayer – always.