Ephesians 6 v 18b
Please read Philippians 4
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we have been given all the pieces of the Gospel Armour but we still need to depend on God, the giver of the Armour, in PRAYER. We have been introduced to the general character of the individual believer’s prayer life. Christ has given us 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 six pieces of armour so there are six elements to these Christ sent instructions on Prayer.
Last time we thought about
1. The Power of Prayer to wage the war.
18 Praying with all prayer and supplication
1.We have to ask for the Power – we have to ask constantly.
Luke 11 v 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.
2. We learn how to use the armour by prayer.
Jeremiah 33 v 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. There is therefore a VARIETY in prayer as we wage the war.
2. The Power of Prayer to maintain the war.
18 Praying ALWAYS with all prayer and supplication
Praying always is the “when” of prayer. It has to do with the FREQUENCY of prayer.
We are to 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.)
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.
Variety, frequency and submission.
This morning we move to the second part of verse 18
and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Once more there are three divisions for us to think about today. The first one is
1. Our MANNER. Our manner in prayer should be WATCHFUL.
and watching thereunto
The word in the original rendered THEREUNTO literally means “and unto this very thing.” Paul therefore links this watching to the previous three areas of variety, frequency and submission to the will of God in our prayers and in our praying. In other words the manner of our praying is not taken in isolation but permeates the whole business of prayer to God.
The word WATCHING directs us again to another military illustration – guard duty or the Fire Picket. The soldier has to take turns to guard the camp and to watch for danger. This means staying awake and alert for the period of duty. There are other professions where this is the case – the medical and nursing professions; police, fire and ambulance services; before automatic telephones switchboard operators had to take turns to stay awake at night to connect telephone callers. Night watchmen and night porters are employed to be watchful, keeping an eye open for unwanted intruders to property. Nowadays there are security companies who patrol property at night, staying alert and watchful. All kinds of facilities require people to stay awake at night when the majority of the population is asleep.
Watchfulness – alertness – AGRUPNOONTACE (agrupnountes) is Paul’s choice of word here. As often happens the Greek word is a fusion of two words. In this case a word meaning to chase is joined to a word meaning sleep. Being watchful requires us “to chase away sleep”. This requires effort – a vigilance, an earnestness and a steadfastness. There are many reasons why sleep can escape us – worry, preoccupation, depression to name a few. Sleep can also be difficult if we are not tired, if we have not been occupied strenuously in the day; or it may be that we have had some sleep during the day and it gives us a second wind, so to speak.
But Paul does not speak here of difficulty in sleeping – rather it is a deliberate strenuous effort to stay awake at all costs – to persevere in watchfulness; to avoid dropping off to sleep and therefore be vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks.
We have now to be sensible – all of us need to sleep sometimes – daily in fact. God has designed our bodies to require rest and sleep for certain recuperative functions to come into operation. So we make arrangements for a safe and secure place to sleep where we do not have any responsibilities during our sleeping periods. Indeed the Lord God in His Kindness
“gives His beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127 v 2)
But when needs must, the human being must overcome the desire to sleep for special purposes. Consider King David in Psalm 132 v 1 – 5.
1 LORD, remember David, and all his afflictions: 2 How he sware unto the LORD, and vowed unto the mighty God of Jacob; 3 Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; 4 I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, 5 Until I find out a place for the LORD, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.
How determined David was. Paul wishes us to be spiritually watchful in the same way. It is obvious that we cannot stay awake for the rest of our lives – that is not the point of the scripture here.
But it IS that we as believers, wearing the armour, should not relax for one second in our vigilance and watchfulness for the enemy to attack. Satan is always ready to trap and deceive the believer, and never more so than when that Christian is lazy, relaxing, and sleepy – off guard.
William Hendriksen says this – “Those who are not alert, but listless and indifferent to what is going on in their homes, in the streets of their towns, in their country, in their church or in the world at large, will have a very restricted prayer life. Those who do not know the will of God, because they devote so little time to the study of God’s word, will fail to harvest the fruits of prayer.”
He is suggesting that to partake of deep and satisfying communion with God is the result of a deep devotional life that “goes to the deeps of God’s promises,” taking Him at His word. Those who do not have a deep devotional prayer life, pray only now and then. There is no perseverance and little supplication. Such people are not watchful but are sleepy and careless with their souls.
Is it only here that the Scriptures speak of watchfulness? Not at all. The Lord Jesus Christ had things to say about it –
Matthew 26 v 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Mark 13 v 33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
Luke 21 v 36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
These three texts from the mouth of the Lord Jesus Christ use the same word – keep alert.
Hebrews 13 v 17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
s and elders are called to be watchful in a special way. They are to watch over the flock – they are to be alert to the life, joys, sorrows, illnesses, and behaviour of the sheep – and they are not to go to sleep – that is ignore or be unaware of the needs of the sheep in the congregation. It requires vigilance – watching. Not interfering or being busybodies – but those who lose sleep over the flock out of love and care for their well-being. After all there is an account to be rendered by every elder when he appears before the Chief Shepherd – and it will be rigorous! Sleepy elders will face a sharp awakening when they meet the Lord!
Now, I don’t know about you but when I was a child I was taught in Sunday School, Day School, Church and at home, that when you pray you must close your eyes! Paul’s word here in Ephesians is this – PRAY WITH YOUR EYES OPEN! This is the nature of watchfulness. Paul links prayer and watchfulness in this verse – and he is right to call us to pray with knowledge.
Of course the PHYSICAL aspect of praying is ideally a matter of closing the eyes to shut out all distractions that would divert us from concentrated speaking to the Lord. I would however recommend strongly keeping your eyes open if you begin to pray while driving a car or riding a bicycle!
The principle of watchfulness is the secret of victory over the world, the flesh and the devil.
Nehemiah was able to defeat an enemy by watching and praying.
Nehemiah 4 v 7 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, 8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
On the other hand Peter failed to pray when he needed most to pray – he went to sleep, lulled into a sleepy condition by fear and a warm brazier of coals.
Mark 14 v 29 But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. 30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. 31 But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
Mark 14 v 67-72 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. 68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. 69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. 70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. 71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. 72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
Perhaps we can now see what is meant by watchfulness. Peter did not actually go to sleep that night – but spiritually he was out to the world – until he was jolted to spiritual consciousness by two crows of the cockerel and one meaningful look from his Lord!
Are we earnest and watchful my friends? Or do we sail into conversations and situations without any reference to the Lord God, or asking his help, pleading His guidance, seeking his approval and the restraint, if necessary, of His Spirit? Being watchful is a waking activity. No one watches while they sleep. But sometimes we ignore the spiritual sensitivity in our redeemed souls that tells us “be careful! Be on your guard! The devil is waiting with a snare! Be alert!” Don’t depend on yourself – but depend on the Lord Jesus. This is watchfulness – using our God given spiritual senses that detect when Satan is active and near! O may the Lord make us all to be WATCHING!
2. Our METHOD. Our method in prayer should be PERSISTENT.
with all perseverance and supplication.
We are wrestling with the wiles of the devil all the time. He knows our weaknesses and he loves to exploit them. One of his wiles is “wait awhile – do it later.” And this is especially the case when it comes to prayer. Have you noticed this? One of our biggest failings is persistence in prayer. I ask a question – How many times have you read something or heard a sermon on prayer and you have said to yourself “Right – that is it! I am definitely resolved to improve my prayer life! From today on I will make plans. I will put in place certain measures to make sure that I am consistent in prayerful worship and intercession. I will make sure my Church prayer diary is up to date and close to hand, and not hidden under a pile of magazines! I will get up earlier to allow enough time to have a quality period with the Lord – he and I alone everyday. I will embark upon a reading plan so that there is structure in my reading of God’s Holy Word.” I wonder how many of us have made such resolutions?
Now another question – how long did it last? A week? A fortnight? Longer? Have you noticed how that when you get serious about prayer then there seems to be a conspiracy against you? Circumstance after circumstance comes along which seem to scupper every good intention that you had. “I’ll do it later! After breakfast – at coffee time – after lunch – at bedtime.” Satan can provide you with a thousand ready-made reasons why you should not pray! And if you do begin to pray determinedly and persistently, he tries another tack – distraction. You are praying and reading and your eyes alight on a Christian newspaper or magazine. You notice the cover – there is an interesting picture relating to an article inside – and you stop praying and pick the article up to read it. On the next page at the end of that article there is the next one – which looks equally interesting – and you read that. Your mind is filled with the contents of the magazine – and the devil has successfully diverted you! You have stopped praying – and He is pleased. You then realise that your allocated time for reading the Bible and prayer has gone – oh I’ll catch up later, in a little while – but the day progresses and the opportunity evaporates – the devil made sure that you were far too busy for prayer. Persistence in prayer is so hard.
However we can take another view here. We are speaking as if talking to our heavenly Father is such a difficulty or chore; that it is a duty that HAS to be performed. Whereas, if we were in need surely we would have no difficulty in asking Him for help. Perhaps we do not believe that we have a need! Perhaps we are settled and satisfied with our performance in the battle using the armour that we do not need God! Oh my friends – never be tempted to think this way – we ALWAYS are in need of the Lord God’s help in the battle. Perseverance is as much an expression of our constant need of Him, our saviour, as it is a necessary and regular exercise.
But it is not merely perseverance in private prayer that Paul has in mind here. Public prayer needs perseverance too. When we come to the Lord’s house on a Sunday and Tuesday and at other times for prayer, we are to persevere and be persistent in prayer. Our method is to persist in regular prayer TOGETHER.
Is it sufficient for you to declare that you are persistent in your prayer if you are only here once on Sundays and rarely if ever on a Tuesday? Surely my brothers and sisters if we are genuinely concerned for God’s honour, for the salvation of souls, and burdened for the work of the Gospel, we will be at EVERY meeting that includes prayer! Because we will not be able to rest until we get God’s answer and see Him moving in our community. Robert Law says this – “Prayer is not getting man’s work done in heaven; it is getting God’s will done on earth.” If we really are concerned for the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ we will persevere in prayer far more than we do. What a joy it would be to hear members here saying to me, “Can we pray more Pastor?” There was a Church once that prayed without ceasing. We read about it in Acts 12.
v 1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. 3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
The believers didn’t stop! They had a prayer meeting that continued from the moment of Peter’s arrest until the moment that he knocked on the door of Mark’s house –
Acts 12 v 6 And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. 7 And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. 8 And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. 9 And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. 12 And when he had considered the thing, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark; where many were gathered together praying. 13 And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. 14 And when she knew Peter's voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate.
What a challenge this is! Could it be that we have little confidence in prayer that we do not persevere enough in it? May the Lord help us all in this. At the end of the parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18 the Lord Jesus applies the teaching like this –
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? 8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
Now there are more implications for us here. And I want for a moment to address the families who are here – mothers and fathers with small children. You do not need me to remind you how totally absorbing the care of children can be; nor to point out that there is hardly a minute to yourself from morning till evening while the children are awake. There are obstacles in plenty to personal worship and prayer for you. But it can be done! Fathers – take the lead! Make sure that your wife has time to herself to devote to reading and prayer. You will need to put yourself out to achieve this. Self-denial at the end of your busy day will be needed to ensure that your wife can spend time with her saviour. If we believe that this scripture applies to ALL of us then it is our responsibility to work out the details in our own situations.
And in the matter of Family devotions – again this can be the object of the devil’s diversionary attacks too. We briefly mentioned the family altar last time. But I speak to the men again – it is my and your responsibility before God to organise and order our Family’s Worship. Take the lead. Do not leave it to your wife. Call your family together to read and pray. Teach your children the value of family worship so that they will never forget it when they grow up. Pray simply and practically. Let them know of the answers to prayer as they happen. Teach them that you take prayer seriously because the Lord Jesus Christ is the head of your household.
If there is no Christian husband then mothers who love the Lord should pray with the children and teach them God’s word. And it is vital that the children learn prayer from the individual parent. So pray with them on their own – show them the importance of persistent persevering prayer and confidence in the Lord Jesus’ ability to answer and bless.
The third area this morning is
3. Our MEASURE. Our measure in prayer should be to pray for ALL SAINTS.
and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Do you ever hear of another Christian who has a problem or is in trouble and you say to that believer, “I’ll pray for you”? And then you go away and forget what he has told you and you do not pray for him? This happens so often, because we are forgetful – but also because sometimes we are uncaring and a little bit self-occupied. So Paul exhorts us to be aware of our responsibility in watchfulness and perseverance – that we should not only pray for ourselves – but we should pray for ALL OTHER MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY!
The Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6 begins “Our father.” Have you noticed that it does not begin “My father”?
What happens when we pray for all saints?
1. We pray as part of a great family that is also talking to the Lord and we ought therefore to be praying for the other members of the family.
2. We pray for all saints because all saints are in the battle! In the war against Satan and his hosts we need each other – so we should not only pray for ourselves and for strength to wear the armour – but for all the other soldiers too – the rest of the army. We are in a battle together with the forces of darkness. The success of one soldier is the success of all the army. Christians are united by the Lord Jesus Christ, into one army with a common cause – to defeat the enemy – and we must therefore pray for one another. This is what is meant in the scriptures by the “communion of saints.” We are to be interested in each other’s battles as soldiers are concerned for each other in a war.
3. In the Old Testament the prophet, and inspired leader of the Israelites, Samuel said this to a great public meeting of his people –
1 Samuel 12 v 23 Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way: 24 Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
Samuel considered it a SIN not to pray for his people. Do we consider our failure to pray for each other – SIN? This scripture teaches that very thing – and I tremble! I am guilty of at times ceasing to pray for other believers. I have no excuse – I am an ordinary human being with a tendency to praying for myself more than others. And I would not be surprised my dear brothers and sisters if you were not ready to admit to the same failing. We have to realise that we have been diverted by the enemy. He seeks to isolate us with his personal attacks – which bring us low – which precipitate guilt and discourage us so much so that we begin to accept our weak state and live with it! Isolated Christians please the devil. If he can keep us away from others so that we are not aware of their needs, then we will not pray for them. Being together in fellowship is a great safeguard in this area – spending time together enables us to strengthen each other in the battle.
Here in this church we have a prayer list of names of the members to use in our prayers. At the prayer meeting we have an information sheet that many of you use when you get home guiding you in what to pray for. We are called to pray for all saints.
After this word from Paul can we ever from here on say, “I don’t know what to pray for!”? We have an army to pray for! We start with the Barnstaple Battalion – whom we know best. Then we can expand our prayers to cover other believers that we know in other sections of the army. Praying for all saints includes praying for those who do not know that they will become saints – praying for those who are at this present moment lost and dead in their sins – yet the Lord is going to save them one day, and sign them up in the army with their own sets of armour. We must pray for them!
How practical the Apostle Paul is in this 18th verse.
So to close let us notice what we should pray for all saints?
Philippians 1 v 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Love to abound – we need that don’t we? Knowledge and judgment to increase. Approve and follow excellent, holy and righteous things. Sincerity and lack of offence. Filled with the fruits of righteousness.
What an interesting list of things to pray for!
May we all know how to pray for each other. May we be watchful, persistent and have a heart to pray for others to the glory and praise of God our Saviour!