Stephen Caswell © 1999
Assume the Safest Position
George Adam Smith tells us that he was once climbing the Weisshorn above the Zermatt Valley in Switzerland with two guides on a stormy day. They had made the ascent on the sheltered side. Reaching the top, and exhilarated by the thought of the view before him, Smith sprang to the top of a peak--and was almost blown away by the gale. The guide caught hold of him and pulled him down saying, "On your knees, sir! You are safe here only on your knees." This position is the safest one for Christians too.
Two weeks ago we looked at the spiritual warfare that believers are engaged in. We saw God's provisions for Christians. He gives us the power and protection we need to overcome the enemy, Satan. The believers responsibility in this is to take up God's armor and ask for His strength. We do this through faith and prayer. Today I want to continue on the theme of prayer that we touched on last sermon. Before believers can stand in the battle they must start on their knees.
I. Principles Of Prayer & II. Practice Of Prayer
It is no coincidence that Paul includes prayer in this section on spiritual warfare. Prayer is an integral part along with the Spirit of God and the word of God. Paul gives us the principles of effective prayer. Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
a. Pray Always
Firstly, Paul instructs believers to pray at all times. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 Paul commands us to Pray without ceasing. Does Paul really mean to pray non stop? No he doesn't. He means that we should be constantly praying through out the day. Daniel was a busy man in the government of Babylon and yet took the time to pray three times a day. One of Daniel's prayers continued for three weeks. Since believers are always in battle with the enemy we need to be constantly drawing resources from our heavenly Commander. Christ also encouraged this. Matthew 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Christians need to stay in close fellowship with the Lord so that they can pray at any time. We shouldn't say Lord we now come into your presence, we need to live in His presence. Jesus said that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
Paul says we should have all perseverance in prayer. This emphasizes the need to pray always. Perseverance proskarterhsi" means unremitting continuance in something, to continue in, or devote yourself to. The early Church continued in prayer. Acts 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. The need in the Jerusalem Church. Acts 6:4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Prayer is vital. Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; Why does Paul emphasize perseverance in prayer? Because it is absolutely vital to the Church.
Men lose heart so easily. So he says that we must persevere in it. Much prayer means much power, no prayer, no power. But how can we pray in such a continual fashion? By praying in the Holy Spirit! The Spirit understands our weaknesses and enables us to pray in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit prays with us to the Father so that our prayers might be acceptable to God. He is the key to powerful prayer. Jude also highlights this fact. Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, God wants us to pray.
To Live in God's Presence
The most holy practice, the nearest to daily life, and the most essential for the spiritual life, is the practice of the presence of God, that is to find joy in his divine company and to make it a habit of life, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him at all times, every moment, without rule or restriction, above all at times of temptation, distress, dryness, and revulsion, and even of faithlessness and sin. -- Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God. He has provided access to His throne of grace when we have needs. He has given us His Holy Spirit so that our prayers will be in accordance to His will. Therefore let's pray. But what should we pray?
b. Pray All Kinds Of Prayers
Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
The word prayer proseuch here is a broad word used to describe prayer and worship directed verbally to God. Paul also uses the word supplication dehsi" which means a specific request or petition. There are many kinds of prayers. Praise, thanksgiving, intercession and confession. Paul says that we are to pray with all kinds of prayers for all kinds of needs. It is important to thank God for answered prayers. We should always praise Him for who He is. Then there are the special needs that others have. God desires that we should bring all kinds of prayers to the Lord. Philippians 4:6-7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
There are also many ways in which to pray. There are public prayers that are offered with other believers at Church or Bible study. There are private prayers offered quietly in our hearts to God. There are urgent prayers offered very quickly in an emergency. All these types of prayer are important. All these prayers should have a mixture of fear and boldness. Prayer is directed towards God. We beseech Him to intervene. We don't try to impress men or exalt ourselves. Prayer is not informing God of the situation or describing how bad something is. It is not detailing how unworthy we are. He knows these things already. God knows all things perfectly. Prayer is asking God to work in peoples lives to bring change!
God's glory should be the aim of our prayers. Often He changes us most! The Lord longs to bless His people far more than they are willing to pray. Good soldiers of Jesus Christ pray in the Spirit for the pressing needs of the time. They don't concentrate on their greed's but their spiritual needs. They pray fervently that the Lord will intervene. They pray that He will be glorified.
Ÿ Prayer is battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer. - Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Ÿ Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God.- Edwin Keith
Ÿ Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan. - John Bunyan
Ÿ Prayer is a supernatural activity. - Louis Evely
Ÿ Prayer is not an argument with God to persuade him to move things our way, but an exercise by which we are enabled by his Spirit to move ourselves his way. - Leonard Ravenhil
c. Pray Alert
Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
Paul says that believers are to be watchful. The word watchful ajgrupnew means to be wide awake, vigilant, to be attentive, sleepless. The thought that comes out here is one of being attentive, aware of our circumstances. Praying with open eyes so to speak. Satan is always looking to catch soldiers off guard. We must be careful, watchful. 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The Lord emphasized the need to watch and pray. He told the disciples this in Matthew 26:40-41: Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
A Sentry On Watch.
In wartime the commanders of the army posted lookouts to observe the enemies movements. When the enemy gathered their forces together for an advance, the lookout sent word to head quarters so that they could counter it. In the same way Christians should observe the conflict around them and pray for their army's needs. If a sentry fell asleep on his watch he could be court martialed. Are you going to sleep on your watch? Jesus emphasized how important it is to watch and pray. Luke 21:36: Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
d. Pray For All Saints
We must not limit our prayers to our own needs, but look out for the needs of others. People who pray only for themselves or their family are selfish and out of God's will. This is why Paul says that we are to pray for all the saints. Love and concern should lead us to pray for one another.
Soldiers of Christ must look out for fellow soldiers struggling in the conflict and pray that God would strengthen them. Because Christians serve the same Commander in the same army they should pray for each other. God works most mightily when we pray for others and not just ourselves. Peter was delivered from prison when the Church prayed fervently. The early Church spoke the word boldly after they prayed. James highlights the importance of prayer. James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Notice how often James mentions prayer here!
After talking about the principles of prayer Paul spoke of the: II. Practice Of Prayer
Ephesians 6:19 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,
The great apostle Paul requested prayer for himself. Why? Because the Lord's ministers need it. We are in the front-line of the attack. Paul requested prayers for the message, the minister, and the ministry. He knew how important prayer was to the Gospel's proclamation.
a. The Message
Firstly Paul asked for prayer for the message. Paul was called to reveal God's mystery to men. Satan hinders the word of God. In the parable of the sower we see how Satan snatched away the seed before it can germinate. Then he limited the effectiveness of the word through the shallow response of stony ground or the thorns of materialism. So Paul requests believers to pray that the message might go forth freely and yield fruit. Colossians 4:3-4 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Paul asks for three things in prayer. That God might give him utterance or the right words to say. He requests this so that he might boldly share the Gospel. The word boldness par&rhsia means plainly, with frankness, bluntness, and assurance. To speak freely what is on your heart. Paul desired this boldness to make known gnwrizw the mystery of the Gospel. Because Paul had been imprisoned for the Gospel he didn't want to become shy or timid in his ministry. This is why he requested prayer for the message. Did God answer His prayer? Yes 2 Timothy 2:8-9 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. God gave Paul great boldness to preach the Gospel in the center of the empire.
b. The Minister
Eph 6:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Secondly Paul requested prayer for himself. He didn't ask for freedom from prison.
He didn't ask for his material needs. Instead he asked that he might be faithful to God's call. He was the Lord's ambassador. He represented God to the people. As God's ambassador Paul wanted to faithfully represent his Lord. He wanted open doors within the prison itself. Paul wanted to make the most of his opportunities he had as a prisoner of Christ in Rome. How did God answer this? Phil 1:12-14 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Paul's emphasis in prayer is always the spiritual not the physical!
The word furtherance in verse 12 means an advance guard in the army. The advance guard possessed new territory from the enemy. Paul went into new areas of the empire with the Gospel. He converted some of Caesar's household and the elite guard. Philippians 4:22 All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household. Paul served in what seemed like a hopeless situation in prison to preach the Gospel to people normally out of reach. It took courage to do this. This is why he requested prayer. Acts 28:30-31 Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. Merril Tenney said this, If a church wants a better pastor, it can get one by praying for the one it has. The Apostle Paul would agree with that statement! We need prayer!
Prayer , What Makes A Difference It Makes
Two wives sat mending their husbands' pants. One of them said to the other, "My poor John, he is so discouraged in his work. He said just the other day he was considering resigning. It seems nothing goes right for him." The other replied, "Why, my husband was saying just the opposite. He is so enthused, it seems like the Lord is closer to him than ever before." A hushed silence fell as they mended the trousers; one patching the seat and the other the knees.
Ministers need the prayer support of God's people if they are to preach the word effectively. Satan is always busy trying to close doors to share the word. This why God's people must pray for the Lord to provide opportunities to minister. I am encouraged when people tell me they pray for me. I would love to hear it more! Colossians 4:3-4 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. If the Apostle Paul needed the prayers of God's people, how much more do we need them today? Please pray for us, we need it.
c. The Ministry
Eph 6:21-22 But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. Thirdly Paul was wise enough to keep the Churches informed of his special needs. He gave them a missionary prayer letter in the form of Tychicus. Tychicus brought the Church up to date on Paul's needs. He did this to encourage them. He shared how God was using him in Rome.
Paul was advancing the cause of Christ and defending the Christian faith before the highest authority in the world at the time. He was converting people from Caesar's own household. Paul's imprisonment was not a waste of time. God was using it. He also sent word so that they could pray more intelligently. Paul wanted them to be thankful and encouraged to pray for further opportunities. Paul sent Tychicus to the Colossians for this purpose also. He wanted to encourage them and find out how they were going as well. He depended on the prayer of God's people. We should follow this example today. As Christians we need to stay informed of ministry needs. God wants us to pray wisely. This is what it means to watch and pray. Successful ministry largely depends upon the prayers of believers.
Charles Spurgeon's Power Room
Mr Spurgeon was showing someone around the Church premises before a service. He showed them many rooms set aside for particular ministries. Then he showed them the power room. He said it was the most important room in the church. The visitors were surprised when they looked in and found a number of people praying. Spurgeon always had people praying for him while he was preaching.
d. The Motive
Ephesians 6:23-24 Peace 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 in sincerity. Amen.
Paul's prayers for the Church reveal his true motives. He wanted people to receive God's peace, love and grace. Take the time to read his prayers for the saints in the New Testament. He prays for spiritual blessings. He prays that people might realize their riches in Christ. He is not very concerned with material riches. Paul commenced Ephesians by conveying God's peace and grace. He started by speaking of God's great love in chapter 1 verse 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Now he finishes in the same tone. Grace, peace and love richly supplied from God. How rich we are. Therefore let us enjoy it and make others rich too through ministry.
Today we have seen how Paul emphasized the importance of prayer. Firstly Paul gave us the:
I. Principles Of Prayer
a. Pray Always - Is prayer a priority in your life? Do you begin and end the day in prayer? Do you stay in close fellowship with God so that you can always pray? You need to because the enemy is always about! Do you rely on the Holy Spirit when you pray? Only He can enable us to pray as we should. Do you persevere in prayer or quit if the answer takes a while? How much time do you spend in prayer? How much time do you spend watching TV? Is that a good balance? Prayer is like breathing in the Christian life. are you healthy or drifting into a coma?
b. Pray All Kinds Of Prayers - Do you offer up all types of prayer, praise, thanksgiving, petition, and confession? Our prayer life must be balanced in all these. Do you pray in public and private? Much prayer means much power. How much power do you have?
c. Pray Alert - God wants us to be vigilant when we pray. Are you half asleep when you pray? Do you watch the battle and pray accordingly? Do you pray intelligently? God doesn't listen to half asleep uninterested Christians! Let's be alert, awake and informed when praying.
d. Pray For All Saints - Do you pray for all the saints? Do you look out for soldiers that are struggling in the conflict? We are all on the same army and therefore should pray for each other. Secondly Paul discussed the:
II. Practice Of Prayer
a. The Message - Do you pray for the preaching of the word each week? Do you pray for God's ministers that He might enable them to preach boldly, clearly? You should! Satan seeks to hinder the word. We must stand against him in prayer. Are you a prayer warrior or asleep on watch? We need to be sober and alert!
b. The Minister - Do you pray for that God would give pastors and missionaries open doors of opportunity to minister? Unless God opens the door we can't even share the word effectively. Paul requested this because it is important. Will you pray for open doors to minister?
c. The Ministry - Do you keep informed of the needs of missionaries and pastors? If you don't how will you pray in an intelligent way? Prayer calendars and prayer letters are useful here.
d. The Motive - Paul desired that people come into a right relationship with God. His New Testament prayers focus on this. He also wanted believers to mature and appreciate their riches in Christ. Do you focus on spiritual or material needs when you pray? Only spiritual riches last!
1 Peter 5:10-11 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.