Summary: Friends, we must pray for boldness as we declare God’s truth in a spirit of love and grace.
John Ortberg tells the story about a man who wanders into a small and cluttered antique shop. In the midst of all the knickknacks and junk, he notices what looks like an ancient Chinese vase lying on the floor. On closer inspection it turns out to be a priceless relic from the Ming dynasty whose value is beyond calculating. It’s worth more than anything else in the store put together. The customer realizes that the owner has no idea about its value, because it’s filled with milk and the cat’s drinking out of it.
The man sees the opportunity for a deal of a lifetime so he cleverly strategizes a method to obtain the vase for a fraction of its worth. He comes up to the owner and says, “That’s an extraordinary cat you have. How much would you sell her for?” The owner responds, “Oh, the cat is not really for sale. She keeps the store free of mice.” The man counters by saying, “I really must have her. Tell you what…I’ll give you a hundred dollars for her.” The owner laughs and says, “She’s not really worth it, but if you want her that badly, she’s yours.”
The man then says, “I need something to feed her from as well. Let me throw in another ten dollars for that saucer she’s drinking out of.” The owner grins and replies, “Oh, I could never do that. That saucer is actually an ancient Chinese vase from the Ming dynasty. It is my prized possession, whose worth is beyond calculation. Funny thing, though; since we’ve had it, I’ve sold seventeen cats!” (From, “Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them,” pages 204-205).
Some of us approach God like that when we try to get Him to give us something we really want. At times we bargain with God and other times we just don’t bother. Let’s be honest about something. While some of us do OK with our prayers, many of us know we need more power when we pray. Today we’re kicking off a new series called, “Power Prayers” in order to help us pray more…and pray more effectively. In order to do this, we’ll study some model prayers by some of the Master prayer warriors in the Bible – Paul, Solomon, Jesus, and Moses.
Today we’ll look at Paul’s teaching on prayer from Ephesians 6:18-20. We’ll begin with verse 18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” This primer on prayer comes right after the reminder that we’re in a spiritual war. Notice verse 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Because we’re in a cosmic battle, Paul challenges believers to put on the “full armor of God” in verses 13-17. And in verses 18-20, he describes prayer as the ultimate secret weapon of war. We won’t be able to use the armor if we’re not empowered by prayer.
Paul’s Paradigm for Prayer
If we want to know how to pray, this verse gives us six essential elements that can beef up our prayer lives, taking them from mediocre or non-existent to powerful and exciting. According to Paul’s paradigm, prayer must be:
1. Spirit-directed. The first thing we must remember is that prayer is not something that is to be rote or repetitious. Jesus cautioned us against just going through the motions in Matthew 6:7: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” Paul challenges us to “pray in the Spirit.” To pray in the spirit means at least two things. First, we must pray with our heart and soul. Second, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us pray. Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” There have been times when I’ve simply prayed, “Lord have mercy” or “God do your work here” because I couldn’t pray anything else. When we allow the Spirit to direct our prayers we can avoid selfish requests and empty words.
2. Life-saturated. We are to pray in the Spirit “on all occasions.” The time to pray is all the time. Prayer is appropriate in all seasons of life and at all times during the day. We are to pray when things are good, and when they’re bad; in times of tragedy, and in times of triumph; when we finish well, and when we fail miserably; when God feels close, and when we don’t know where He is. The early church certainly understood this when we read in Acts 1:14 that they were “continually devoting themselves to prayer.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 challenges us to “pray without ceasing.” Have you ever wondered how you can pray like this? How can you pray without ceasing? The only way I know is by allowing Christ to be at the center of your life so that in every situation and circumstance you will find yourself naturally talking to Him.