Summary: Sermon expounds exhortation in Eph. 6:18 to "pray with ALL KINDS of prayer." A key to expanding our prayer capacity is developing in a variety of modes of prayer. Many struggle with prayer because their prayer life is one-dimensional (primarily petition).
Our text today is found in Ephesians 6. A couple of weeks ago we ministered on the armor of God presented in verses 10-17.i Paul begins by saying,
“Finally, my brethren, [much of what Paul has said previously in this epistle is leading up to this exhortation.] be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 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.”
Paul then uses the metaphor of a soldier’s armor to illustrate what we need for winning spiritual battles. This equipping is particularly important if we are to stand strong ‘in the evil day.’” ii
The evil day is any season in which the attacks of the devil are particularly intense. Do you remember the temptation Jesus experienced in Luke 4? There the Devil made a concerted effort to deceive and divert Jesus from His mission—to get Him off track—to move Him away from complete obedience to the Father. He tried to get Jesus to turn a stone into bread to satisfy His hunger after fasting 40 days. When that failed, he offered Him all the glory of the world if He would simply bow in worship to him. Finally, he tried to get Jesus to jump off the top of the temple so everyone could see God supernaturally rescue Him and, therefore, admire Him for His exaltation. This time was an intense encounter for Christ to endure. It was an “evil day” during His time on earth. Luke 4:13 marks it off from the ordinary opposition by recording, “When the devil had finished temping Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came” (NLT). Of course, the time of Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion was an even more “evil day.”
We have to stay fully equipped because we don’t know when we will face a battle like that. None of us will ever be attacked at the same level Jesus was, but we all have our battles. And having on the armor described in Ephesians 6:10-17 is essential for winning those battles.
“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” That is the armor Paul describes.
Having completed the metaphor, Paul then states the most crucial factor in standing against the enemy. Ephesians 6:18-20: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— 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, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
There are some vital secrets to effective prayer in that verse. First notice he says: Prayer is to be “in the Spirit”—empowered by the Spirit. We are to pray with dependence on the Spirit for guidance and enablement. Many Christians only pray out of a carnal mind. They have never learned to pray in cooperation with the Spirit. We cannot go into this with depth today, but we must learn to respond to the Spirit’s promptings when we pray. Have you ever been in an extended time of prayer and suddenly you knew you were operating in a higher level of prayer—you knew the Spirit was prompting the subject and words of the prayer? At one level the Christian is in Christ and is always praying by the grace of God. But Paul is dealing with something more practical here—just as we saw in the breastplate of righteousness—He is giving practical guidance. Paul is calling us to pray in conscious dependence and obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Second, we are to be “watchful” in prayer. The Greek word translated watchful is a-grup-neo. It’s basic meaning is to be alert and awake.iii Metaphorically it means to be attentive to spiritual things—paying attention to what’s going on in the spiritual realm—not occupied with the things of this world—not just going through the motions, but fully engaged in prayer.