Summary: Self-Realization, Marching Orders, Intersession, Consistency, and Freedom through 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— 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".
You’re all dressed for battle, ready to go, waiting for orders. The orders come, and they are simple: Stand and Pray. That’s it. Prayer isn’t mentioned as part of the armor, I think, maybe because it isn’t a defense or a weapon, it is what the warrior does. Prayer is our fight. There are many results from prayer.
Isaiah stood in the presence of God and he said “Woe is me! I am falling to pieces, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. And my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”. (Isaiah 6:5) In the presence of God, he saw himself as he was. Isaiah was a man with unclean lips before he went into God’s presence, but in the presence of God he felt terrible about it. We need to come into God’s presence in order to begin to get a feel for who we really are, to repent, and become someone better, to get our commission from Him.
A few days ago we reflected on Moses experience at the Red Sea. He prayed because the situation was impossible for him to solve. God told him to get 15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground . . . (Exodus 14:15-16)” Jesus said “I do always those things that please the Father (John 8:29). He spent all night in prayer the night before He chose the Twelve. He also spent all night in prayer the night he was betrayed, preparing Himself for the events to come.
Paul asks for prayer for himself and for all the saints. “All the saints” is a pretty long prayer list. I’m often struck by the way the New Testament exhortations for prayer lack much about praying for yourself and your needs. We are called to pray for each other. I think this accomplishes at least two things. One, it impacts, in ways we will never understand this side of heaven, the spiritual background that influences everything around us. In the terms of George Lukas, it’s the Christian’s way of using the force. We are influencing our environment in ways beyond our capacity to perceive. Second, it gets our hearts and minds off of ourselves and onto others. There is a lot of research that indicates that depression and addiction are alleviated and recovery much more likely if people serve a role in a community-serving others rather than focused on themselves. Contrary to what might be intuitive, time alone in prayer can be one of the best means to getting connected to those around you.
Have you ever tried starting a new habit and found it difficult? You want to start exercising every day, or practice your instrument, or change your eating habits, and you find there is some kind of behavior inertia that makes the change difficult to establish as a habit. But for those who form such habits, the habit replaces discipline and self-control. You do what you have the habit of doing. You become the person who exercises consistently and eats right. The Bible invites us to another healthy habit, prayer. Paul says to pray always, or completely, four times in this passage. Prayer has to become as much a part of our daily lives as breathing and eating and drinking. It becomes your spiritual heartbeat-it never really stops, even when you are unaware of it happening. Your heart becomes retuned to the harmonies of heaven, and the strings of your soul are waiting and ready to be touched by the Master Musician.
Freedom from Bondage
Did I mention before that Paul wrote to the Ephesian church from prison? He calls himself an Ambassador in Chains. This is a strange image. Throughout the world ambassadors have diplomatic immunity. They can’t be arrested for small offences, like traffic violations and such. This is so governments won’t use some small excuse to imprison the ambassador and prevent him or her from accomplishing the purpose for which he or she is sent. Paul points out the irony of his situation. He does not ask to be set from that situation, nor from healing from the thorn in his side, nor for financial freedom to pay his legal fees. He asks for only one thing, not freedom from chains but freedom from hesitation. The word often translated ‘boldness’ could also be translated freedom. Paul wants to be free, to have no inner hesitation from saying what God has told him to say. Paul understands that others can imprison your body, but only you can imprison your soul. God wants us to be free, bold, and confident to speak and be as He has designed us. As Jesus said “he whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36)