Praying At All Times
This is the last blog of our 7-part series on the "whole armor of God." The Apostle Paul ends this section by writing on prayer. This section is found in Ephesians 6:18-20. Of all of these seven points, this is the one that Paul expounds on the most. It is interesting that in the midst of speaking to the issue of spiritual warfare, Paul ends on a note of prayer.
Prayer and Word
I also think it is no accident that prayer and Word are put right next to each other in this list. They go hand-in-hand. Both of those spiritual disciplines need to be put into place. It is not as if one is more important than the other. I love Spurgeon’s response when he was asked the question, “What is more important, prayer or Bible reading?” He replied with another question: “What is more important: breathing in or breathing out?”
The only way we can pray as we ought is by looking at Scripture. I think too often our prayers can be focused on material things while neglecting spiritual things. Should we pray for things like provision or healing? Absolutely! The Bible tells us we should. At the same time, don’t neglect to pray for things like repentance, the spread of the gospel, and your personal sanctification.
Praying for Ourselves
It is interesting that as Paul goes into this short discourse on prayer, he does not connect it to a specific piece of armor. I think that is intentional. I believe that’s the point of the phrase, “at all times.” As we remind ourselves of truth or Christ’s righteousness or the gospel of peace, we should be ever in prayer. We should be asking the Lord to give us a deeper and clearer view of the gospel. We should be asking the Lord to reveal the truth of His Word to us. We should be asking the Lord to shield us in His faithfulness.
Praying for yourself is not a selfish thing. I think some people are nervous about doing that because it seems to place the focus on self. But when we pray as the Lord tells us to pray, it takes the focus off of us. Even while we are praying for ourselves, we are admitting that we are flawed and desperate for the help of God’s Spirit at work in our lives. Prayer is admitting to God that you cannot do spiritual warfare by yourself, but need His grace to make it through the conflict. That’s the kind of prayer we need.
Praying for Others
Paul also calls his readers to pray for others. We should pray for “all the saints.” How often do you pray for the global church? How often do we pray for the church in Somalia? Or Afghanistan? Or China? Or Canada? Or across the state of Maine? Or across our neighborhood?
Paul also calls the Ephesians to pray for him as he is in prison. But notice what he asks them to pray for. He doesn’t ask for them to pray for his release. Rather, he asks that they pray that he would “proclaim the mystery of the gospel…boldly.” Paul was so focused on the gospel that this was the primary emphasis of his prayers. The gospel had broken into the pagan culture of Ephesus. They could visibly see the forces of darkness pushed back as even the culture began to shift and change took place. Paul knew the gospel was much more important than his own personal comfort or safety. He knew the battle he was engaged in was not about himself. It was (and still is) ultimately about Christ and His mission in the world.
The practical application for this is straightforward: spend much time in prayer. None of us can battle against the spiritual forces of darkness on our own. Therefore, we must be bathed in prayer, trusting the Lord to lead, guide, and protect.
Take some time to evaluate your own prayer life. How often do you spend praying for things like the spread of the gospel and the glory of Christ in every facet of life vs. how much time you spend praying for other things, albeit good things? We do not want to pit "sacred vs. secular," but we do want to make sure we are focused on the things Christ was focused on. Someone can be healed of cancer and yet still go to an eternity in Hell because they never believed the gospel or treasured Christ. Pray much to that end.
Ultimately, prayer is a fitting way to end in speaking of spiritual warfare because it reminds us that the battle belongs to the Lord. In order for victory to happen, we must be completely reliant on God to lead and His Spirit to work in us. True spiritual victory never happens outside of those bounds. Therefore, we must pray to the Lord who stands in victory.