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 Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:18-20
Pray in the Spirit
In the previous section of Chapter 6 (vs. 10-17), Paul focused on the spiritual armor that believers should put on so that they can stand against the devil’s schemes. The armor he outlined is primarily defensive. However, from verses 18 to 20, he highlights prayer as an offensive weapon to complement the armor that believers should put on. Paul begins this theological commentary about the necessity of prayer by exhorting believers to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayer and requests. He wants the Ephesians to remain fervent in prayer and pray all kinds of prayer and requests, including Group prayer, individual prayer, silent prayer, shouting prayer, walking prayer, kneeling prayer, eloquent prayer, groaning prayer, constant prayer, and fervent prayer.
Paul maintains that it is only through prayer that the spiritual strength of the armor of God will be effective against the devil. He specifically asks the Ephesians to pray in the Spirit. That instruction coincides with Romans 8:26 wherein Paul reminds us it is the Spirit who helps us in our weakness by interceding for us through wordless groans since we do not know how to pray. Moreover, he urges the saints in Ephesus to be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. He is using military language to substantiate the point that Christians are soldiers in the Lord’s army. As spiritual soldiers, they not only have to be concerned about their individual needs and struggles. They also have to intercede on behalf of others in the body of Christ because the enemy is attacking all the saints of God.
The care and concern of Christians for one another is best expressed through intercessory prayer. When we pray for others, we stand in solidarity with them against the schemes of the enemy. The ministry of prayer unites the people of God and affirms the statement that “There is only one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-5).
In verse 19, he urges the Ephesians to pray also for his continued boldness to proclaim the gospel. Not surprisingly, he does not ask them to pray for his release from prison. Nor did he asked them to pray for his coming trial before Caesar. His ultimate desire is to fearlessly proclaim the gospel of truth for the salvation of the lost souls. That remains his foremost concern and priority as an ambassador of Jesus Christ under house arrest in chains.
The final instructions of Paul in Ephesians 6:18-22 reflects the concern of a spiritual leader with a pastor’s heart. Paul has had ample experience in working with local churches and is concerned about the spiritual wellbeing of the saints in Ephesus. Whereas he could not do anything to protect them against the attacks of the enemy as he remains in chains under house arrest, he gives them the recipe for remaining victorious in their spiritual warfare: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” Without prayer, there cannot be any victory. When the church prays, the lost are found, marriages are strengthened, the sick are healed, and demons are made to flee. Prayer is the energy that enables the Christian soldier to wear the armor and wield the sword.
We cannot fight the battle against our spiritual enemy in our own power, no matter how strong or talented we may think we are. When Amalek attacked Israel, Moses went to the mountaintop to pray, while Joshua used the sword down in the valley ( Ex. 17:8–16 ). It took both to defeat Amalek—Moses’ intercession on the mountain, and Joshua’s use of the sword in the valley. Prayer is the power for victory, but not just any kind of prayer. Paul tells us how to pray if we would defeat Satan.
Keep on praying. The word perseverance simply means “to stick to it and not quit.” The early believers persevered in prayer (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4 ), and we also should pray with perseverance ( Rom. 12:12 ). Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer. As Robert Law puts it, “Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven; it is getting God’s will done on earth” ( Tests of Life, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968]).
Many people quit praying just before God is about to give the victory. Not everyone has the discipline and aptitude for spending a whole night in prayer, but all of us can persevere in prayer far more than we do. The early church prayed without ceasing when Peter was in prison, and, at the last moment, God gave them their answer ( Acts 12:1–19 ). Keep on praying until the Spirit stops you or the Father answers you. Just about the time you feel like quitting, God will give the answer.
Blessed Lord, please give us the discipline to remain fervent in prayer on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.