The Excitement And Extent Of Prayer!
Reading Ephesians Ch. 6v18-24.
If the armour is considered invaluable to the soldier of the cross, then prayer is the very breath he breathes, the life flowing through his veins, the secret of his actions and thoughts. Without prayer even the greatest Christian is ineffective and helpless.
Be pleased, O God, to grant unto me that great freedom of mind that will enable me to ... manage the common affairs of life in such wise as not to misemploy or neglect the improvement of my talents; to be industrious without covetousness; diligent without anxiety; as exact in each punctilio of action as if success were dependent upon it, and yet so resigned as to leave all events to thee and still attributing to thee the praise of every good work. Susanna Wesley.
The question may then be asked, what is prayer?
Ivor Powell, in his book on “Exciting Epistle to the Ephesians” page 276-277 puts it like this. Prayer is a telephone talk between the soul and heaven, and it would repay us to consider that only fools rush into a telephone booth, grab the receiver, start shouting, and then, having banged the receiver down, rush out again. There must always be an intelligent approach to a telephone conversation otherwise; people talk only to themselves. It is necessary first of all to get through to the one with whom conversation is desired. Often this necessitates patience to await the assurance that a voice is answering. Then and only then does it become logical to say what needs to be said! But that is not all that happens, the person on the other end of the line desires from time to time to respond to what we are saying, so the person making the call must intersperse his speaking with listening. Telephone conversations are a two-way affair so that when the call ends, both parties have a clear understanding of the matter needing attention. Prayer is only true prayer when these same principles are applied. I know, all Christians pray, that is they ask for divine aid and intervention, but how many of us then linger to listen to the one to whom we are praying. (End Quote)
1. Pray For Protection From Satan’s Tactics! v18.
a. Here Is A Continual Activity: “Praying Always with all prayer and supplication”
You see the original Greek word translated "Prayer" here is the word "Proseuche" and truly this is beautiful. This word is restricted in the New Testament to mean prayer to God who alone has the power and sufficiency to answer our prayers. By the way "Proseuche" also gives prominence to the devotional side of prayer. No wonder therefore Satan feels threatened whenever a believer prays. Its not stumbling and stammering prayers Satan fears. Not the wandering and inadequate prayer Satan fears. What Satan fears is the fact that a believer appeals to the Almighty Father who is able to do exceedingly above and beyond anything we could ask or think, and that we seek Him continually, using the full range of prayfull activity and especially supplication. He does not fear our understanding of the way prayer works. No! No! No! A thousand times No! He fears the simple fact that a needy child, a frightened child, a sorrowful child, a broken child has called upon the mighty God who sits on His majestic throne and who is able to answer their prayers. And listen, beloved, at the very moment we kneel to pray Satan gather's all of his minions to bar the way to the throne of God. But no demon, no angel prince, no fallen angel can stay the Spirit's flaming sword. The wonderful Word of God clears the way to the throne of God for the child of God.
b. Here Is A Contrite Attitude: “In The Spirit”
Of course, it’s when we are in the Spirit there comes that attitude of contrition desiring a place where we can be totally alone with God, it may be a bedroom, a barn, or a car. The place has no importance just as long as we can withdraw from the maddening Crowd and lift our hearts to a Holy, Heavenly Father. Jesus recommended a "closet" a quiet place Matthew Ch. 6v6. He Himself often sought the solitude of a mountain, a garden or even a wilderness. You see in the hidden place all else is shut out, and this is most important, we are shut in with God! It is here we can be truly contrite for our sinfulness and do business with God in repenting of our sin and knowing the beautiful reality of true forgiveness. Is it not this kind of openness with God which gives us power through prayer to deal with hurts, habits, hostilities, heartaches, and humanity? God speaking through Isaiah reminds us of this very thing “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isaiah Ch.66v2b).
c. Here Is A Childlike Alertness: “Be watchful to this end”
Vigilance is being pressed upon the reader here, in other words when we are engaging in prayer we should not continually be speaking, we should be listening and learning. It is true to say I believe it is possible to be evangelical and even evangelistic, and simply be daily going through the motions like a piece of reliable machinery. Wherever we find true men and women of God throughout the Bible we discover they were living, vibrant souls with such a heart beat for God the displayed a childlike alertness which cause them to spend more and more time with God than with men. You see with these men and women prayer was an outpouring of a worshiping heart which drew deeply on the wells of Salvation and which in turn sent them out to be a mouth piece for God.
Again its most interesting, the Greek word translated "watching" here is the word "agrupneo" which literally means "lying sleepless" and I am sure many of us know what that's all about. If you are anything like me you know something of lying sleepless at night as you wrestle with one situation or another or one problem or another and its not the most exhilarating sensation in the world, is it?
By the way, the Lord Jesus used the same word when He spoke of His Second Coming: "Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (Mark13v33). Jesus is saying, hey, it would do you no harm to have a sleepless night or two over my return. Are you living in the light of it? Are you ready for it? Have you settled all matters of grievance? Have you forgiven all that have maligned you? Have you put right any wrongs you are aware of? Have you been examining yourself, no not others but yourself? Are you living a Holy Life in the light of my return? "And every man that hath this hope in him pruifieth himself even as he is pure" (1 John 3v3).
Richard Armstrong and Edward Watkin tell the story of a biologist's experiment with "processional caterpillars." On the rim of a clay pot that held a plant, he lined them up so that the leader was head-to-head with the last caterpillar. The tiny creatures circled the rim of the pot for a full week. Not once did any one of them break away to go over to the plant and eat. Eventually, all caterpillars died from exhaustion and starvation. The story of the processional caterpillars is a kind of parable of human behaviour. People are reluctant to break away from the rhythmic pattern of daily life. They don't want to be different. We must break away from the crowd, however, if we are to accept Jesus' invitation to "go off alone" with him in prayer. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 121.
2. Pray For The Proclamation Of Christ’s Gospel! v19-20.
The Apostle specifically mentions here the aspect of supplication. It's interesting, the Greek word translated here "supplication" is the word "deesis" which suggests a petition for a specific personal need. Such a petition must be made with a complete awareness of God's wonderful ability to supply that very need. That simply means we need desperately to learn to pray in the Holy Spirit. All prayer and supplication, to be effective, must be "in the Spirit." Otherwise we will not really be praying we will be saying prayers, there is beloved a powerful difference.
Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly. Others give but an occasional pluck at the rope. But he who wins with heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously, with all his might. - Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990).
a. The Reason For This Prayer Support: v19.
Paul says the reason for such watching, perseverance and supplication is “that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the Gospel.”
He desperately needs prayer support that boldness may be given of the Lord to preach the Gospel of Christ and to be clear in revealing the mystery of this glorious gospel. By the way, he is not speaking here of simply being rude and arrogant, no! He desires to proclaim the Gospel of Christ in such a way that it has a powerful effect on those who hear it and it will bring deep conviction of sin and a real repentance of sin and a true conversation to Jesus Christ.
b. The Recognition For This Prayer Strategy: v20
“For which I am an ambassador in bonds; that in this I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak”
Sometimes I fear we take the battle all too lightly. We would do well to have some sleepless nights over our own personal spiritual state. We would do well to have some sleepless nights over those unsaved loved ones who will not pray for themselves. We would do well to have a few sleepless nights over our backslidden loved ones and friends. It would be of great help if we had a number of sleepless nights over our church and its present condition. Let us seize insomnia as a gift from God so that we may pray for saints and sinners alike, let’s turn the quiet night hours into the golden moments of communion with our heavenly Father on their behalf.
Our prayers lay the track down on which God's power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails. Watchman Nee, Christian Reader, Vol. 34.
The word translated “ambassador” in Ephesians Ch.6v20 is “presbeuo”, which means the emperor’s legate. Now a legate was one of the most important officials in the Roman world and when he spoke you can be sure everybody listened therefore he had to speak with boldness and authority, he had to say it as it was and say it correctly to make the most impact. Paul was Christ’s legate, Christ’s ambassador, Paul knew the importance of that amazing position and the responsibility which came with it and the enmity that was always near at hand so he deeply desired the prayers of God’s people to help him be a faithful and true servant of the Master’s. We do not I suppose, fully grasp how prayer works, how a brother, sister praying in America for me in Ireland can lift my spirits, supply my needs and give me a holy boldness to continue in God’s wonderful work but it does wonderfully. Praise the Lord!
3. Pray For The Provision Of Missionary Needs! v21-22.
“But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things; whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that ye might comfort your hearts”
a. The Titles Paul Give Tychicus: v21a.
There can be no doubt; intelligent prayer is based on information. It is hard to pray without knowledge and understanding. Tychicus brought information about Paul to the believers at Ephesians who were constantly in prayer from him. Notice how the Apostle speaks of Tychicus “a beloved brother” and “a faithful minister” how very precious that some dear Christian friends can become such beloved brothers and sisters because of their genuine interest and support of us for which we daily thank and praise the Lord, it is such a beautiful relationship coming from our mutual love and service for the master that it could do no other than rejoice the heart. What Paul is taking time to teach us here is, there is great reward in giving of our substance and our selves to each other, and we should engage it so doing more often.
b. The Task Paul Gives Tychicus: v21b-22.
Tychicus is sent to minister tidings unto them, “shall make known unto you all things: whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that you might know our affairs” this dearest of friends would bring them information about Paul’s health, about his ministry, about his suffering at the hands of evil men, about his financial needs, although the Apostle never mentioned his own personal financial needs he did on one occasion say that he had learned how to have plenty and how to do without. The one thing though they desired more than anything else was to hear from the preacher and their beloved Pastor and Teacher the word of the Lord, they were always hungry for God’s precious Word through their beloved brother Paul. Tychicus would rehearse the blessings of those who were won to Christ, those who were growing in grace, and those who were displaying a faith that worked, a Love that laboured and a hope that patiently waited for the coming again of their precious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Here indeed was a young man upon whom Paul could rely to do what was asked of him and thus bring glory to the God of all glory.
Watch where Jesus went. The one dominant note in his life was to do his Father's will. His is not the way of wisdom or of success, but the way of faithfulness. Oswald Chambers.
4. Pray For People To Know God’s Blessing! v23-24.
“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God, the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”
How very thoughtful and thought provoking is the Apostle in his final words to this church at Ephesus. He leaves them with three very precious salutations.
The Hebrew salutation—“Peace”
The Gentile salutation—“Grace”
The Christian salutation—“Love with Faith”
Peace! Grace! Love! Faith! Words which will ring on the chimes of time until at last earth’s shores recede and we stand amid the scenes of glory and lay our armour down, until grace gives way to glory, until faith gives way to sight, until love’s vast ocean fills all horizons and bathes our souls in bliss.
“Peace be to the brethren.” Yes it’s true we are continually in a battle while we live on planet earth, the hounds of hell will haunt us to the bitter end but we are not at war with our brothers and sisters in Christ. True, we may not always agree with some and greatly dislike others but we are not at war with them, if we are we are in the wrong war.
“Love with Faith.” He casts out those words like a mantle upon the church of Jesus Christ. He desires that that with which he was anointed and endowed would fall upon all of God’s children everywhere. That they with him would experience the love of God which is shed abroad in their hearts and they would openly display that love by faith, however small or simple, in a great and wonderful God. Love reaches out to the hand of God; faith takes hold of it. Love provides all we need; faith appropriates it.
“Grace.” So as the Apostle began this amazing letter so he ends it. Its as though he is saying, do not forget; we all have receive the unmerited, unlimited, unequalled grace of God and its that grace that allowed us the precious privilege of beginning along the highway to heaven, its that same grace that keeps us company all the way through, and its that grace that will see us safely home. Home at last!
Grace does not make everything right. Grace's trick is to show us that it is right for us to live; that it is truly good, wonderful even, for us to be breathing and feeling at the same time that everything clustering around us is wholly wretched. Grace is not a ticket to Fantasy Island; Fantasy Island is dreamy fiction. Grace is not a potion to charm life to our liking; charms are magic. Grace does not cure all our cancers, transform all our kids into winners, or send us all soaring into the high skies of sex and success. Grace is rather an amazing power to look earthy reality full in the face, see its sad and tragic edges, feel its cruel cuts, join in the primeval chorus against its outrageous unfairness, and yet feel in your deepest being that it is good and right for you to be alive on God's good earth. Grace is power, I say, to see life very clearly, admit it is sometimes all wrong, and still know that somehow, in the centre of your life, "It's all right." This is one reason we call it amazing grace--. Grace is the one word for all that God is for us in the form of Jesus Christ. Lewis B. Smedes: How Can It Be All Right When Everything Is Wrong?