EPHESIANS 6:18d-g (part 1)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:18d “. . .and supplication. . .”
Whereas “all prayer” is more general, denoting prayer in its many varied forms and methods, “supplication” is specific, referring to definite petitions and requests. In light of our context, Christian warfare, we are probably safe to assume Paul was thinking primarily of specific requests made in times of temptation.
We believers must display outward godliness, for if we fail in behavior, our witness dwindles in effectiveness. Be unselfish. For the sake of Christ, believers, and the lost, strive for holiness. In every conflict of our spiritual warfare, since we need the victory only God can provide, never be afraid or timid to make specific requests for yourself. Note my emphasis on specific requests. We need to pray in such a way that we can know whether or not God has granted our “supplication.” Specific requests allow God to answer specifically, and thus gain appropriate glory.
Eph. 6:18e “. . .in the Spirit,. . .”
“All prayer and supplication,” to be effective, must be neither formal nor mechanical, but offered with the Holy Spirit’s aid, direction, and influence. Prayer, in its purest and highest form, from beginning to end, is all of God–offered to the Father through the Son by the Spirit. To the Father–do not make the too common mistake of taking our difficulties to people instead of to God. Through the Son–pray in Jesus’ name; His blood makes prayer possible. By the Spirit–He prompts prayer. The sphere of true prayer is one in which the Holy Spirit is the inspiration.
The Holy Spirit helps us pray accurately. “We know not what we should pray for as we ought” (RM 8:26). Only the Spirit can make our prayers precise. He sees the battlefield better than we do. Thus, we need to commit our prayers unto His guidance and editing. When kneeling to pray, do not always rush into the matter at hand. Pray that we may be enabled to pray. We do not want our own words and thoughts to predominate. We want to be taught how to pray, what to say.
The Holy Spirit helps us pray with conviction. Prayer is a duty first, but should by the Spirit’s help turn into a delight, an unquenchable flaming desire. We need the Spirit to melt our formality into consuming fire, to set us ablaze, to burn away our lethargy. If our prayers do not stir our own hearts, what right do we have to expect them to move God’s heart? A half-hearted prayer can bring no blessing from Heaven because it does not have enough energy to reach Heaven.
Pray, not in our own strength, but “in the Spirit,” with a consciousness that an assisting Power is available to help us pray accurately and with conviction. God the Father entrusted His words for us to the Holy Spirit (6:17). We should do the same. Let us entrust our words for the Father to the Holy Spirit. Pray “in the Spirit.”
Eph. 6:18f “. . .and watching thereunto. . .”
Paul continues the military theme. Even as armor-clad warriors realize they are under a commander, and thus stay in touch, they also remain ever watchful, as soldiers on alert, on guard duty. All the armor in the world cannot protect a soldier who is asleep. “Watching,” being attentive and vigilant, bespeaks prayer by intent, as the result of effort and inconvenience to self. “It is to be the sort of prayer about which trouble is taken” (Gore). Keep watch, even to the loss of sleep, if necessary.
In Gethsemane, our Lord warned the disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (MT 26:41a). Failure to watch and pray leads to disaster, “for the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (MT 26:41b). Like Peter, James, and John, we, too, often sleep when we should be “watching” and praying.
Our conflict with temptation is lifelong. Thus, the necessity for constant vigilance in prayer never ceases. Fellow warriors, never become careless. Endeavor to keep our hearts in a prayerful spirit. “Watching,” take every opportunity, and improve every chance, to pray. Watch not only for occasions to pray, but also for the answer, as we do when we send a letter to someone we love. If we lose interest in the response to our prayer, do not expect God to be overly concerned about it.
Eph. 6:18g (part 1) “. . .with all perseverance. . .”
God delights in persistence. It shows we are serious, mean business; we are not dabbling, but in earnest. Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock (MT 7:7). Note the ascending intensity in the verbs. “Ask” is making requests, “seek” requires effort and energy, “knock” pictures one who keeps pounding relentlessly on a closed door.
God answers our specific requests with either yes, no, or wait. The latter draws “perseverance” into play. “Yes” excites and encourages us. As noted, make specific requests. As God grants them, we are uplifted. “No” develops in us a submissive spirit. Often, the greatest miracles in prayer are those wrought in the hearts of the ones praying. Prayer changes not only things, but also the one who prays.
”Wait” is God’s method of stimulating our “perseverance.” This keeps us depending on, and therefore focused on, Him. In His command to “wait,” God deposits a priceless blessing–His very self conveyed to His children. Let me illustrate. If I asked everyone in this room who had been praying for a particular matter for over twenty years to stand, I would quickly have to tell them to sit down. If they stood very long, thus forced to dwell on their prayer request, their eyes would fill with tears, their chins quiver, and eventually they would begin to weep. Why? Because if they have prayed for a matter that long, it is obviously the apple of their eye, the yearning of their essence. The very thing which has kept them faithful in prayer so long is the pain and burden of their desire. Yes, it is painful, we will not deny it, and grief is never fun, but can we not also see that God has used this very pain to keep our minds focused on Him, thereby keeping our hearts riveted to His?
In my prayer folder, I recently listed the six items which most often press upon my heart and touch the essence of my being. About these six things I wrote a prayer to God which I repeat daily: “Lord, I want the rest of my life to be the best of my life. I want to live by faith, to see the glory. I want to give 100%, but certain things weigh me down. Are they things which keep me from being free to concentrate, or are they the things which keep me in prayer?” More each day I learn the latter is the case. If the desire of our heart is truly to know Him in all His fullness, then expect to hear “wait” often and long. Learn to live “with all perseverance.”