EPHESIANS 6:18h (part 2)-19a
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:18h (part 2) “. . .and supplication for all saints;. . .”
We should prioritize “supplication for all saints,” if for no other reason, because we are most like Jesus when we intercede. C.D. Meigs expressed it well:
Lord, help me live from day to day in such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray, my prayer shall be for others.
Others, Lord, yes, others, let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others, that I may live like Thee.
Saints are supposed to imitate Jesus, and Jesus is the ultimate interceder. While on earth, He prayed for others. When Satan wanted to sift Peter as wheat, Jesus prayed for him (LK 22:31-32). Christ, as a High Priest, prayed for all His followers (JN 17). In Heaven, Jesus “ever liveth to make intercession” (HB 7:25b). In us, Christ lives to mold us into His own image, to make us pray for others as He does. To be like Jesus, we must intercede, having a heart tender toward others.
When we harden our hearts toward others, we stifle the very feeling of pain and suffering which often drives saints to effective prayer. As we choke out sensitivity toward others, we cheat ourselves by suffocating what could be the impetus for many wonderful prayers. Some who could be among our church’s most powerful prayer warriors are yet undiscovered, their potential prayers lying dormant under the crust of a hardened heart. How sad it would be someday to stand before God and hear Him say we were meant to be one of His most powerful prayer saints; He had intended us for special communion with himself, but it all went for naught because we refused to hurt. If we have hardened our hearts due to awful pain, the very fact itself indicates we are capable of strong feeling, God gave us a sensitive spirit. Do not squelch sympathy, for if we refuse to feel, we lose a choice blessing.
Intercessory prayer is not intended as a burden to aggravate us, but rather a precious blessing from God, given to draw us out of our own selves. Preoccupation with self is the root of much mental sadness. Intercessory prayer is a God-given aid, to help relieve mental illness. When sad, turning in on ourselves in unbounded pity worsens our plight. Praying for others helps lift us from the mire of ourselves.
Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones relates a pertinent story. Immediately prior to the Spanish Civil War, psychological clinics in Spain were filled to overflowing. Once the war began, though, these clinics essentially emptied. The same phenomenon occurred in Britain just before World War II. As people’s attention was turned away from their own personal problems, their mental health drastically improved.
Self-centeredness is not only sinful, but also destructive and detrimental to self. Selfishness undermines the very purpose for which selfishness exists. It is supposed to make self happy, but results instead in misery. Intercessory prayer can help reverse this, and enable one to have a wonderful experience of mental healing.
Eph. 6:19a “And for me,. . .”
For a brief moment, Paul will now call attention to himself and to his own needs. From a dark, dank, dungeon-cell in Rome, he calls to his comrades in far-off Asia, “Pray for me.” This request was common to Paul. He prayed for the churches, and often asked them to pray for him (RM 15:30; CL 4:3; 1 TH 5:25; 2 TH 3:1).
As a point of personal privilege, let me ride piggyback on Paul’s request. I implore you, “Please pray for me.” To all who have said you pray for me daily, I cannot thank you enough. To our whole church, to all of you, my dear people, I make a heart-felt plea. Please honor me, your pastor, by offering specific requests in prayer for me. My first and foremost desire is for all my loved ones to please God. Spiritual concerns are by far most important. Also, pray for Ruth’s parents and mine, for their strength and health. Pray for our daughter-in-law Jana; she is pregnant and has diabetes; pray for a safe delivery for mother and baby. Pray for our son in seminary. He needs a ministry position to fulfill his call and to provide ample income after the baby is born. Pray for Becky’s neck, TMJ, career, and a godly husband. Pray that Ruth and I will find the house God has for us. Most of all, pray for Ruth; she has helped me bear the brunt and burden of many battles without sharing the fame and glory. Finally, pray for me, that I shall bear the load of this pastorate faithfully, humbly, lovingly, and with dignity. Thanks for praying.
Now, let us return to our text and the mighty Apostle. It is amazing that this extremely gifted man asked ordinary people like ourselves to pray for him. No cocky, self-assuredness lodged in his breast. He knew he needed help from Heaven. Paul would have enjoyed singing our old spiritual, “Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” We all need to sing it and mean it. Jesus cannot use self-sufficient people, for they feel no need for God.
Paul bore the heavy load of responsibility all Christian leaders are forced to carry. No church worker–be it Sunday School teacher, Awana leader, children’s choir director, deacon, staff member, etc.–can carry on effectively unless the people under their charge uphold his or her hands by prayer. When Amalek attacked (EX 17), Israel prevailed when Moses’ hands were lifted up, in the position of prayer. As Moses lowered his hands, Amalek prevailed. When Moses tired, Aaron and Hur stood on either side of Moses and held up his hands. The imagery still applies, our workers can lead effectively only when the people uphold their hands in prayer.
Church leaders need extraordinary prayer. The heat is intense at the forefront of a battle, for leaders in the conflict are special targets of the devil. Satan knows if he can discredit a leader, he discredits all of Christianity in the minds of many people. The failure of any believer, especially of any church worker, negatively affects all the rest of us. The fall of a leader dishonors Christ, embarrasses His cause, and brings humiliation on churches, creating heavy baggage for all Christians to carry.
America’s churches have suffered scandals enough. Too many leaders have fallen. The blood-letting must be stopped. Pray for fire from Heaven to purge away any hint of evil, that our leaders may stand without reproach before the world and the church. The standard is forever fixed by God, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 P 1:16). Christian leadership entails integrity, purity, honesty, virtue, cleanliness, and transparent godliness. However gifted you may be, if you are not willing to live a cut above the rest, please do not accept a leadership position. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. I have lived under a double standard all my life, as a preacher’s kid and as a preacher. It has not bothered me a bit. I ask our leaders to accept the challenge of a higher walk, and I ask us all to pray for them.