EPHESIANS 6:18g (part 2)-h (part 1)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:18g (part 2) “. . .with all perseverance. . .”
Constancy enhances prayer. Persistency has a powerful impact on the effectiveness of prayers. “All perseverance” encourages regularity in prayer and turns it into a habit. The custom is further reenforced when we are forced to wait in prayer for a matter dear to us. Desire delayed helps us stay faithful in prayer a long time.
“All perseverance” is needed not as much to influence God to act as to cause spiritual changes for the better to take place in us. If we wait aright, if we persevere with a yielded spirit, and God finally says no, we will by the process have become vessels more submissive than ever. If God finally says yes, the delay makes the answer even sweeter, and thus God receives even greater love and honor from us.
I encourage us to remain faithful in prayer “with all perseverance.” After we have long prayed, God will at times say no, but many times will say yes. Our prayers are often like ships; those which take the longest to return are often the ones most heavily laden and most rewarding. The old Spanish galleons, having to cross the ocean, were long out of sight, but came home heavy-laden with a golden freight.
Whether the answer is ultimately yes or no, we must be persistent, notwithstanding any discouragement. We are not to give up or be depressed when answers are long in coming. Only God knows when the time is right to answer a prayer. Our duty is to keep on praying, trusting God to answer in His own time and way.
This week one of our ladies handed me a written prayer request, asking me to join her in praying her children would return to God. She wrote at the end of her request, “I will never give up.” This perfectly illustrates “with all perseverance.”
Eph. 6:18h (part 1) “. . .and supplication for all saints;. . .”
Making specific requests for ourselves is okay (6:18d), but often we fall into the trap of asking only for ourselves. We need to pray about things which matter to ourselves, but must also pray about the concerns of others. If we pray only for ourselves, our prayers are but the breath of selfishness. A vital result of praying “in the Spirit” is that He keeps our prayers from being mired totally in selfishness.
Prayer must be unselfish, for it is the language of God’s kingdom, which is a community, a brotherhood. Prayer is the communication link of a society whose very life-blood is sociableness. We Christians are not only individuals, but members of a body. We belong to one another, and should give ourselves to each other. I fear we have become too much of isolationists. We go home, close our doors, and hide too much. This is one reason public worship is critical. It gets us together, keeps us from alone-ness. Intercessory prayer also helps us here. The bond of fellowship among believers is never stronger than when we are praying for each other.
As your pastor, I plead with us all, pray for one another. We all need the mutual prayer support. The example of Paul himself should stimulate us in this vital practice. We can discern at least three helpful insights into why Paul interceded.
First, Paul interceded because he believed prayer works. He had seen it alter lives, change circumstances, heal the sick, and raise the dead. At some point in life, we Christians must all deep down confront our own inner selves with the question, do we really believe in the power of prayer? We are often like the saints who gathered to pray for Peter’s release from prison. When Rhoda told them Peter was at the gate, they said, “You are out of your mind!” (AC 12:15). They did not believe God had answered them, nor were they expecting Him to. We must get gut-level honest with ourselves. Do we really think God wants to move in other people’s lives? We acknowledge prayer changes the pray-er, but can it change the people prayed for?
We must confront ourselves. In the critical moment, as a result of our own personal intercessory prayers, can a fellow saint overcome temptation, a college student be made to stand, a businessman be kept from cheating, or a politician be given clear vision? The answer is yes, but we must truly believe it, or we will not intercede. If our faith falters when we think of interceding, let us cry out with the father of the demon possessed son, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (MK 9:24).
Second, Paul interceded because he was intentional. He obviously had a plan, a system, a method. Paul was prolific in his intercessory prayers. Speaking of his prayers offered for others, he claimed he prayed “always” for Philemon (PH 4), the Romans (RM 1:9), the Corinthians (1 C 1:4), the Ephesians (1:16), the Colossians (CL 1:3), and the Thessalonians (1 TH 1:2; 2 TH 1:11). Paul “without ceasing” remembered Timothy in prayer “night and day” (2 TM 1:3). The only way he could have fulfilled all these claims would have been to have a systematic approach to prayer. He either had a written list, or had them all committed to memory, but whichever way it was, the main thing is that he obviously had some type of system.
Often we fail in intercession not because we do not want to pray, but rather because we do not plan to. Without foresight, and unless we plan otherwise beforehand, we constrict our prayers, narrowing them down to our own little circles. In the matter of intercession, “the power of prayer is gained by systematic discipline” (Westcott). Emphasize the word “systematic.” For years I have kept a prayer folder containing various lists of names–family, fellow staff, church members, people with special requests, etc. Nothing has been more helpful in keeping me faithful in intercessory prayer. This custom keeps my circle of prayer from constricting.
Third, Paul interceded because he cared. Speaking about his prayers for, and his pride in, the church at Philippi, Paul reveals his inner motivation, his inward secret to success in the matter of intercession, “I have you in my heart” (PH 1:7).
Paul was willing to let the hurts and needs of others get under his skin. Paul had mastered the essential trait of being able to absorb into his own inner being the essence of others. He taught us, “weep with them that weep” (RM 12:15b). Having learned the lesson himself, Paul practiced what he preached. Letting himself hurt for others, he confessed he bore in himself “daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?” (2 C 11:28b-29).
Had we, upon entering the building today, seen someone bearing a large and cumbersome load, we would have immediately stopped and offered to help carry the load. Seeing an obvious need impresses itself upon our compassion. Well, everyone we have seen today is carrying a heavy load. We all bear burdens which make us sensitive. However, since they are unseen, we often forget to help bear them. Find the load of those we meet, and use intercessory prayer to help lift it.