This is the final post of our study of Ephesians. Today we will conclude this series learning about the four all’s of prayer: the Variety of Prayer, the “when” and the “where” of prayer, the manner of prayer, and the indirect objects of prayer.
The Four All’s of Prayer
The word of God directed to men (Ephesians 6:17) is very powerful, especially when it is in close association with the word of men directed to God (Eph. 6:18-20), not as if God and men were equal partners but because the word of men directed to God is Spirit-given, Spirit-guided (‘in the Spirit”). Paul writes in Ephesians 6:18, “by means of all prayer and supplication, praying at all times in the Spirit”, and with a view to this, being on alert in all perseverance and supplication, for all the saints.
In his own power, the Christian soldier can do nothing against so great a foe. Hence, as he takes and puts on each piece of his armor and as he makes use of it in the battle, he must pray for God’s blessing.
1) The Variety of Prayer: “all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18)
The Apostle makes a special point that the soldier’s communion with his General the believer’s fellowship with his God should not be of just one kind. Some people are always asking for things. Their entire prayer life consists of that. The first-word prayer in our text includes not only cries for help but also confession of sin, profession of faith, adoration, thanksgiving, and intercession.
Moreover, our prayer-life should be definite, not just “O Lord, bless all that awaits thy blessing,” which is a big order, but “supplication” or “petition” for the fulfillment of definite needs, a request for specific benefits. This means that the man who prays should become acquainted with concrete situations all over, at least not limited to his own contracted horizon, situations and connections with which help is needed.
2) The “when” and the “where” of Prayer: “at all times.. in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18)
Prayer in time of “great calamity” or “catastrophe” has long been in vogue. For many people, however, “Thanksgiving Day” comes just once a year. It is the day set aside by the national government. The apostle Paul admonishes the addressed to take hold of God “at all times.” “In all thy ways acknowledge him” (Prov. 3:6).
As to the “where” of prayer, it is not to be confined either to “Jerusalem” or to “this mountain” but should always be “in (the sphere of) the Spirit,” that is, “with his help” and “in harmony with his will” as revealed in the Word which He inspired.
3) The Manner of Prayer: “To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18).
Those who are not “alert” but listless and indifferent to what is going on in their homes, in the streets of their city, in their state or province, in their country, in their church, in their denomination, or in the world at large will have a very restricted prayer life. Those who do not know the will of God because they devote so little time to the study of the Word will fail to harvest the fruits of prayer. Those who do not know the promises cannot be expected to “go to the depths of God’s promise” in their devotions. They will not partake of a deep and satisfying communion with God. Consequently, they will perhaps pray very infrequently.
4) The Indirect Objects of Prayer: “for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18)
Christ during His sojourn on earth thought highly of intercessory prayer (“prayer for others”) as is shown by many incidents (Matthew 9:18-26; 15:21-28). So did Paul. The heart of our Great Intercessor who not only intercedes for us but actually lives in order to do so (Heb. 7:25) is deeply touched by such petitions.
Paul asks that when prayer is made “for all the saints,’ he, too, may be remembered in a special way. Notice, however, how nobly he expresses himself in Ephesians 6:19, “and praying for me, that when I open my mouth I may be given a message, so that I may make known courageously the mystery of the gospel.”
Even the requested prayer for himself is in reality to be a petition for the progress of the gospel! Paul knew that the Lord had chosen him to be a prominent leader. As such, a heavy load of responsibility rested on his shoulders! Yet, he was aware of his own weakness, of the fact that he stood in need of divine strength and guidance every moment. So, as he had done on other occasions (Rom. 15:30; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1, 22) and was doing now also in another letter (Col. 4:3), he asks that those whom he addresses will remember him in their prayers.
He does not ask, however, that they may pray for his release from prison. What he does ask is that they may invoke God’s blessing upon him as an effective witness for Christ. “Ask God to give me two things,” he says, as it were: a) “a message when I open my mouth” (Matt. 10:19), and b) “courage at all times to deliver that message in a worthy manner” (Acts 4:13).
In his zeal for the salvation of sinners to the glory of God, the Apostle considered even his present difficult circumstances to be an opportunity to tell everyone even his present difficult circumstances to be an opportunity to tell everyone the constantly changing guards, the visitors, the Roman tribunal in case he should (or should again) be summoned to appear before it — “the mystery of the gospel”, the blessed truth which would have remained a secret had not God revealed it, namely, that in Christ there is salvation full and free for everyone who embraces Him by faith, even for both Jew and Gentile on a basis of perfect equality.
Ephesians 6:20, “For which I am an ambassador in a chain.” The fact that when Paul arrived in Rome he, by a chain at the wrist, was fastened to a Roman guard is implied in Acts 28:20. Throughout his first Roman imprisonment, during which Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians were written, seems never to have been as harsh and severe as his second was going to be, he was a “prisoner,” nevertheless.
His imprisonment, however, is not a sham. It is an honor, for whatever men may think, the truth of the matter is that he is, and is conscious of being, an ambassador in chains. What a paradox! Is not an ambassador supposed to be free? But here is an official representative of him who is King of kings and Lord of Lord’s, and this ambassador is chained! May he never forget whom he represents. Therefore, whenever he proclaims the glorious mystery of the gospel may he do so in a manner befitting his high office. “Pray,” says he, that when I proclaim it I may speak with courage as I ought to speak; virtually repeating, for the sake of emphasis, what he had said in the preceding verse.
On this high level, Paul ends the main part of his epistle. He has been setting forth the divine benefits which we in Christ possess. As an ambassador equipped with this message, he is writing, both defending and attacking, both reacting against anyone who might wish to oppose his Sender’s gospel and at the same time taking the initiative and with his message by invading the enemy’s territory.