Vol. 17, No. 28 – July 15, 2018
Eph 6:10-24, Stand in Warfare!
4. The Energy, vs. 18-20, God’s Appeal for Prayer in the Church.
Vs. 18, Principles on Prayer.
Someone once correctly stated, “the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.” This does not just mean that we are not praying – our failure to pray, but more importantly, how we go about our prayers – our failure in prayer.
Written by the anonymous author of the classic little book on prayer entitled, “The Kneeling Christian,” (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids: 1971). The author means that the reason we so often fall into sin or live in discouragement or fail to bear fruit is because we do not cling to God in Christ above all things. We do not diligently seek Him or lean on Him or plead with Him or draw on His strength. We give ourselves to busyness over communion with God, and in this way we seek to accomplish in our flesh what can only be accomplished in the power of the Spirit.
This is demonstrated for us by our Lord in the parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:11-14, when a Pharisee went up to the temple to pray, he literally prayed with reference to himself, thus we would understand that he was not really concerned about his relation to God. As a result, his prayers were never heard by God because neither he nor his prayers were ever right with God.
You see his thought and prayer exclude one key ingredient, “Your will be done.” This individual was self-centered. It was all about him, rather than about His relationship with God and God’s will for his life. When our prayers are all about ourselves, we do not have the proper motivation in prayer and do not have the proper requests in prayer.
You see, prayer moves to a whole new plane when you are willing to say, (and truly mean and believe), “Your will be done.”
When you can get to the point in your spiritual walk when your prayer time involves relinquishing your grip on your own personal desires and abandoning yourself to God in every possible way, then your prayers will be on target and you will see them answered time after time in fantastic ways.
Victor Hugo said, “Prayer, then, is an attitude of the heart that humbles itself before a living God, silently declaring, ‘I need You’.”
Scripture clearly indicates that there are hindrances to an effective prayer life. That is why our Lord tells us in Mat 6:1-7, that prayer is not some formula for attaining personal wants or ambitions, nor is it expressly designed for crisis situations.
James Hudson Taylor said, “When we work, we work, when we pray, God works.”
Throughout history, the men and women that God has used mightily have been people who knew how to pray and for whom prayer was both a priority and a necessity. Our Lord demonstrated and taught the disciples how to pray when we compare John 14:12-13; 15:7; 1 John 5:14-15.
John 14:12-13 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. 13And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.”
1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”
The vision and discipline of Biblical praying as committed disciples of the Lord Jesus has somehow escaped the body of Christ. We talk of its necessity, but too often we fail to accomplish its reality. This is what led the disciple to plea to the Lord in Luke 11:1.
Luke 11:1, “It came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”
It is interesting that if you were to open your Bibles and read through the four gospels, you would never find an instance where the disciples asked, “Lord teach us how to witness,” or “teach us how to perform miracles,” or “teach us how to teach.” But in this passage, we do find one of the disciples asking, “Lord, teach us to pray …” That is quite incredible and significant.
This was a very wise question, a very needed question, and from these disciples, who were sometimes so slow about spiritual values, this question becomes extremely significant.
Remember, these disciples heard the Pharisees prayer and they witnessed Jesus praying too. So what was the difference they saw in Jesus that they wanted to have themselves? It was the way He prayed in relation to God the Father and the plan the Father had for Jesus’ life on earth. It was Jesus’ manner and attitude in prayer that saturated His total being and living, His every step and action, which also manifested the intimacy of His relationship with and dependence on the Father.
Prayer for Jesus, as it should be for you and I, was never just a religious responsibility or an exercise He engaged in because He was obligated to do so.
Prayer for our Lord proceeded out of a basic attitude of deep dependence that resulted in a very intimate fellowship that He always had with the Father. This relationship came from the viewpoint of His humanity, He was totally convinced He could do nothing from His own resources. Therefore, He was totally dependent on the Father for all things, situations, and circumstances.
It was this reliance and dependencies that demonstrated Jesus’ deep conviction to the disciples that created a longing in their lives for the same. As such, they came to recognize that while they could be believers in the Lord, they could not be true disciples who became like their teacher unless they learned to pray to the Father like the Lord Jesus in the intimacy and dependency that He constantly demonstrated, cf. Luke 6:40.
Luke 6:40, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
This principle shows us one of the basic principles that governed the life of the Savior. In John 5:19 Christ said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”
Then, in John 8:28-29 and 14:10 He repeated the principle.
John 8:28-29, “So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him”.”
John 14:10, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.”
The principle should be obvious to us. For Jesus Christ, prayer was a way of life, an absolute necessity: it was a means of communion with the Father and the means of bringing the power of God the Father to bear on the humanity of Jesus Christ moment by moment. We see this in Mat 12:18 when Jesus quoted Isa 42:1.
Mat 12:18, “Behold, My servant whom I have chosen; My beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the gentiles.”
Therefore, you have to ask yourself this question, “Has God put His Spirit upon you?” If the answer is yes, and it is for those who believe in Jesus Christ, then your attitude in prayer, your attitude in life should be the same as it was in Jesus.
As we study the life of Jesus Christ in the gospels, we note a consistent pattern:
1.) In the midst of a busy schedule, when men were clamoring in their need for His attention, Christ retired to pray and to draw upon the resources of God the Father for He knew that “the Son can do nothing of Himself,” Mark 1:32-37.
2.) When it was time to choose the disciples, we do not find Christ reviewing the qualifications of each of the disciples. Rather we find Him retiring to pray, Luke 6:12-13; Mark 3:13. Why? Because, “the Son can do nothing of Himself.” He needed the direction and provision of the Father.
3.) When Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus, He raised His eyes heavenward in dependence and thanksgiving for what the Father was about to do, John 11:40-42.
- The actual prayer of Christ is not given, only the fact of His dependence, thanksgiving, and confidence that His prayer had been heard.
- The words of vs. 41-42 imply, however, that not only did He pray to the Father, but that He wanted all those standing around to know it as well that they might learn the secret of dependence.
- This teaches us that when performing miracles, though not always heard by men, Jesus the man was praying in dependence upon the Father from the standpoint of His humanity.
4.) When He fed the five thousand. The words “and looking up toward heaven” demonstrate the Lord’s prayerful dependence, Mark 6:41. Also, “He blessed the food” which shows He thanked God the Father for it and for what He, the Father, was about to do through Jesus, the man, a God-dependent, God-approved man.
Think of Jesus Christ. He was the Son of God, God incarnate, the perfect man and the absolute Creator God who also as the God-man adequately and continuously fulfilled every expectation of God for man. He was the constant delight and joy of the Father’s heart. He always pleased the Father.
Now, thinking of Him as such, ask yourself this question. How much did He personally, as man, contribute to His mighty works, deeds, and ministry? NOTHING! Christ Himself gives us the answer, “. . . the Father abiding in Me does His works,” John 14:10. And how did that come about? Through prayerful dependence on the Father!
When we work, we work. When we pray, the Father works. So out of this conscious and constant sense of need, there arose a continuing attitude of prayer: a continual expectation in the Lord Jesus that if anything was to be done, the Father must do it both by way of initiative, and wisdom, and power.
The disciples saw in Christ’s life, not only prayer, but a prayer life which demonstrated a dependency upon and intimacy with the Father unlike anything else they had ever seen and they wanted to know the secret of this.
What was the request posed by the unnamed disciple? It was, “teach us to pray.” Not just how to pray, the “mechanics,” but how in the sense of the “attitude and motivation.” The “how” aspect is included by Christ in His answer in Luke 11:2-13.
Therefore, prayer is communication between those who have become His children in Christ and God the Father. It is conversing with our Father in Christ, discussing every circumstance, tackling every problem, celebrating every victory, and growing in love with Him. Prayer is one means of communion with God.
We are to approach prayer this way, rather than seeing it as some kind of magical incantation or even out of a sense of duty. When we do it is the key to victory and fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit. It is the pipeline through which the power of God is delivered to the child of God. When we fail to tap into this pipeline, we guarantee our failure. Indeed, “the secret of all failure is our failure in secret prayer.” The secret of all failure is our failure to pursue communion with our Father above all things.
Therefore, we have the following principles:
1.) Prayer should demonstrate a total consciousness of our need, a sense of our complete inadequacy along with a sense of God’s complete adequacy and willingness, 2 Cor 3:5.
2 Cor 3:5, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”
2.) Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance, but laying hold of God’s ever present willingness.
3.) Prayer is not for emergency use only, when we get in a pinch and need someone to bail us out.
4.) Prayer is not an “Aladdin’s Lamp” or a trip to the wishing well for our wants.
5.) By contrast, prayer is a means of intimate communion, fellowship, and dependence upon God the Father who has promised to work in and through us through His Son, just as God worked through Him.
6.) Prayer is for everyday living, moment by moment.
7.) Prayer is a means of claiming God’s promises and knowing and becoming abandoned to God’s will.
In John 14:10-14, note the relationship to prayer mentioned in vs. 13-14, and the works we, as disciples, are to do in vs. 12.
John 14:10-14 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. 12Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. 13And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”
There is no activity in your life that does not require a prayerful attitude; a prayerful dependence on and an expectation that God is at work and will work according to His purposes and leading.
In ourselves we can do nothing. Yet, Christianity is living by faith in the Creator God who dwells in us, and prayer is God’s means for us to draw upon Christ’s miraculous life. Christianity is as Paul expressed it in Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.”
Faith for a committed believer is expressed in intimate, prayerful living.
Unfortunately, we usually recognize our need of God’s enablement in things like witnessing or major disasters in our lives. Yet, we tend to take God for granted and operate in our own abilities in other areas of our lives, because we think something does not seem too difficult or it is within our area of expertise. That is a mistake!
Biblical Christianity is never a matter of living by who and what we are; our insight, background, experience, training, giftedness, etc. Rather, it is a matter of living prayerfully by faith in God’s Word, having Biblical insight, and by faith in Jesus Christ, the Creator God, and His availability to work through us as we are available and submissive to Him. But, this only happens when we live by intimate prayerful dependence upon the Father through a life of prayer, praying without ceasing, and devoting special times of prayer alone with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Vs. 19, Intercessory Prayer.
Eph 6:19, “And pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”
This continues the theme began in vs. 18, “In spiritual conflict prayer is vital; victory is won when we are on our knees.” This verse changes the object of prayer from ourselves and other members of the body of Christ to Paul himself. Or, as we would today, pray for those who are witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This prayer has the pattern of all of our prayers, both a Request (petition), and a Desire. As you may know, God answers both aspects of our prayers, both the Request and the Desire. His answers range from Yes, Yes; to Yes, No; to No, Yes; to No, No, respectfully. He answers both our requests and desires in every prayer, in every situation.
This passage begins with the Coordinating Conjunction KAI, “and,” to include this intercessory prayer for one individual with the previous exhortation to pray for “all the saints.” Interestingly, “pray” or PROSEUCHOMAI is not in this sentence in the Greek. That why it is italicized in the NASB. But it is implied with the Coordinating Conjunction KAI with the following Preposition HUPER and the Personal Pronoun EGO that translates, “for me.” In addition to praying for themselves and other members of the body of Christ, Paul is requesting personal prayers for himself and his ministry. That is why the NASB translates it “on my behalf.”
Next, we have the specific request, “that utterance,” which begins a Purpose HINA clause “that,” with the Noun LOGOS that means, “word, subject, a matter, thing, speech, declaration, message, proclamation, etc.” Here, LOGOS means preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, specifically verbally, given the following words in this sentence. In context we could say, “the ability to speak,” or the “the words that proceed.” This sets up the purpose or why Paul is asking for their prayers.
“May be given,” is the Verb DIDOMI, δίδωμι that means, “give, give out, hand over, etc.” It is in the Aorist, Passive, Subjunctive.
The Subjunctive Mood goes along with the HINA, “that” purpose clause. It is Paul’s desire to speak the gospel going forward in his ministry and therefore, he petitions the early church to pray that it might be so.
The Constative Aorist Tense views the action of verbally evangelizing and witnessing from this day forward as a whole.
The Passive Voice tells us that Paul recognizes that he receives the ability to verbally evangelize and witness the gospel of Jesus Christ from God. It is not by his ability, but by the power of God the Holy Spirit working through him.
“To me,” is the Personal Pronoun EGO in the Dative of Indirect Object that tells us Paul is asking for this prayer for himself, so that he is given the ability to preach by God.
Next, we have, “in the opening of my mouth,” which begins with the Preposition EN and the Dative Noun ANOIXIS, ἄνοιξις that is only used here in the NT. It is an hapaxlegomena. It denotes the act of “opening.” It is a Hebrew idiom expressing, “to speak boldly,” as we see in Ezek 29:21; cf. 2 Cor 6:11.
Paul is asking for the opening, in this case, “of my mouth,” the Genitive Singular of HO STOMA. So, Paul is requesting prayers for himself so that he can speak the truth of God’s Word, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul then adds to the request by asking not only for the opportunity to witness, but how he would like to speak the gospel, “with boldness,” which is the Dative Preposition EN with the Noun PARRHESIA, παῤῥησία that means, “outspokenness, frankness, unreservedness in speech, plainness; freely, openly publicly; courage, assurance, boldness, and fearlessness.” In Greek literature, the term primarily refers to freedom of speech, the sort of speech appropriate to a free human being. Therefore, not only is Paul requesting prayer for the ability to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but to do so with great courage and confidence, which too, God provides. Cf. 1 Thes 2:2; Acts 9:27, 29; 13:46; 19:8; 26:26; 28:31; Phil 1:20; Philem 8.
Next, we have an Infinitive of Result clause to indicate the outcome Paul desires, “to make known the mystery of the gospel.”
The Infinitive is found in the first word in the Greek for “to make known,” which is GNORIZO, γνωρίζω in the Aorist, Active, Infinitive that means “make known, reveal, point out, or declare.” We could say, “with the result that it is made known.” This word may have originated as a combination of the root GINOSKO, “to know,” and HORIZO, “determine or cause to happen,” with the resultant idea of causing someone to know something that he previously did not know, comprehend, or understand. It stresses obtaining new information or understanding.
The Culminative Aorist views the completed action of teaching for comprehension.
The Active Voice, Paul desires to teach unbelievers so that they come to the knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The Infinitive of Intended Result, shows us Paul’s great desire and request for prayer; to teach the gospel so that people are saved. Therefore, we see the intensity of this word, and the intense desire of Paul to reach the lost souls of this world.
We have noted this word in Eph 1:9; 3:3, 5, 10. Eph 3:3 says that God made known the mystery of the Church to Paul by revelation. Now Paul desires to make that same knowledge known to the unbelievers of the world.
What Paul desires to be made known is, “the mystery of the gospel,” HO MUSTERION HO EUAGGELION. MUSTERION, μυστήριον is the Accusative Noun that means, “Secret, secret teaching, mystery, anything hidden or unrevealed.” We noted this back in Eph 1:9, 3:3, 4, 9, in the other “made known” passages in this letter, and in Eph 5:32, regarding Christ’s relationship to the Church. Here, it is linked with EUAGGELION, εὐαγγέλιον that means, “good news or the gospel,” which we noted in Eph 1:13; 3:6; 6:15.
The greatest Divine secret of all time is the now-revealed mystery of Christ, who has come to redeem the world through His death on the Cross, 1 Cor 2:1-2, cf. 9-10. In addition, this mystery includes the radical revelation that salvation is offered to the Jews and Gentiles on the same basis, which “has been made known,” e.g., Eph 2:1f.; 3:3ff. As such, Paul regarded this revelation of the universal scope of God’s redemption as his purpose and therefore, asked the Church to pray for him in this endeavor, Eph 6:19; cf. Col 1:26-27.
The “mystery of the faith” and the “mystery of godliness,” 1 Tim 3:9, 16, are also linked to the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. Following the statement, “great is the mystery of godliness,” we have the famous Christ-hymn that summarizes the gospel story of Jesus.
The idea that “mysteries” are now “revelations” is also represented in the Book of Revelation. John explained the “mystery” of the seven lampstands, Rev 1:20, and the mystery of God which is “completed,” refers to the eschatological program already preached by the prophets that is destined to reach its fulfillment, Rev 10:7. Therefore, that which was hidden, but is now revealed openly, is also to be proclaimed openly.
Paul did not depend on his natural speaking ability and knowledge, but he relied on the Spirit for words to be given to him. Thus, he asked for the prayers of his brothers that he might be given the words to speak the mystery of the gospel.
As the Christ Centered Commentary notes, “The greatest theologian-missionary of all times is asking for prayer! That should encourage you! He has the position (as do we) of being an “ambassador,” a representative of Jesus; but, he knows he does not have sufficient resources to communicate the gospel effectively, so he calls on the Church to pray for him. Instead of feeling self-pity or resentment, he asks for prayer for the mission!” Cf. Col 4:3-4.
Col 4:3-4 “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; 4that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.
If Paul asked for the prayer support of the Church, (and he had been to the third heaven and back), if Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do you and I need them! As such, there is no man so richly endowed with gifts as not to need this kind of assistance from his brethren and God, so long as he remains in this world.
Why is this an important prayer not only for Paul, but for all of us? It is because Satan does not want you to have the right words to say or to be bold in the face of temptations and conflict. Evangelism is part of the spiritual warfare we are all a part of. Our society today, likes Paul’s in his day, is very much opposed to it. Therefore, we need God’s power to do it faithfully, consistently, confidently, shamelessly, and bravely. And, if your prayers help another believer defeat Satan, then that victory will help you too.
If Paul proclaimed the gospel boldly while being imprisoned, whatever the difficulties of your circumstances might be, you have no reason to be ashamed of and every reason for confidence in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, to which you owe your Christian existence. You are not to think of yourselves as a little group that needs to hide away. Rather, you have a gospel that is to be announced freely and openly in the midst of the hostile surrounding world.
Paul’s request teaches an important lesson about the purpose of prayer. There is no doubt that Paul prayed for his own needs, Rom 15:30–32; 2 Cor 1:11; Phil 1:19; 1 Thes 5:25; 2 Thes 3:1; 2 Philem 22, yet, the main emphasis of this prayer request was that God would give him the enablement to present the gospel message with boldness. This is consistent with Jesus’ teachings to His disciples that His children should seek His kingdom and His righteousness first, and depend upon Him to supply their needs, Mat 6:33. Therefore, Paul did not ask them to pray for his comfort or safety, but for the effectiveness of his witness and ministry. Perhaps Christians would receive more answers to prayer if they followed Paul’s example and pray more for the power to proclaim the gospel, rather than always asking God for things for self.
So, we see that it is not armor or weapons that make the warrior, it is courage and strength. As the Christian has no resources of strength in himself, and can succeed only as helped from God, Paul urges the duty of prayer. As such, the believer should avail himself to all kinds of prayer: He is to pray on every suitable occasion; he is to pray in the Spirit by His guidance and according to God’s will, cf. Rom 8:26-27; he is to be alert and persevering in praying because it is easy to lose focus, cf. Luke 18:1; Rom 12:12; Acts 2:42; he should pray not only for himself but for all the saints, he is to pray for others; he is especially to pray for the delivery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with boldness and clarity, vs. 19-20.
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If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#18-070 – 18-072
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I Welcome You to the Eternal Family of God !!!