Read: Ephesians 6:10-20
In our first two messages, we learned that Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness and the Prince of the Power of the Air—Satan. However, God provides spiritual “armor” and spiritual “weapons” to ensure success and victory in this warfare. But success is not automatic, for we must “put on” the armor God provides and learn to use it well.
In this message, we conclude this series with the call for each Christian to use the weapon of “all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:18).
The Variety of Prayer
Ephesians 6:18—“with all prayer and supplication” Paul speaks of two types of prayer.
The term “prayer” (proseuche) is the broadest term for prayer. It includes all kinds of praying such as “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks” (1 Tim. 2:1). This word describes the activity of Jesus when he spent a night praying to God (Luke 6:12). It also describes the apostles after Pentecost, who devoted themselves continually “to prayer” and to the ministry of the word. Prayer (proseuche) is commanded of all Christians: “Devote yourselves to prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
The term “supplication” (deesis) is, in some contexts, somewhat narrower in meaning. It focuses on specific requests, such as Zechariah praying that Elizabeth his wife would bear a son (Luke 1:13). It is used of Ana, a prophetess, who served the Lord at the Temple with fastings and “prayers” (deesis) day and night. It appears she was praying specifically for the Messiah to come (Luke 2:38). Paul chooses this word to describe his desire and prayer that the Jewish people would be saved (Rom. 10:1).
The Frequency of Prayer
Ephesians 6:18—“praying always…and watching there unto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”
To pray at all times is to live in continual God consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our heavenly father. To obey this exhortation means that when we are tempted, we hold the temptation before God and ask for His help. When we experience something good and beautiful, we immediately thank the Lord for it. When we see evil around us, we pray that God will make it right and be willing to be used of Him to that end. When we meet someone who does not know Christ, we pray for God to draw that person to Himself and to use us to be a faithful witness. When we encounter trouble, we turn to God as our Deliverer. In other words, our life becomes a continually ascending prayer, a perpetual communing with our heavenly Father. To pray at all times is to set our minds ‘on the things above, not on the things that are on earth’ (Col. 3:2). 
“Praying always” and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) speaks of the attitude of our heart and focuses our attention on the need to keep the channels of communication open with the Lord. We can pray wherever we are and in whatever situation we find ourselves. For the Christian who wishes to be victorious in this spiritual battle, every place he goes becomes a place of prayer.
A Christian must “pray always” because the enemy of his soul is continually seeking to ensnare him and devour him (1 Tim. 3:7; 1 Pet. 5:8). A surprise attack has defeated more than one Christian who failed to “pray without ceasing.” Jesus exhorted his disciples, “But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). There is no time when we do not need to pray and no time when God will not hear our prayers.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in Prayer
Ephesians 6:18—“in the Spirit”
Christians are to pray “in the Spirit.” This phrase reminds us that the prayers of Christian are to be under the guidance and influence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jude 1:20), since we do not know what to pray for as we ought (Rom. 8:26-27). Because of our lack of understanding, the Holy Spirit, “as the Spirit of grace and of supplication” (Zech. 12:10), seeks to teach us how to pray. He desires that we learn to pray as He prays, to join our petitions to His and our will to His. To pray in the Spirit is to seek to line up our minds, wills, and desires with His mind, will, and desires, which are consistent with the will of the Father and the Son. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, our prayers can be selfish and contrary to the will of God.
In fact, it is possible to pray fervently in the flesh and never get through to God. On the other hand, it is also possible to pray quietly in the Spirit and see God’s hand do great things. Paul promises that as we seek to align our prayers to God’s will, “the Holy Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26-27). In other words, the Holy Spirit takes the desires of our heart and the substance of our prayers and makes intercession for us, without the use of spoken words. What is crucial is not only that we acknowledge we do not know how to pray as we ought, but we also ask the Holy Spirit to help us to know what to pray for and to cooperate with His prompts and checks as we pray.
At all time we must keep our desires and prayer submitted to God’s will; therefore we sincerely say at the close of our prayers, as Jesus taught us to say, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
Supporting Fellow-Believers in Prayer
Ephesians 6:19-20—“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Paul entreated others to pray for him personally asking, “that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Paul’s request for personal prayer reminds us that we are not fighting this spiritual battle alone. There are other believers who stand with us in the fight. Each of us are members of Christ’s body and together we constitute the church.
We need to see ourselves as a militant and triumphant army composed of individual Christian soldiers who need to stand together and fight unitedly against our common foe: the devil and his demonic host. And as we pray for one another, if our prayers help another believer defeat Satan, then that victory will help us also. Paul’s request for prayer was not selfish. Sadly, some people’s entire prayer-life consists of asking God for things for themselves. How different is Paul’s prayer request. Rather than asking them to pray for his physical healing, comfort, or safety, he asked prayer for the effectiveness of his witness and ministry. His prayer request was that when opportunity presented itself, God would enable him to have courage to speak boldly and to be able to communicate effectively the gospel message wherever he went.
As we conclude this series, let us rejoice that God has not only called us to be stalwart Christian soldiers who faithfully stand against all the attacks of the enemy, but He also enables us to stand. He supplies all the grace we need and He gives us wonderful spiritual armor. He only asks that we “put on the armor,” learn how to use it effectively, and then be faithful “even unto death” (Rev. 2:10). Let us encourage our selves with the truth: greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world (1 John 4:4). You and I, as Christian soldiers, can be confident that through Jesus Christ we can be more than conquerors in this spiritual warfare (Rom. 8:37).
Thanks be unto God who gives us the victory!
Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.
- John F. MacArthur Jr., Ephesians, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 380.