Monday, September 1, 2014

THE PRIORITY OF PRAYER (Ephesians Chapter 6)

Ephesians 6:18, “Praying at all time in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Ephesians 6:10-17 speaks to the need for the believer in Christ to “put on the whole armor of God” that he might “be strong in the Lord” and “stand firm” in the spiritual conflict.  There is the need to put on the various pieces of armor, but one would still be ill-provisioned if prayer is neglected.  Andrew Murray, "Without prayer, the helmet of salvation, and shield of faith, and the Sword of the Spirit, which is God's Word, have no power.  All depends on prayer!"

All types of prayer are necessary—both “prayer” (the general term for prayer) and “supplication” (a particular request arising from a specific need).  Our prayers sometimes overly-emphasize earthly needs, but that ought not to be our primary concern.  Prayer in this context has significance relevance to our ongoing spiritual conflict.  God has two goals for people--that they might know Christ and then that they might grow in Him.  Satan has goals for people too--that the lost might be kept so and that the saved might be spiritually defeated and made ineffective to the cause of Christ.  Prayer’s proper emphasis is on the salvation of the lost and the spiritual well-being and growth of the saved.  Missionary Robert Savage once said, "A majority of our prayers deal with either...stomachs or fenders!  Many of our prayers (perhaps 70% of them) are for the sick (stomach ailments, appendicitis, emphysema, etc.).  Another very common request is, ‘And get us all safely to our homes following the service’ (which means ‘may we not have any damaged fenders on our nice cars’).  Why give the top priority to ‘stomachs’ and ‘fenders’?  Let's put more stress on the spiritual health of our friends, our loved ones, our fellow church members, and ourselves."

Our circumstances demand that we be “praying at all times” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 1:6).  David Brainerd was a missionary who impacted many lives for Christ.  Above all else he was a man of prayer.  In his book "Power through Prayer" H. M. Bounds writes about his experience, "By day and night he prayed.  Riding through interminable solitudes of the forests he prayed.  On his bed of straw he prayed.  Retiring to the dense and lonely forests, he prayed.  Hour by hour, day after day, early morn and late at night, he was praying and fasting, pouring out his soul, interceding, communing with God.  He was with God mightily in prayer, and God was with him mightily."

We are exhorted to “keep alert” in prayer.  The word is the Greek agrupneo which means “to stay awake, to lie sleepless, or to suffer from insomnia, and hence to be watchful or alert.”  Christ is the ultimate example of one who was alert in prayer.  In the garden He said to His disciples, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38).  He was alert in prayer while His disciples slept.  Jesus exhorted them to “watch and pray” with the understanding that “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

It is prayer “in the Spirit” that is needful.  Not in the flesh (Cf. James 4:3), but in harmony with the Spirit, the Word and God’s will (Cf. Romans 8:26-27).  We are exhorted also to persevere in prayer.  The Greek term translated “perseverance” means “to hold out or to wait (Cf. Luke 18:1-5).

Paul exhorted the saints in Ephesus to pray “for all the saints.”  All the saints are to pray for all the saints.  We are as fellow soldiers engaged in a great spiritual conflict.  Prayer constitutes a divinely powerful weapon whereby we bring ourselves and our beleaguered brothers and sisters before the throne of grace, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Cf. Hebrews 4:16).  As one commentator put it, "We are not engaged in single combat with the powers of evil, but are members of an army; and we must be concerned with the welfare of all who fight alongside us."  In your expanding circle of friends there are many to pray for: yourself; your family members, church, missionaries, and persecuted brethren (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 6:19-20; Hebrews 13:3). 

Andrew Murray once wrote, "The Inner Chamber is the place where the decisive victory is obtained.  The enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian, and above all the minister, to neglect prayer.  He knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom, if prayer is neglected.  When the Church shuts herself up to the power of the Inner Chamber, and the soldiers of the Lord have received on their knees ‘power from on High,’ then the powers of darkness will be shaken, and souls will be delivered.  In the church, on the mission-field, with the minister and his congregation, everything depends on the faithful exercise of the power of prayer."

No comments: