‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints’, Eph. 6. 18 NKJV.
Paul has made it clear that Satan and his great army of evil forces have declared war on every Christian, in every generation, in every part of the world. So he tells us to ‘stand therefore’, v. 14, against the evil enemy. He also tells us how to stand – equipped with the armour of God. But if Paul stops his instructions here, we would get the wrong idea – that we are standing alone in the fight. If we leave now, we may mistakenly think that we are self-sufficient – after all, we have all the battle equipment we need. But don’t walk away yet, because Paul is just about to make one final point.
From our study, we already know that Paul was using the picture of a Roman soldier as his example for Christian warfare. His readers would understand exactly what he was referring to with all of this ‘armour’ talk. But there’s one more thing that they would have known that we need to remember: Roman soldiers, with all their equipment, were still vulnerable on their own. But if they carried out their orders in connection with their fellow-soldiers, they were almost unstoppable. Roman warfare was not built on the glory of individual warriors, but on soldiers who did the job they were given for the good of the entire company.
This is the final point in our study – we do not fight in this battle on our own, but we must stand our ground connected to God and our fellow-soldiers. We stand together as a unit. We stand in dependence on the Lord’s strength, v. 10. And prayer is what connects us with headquarters. Through prayer, we stand dependent on the Lord to strengthen and direct us. Through prayer, we are also intensely aware of our fellow-soldiers in the trenches. In verse 18, Paul tells us that the soldier’s prayer will be constant, urgent, and watchful of others.
Paul’s first instruction in this verse is to be ‘praying always’, or, more literally, ‘praying at all times’ ESV. Some Christians think that prayer is something we do in the morning and at night. We have our prayer list and those we pray for. We may add to the list or subtract from it, but, in prayer, we dial up, we make our requests, and we sign off again. But when a Christian realizes they are a soldier in wartime, and that the enemy is always just around the corner, they don’t dial up, and they don’t sign off – they are always online with God! From morning to night, whether their eyes are open or closed, whether at the office or at home, whether alone or with others, they are always in contact with Headquarters. They don’t hear a prayer request and wait until later to pray for it – they pray in the moment because they are connected in the moment. This is a battle, and the enemy is ready to strike when we least expect it, vv. 11-13. We cannot afford to be signing off or waiting until ‘prayer time’ to pray. So Paul commands Christian soldiers in wartime to ‘pray at all times’, v. 18.
Secondly, Paul commands us to pray ‘with all prayer and supplication’, v. 18. These two terms are like twins, and they are often used together in the New Testament, Phil. 4. 6; 1 Tim. 2. 1; 5. 5; Heb. 5. 7. The terms are not that different in meaning, but when used together they communicate urgency about prayer. Paul has set up a picture of soldiers standing their ground as the arrows are flying at them. How would you pray in the trenches on the front lines with mortar shells landing all around you? To paraphrase, Paul seems to be saying, ‘in whatever way necessary – just pray!’ We have a perfect example of this type of prayer when our Lord was in Gethsemane anticipating the weight of our sin and the coming judgement for it. Luke tells us that ‘being in agony, he prayed more earnestly’, Luke 22. 44. The enemy was near, and He was under attack. He wasn’t concerned with the form and style of His prayer. He was praying out of deep agony on the front lines of battle, Heb. 5. 7. When we realize that we face an enemy too big for us, we will pray with desperate urgency as we stand our ground.
Finally, we pray constantly and urgently for those standing in harm’s way with us. Paul tells us that we are to be watchful in prayer; continually lifting our brothers and sisters who are with us in the fight. We do not fight alone. We are part of a vast army of ordinary people, who, by God’s grace, have been rescued from the enemy to stand together in the line of fire. We are fellow-soldiers, and, in wartime, we must be looking out for the welfare of each other in prayer.
We must remember that this is wartime and we are on the front lines of battle. We must remember that we are not self-sufficient. But we also need to constantly experience the closeness of Christ in prayer. We are not fighting alone, but we are part of an army of ‘saints’ with one common cause: the glory of God. So, while putting on all the pieces of armour – keep praying! Pray constantly, urgently, and ‘for all the saints’.