Having enumerated all the different pieces of armor, Paul then adds to that the exhortation, “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). He began this section by saying, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (v. 10). The “whole armor of God,” by itself, is insufficient. Ultimately we are directly dependent upon God himself, and the way we appropriate His strength and power is through prayer. Prayer is the life-blood of the Christian life.
We are to pray “always,” or “on every occasion,” or “at every time,” as it might be more literally translated. The idea here is not that you are constantly engaged in the act of prayer, 24-7, but rather that every time you are conscious of a need, every time a situation arises that requires a conscious decision, you pray. We seek the Lord’s guidance; we seek the Lord’s aid. We bring everything to Him in prayer.
We are to pray “with all prayer and supplication.” “Prayer” is the general word for just that – prayer. “Supplication” carries with it the specific connotation of petition or entreaty. Obviously part of what we do in prayer is to ask God for things.
We are to pray “in the Spirit.” We are told in Romans 8:26 that “. . . the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. We do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Prayer is not just a simple matter of us talking directly to God the Father. We do that, of course. But because we cannot see the future, let alone see the spiritual forces arrayed against us, we often find ourselves in a position in which we really do not know what to pray for. In this the Holy Spirit works actively on our behalf.
We are to be “watchful.” The word here means being awake and alert, watchful and vigilant. As Paul has gone on to great lengths to demonstrate, we “wrestle . . . against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12). Satan will try to catch us off guard. He will tempt us when we least expect it. Therefore we must be in a prayer attitude at all times.
We are to pray “with all perseverance.” In other words, we are to continue in prayer steadfastly. This is to be a regular, continuous part of the believer’s life. There will always be a need for prayer; the struggle is never ending and God wants us to feel our dependence upon Him. Prayer is a necessary and vital part of the Christian’s life. Without prayer there is no meaningful relationship with God.
We are to pray “for all the saints.” We have been commanded to “love one another” (John 15:12,17; I Thess. 4:9,10; I Pet. 1:22; I John 3:11; 4:7,11). One of the ways that we express that love is by praying for each other. We are not always in a position individually to meet the physical and financial needs of others, but we can go to the One who can. It is one of the most important ministries we can exercise for each other.
But most importantly of all, prayer is necessary for the effectiveness of the ministry. And so Paul asks for prayer for himself “. . . praying always . . . and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel . . .” (v. 19). Paul, at the time he wrote this, was a prisoner. He refers to himself as “an ambassador in chains” (v. 21). He had been arrested for causing a disturbance in Jerusalem. At the time that he wrote the epistle he was living in his own quarters in Rome, and was free to receive visitors and speak to them, but he was under guard (Acts. 28:302,31). What he asks is that “utterance” would be given to him so that he could speak boldly. There is obviously something intimidating about being arrested for something that you said, and our natural instinct for self-preservation might lead us to temper the message a bit to make it less offensive to others. But it takes both wisdom and courage to react to circumstances as we ought. The real question is, what needs to be said and how ought we to say it? What does God want us to say? And what do people need to hear? How can we say it so that it is unmistakably clear yet not unnecessarily offensive? And then this, in turn, calls for an inward strength to do the right thing under difficult circumstances, and the Holy Spirit must provide that.
And why is this so necessary? It is so that we might “make known the mystery of the gospel” (v. 19). What is ultimately at stake is the eternal destiny of countless multitudes of lost sinners. Without the gospel they are lost. And today perhaps the greatest crime against humanity are churches that no longer preach the gospel. They fail to discharge the solemn commission that has been given to them by God.
Revival comes from God; and if we would have it we must ask for it. Why is our nation in the shape that it is in today? One reason, at least, is that Christians do not pray!