Now I know it’s Christmas season, but next Sunday is actually Christmas Day, so I have saved a Christmas message for next Sunday, and we’ll take a look at the birth of Christ in the Scripture next week. But today I want to go back to our series in Ephesians. And it’s a very significant day, kind of a monumental day, because this will be the last message. I had an objective to try to finish Ephesians before the end of the year, and in order to do that I need to take you to that sixth chapter one more time this morning.
Paul closes this epistle with final words, starting in verse 18, Ephesians 6:18 through verse 24, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 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, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
“But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.
“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.”
There is a final command here in this text, as Paul closes this monumental epistle, and it comes in verse 18 and the words “pray at all times,” “pray at all times.” That is his final injunction, his final command to us.
It’s reminiscent of Pilgrims Progress. Some of you will remember when you read Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian received his armor, and he was given a weapon called All Prayer. That weapon was essential to him. With that weapon, he could stand strong when everything else seemed to fail. With that weapon of All Prayer, he could prevail, Bunyan says, against the fiends which beset him in the Valley of the Shadow. When he poured out his soul in prayer, they went back and left him alone.
Our Lord Jesus urges that “men ought always to pray, and not to faint,” or not to grow weary, Luke 18:1. “Men ought always to pray.” And that is exactly what Paul is telling us here. This is the climax of the entire epistle, and it is placed here purposely as the pinnacle. The whole letter ends in a plea for prayer. You could say it begins in the heights of the heavenlies, and it ends on its knees. It is very crucial that we understand the role that prayer plays in our sanctification and in our ministry.
Now let me help you to understand how strategically Paul places this command. Starting in chapter 1 with verse 3 we were instructed that we have been “blessed . . . with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ [Jesus].” That is, that we have been given everything we need, absolutely everything. To put it in Peter’s words, we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” To put it in Paul’s words to the Colossians, “In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily,” in Christ, “and you are complete in him.”
We have all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies, in the spiritual realm. We have them by virtue of being in Christ. And the spiritual privileges were laid out with some detail in the first couple of chapters, even through chapter 3. Let me just remind you of some of the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies that belong to believers.
First of all, we are comprehensively blessed because we are loved and have been loved from before the foundation of the world, and therefore we’re predestined to the eternal end of our glory. We are forgiven, Paul says in chapter 1. We are redeemed. We are granted wisdom and insight and understanding into the very realm of divine truth, which is not available to unredeemed minds. We have been made rich, rich in all that God can provide for us. We are secure, guaranteed to be held by the Father and the Son to eternal glory by the work of the Holy Spirit, who is our security.
Chapter 2 we find out that though we were dead, we are now alive, and we have a new life that is totally transformed. We are objects of eternal grace. We have been made God’s masterpiece, created unto good works. We are one with other believers in one body, Jew and Gentile, and every other distinction is erased. We are part of God’s family; we are one family; we are His sons and daughters. We are the habitation of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us. And all of this produces the reality that wraps up the opening three chapters: that we’re “able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” Staggering realities. And all of those belong to all Christians. We are fully equipped for sanctification and effective ministry and to give God glory.
Those are just some of the features in those opening three chapters. But with all of that privilege and all of that power, we are also called to obedience, to live consistently with that identity. And so in chapter 4, we enter into the part of this epistle that calls on us to behave in a manner worthy of such spiritual privilege.
We are reminded in chapter 4 that we possess the Spirit of God, that we are members of the body of Christ, that we are being perfected, being matured, so that we can advance the gospel, speak the truth in love, and see the gospel change the world. We have been given gifts and gifted men to perfect us to do the work of the ministry. We have Christ to teach us and instruct us how to live our lives, how to walk. We are to “walk worthy.” We are to walk in love. We’re to walk in light. We’re to walk in wisdom. We’re to walk in truth. We’re to walk in the indwelling Holy Spirit and know His fullness. We have all that we need for the fulfillment of every human relationship. We have everything we need to have great marriages that honor Christ and wonderful families that do the same, and even relationships outside the family.
And that takes us all the way through to chapter 6, verse 9. And in verse 10 we’re introduced to the armor that the Lord has given us, because as His children and members of His kingdom, we are going to be in lifelong conflict with the devil, and we have been equipped to deal with him. If we take on the full armor of God, verse 11 says, we “will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
We saw that armor last time: loins girded with truth, truthfulness; the breastplate of righteousness; feet shod of the preparation of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation; “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” So we have an amazing arsenal of protection, as well as a weapon in the sword. This is a presentation of spiritual adequacy. There’s nothing left out. There’s nothing missing. What an exalted reality, an exalted identity and position. We lack absolutely nothing. Again, Colossians 2:10, “You are complete in Him.”
But it is at this point precisely that arises a potentially destructive problem, and that would be spiritual overconfidence. I think Paul anticipates that. He has literally unloaded on us a massive, massive store of realities that define our spiritual blessing, and he knows that if we are confident in those things—and perhaps self-confident—we’re in danger of being overconfident. In 1 Corinthians 10:12 you remember he said, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
One might conclude by the time one arrives at Ephesians 6:17 that we stand; we have everything we need. And you could sort of wind up in a kind of practical atheism where you know God, you know about God, you believe the Word of God, you understand all the resources that are yours, and you know you’re adequate for everything that God desires through your life, and so maybe you even have no particular need for a constant flow of communication with God since He’s given you so much. Paul interrupts that kind of thinking fast in verse 18: “Pray at all times.” Even with all that you have, even with “all the spiritual blessings in the heavenlies,” even with power “to do beyond what you can ask or think,” pray at all times.
And somebody might say, “Well, what’s to pray for?” Well, there are a lot of things you don’t have to pray for; you don’t have to pray for what is given to you. But there are a lot of other things that you must pray for.
Paul dismisses any notion that you, with all this spiritual adequacy, could just march out on your own triumphantly. That’s very dangerous. You have something to pray for. What? Everything. Everything. The application and expression and enjoyment and power that flows from all these resources depends upon an unending communion with God, constant connection with Him.
It is really a latent danger, and I mean a real danger, that Christians who have a knowledge of doctrine and an understanding—effective understanding of their resources and spiritual principles can become satisfied, so that heartrending, passionate, constant prayer has no place, or very little place; and that is sin. So Paul does what he has to do in closing this letter. He brings it to a crescendo. This is where the music peaks—as it did this morning in the grandiose ending to some of those songs that you heard—and it ends in a call to prayer, the key to absolutely everything.
Prayer is the Christian’s breath. It’s easy to breathe because God has designed you so that air has pressure. That pressure is exerted against your lungs, and it’s easier to breathe than not to breathe. If you hold your breath, that’s challenging; that’s hard. You can’t do that for very long because pressured air wants to enter your lungs. It seeks to enter. It’s more difficult to hold your breath than it is to breathe, by far, obviously.
The same is true with prayer. You shouldn’t be having to work to pray; it should be the most natural expression of your spiritual lungs to commune with God, to let Him into every thought and every conversation, everything in your life. That is really the spiritual thing to do, to breathe in the sense that you’re communing with God. If you’re not regularly and faithfully in prayer, you’re struggling against your own spiritual nature. You’re trying to hold your spiritual breath. And that will stop the power. And the cause for prayerlessness is always the same: It’s sin; it’s selfishness.
So Paul calls us to sum up everything to prayer. And there are just two thoughts he has here. One, the general instruction in verse 18, and then the specific illustration in verses 19 to 22, and then a benediction. Just two points: the general introduction and the specific illustration. And that’s how you teach: You give a general principle, and then you illustrate it; you give the exhortation, and then the example. And that’s how Paul ends his letter.
Let’s look at the general instruction in verse 18: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” One word is there four times. What is it? “All.” Four times in that short sentence—or not even a complete sentence: “all prayer,” “all times,” “all perseverance,” and “petition for all saints”—all, all, all, all.
This is comprehensive. This is to say that prayer is a part of everything, everything. Well, let’s break it down. First of all, the frequency of prayer: “Pray at all times.” That’s the frequency: at all times, on every occasion, every time, through all of life.
Jesus said in Luke 21:36, “Pray always.” The apostles in the church in Acts 6 said, “You need some people to help serve the widows because we must give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.” It was said about Cornelius that he was “a devout man,” Acts 10, “and prayed to God always.” In Romans 12:12, Paul said, “Continue diligently in prayer.” Colossians 4:2, “Continue in prayer.” Philippians 4:6, “In everything by prayer and supplication . . . let your requests be made known to God.”
First Thessalonians 5:17 sums it up: “Pray without ceasing.” “Pray without ceasing.” In 2 Timothy 1:3 Paul said, “Without ceasing I have remembered you in my prayers night and day.” Amazing. He says that to Timothy, “Without ceasing I have [prayed for you].” Now that’s how we ought to pray. It is an open conversation that goes on all the time.
I have walked with the Lord all these many years; I have found the sweetness of that conversation. All of life is a constant communion with God. Everything that happens to me, around me, everything that I see and observe pushes me Godward, opens my mind and my heart to Him.
When there is something wonderful that happened, something good, some blessing, it’s so easy to say thank you. I find myself doing that virtually all the time, “Thank You, Lord. Thank You, Lord. Thank You, Lord.” That’s an open conversation. I’m not necessarily trying to find flowery words. We are to “give thanks in everything,” “this is the will of God” for us, 1 Thessalonians 5 says. But it’s not as if I have to give God a long speech about every single thing I’m thankful for. He knows my heart; He knows what I’m thankful for. But I am to offer that thanks to Him.
So when I see the blessings of life, the challenges of life that strengthened me and strengthen those around me, when I see the good news doing its work in people’s lives, when I see righteousness and godliness, when I see flourishing ministry and faithfulness—and I see it all the time, every day of my life—my heart just says, “Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You.” It just initially goes back to the communion and the conversation that’s always open between me and the Lord.
You know you have a very close friend when you can be separated for a long time and come back together and pick up the conversation exactly where it left off. But it never leaves off with God because He never forsakes you. And that’s praying at all times: no waking moment that you’re not looking at the world through a God-consciousness.
When you see evil, what’s your initial response? You ask Him to make it right. And if it’s in your own life, you ask Him to forgive you, and you confess that. You don’t make a truce with evil. You don’t become tolerant of sin and what’s wrong in the world. You should be grieved. You should be heartbroken when God’s name is dishonored. Zeal for His house should eat you up. The reproaches that fall on Him should fall on you. You should feel the pain when God is dishonored and cry out to God to be glorified, to bring an end to unrighteousness and transgression. And when you see difficulty and challenges and trouble, before you race to some solution of your own, you want to connect with heaven and say, “Lord, I’m not sure where this is going or what the outcome is going to be, but I put it in Your hands, casting all my care on You.”
So all of life—good, bad, and indifferent—becomes part of this ongoing conversation with the Lord, so that it never really breaks off; it’s just the way you look at the world. The psalmist put it this way: “I’ve set the Lord always before me.” In other words, he saw everything through the lens of the mind and heart of God. That’s how you have to see everything. And out of that comes your thankfulness, and out of that comes your confession, and out of that comes your supplication. There should be no waking moment when that isn’t the immediate connection that you make.
Only selfish, self-centered people don’t pray continually. Those centered on God and His divine purpose continually pray, and they pray in the frame of John 14:13 and 14, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” In other words, you’re praying with the objective of the glory of God.
And then the next verse says if you ask in His name, He’ll answer. Why? To put His glory on display. That’s another critical part of prayer: “God, whatever glorifies You, I want Your glory.” Like the martyrs in the book of Revelation who say, “How long, O Lord? How long are You going to allow this dishonor and blasphemy of Your name?” Now Paul says in verse 18, “Pray at all times,” and he uses a term here that just means don’t stop, just keep it up, keep it going forward—steadfast, constant, enduring, strong, earnest, and persistent prayer.
There’s a couple of good illustrations of that in the gospel of Luke; I’ll show you two of them. First one’s in the 18th chapter of Luke. This is a story you’re familiar with, verse 1: “[Jesus] was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray.” There it is again. Jesus is trying to teach them to pray all the time, and so in order to get the lesson across He tells them a parable, that they should pray and not lose heart.
Here’s the parable: “In a certain city there was a judge who didn’t fear God and didn’t respect man.” That’s kind of bad, if you’re the judge. I mean, that’s 0 for 2. But that’s the nature of this fabricated judge that our Lord invents in the story, a judge who “didn’t fear God and didn’t respect man.” There would be little hope of getting justice out of that judge.
And “there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponents.’” She couldn’t get justice for some offense. “For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I’ll give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’” That is a bad judge who is not motivated by justice or any sense of obligation and responsibility to justice, but just does what he does to get rid of an irritating woman.
But if an unjust judge will give a woman justice because he’s irritated, what would the Lord do for those He loves? “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.’” Yeah, because He loves us. He hears and responds to our prayers.
Back in the 11th chapter of Luke, another familiar story again about prayer, verse 5. Jesus had just given the prayer, and in verse 5 of Luke 11 He said to them, the disciples, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend lend me three loaves’”—that’s a bad time to go to your friend, if you want him to be your friend in the future. But he goes at midnight and wants three loaves, not for himself, he says, “‘For a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside his friend answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’” Again, here you have someone who’s reluctant to provide what someone needs.
Verse 8, “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.” If the guy just stays there and keeps pounding on the door, eventually he’s going to get out of bed and give him what he needs just so he can get some sleep.
Verse 9, “So I say to you”—here’s the difference between that kind of friend and Me—“I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” Did you know that’s a promise from the Lord? In James it says, “You have not because you”—what?—“you ask not.”
Prayer is constant God-consciousness. But it’s also constantly a struggle. It’s a struggle. You’re laying hold of God, and your heart is pressed to have Him meet your need. It’s not flippant; it’s not superficial. I know it can be intense when it relates to you—somebody you love has cancer or somebody you love is dying. Talked to a father a couple of days ago whose son committed suicide, dove off a cliff. You cry out to God in a situation like that and ask for some kind of strength to survive when it’s personal.
But what about when it’s somebody else? It’s so easy for us to pray intensely, even to the point of fasting, regarding issues that relate to us. But we can easily treat other people’s extreme issues with a measure of indifference. Be reminded that if you ask, you will receive.
That leads to a second aspect of prayer. The first one is the frequency: “at all times.” Second, the variety. The verse begins, “With all prayer and petition.” All the time, all prayer and petition. What does that mean? Just that: all prayer—public, private, verbal, silent, loud cries, quiet whispers, deliberate, spontaneous, requests, thanks, confession, humiliation, praise, kneeling, standing, lifting up your holy hands, lying down—all kinds of prayer, every kind of prayer, with every emotion, every attitude, every thought, every circumstance. Prayer is proseuchē, just general conversation with God. Supplication or petition is a special, definitive prayer. So yes, you pray generally, but you focus in on those very special requests, specifically.
The general pattern of your life is you pray all the time, in all kinds of prayer. First Timothy 2:8, Paul says, “I will . . . that men pray every where”—all the time, “every where,” which is just a marvelous perspective, the kind of living just continually keeps you in communion with the Lord. It’s a variety of forms of communication, all those things that I stated: every emotion, every circumstance, every experience. We’re not talking about prayer books; we’re not talking about vain repetition; we’re not talking about special times of prayer. We’re talking about a way of life.
I remember when I was in school years ago, a man gave a message, and he said you should pray in the morning because he went through the Old Testament and pointed to all the passages where it says, “They rose up early in the morning and prayed”—and that’s fine. He concluded that that’s the time we ought to pray.
It struck me that Psalm 55:17 says, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray.” Luke 6:12 says of Jesus, He “continued all night in prayer to God.” Even 1 Timothy 5:5 says godly widows are seen praying night and day. All the time, in all circumstances—prayer is breathing. It’s just living your Christian life in communion with God.
So the frequency of prayer: “Pray at all times.” The variety of prayer: “all prayer,” “all . . . petition.” Thirdly, the manner of prayer, and for that you see a phrase there: “Be on the alert”; “with this in view, be on the alert.” Some translations say, “watching.” In other words, it’s not enough to just be generic. It’s a kind of picture of, I think, what Peter meant when he said in 1 Peter 4:7, “Watch and pray,” and he got that directly from Jesus in Mark 14, “Watch and pray.” Take a look around you, and pray specifically.
I remember one of my children was very young, and we would go from bed to bed at night and pray with them before they went to sleep. And one of the kids was tired, and this was typical: “God bless the whole wide world. Amen.” So I thought, “Well, that’s a little too general because you’re never going to know whether God answered your prayer.” So there was some instruction about making your prayer more specific. And that’s exactly what this is talking about: Watch, “be . . . alert.” Take on the circumstances and the issues. If your prayers are nothing but generic, it’s a sign of indifference and an indication of selfishness.
There are people who pray hard, but it’s most of the time for something that they’re going through or someone very close to them is going through, and they can get intense, to the point of fasting. We can be concerned for our own issues. The question is, Can we be that concerned for the issues of others? What a commentary on our self-centeredness.
Our prayers should be constant, intense, specific because we’re watching, and we’re seeing things, and we’re discerning realities, and they need to be brought before the throne of God. And do it “with all perseverance,” it says, “all perseverance”—staying on course. An intense verb: “Stay in there.” It’s a verb that kind of conveys toughness, strength, steadfastness. It’s a consuming effort.
It reminds me of Epaphras, Colossians 4:12, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a slave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greeting, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God. For I testify for him, he has a deep concern for you.” That’s rare. This is a man, a true slave of Christ, always laboring. In other words struggling, wrestling earnestly in prayer for the sanctification of the people in his church because he has such a deep concern for them. What would happen to a church if everybody prayed like that for each other?
All prayers are to be the result of watching. Do you know what’s going on? Do you know the needs around you? The frequency of prayer: all time. Variety of prayer: all kinds of prayer. The manner of prayer: alert and persevering. It’s a struggle. You stay with it, knowing that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” and that “if you ask, you’ll receive.”
The indirect objects of prayer also—the indirect objects, down in verse 18, “all the saints.” That’s the fourth “all”: “all the saints.” The direct object is God. You’re always praying to God for God’s glory. Always to God for God’s glory. That’s back to John 14:13, that the Father will put Himself on display and “be glorified” is the objective of your prayers. “Lord, glorify Yourself. Put Your glory on display. Show Your power. Show Your grace. Show Your kindness. Show Your mercy. That’s the direct object of prayer.
But the indirect is the saints. Samuel said to Israel, 1 Samuel 12, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you.” You sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for someone.
“How could that be a sin? You mean that my prayers actually fit into what God is doing, so that not to pray is sinful because of its importance?” A Christian’s not only to think of his own conflict but watchfully looks at everything around him and prays for everybody else, and all for the glory of God.
By the way, nowhere does the Scripture say to pray for yourself. That’s going to happen, and that’s OK. But the needful thing is to pray for others. Just like we use our spiritual gifts for others, our prayers ought to be on behalf of others, and they ought to be specific, watchful prayers. That’s what Jesus does. He intercedes for us. He knows our weakness, He knows our infirmities, He knows our failures, and He intercedes for us.
There’s one other qualification in this verse, and it’s a very important one: “Pray at all times in the Spirit,” “in the Spirit.” Jude 20 has a similar phrase: “praying in the . . . Spirit.” What does that mean? Consistent with the Holy Spirit. Romans 8 says the Spirit knows how to pray because He prays according to the will of God, Romans 8:26 to 28.
So the praying in the Spirit means lining up with what the Spirit is praying for, which is consistent with the name of Christ and the will of God. If you say, “I want to pray according to the will of God,” or if you say, “I want to pray in the name of Christ,” that means consistent with who He is and His purpose. Or if you say, “I want to pray in the Holy Spirit,” you’re saying the same thing. You’re bowing your knee to divine purpose and divine intention and divine will.
There should be one will in your prayer life: “Your will be done in heaven as it is in earth.” “Not my will, but Yours,” Jesus prayed, didn’t He? There should be one will in praying. If you pray in the will of the Father, or if you pray in the name of Christ, or if you pray in the Holy Spirit, you’re praying with that one will. You may not always know it, but that’s what you desire. You don’t want something that is not the will of God. You don’t want something that is not going to glorify Christ and is not going to be in the path of the flow of the work of the Spirit, so you submit yourself to that divine will.
The Holy Spirit in Zechariah 12:10 is called “the Spirit of . . . supplication.” And the Spirit, according to Romans 8, helps us with our prayers because we don’t know how to pray. “So the Spirit makes groanings, groanings which cannot be uttered, interceding on our behalf from within us.” This is an amazing thing. The Spirit in us intercedes for us “with groanings which cannot be uttered,” and they’re always consistent with the will of God. Christ in us cries out, “Abba! Father!” The Holy Spirit cries out, “Father, do Your will.” And so Spirit-filled, Spirit-led prayer is what we want to pray.
So there’s a large stretch of prayer in one very short verse. We cover everything—and the economy of language here is remarkable. And that’s the general instruction: Pray all the time, with all prayer, with all perseverance, for all saints, in the Spirit. That’s how you live your life: frequency, variety, manner, indirect objects, all in the power of the Spirit, all working toward God’s glory and the believer’s joy.
Then he closes with this specific illustration. This is good; I love this one because it’s very applicable to me, verse 19. “So let me give you an illustration,” Paul says. “I’ve just told you in the general sense how to pray; let me give an illustration. Here’s where you start.” “Pray on my behalf.” “Pray [for me], that utterance”—and here’s the specifics—“that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.”
Now do you think Paul felt prayer was important? Do you imagine that Paul just knew he was so gifted at what he did, and the Spirit was so on him when he did it, that he was independent? Wherever he went, he had the power, the resources, the heavenly blessings. He had the features of sanctification that were granted to him in Christ, and he was sufficient in himself—no. “This is my first request”—and he’s talking as a prisoner in Rome: “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, of which I am an ambassador in chains”—as a prisoner—“that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Is that amazing? We think of Paul as this bold, dynamic, unflappable, fierce proclaimer of truth, when he feared his own cowardice, when he feared his own weakness if people didn’t pray. He was looking at the weakness of his own flesh. Would he be bold enough to open his mouth and make known “the mystery of the gospel”—“mystery” meaning what had been hidden to generations past and is now revealed in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? Would he be bold even as a prisoner “in chains”? Most ambassadors have political diplomatic immunity; he was an ambassador who was “in chains,” but he desired so much to be bold.
But there were some challenges in being bold when you’re already a prisoner. “So pray for me, that I will speak as I ought to speak.” There’s so much honesty there.
“This is Paul. Why do you need somebody’s prayers?” In Colossians chapter 4 and verse 2, Paul wrote this: “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving”—then he said this—“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; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.” Is that amazing? “Pray for my clarity. Pray for my boldness. Pray for my faithfulness.” Pray for the preacher. Pray for the preacher. He knew his theology, he had his armor, but he feared his own humanity.
Pray for the preacher—a good place to start. If I can suggest that, if I can borrow Paul’s words, pray for this preacher. Pray for all the preachers around here, the elders, teachers. Pray for us all to be courageous and bold and fearless and compassionate and loving. Pray for every ministry that we have.
Paul wants them to know the details, so he says, in verse 21, “I’m sending Tychicus”—who’s mentioned five times in the New Testament—“beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord.” “Why are you sending him?” Because he’s bringing the letter; he’s delivering Ephesians. “But I want you to know about my circumstances, how I’m doing. So he’ll make everything known to you”—verse 22, “I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts.” “I want you to know what’s going on in my life because I need your prayers. And I want you to know the positives so you can be comforted and not worry about me. And I want you to know the challenges that face my human flesh, so that you can pray for my boldness and courage.”
Listen, if he needs prayer, anybody here say, “I don’t need it” if the apostle Paul needed it, depended on it? So he ends in that really incredible expression of his own recognition of weakness. And if he needed prayer, we need it more.
And that’s how he ends: with a prayer request. This is the guy who taught all that theology and wrote thirteen epistles in the New Testament, who understood everything perfectly because he received the inspired revelation, who was tested and proven and refined every way possible, who met every enemy and every friend triumphantly, and he’s pleading for people to pray for him. I understand that. That’s the greatest gift you could ever give the preacher.
And with that, he signs off with a beautiful benediction: “Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” I don’t particularly like to explain benedictions like that; I think they’re better to be memorized than explained.
“Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.” Pronounces a blessing on the church. That anticipates that they’re going to respond to this epistle favorably. Right? Right, he’s pronouncing a blessing: Peace, love, faith, grace to all of you, as you apply these magnificent truths.
Our Father, we are so grateful for the richness of this closing section of Ephesians. It’s just a thrilling thing to consider it in our minds. But Lord, may it never stop there. May it find its way into our lives. May we be faithful in prayer for each other, watchful prayer, praying all the time, with all kinds of prayer, with all endurance, perseverance, for all saints, in the Spirit. And we can start with those who are over us in the Lord, whose faith we follow, for their courage and boldness and clarity and power and usefulness, because that is such a blessing to Your church.
Give us a fresh, new desire to keep the conversation with You going all the time. May we look at the world through Your eyes and respond to everything by prayer. What a privilege it is for us to be able to commune with You anywhere, anytime, anyplace, with anything that’s on our hearts. How could we not take advantage of the promise, “Ask, and you will receive; knock, and it will open; seek, and you will find.”
Lord, we ask that You would be always the objective, the direct objective of our prayer, whatever that prayer might be; that You would be glorified, that the Father would be glorified in the Son, as John’s gospel puts it. And maybe, Lord, as we move forward, if we are faithful, You’ve done so many wondrous things, so many wonderful things, so many incredible things here, maybe we haven’t even seen what You would do if we were praying always. So may that be an objective, and may You prompt our hearts to be faithful, we pray. Amen.
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