The thing that’s unique about us Christians is that we know God. In seeing Jesus, we have seen the Father (John 14:9). We can approach him, love him and make requests.
From the beginning, Satan has sought to undermine this relationship, and Paul has shown us how to deal with his strategies. Now he tells us we’ll need to be praying as well (Ephesians 6:18).
You’ve probably noticed that in this letter of Ephesians, Paul doesn’t just tell us something and assume we know. He prays (1:15-17; 3:14-16). He knows that only God can reveal himself. This is true about every part of our Christian life. We are always needing things that only God can do. So, we need to share in this praying.
Here’s the directions Paul gives us.
First, pray in the Spirit on all occasions!
Prayer is not just closing our eyes and saying prayers. It will include that but it’s more a way of life that’s been opened up to us by the Holy Spirit.
If we check back in this letter, we’ll get some idea of what prayer in the Spirit might look like. The Spirit is giving us a taste of the life God is planning for us (1:13). He’s enabling us to know God as our Father (2:18) and to believe Christ is living in us (3:16). And he showing us we all belong together as God’s people (4:3).
Without this work of the Holy Spirit, we forget who we are and can easily become engrossed—and upset—with all the things going on around us. And then we’re in no mood to pray!
That’s why we shouldn’t grieve the Spirit (4:30). Rather, we should be filled with him (5:18). We are being kept in relationship with our Saviour and our Father by his presence (2 Corinthians 13:14). If we make it our business to enjoy this, it’s not a burden to share our life with God. It’s a relief. It’s a joy.
We need to throw open the windows or our stuffy lives and let some fresh air in. God means us to live by the wind of his Spirit, even while we are living in the messiness of this present life.
I hope this is the way you see prayer. If it isn’t, perhaps you could ask the Lord to show you something new about himself. God is the natural habitat for every human being. A Christian is, simply, someone who is counting on this being true.
Second, use all kinds of prayers! And make all sorts of requests!
Jesus says ‘Pray like this…’ and gives us a pattern for our praying (Matthew 6:9-13). It’s starts with things that are for God’s glory and authority and follows with all the things we are needing—including forgiveness.
So, with this pattern in mind, there’s lots of things we can say in our prayers. The main thing is that we are being real. The almighty God is our Father. He’s the only one who can make a difference. He gives good gifts. And he doesn’t want us to be anxious about ourselves. That’s why we need to trust him with everything we’re concerned about. Everything!
Third, persevere in prayer!
This means keeping on trusting when ‘the heavenlies’ seem unreal, keeping on hoping when nothing seems to be happening and going on loving when it’s not producing any response.
This also means praying whether we feel like it or not. The world tends to live by its feelings. And this makes us weak. If we believe God loves us, that he’s given up his Son for us, that he is interested in what we think and what we want, then we will pray. We don’t have to feel anything. We have to believe.
None of us finds this straight-forward. The idea that some people are special and find it natural to pray and that other are practical and find it hard is just not true. We all have spiritual tardiness (Paul calls it our ‘flesh’). So, we need to encourage each other and keep listening to God’s word.
This perseverance means a lot to God. It shows him that our faith is genuine (1 Peter 1:6-7). And it’s very important for us too. It produces the character that is appropriate to our future life in God’s presence (Romans 5:3-5).
Fourth, pray for all of God’s people!
When we pray for our fellow Christians, we are not just being kind to them. We are helping in the business of God having a company of people who love and serve him.
Paul calls us all ‘saints’—that is, God’s holy people. This doesn’t mean we are perfect. It means we are chosen by God to fulfill his purposes. And God is eager that we live in this way. So, there is plenty for us to pray for!
Looking back over these last few articles, we have seen what God has done to have us strong in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We are protected from evil powers because we’ve taken up all that God has done for us in him. We are protected because we’re being shaped by this gospel rather than by the world. We can stand firm because we’re using his weapons—not our own.
And now, by our prayers, we are ready to stand in the days God is giving us on earth.
In one sense, we are never ready to live—not by ourselves. But God has provided all that we need. And he waits to hear our prayers. So, we are always ready.