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Ephesians 6:18 says,
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
And it was this verse of Ephesians that came to mind. It comes at the end of a powerful section on the gospel “armour of God”, which he provides for the spiritual battle.
Many of you will know that the Apostle Paul wrote a large proportion of the New Testament. Some of you may also know that he was famous for writing long sentence! Mostly, English translations break them into shorter units. I was interested to discover this is the case with Ephesians 6:18.
Here’s a more literal translation of Ephesians 6:17-19…
17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 with every prayer and petition, praying at all times in the Spirit, and to this end being alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints; 19 for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel…
Why bother with what might seem like an obscure interest in subordinate clauses for the grammar junkies? Because the long sentence shows the tight connection between using the word of God (end of v17), and sustained prayer in dependence on the Spirit (v18a). Word and prayer and Spirit belong together. Word should lead to prayer.
And because the long sentence also shows that among the variety of requests you can make for people in and around church (v18b), right at the top of Paul’s list is prayer for courage in the gospel! Prayer should lead to speaking the word of God!
Prayer’s worth is impossible to measure in a ‘wordly’ sense. You cannot scientifically prove a connection between your prayers and positive answers you perceive from God. So we are tempted to trust our own efforts instead of sitting still and praying – a different kind of hard work – talking to the God we can’t see, but know is so good through Jesus Christ.
But prayerful dependence on the Holy Spirit is the powerhouse of the church. James 4:2 says (in part),
“You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
James 5:16 says (in part),
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
There is more to say, of course. Unanswered prayer? Better seen as answered with a ‘no’ or ‘not yet’. (Only ever ‘yes’ is just for indulgent grandparents who never refuse requests for lollies!)
Asked about church growth strategy, John Piper insisted,
“So, our first strategy of growth was prayer. I tried to create a culture of desperation for all the things that matter most, which are the ones that only God can do. Parents can’t do it. Evangelists can’t do it. Pastors can’t do it. Friends can’t do it. We scatter prayer meetings all through the week, besides encouraging families and small groups to pray and individuals, of course, to pray for the impossible goal of getting sinners through the eye of a needle, which only God can do…”
Warmly in Christ,