Guest Blogger: Pastor Aaron Taylor
Painesville Assembly of God (8/28/13)
Taking Our Stand – Our Lethal Weapon (Ephesians 6:18-20)
Over the last several Wednesdays we have been looking at Ephesians 6:10-20 and discussing the spiritual battle that we face as believers. Paul opens by recognizing the fact that our strength needs to be in the Lord. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV) The only way to truly overcome the attack of the enemy is to find our strength in the Lord.
We have discussed the nature of the battle that it is not against flesh and blood but that it is a spiritual battle. And we discussed the fact that in Christ we have a spiritual position of authority and victory gained by Christ therefore we need to take our stand and “stand firm then.” In discussing the armor of God, we talked about the importance of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, our feet fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Each of these elements is important.
But once you get the armor on, the armor is not sufficient in and of itself. If you go into museums and see armor, unless there’s life inside the armor, the armor is no good at all. The armor needs an animating principle.
Therefore Paul continues in Ephesians 6:18 (NLT) by writing: “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
Notice that Paul says that we are to pray in the Spirit! In the King James Version it reads: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6:18 KJV)
The word Spirit has a capital “S” because it is referring to the Spirit of God, not the human spirit. The word for “Spirit” in the OT Hebrew was “Ruach” and literally meant “breath.” When God created Adam out of the dust, Genesis 2:7 (NIV) says: “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Notice that man was formed but he was not truly alive without the breath of God. The term for breath of life is “Ruach” that is the Spirit of God.
In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet sees a vision of a vast army of dry bones. It is a prophetic picture of Israel, spiritually dead and away from the Lord. As the vision progresses, Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones.
Ezekiel 37:4-8 (NIV): Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Notice that the bones came together, tendons and flesh appeared and skin covered but they were not alive. The prophet recognizes the truth that without breath they are simply an army of dry bones.
He continues to prophesy in Ezekiel 37:9-10 (NIV): Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
Notice that when the breath came into them they became a vast army! We can have the armor of God on but without the breath of the Spirit, without the connection to the Holy Spirit we are simply dry bones.
After Jesus rose from the dead, John records a special moment with his disciples. John 20:22 (NIV) says, “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Notice that Holy Spirit has been linked to breath, linked to wind. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were in the upper room praying when it says, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from Heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.”
One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is wind and it filled the whole house. As the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit enabled them. This led to a powerful and bold sermon and many repenting and becoming believers in Jesus Christ.
It is the Spirit of God and breath of God that empowers us to withstand the attacks of the enemy and that raises us up in God’s power and strength into a mighty army. So when Paul says that we are to pray in the Spirit, he is calling us to partner in battle with the giver of life and we do that through prayer, which is Communication with God!
Do you realize how important “communications” are in any battle? If an enemy can cut off a battalion’s communications, they become immediately isolated, helpless and alone.
Now for the Christian, PRAYER is our line of communication with our Commander-in-chief. God knows our situation (better than we do) – and He knows the enemy’s position, too – but God moves in response to prayer. If the enemy can deter us or distract us from PRAYING, then he has us where he wants us. We quickly become isolated, helpless and alone, WITH ONLY OUR OWN RESOURCES. And God does NOT intend for us to fight with our own resources – they’re of no use in a spiritual fight.
2 Corinthians 10:4 says: “For the weapons of our warfare are NOT carnal, but they are mighty through GOD to the pulling down of strongholds”.
And so the enemy is very concerned to keep us involved in any other thing, as long as he can keep us from prayer.
Cowper and Newton wrote: “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon their knees!”
Tonight as we study about prayer and Christian Warfare, I want us to consider three simple things:
1. The POWER of Prayer
2. The PRIORITY of Prayer
3. The PERSEVERANCE of Prayer
1. THE POWER OF PRAYER
We see where the POWER of prayer lies in the phrase: “IN THE SPIRIT”. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication IN THE SPIRIT.”
Powerful praying is praying “in the Holy Spirit”. If your prayer life has become dry, lifeless, boring — you need to learn from scratch how to PRAY IN THE SPIRIT. Invite the Holy Spirit into your prayer time.
What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit”? Well immediately three things come to mind:
1.) The Holy Spirit’s fellowship is the “ENVIRONMENT” of the Christian’s life. We talk of “walking in the Spirit” (which is a Scriptural term — GALATIANS 5). Walking in fellowship with Him, our lives filled with His guidance and power. If the Holy Spirit is in our lives, He will enable us to watch and pray. There will be a growing desire for prayer, and a growing perseverance in prayer. We are being led by the Holy Spirit into the place of prayer. Praying in the Spirit.
2.) If we develop sensitivity, the Holy Spirit will lead us WHILE we are praying. He’ll put a burden upon you for someone, some situation, and have you pray it through. That’s praying “in the Spirit”.
D.M. Lloyd-Jones said: “This means that the Holy Spirit directs the prayer, creates the prayer within us, and empowers us to offer it and to pray it”. So He’s leading us to pray the very will and purpose of God. We become partners with Him in His plan and purpose. And the promise of 1 JOHN 5:14 is that “… if we ask ANYTHING ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, He hears us”.
If the Holy Spirit leads you to prayer for some matter, then it’s the will of God, and THAT prayer WILL be answered.
3.) The Holy Spirit gives a whole new language for prayer! When a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit, they can pray in other tongues. The Bible says that when we pray in tongues by the Holy Spirit we “speak mysteries to God” and “we edify ourselves”. This is another means of praying in the Spirit.
When language is exhausted and will not do any longer, He intercedes for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
So, praying in the Spirit involves a whole range of things. But the important thing I want to stress is this: that we MUST have the Person of the Holy Spirit actively involved in our prayer life — leading us, energizing us!
If your prayer life is lackluster and dry — ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit anew — invite the Holy Spirit to come and fellowship with you and have His way in your life! We need Him!
2. THE PRIORITY OF PRAYER
In Ephesians 6:18, there is one very important, little word that we should observe. It’s obviously very important because it appears several times in that one verse. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to work out that the Apostle Paul is trying to make a point. The word I’m referring to is the word “ALL” and it’s associated word “ALWAYS”:
“Praying ALWAYS with ALL prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with ALL perseverance and supplication for ALL saints;”
Here we see the PRIORITY of prayer. We are to ALWAYS be giving ourselves to prayer, in ALL its forms, with ALL our energy and diligence, in ALL situations, and for ALL people. PRAYER MUST UNDERGIRD EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES! Now, let me ask you these questions: Does prayer undergird everything YOU do? Is communion with God that kind of first priority in YOUR life?
The battle is ALWAYS raging. The enemy is desperate, for he knows his time is short — he’s not going to call any “time-out” for rest and recreation; the battle is on in earnest! And if that’s the case, then our armor must ALWAYS be in place, and we must remain alert — watching and praying.
1 PETER 5:8 (NKJV): “Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
We need to keep our eyes alert and to do that we need to stay connected to our source of life and keep the communications lines open with the Lord.
In Ephesians 6:18, we must also note the words “Prayer AND supplication”. This word “prayer” comes from a more general word for “praying”. It speaks of the necessity of always being in an attitude of prayer, of having a consistent prayer life (and how essential that is).
The word “supplication” comes from a Greek term which relates to special times of need. If Christians truly practice prayer as a way of life, then when the special times of need come along they will be prepared for them — to make “supplication” (URGENT REQUEST) before God, and see Him move into the situation.
3. THE PERSEVERANCE OF PRAYER
Come back to our text again, and note what it says: “… and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints”.
How many know that in this Christian warfare, “praying through” requires PERSEVERANCE?
The Bible is filled with accounts of people who PERSEVERED, holding onto God — sometimes when He was all they had left to hold on to – and God answered them in supernatural ways.
It’s JACOB at Peniel (Genesis 32), holding on and wrestling with the Angel of the Lord — “I will not let you go until you bless me”. PERSEVERING!
It’s ELISHA raising the Shunnamite woman’s son from the dead (2 KINGS 4:8-37). Elisha sends his staff on ahead with his servant Gehazi — “lay it on the boy’s body”. Nothing happens. So he comes to the boy himself and stretches himself out upon him. His body warms, but that’s all – he’s still unconscious. Elisha paces back and forth. He perseveres. Once more he stretches himself out on the boy’s body; this time the boy sneezes seven times and then opened his eyes. PERSEVERING!
It’s JOB in the midst of tragedy and overwhelming grief. He declares: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him!” “I know that My redeemer lives, and He will stand at the latter-day upon the earth”. PERSEVERING!
It’s BLIND BARTIMAEUS crying out to Jesus in the streets of Jericho (MARK 10). The crowd tell him to be quiet; for a while even Jesus doesn’t seem to hear him or pay him any mind — but he keeps crying out! PERSEVERING! Until finally Jesus restores his sight.
Again, it’s the story that Jesus told of the desperate WIDOW (LUKE 18) who comes before the judge — begging for him to uphold her cause against an enemy. And he won’t have anything to do with her for a while. But she is not deterred, she keeps on pleading her case — she won’t leave the judge alone — until finally he relents and takes up her case. PERSEVERANCE!
Jesus said, when telling that particular story, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint”. Not to give up. Not to be dissuaded. PERSEVERE!
We need to understand that our most vital partnership in Spiritual warfare is with the Holy Spirit! We need to keep prayer, communication and cooperation, with the Holy Spirit a priority in our lives. We need to understand that there is power in prayer and we need to pray and not give up!
And we also need to understand that we are not alone. Paul recognized this when he closed this section asking for them to pray for him. Ephesians 6:19-20 (NIV) says, “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, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Paul recognized how important it is for the body of Christ to pray for each other and to lift one another in prayer. It is important to pray for our missionaries as well. We are stronger together! I am reminded of the picture of the shield of faith which was body size. The Roman army would line up side by side and put those shield together as a defense against the fiery darts.
All of us need to keep up our shields and to pray for each other and in the Spirit of God. We need the breath of God to awaken His Church into a mighty army!