This is the third lesson for an online Bible study through the book of Ephesians. The entire lesson is posted below. You can read it here and answer the questions in a journal or you can download the PDF or Word Doc and print a hard copy. Either way, I would love for all of you to interact with me and each other in the comments section of this blog page. Post insights, ask questions, and discuss the lesson. Let’s get started!
I love technology. I have a laptop, an iPad, an iPhone, and a Kindle. There is no end to the wonders I can perform with these four marvelous tools. With my iPhone alone I can remotely turn on my porch lights, record my favorite television show, and never again lose my car in a parking garage.
The power to do all that and more is in the palm of my hand. Just one problem: My knowledge of how to do it is limited. I can do a lot with these tools – in fact, I’ve even taught others who know less than me. But I still have much to learn before I will be using these devices at their full potential.
The Christian life is similar. Last week we learned that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. As Peter put it, we have everything we need for life and godliness. All this is available to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. But have we learned how to stand on, rest in, and apply these blessings to our lives?
In the passage we studied last week (1:1-14), Paul beautifully elaborated on the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. Then, beginning in verse 15, Paul shifts from praising God for what He has done into thanking God for his readers and interceding with the Father on their behalf.
Read Ephesians 1:15-23.
When Paul wrote this letter, it had been at least five years since he had seen the believers in Ephesus, but he had heard wonderful reports about their faith. Their continued growth encouraged him and fostered thanksgiving. In turn, Paul encouraged them with his letter and prayers for them. Paul’s relationship with the believers in Ephesus demonstrates that God designed our faith to be relational. He never meant for us to be lone Christians! We see this truth all throughout Scripture and will look at it more closely later in this study.
These believers had “every spiritual blessing” and strong faith in Christ, yet Paul still prayed for them. Why? Although the full power of the Holy Spirit resided within them, they had not accessed everything God had already made available. They still had some growing and learning to do. It sounds just like me! How about you?
Look back at verses 15-23. Make a list of the specific things Paul prayed for the believers in Ephesus. Focus on verses 17-19.
One thing that helped me see the heart of Paul’s requests for the Ephesians was to temporarily take away the descriptive words and phrases. Here’s what I ended up with:
I pray God will give you insight and discernment so you will grow in your knowledge of Him. I pray God will help you understand: 1) the hope to which He has called you; 2) the riches of your eternal inheritance; and 3) the resurrection power that is available to believers.
Before we take a brief look at each of these, let’s recall how this “insight, discernment, and understanding” is possible. To do that, we’ll take a quick detour to two of Paul’s other letters.
Read Romans 8:9-10. Who lives within every believer?
Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-16. How are believers able to understand spiritual things? How is it possible for believers to grow in their personal knowledge of God?
Growing in Knowledge and Understanding
Now that we’ve confirmed that God is able to answer these prayers through the presence of the Holy Spirit, let’s get back to Paul’s requests. First, Paul prayed that the Ephesian believers would grow in their knowledge of God. The Greek word translated as “know” in the NIV and “knowledge” in the ESV is epignosis. It refers to the “fullness of knowledge acquired through personal acquaintance.”
What’s the difference between knowing about someone and knowing them personally?
What are some things you are purposefully doing to get to know God better? Is there something else you could be doing to experience God, His character, and His ways?
Next, Paul prayed that the Ephesians would grow in their understanding of three specific things. He asked God to help them understand the present benefits of their salvation in Christ, their future inheritance as children of God, and the power that made both possible.
The Greek word translated as “calling” or “called” in verse 18 is “used especially of God’s invitation to man to accept the benefits of salvation” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words). Paul uses the same word in Ephesians 4:1 to refer to our current earthly life. Our relationship with God gives hope for this life, not just the next.
In what ways have you experienced God’s blessings in this life? How does your relationship with God give you hope for today?
Read Titus 3:7, Matthew 25:34, and Galatians 3:26-4:7. Compare these passages to Ephesians 1:5 and 18. These passages help us understand the nature of our “future inheritance.” Check all of the following statements that accurately reflect the teaching of these passages.
___Those God saves become His child and Jesus’ sibling and co-heir.
___God’s heirs will inherit eternal life.
___God’s heirs will share in His Kingdom.
___Each of God’s heirs are on equal standing with all God’s children.
___God’s heirs are Abraham’s seed, children of promise.
___God’s heirs also receive the Spirit of His Son.
Are you reeling yet from the enormity of all God’s promises? If you’re still on your feet – or in your chair – the impact of this next truth should take care of that.
Reread Ephesians 1:19-20. What miracle does Paul say was accomplished by the same power that is working inside believers?
Did you tremble when you answered that question? The exact same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and gave Him authority over all things is the exact same power that is available to believers today!
Believer, what area of your life needs to experience this power today? Are you facing an overwhelming challenge? Does some stronghold have a stranglehold on you? Has God called you to a task, ministry, or area of service for which you feel inadequate? If so, write that below.
Considering the “incomparably great power for us who believe,” how can God work in the area of your life you wrote above?
As Paul ended his prayer in chapter one, he reflected on the power and position of Christ. We serve a Savior who has both the power and authority to rule and reign!
Reread Ephesians 1:20-23. Rewrite these glorious truths about Jesus in your own words.
Here’s two ways we can interact with each other this week:
- Respond to any of today’s questions in the comment section of this post. Share insights, ask questions, or simply praise our God.
- Share ways the rest of the group can pray for you. If you see a request, feel free to post a prayer. That way we can all pray for each other this week.
- Wait! One more thing! I’d also like to know if you accepted last week’s challenge and memorized Ephesians 1:3.
(Each week, in addition to the weekly lesson, I will provide an opportunity – for those who have the time and desire – to go a little deeper. If you are unable to do this, please don’t worry, but if you can, take the plunge!)
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians can help us pray for ourselves and others. When we pray Scripture, we can be assured we are praying in God’s will! Print a hard copy of Ephesians 1:15-23. Put it in your Bible or where you have your quiet time. Use it this week to pray for others.
1. Perpetual Prayer (Ephesians 6:18a) 2. Petitionary Prayer (Ephesians 6:18b) 3. Powerful Prayer (Ephesians 6:18c) 4. Perseverant Prayer (Ephesians 6:18d) 5. Purposeful Prayer (Ephesians 6:18e)
As we continue our study of Ephesians 6 and spiritual warfare, and although we have already talked about the six pieces of the spiritual armor which Paul mentions, we still have one vitally important piece left. And although we looked last week at what many people think is the only weapon in the list—the sword of the spirit—today we come to another weapon which is just as powerful, maybe even more powerful at times.
The reason most people don’t consider this last item to be part of the spiritual armor is because Paul doesn’t have a parallel piece of armor from the soldier’s armor to compare this weapon with.
It’s not because they didn’t have other weapons—they did. Besides the sword, the soldiers also had spears and their bows with quivers full of arrows. Then there were other weapons in Roman warfare, like the battering ram and the catapult. Sometimes horses could be trained to use their hooves as a weapon.
But Paul doesn’t compare any of these to this last weapon he wants to talk about because none of them come even close to the power and precision and effectiveness of this last weapon. So since Paul doesn’t give us a piece of battle gear to equate this to, maybe we could call it our Secret Weapon.
You know how armies and militaries are—always trying to get the upper hand against their enemies by creating and designing new and improved weapons. Well, this weapon is the Secret Weapon God has given to us to fight enemy forces.
This weapon is something that the enemy does not have, that the enemy cannot stop, that the enemy cannot thwart. There is no defense for this type of weapon.
But if Paul were writing the book of Ephesians today, and comparing our pieces of spiritual armor to the types of armor and weapons used in modern warfare, I think that he would have a very ready illustration of what this secret weapon is.
This weapon began to be used in the Korean and Vietnam wars. We saw it used in Desert Storm with Gulf War I and with the recent war in Iraq. This weapon is the perfect example of this last piece of spiritual armor.
What is it?
Air support. When a platoon is under heavy fire, they call in air support. They get on their radio, and give the coordinates of where they need some bombs dropped, and as quickly as possible, jets fly over and drop bombs onto the coordinates. This technology has developed over the years. In Vietnam, they sometimes ran into the problem of wrong coordinates, or the bombs not being dropped accurately enough, and so many U.S. soldiers ended up dying from friendly fire. In the Gulf War, they had these laser guided precision bombs and missiles, which we were all amazed at then.
But more recently, as our forces closed in on Baghdad, both the Iraqi people and all of us Americans as we were glued to our television sets were literally in shock and awe. That phrase described it very well. Using intelligence gathering data and global positioning satellites, and smart bombs, we were able to win a war in record time. But more importantly, we only lost about 130 soldiers in this war, and were at the same time able to keep civilian Iraqi casualties to a minimum.
All in all, it was an amazing war, as fire fell from the sky on the criminals of the Iraqi government.
I think that if Paul was writing today, he would use this as his illustration here when he wrote Ephesians 6:18-20. In these verses, Paul writes about prayer.
Paul, if he were writing today, would have written to us about the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Word of God, and finally, in verses 18-20, the air support of prayer, or maybe we could say, the laser-guided smart bombs of prayer. Obviously, this last one I’ve come up with doesn’t really fit in with the Roman Soldier imagery…but the point is that prayer is vitally important to spiritual warfare.
This section on prayer is the third in the book of Ephesians. The previous two passages are found at the end of chapter 1 and another at the end of chapter 3. And in both of these other sections, one of the main things Paul says is that we should be praying for is power. And now, here at the end of his letter, he tells us how our prayers can be powerful. How, in this spiritual war, we can call down the fire power from heaven.
C. S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity that this world is enemy-occupied territory and that Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. And it is primarily through prayer that much of this sabotage takes place. Prayer is how we spiritually fight back against the enemy. “Prayer is fundamentally a warfare activity.”
With this in mind, it is sometimes humorous to see some people’s idea of prayer closets. They have the dim lighting and the cushioned seats with the padded kneelers. There is soft music playing above, the oak doors and stained glass window, a little counter for your Bible and pencils. The cup holder for your latte.
But prayer is warfare activity. A Prayer closet should be a foxhole! With sandbags and bullet shells. We are at war! Prayer is not chatting on the phone with God, it is the frantic radio calls of a platoon under heavy fire calling for air support. God! Send in help! We need your intervention, and we need it now, or we are not going to survive!
And it is often helpful to band together with other Christians in this. When the pioneers headed west, they would always situate their wagons into a circle to give them better protection. We should do that as well in prayer. We are in a war and we need to pray like it.
We see this by looking at Ephesians 6:18-20.
Ephesians 6:18-20. praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—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.
From this text we learn five things about the how to use prayer in Spiritual Warfare. Let’s take them one at a time as you follow along in your Bible and with your notes.
The first things we learn about our secret weapon of payer is that it must be
Table of contents
Perpetual Prayer (Ephesians 6:18a)
We get this from the first two words of verse 18 where it says praying always. (The NAS follows the literal word order best.)
That we should be praying always reminds us of what Paul said in 1 Thess 5:17, that we should pray without ceasing. This doesn’t mean that we should always be on our knees praying, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It means rather, that we should always be maintaining an attitude of prayer.
And if you’ve ever tried to do this, it’s difficult to do, isn’t it? I am trying to develop the habit of being in a state of conscious communication with God while I go about my day.
When I walk or drive back and forth to school, I thank God for the song of the birds, or the sun in the sky. As I eat my lunch, I thank him for the way the food tastes. As I prepare my messages and do my paperwork, I pray for clarity of thought and a wise use of my time. As I spend time with my family, I thank God that I have a wonderful wife and daughters.
Many times during the day, I find that some good Christian music playing in the background can help me maintain this spirit of prayer. My mind can be shuffling the papers on my desk and simultaneously singing the words of the song to God. Singing is a form of prayer, you know.
In fact, if you struggle with praying always, one of the best ways to get into the habit of it is to play Christian worship music as much as possible. In your car. At your desk at work. As you prepare supper, or wash dishes. You don’t have to have it on very loud, just in the background so that the words and the music get into your mind.
Soon, you will find yourself singing the songs as you go about your day, and as you sing them, you are, in a sense, praising God and praying the words to Him.
Now, I am not nearly as good at this as I have just made myself out to sound. In fact, I would say that despite the descriptions I just gave you, most of the time, I am not in an attitude of prayer. It is difficult to maintain, but it is a goal we should all nevertheless pursue.
For that is what Paul calls us to. The first aspect of warfare praying is that we should be praying always. It should be perpetual prayer.
Second, it should be
Petitionary Prayer (Ephesians 6:18b)
We get this from what he says next in verse 18. …with all prayer and supplication. The first term prayer, refers to general requests whereas the second term, supplication (some of you maybe have petitions or requests), is a word for specific prayer needs.
Now most of us do this sort of thing automatically. We have the general prayer item for those of you who are involved in witnessing and evangelism efforts. We pray for you in general. But then, as we hear of specific needs or specific people who need prayer, we can also pray for you or them by name.
So Paul is just calling us to pray for all different types of requests and needs—general and specific. To put it simply, Paul says that spiritual warfare prayer means that we have to pray for things!
I know that seems obvious to us, and that it shouldn’t need to be said, but sadly, it does need to be stated. I think that too many of us have wrong and false ideas about prayer.
I know a man who believes that since God knows everything, and since the Bible says that God knows what we need before we even ask him (Matt 6:8), we don’t need to pray for anything. And this man doesn’t pray for things. He never asks God for anything. He just trusts God to supply for his needs and to take care of him. C. S. Lewis wrote an excellent article called “Work and Prayer” which every Christian who is interested in prayer should read, and his basic point is that prayer is just like work, in that we use it to accomplish things. Without work, we should not expect anything to get accomplished, and so also, without prayer, we should not expect anything to get accomplished. Furthermore, the two work hand in hand.
God wants us to ask Him for things. God tells us to ask Him for things.
Why? Well, one reason is that it gives God pleasure to give to us the things we ask for. When children have birthdays, I imagine that all of us try to give good gifts to our children, some of them were asked for, and some were not. Maybe your children made up a wish list.
And you get joy out of both, and your children get joy out of both, but I would say that by far the most pleasure comes when we give something to a loved one which they have asked for, which they have dreamt about for months.
And furthermore, I would say that there are many, many things God will not do for us, and will not give to us unless we ask Him. It is not because He doesn’t know what we want, or doesn’t know what we need, but He wants us to express our dependence upon Him. He wants us to come to Him and share our needs and our desires. And unless we are willing to humble ourselves and ask Him for some of these things, he will not give them to us.
So those are a few of the things I would say to the person who doesn’t bring their prayers and petitions to God, because “God already knows what I need.”
But there is a second class of people who don’t bring their prayer requests to God for a far different reason. This second class of people seem to think that their needs and their requests are too insignificant to bother God with. These people seem to have a little hierarchy of prayer requests in their mind about what makes a prayer large or small. And they only feel that they can go to God with the big prayer requests.
Maybe they wait until their “small” requests become “big” requests. You know how it goes. “Well, this has blown up in my face. I guess I’ll take it to God now and see if he can fix it.”
Sometimes, their prayers reveal what they think about God, because they say things like, “God, this is a big one. I really need your help on this one. If you help me out on this one, I promise I’ll never come to you again.”
Sometimes in prayer, we are told that there are no small requests. But I think it is exactly the opposite. When it comes to praying to God, there are no large requests. They’re all small and simple to Him. He’s infinite. He’s immense. He’s omnipotent. Asking Him to have the sun stand still for a day, as Joshua did, takes just as much of God’s power as asking Him to help us drive safely to work.
And besides this, when viewed from the perspective that all of our prayer requests are small to God, this puts us in the correct mind frame of completely trusting and relying on God to work it out.
We don’t come to God saying “Here’s another big one for you, God. See if you can handle this one.” No, we come to him and say, “Thank you, God, for being so powerful and wise that you can figure a way out of this situation that has got me stumped. Thank you for being the God you are. Thank you for being so powerful and loving as to take the time and help me out with this tiny little petition.”
Do you see the difference that makes? We must bring our prayers and petitions to God if we want Him to work on them. Especially in spiritual warfare. Petitionary prayer is what calls in the air support.
Some of us struggle with knowing what to pray for. I have found that when my prayers start to seem like I’m praying the same thing over and over, and I never know what to pray for, that the best thing to do is start praying Scripture Passages where prayers are recorded are especially helpful, like Eph 1:15-23; 3:14-21; John 17; the Psalms. If we know we are praying Scripture, then we know we are praying according to God’s will, and Scripture promises that if we pray according to God’s will, we know that we have what we asked of Him. This is how we call down air support, and how we get powerful prayer.
Powerful Prayer (Ephesians 6:18c)
When we pray, and whatever it is we pray for, the true effectiveness, the true answers to prayer, come when we are—as verse 18 says next—praying in the Spirit.
What does that mean? Some groups interpret that to mean that this kind of praying is praying in tongues. But that is not what it means.
I think that, in context, it means two things. First of all, taking us all the way back to Ephesians 5:18, it means that part of being filled with the Spirit is praying in the Spirit. That’s what we saw there, is it not? There the prayers are sung to God through songs, hymns and spiritual songs, but they are prayers nonetheless.
So as we sing here on Sunday morning, if you really get your mind and your emotions involved, rather than just mouthing the words, or singing in a mouse voice.
That, first of all, is the distant context. But in the closer context, right at the end of verse 17, which we looked at last week, we see that the spirit mentioned in reference to the Sword, which is the Word of God.
So if you are going to pray in the Spirit, that means that to some degree, your prayers are going to be based on the Bible.
That is always a good place to start you prayers. You can be certain that if you pray the Psalms, you are praying according to God’s will. If you pray Colossians 1 for you family, you are praying for them according to God’s will. If you pray Romans 12 for every Christian you know, you are praying according to God’s will.
But what about the things that are not so cut and dry? What about the things which Scripture does not speak? For example, who you should marry. Where you should live. Whether you should move or not. What kind of job you should have.
Some people are content, in these situations, to just “pray for wisdom.” And that is a safe prayer and one that James 1:5 tells us we should pray. But it not a very exciting prayer, because how do you know when God has answered you request? When you make a decision, how do you know if it was because God gave you wisdom, or because you just simply couldn’t wait any longer and so you made the decision?
But I’ve gotten us off on a tangent. Let me try to bring us back. How can we pray in the Spirit or according to God’s will, for those things that are not in God’s Word? The answer is found in an understanding of what prayer is.
Most of us have this idea that prayer is when we bow our heads, fold our hands, close our eyes, and make some sort of speech to God.
But that is not what prayer is and not necessarily how prayer is done. I like to think of prayer as a running conversation between God and the one doing the praying.
This means that when we pray, we should behave as if we were talking to a friend who is always at our side.
Think of the friends you do have. Or think of your spouse. When you first got to know the person, maybe you hit it right off and had all sorts of things to talk about. Or, maybe you had trouble finding common ground between you and so some of the conversations were forced or repetitive.
But after a while, as you continued to talk to one another and spend time together, you got to know each other better, and communication became easier. It took less concentration. It could be done automatically. Sometimes, it could even be done without words. You knew what a person was thinking without having to talk to them.
And furthermore, you became able to predict or know what a person thought or felt about a certain topic or issue even if you had never talked about it. If you asked me, for example, what my wife thought about all the development going on around here in Whitefish, I know roughly what she thinks, even though we have never talked about it, and I don’t think I have ever heard her say anything specific about it.
This is the same way it works with prayer and the things which God says nothing about in his Word. As you pray, as you spend time in his Word, you begin to develop a relationship with God, and as you learn what He likes and doesn’t like, how He thinks, what His ideas are on various subjects, you become able to know with some degree of certainty what God thinks about issues that the Bible doesn’t touch on.
Part of this as well, is the illumination of the Spirit helping you to understand God and extrapolate Biblical principles into the various issues life throws you way.
And as we pray this way, according to Biblical principles and in light of our developing relationship with God and the Spirit helping us in our prayers, that is when we are praying in the Spirit, as Paul mentions in verse 18.
Now, with that understanding, we come to realize why this is where the power in prayer comes from.
If you are praying in the Spirit, according to the Word of God, according to the will of God, then you can be certain that every single thing you pray for will be given to you.
This is what Jesus promises in John 16:23 when he says that if we ask for anything in his name, it will be given to us. This doesn’t mean that if we just tack on the magical words “In Jesus name we pray” to the end of our prayer that whatever we pray for we will get.
What Jesus means is that when we pray, if we pray for the things Jesus himself would pray for, if we pray as if Jesus is praying in us, if we come before the throne of God as if we are Christ—for in a sense we are, He is in us, we are in Him, we are His Body—then whatever we ask for will be granted.
But we must be praying for the things Jesus would pray for, and He only prays for the things that are in the will of God.
This is what 1 John 5:14-15 says as well. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
John Wesley boldly stated that God does nothing but in answer to prayer. Maybe he overstated the power of prayer a little bit, for I believe that most of what God does, he does without anybody praying for it, but I think John Wesley has hit on something that so few of us really grasp. Prayer is an aspect of omnipotence that God has granted to us.
The more we pray in the spirit, or according to the will of God, the more is accomplished. In fact, did you know that “there are more conditional promises attached to prayer in Scripture than to any other human activity?” There truly are some things God will not do unless we pray. When God works in human history, and in our lives, prayer is one of the central variables God takes into consideration. Who is praying? How were they praying? How much did they pray? What did they pray for?
This is the incredible and unbelievable power of prayer. Prayer is our pipe-line to the power of God! Someone has said that “Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.” Remember when God answered the prayer of Joshua and held the sun still for an extra day? These are the sorts of things that can happen when we pray. There truly is power in prayer.
But let’s move on to the fourth element of our secret weapon of prayer. It is
Perseverant Prayer (Ephesians 6:18d)
This fourth aspect to our secret weapon of prayer is that we need to keep on praying.
Verse 18 reads being watchful to this end with all perseverance. We need to persevere, continue, keep on praying.
This element of prayer has been one of the most difficult for me personally. Sometimes I feel that that I pray the same thing over and over, day after day, and never seem to get anywhere.
I have sometimes thought—and I would never do this—but I have sometimes thought about recording my prayers onto a cassette tape, and then just playing them back every day.
But the Bible here and elsewhere tells us to keep on praying. Why is this?
I mean, is there more power in praying something ten times than only praying it once? Does God have a little tally sheet that tells us how many times we have to pray a certain prayer before he answers? “Well, that request requires that you pray for it 25 times before I answer.”
No, obviously not. So why are we supposed to keep praying? Why are we supposed to be persistent in our prayer? What is the difference between praying something one time and one hundred times?
Well, let me just share with you a little of what I have learned so far. First of all, some go to Luke 18 as a principle for persevering in prayer. There, Jesus tells a parable about widow who is trying to get justice from an unjust judge. She was only able to finally get what she wanted because of she constantly badgered him.
Jesus tells some strange parables and this is one of them. Some people seem to teach from this that we need to badger God. But that would mean that God is being compared to this unjust judge, and we know that he is not unjust. Far from it, He is very just.
But an understanding of the parable comes from realizing that Jesus is contrasting God the Father with this unjust judge rather than comparing them. So when this is understood, we see that God, as a loving Father, and a kind, and merciful and gracious God, loves to hear and answer our prayers and do what is right for us. So with that as the purpose of the parable, we really don’t get any help for why we should persevere in our prayers.
But recently, I happened to be running an errand, and I had the radio tuned to a Christian radio station so I could catch a few minutes of a sermon. And the pastor who was preaching, I don’t know who it was, said that sometimes, God doesn’t answer our prayers right away, because He wants us to keep talking to Him. He knows, as we all do from our own experience, that our most faithful and fervent times of prayer are when we need God to act.
But when God finally does answer our request, we might spend a few more days in prayers, but as the need wanes, so does our time in prayer. I’m sure you have seen this happen in your life as I have seen it happen in mine.
I don’t know if that is why God delays in answering prayer sometimes, but that is a possibility, even though I cannot find Scripture to back up this idea.
But I think that there is another possibility which, in my mind, makes more sense, and which has Biblical proof for support.
Do you remember in Daniel 10 when Daniel prays three times a day for 21 days for a particular prayer request, and after persevering for so long in prayer, he finally gets his answer. The angel who brought him the answer, however, basically tells Daniel that the prayer was answered on the first day, but that because of wicked forces, the angel could not get through for three weeks.
“The reason why some prayers are not answered may have nothing to do with what God wills or with how profound or weak a person’s faith is, for in this passage Daniel prays with effective faith and God wills to answer him.” This passage seems to teach that what goes on in the spiritual realm may significantly affect how, when and even whether or not God can answer any given prayer.
The passage implies that it is only because of perseverant prayer that the angel was finally able to get through with Daniel’s answer. I don’t agree with everything in the books, but Frank Peretti in his book called This Present Darkness brings out the importance of prayer in spiritual warfare quite well.
Persevering in prayer is required for some prayers to get through—especially since we are in spiritual warfare.
You cannot think you are going to win a battle by going out and swinging your sword only once and then sitting down and saying, “Well, I swung my sword, but I didn’t get victory, so I guess I’ll just give up.”
No! Keep swinging. Keep standing. Keep fighting. Keep praying.
A woman had stayed at a hotel, and when she got home, she realized that she had left her diamond earrings on the bedside stand. So she called the hotel and got the manager on the phone and asked him to go and look for them.
He went to the room, found the diamond earrings, and immediately went to put them in the safe, and then returned to the phone to tell her the good news but when he picked back up the phone to tell her, she had grown impatient of waiting and had hung up!
How many of our prayers which we think God has never answered, were actually answered, but now they are sitting in a safe in heaven, just waiting for us to persevere in prayer?
Sometimes, we just need to hang on and pray. Sometimes, God is working to answer our prayer, but we give up too soon. Spiritual warfare prayer requires us to persevere in prayer. That is the fourth element.
Let’s move on to the fifth and final. This fifth element of our secret weapon of prayer is that it must be purposeful prayer for the saints.
Purposeful Prayer for the Saints (Ephesians 6:18e)
At the end of verse 18, he tell us to pray, or to make supplication for all the saints. There’s that word supplication again, which means specific prayer requests. And to pray for all the saints means to pray for all Christians.
We fail in this in so many ways. Sometimes, it seems that we spend much of our time praying for unbelievers that they might become Christians. And I think that is a good idea, but it should not be a priority in our prayers. If you want a person to become a Christian, witness to them, rather than pray for them. And if you are going to pray for them, make sure you are part of the answer to your prayers.
Some of us have a different struggle though. While we do spend most of our time praying for the saints, we just spend it praying for one of them—ourselves. Sometimes, it seems all we ever do is pray for ourselves. My sickness, my injury, my job, my finances, my marriage, my car, my dog.
But notice that Paul calls us to pray for all the saints. And although you are a saint if you are a Christian, Paul means you are to pray for all the saints other than yourself.
I read of one young girl who said, “Lord, I am not going to pray for myself today; I am going to pray for others.” And so she began to pray. But at the end of the prayer, she added, “And give my mother a handsome and rich son-in-law!”
Somehow or another, we always end up sneaking ourselves in there. Both of these pitfalls are to be avoided.
Prayer is powerful warfare activity. It is what God has given to us to make use of His power in this battle we are in. did you ever see the movie “Navy SEALs”? In it, a platoon of Navy SEALs each SEAL has his specialty. One of the guys is a sniper, but his gun is a special type of gun. It’s this huge gun with giant bullets which can blow holes through concrete walls. His scope has a night-vision, heat-sensitive scope so that he can shoot at night and see the heat images of enemies hiding behind walls.
This gun also has such a long range that the sniper can set up his position way away from where all the action is and get a big-picture view of the whole area. From where he is situated, he is able to help any member of his team who is in danger.
And the other members of the SEAL team often call on him for help. When they are under fire by enemies they could not see, they often call on this guy to help them out. And do you know what they called this important member of their team? They called him “God.” When they were under fire, they would get on their radio and say, “God, I need some help.” And he would send it.
That is exactly the way prayer works in spiritual battle. Next time you are facing a dire situation, call out to God for help, and He will send it.
Quoted by Greg Boyd, Satan & the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy, 209.
Cf. C. S. Lewis, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” in The World’s Last Night: And Other Essays, 8.
Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, #1044.
There are so many powerful prayers in the bible that we can pray verbatim over ourselves daily to see amazing transformation in our lives.
We want to share with you this prayer from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:16-21 New International Version (NIV)
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
To personalize this prayer and pray it over yourself daily you would pray it like this:
“I pray that out of His glorious riches he will strengthen me with power through his Spirit in my inner being, so that Christ will dwell in my heart through faith. And I pray that I, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that I will be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all I ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within me, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
This is a very powerful daily prayer that we can make a habit to pray. Try and memorize it.
Here are some other prayers if you would like someone to pray for you, you can submit an online prayer request
Introduction: We all love to be praised. How many of us equally appreciate someone praying for us? What would your reaction be if someone told you, “I’m going to pray that you get a lot smarter?” Is that an example of both prayer and praise? In our study this week, Paul praises the Ephesians, and then prays that they “get smarter.” Let’s jump into our lesson to learn more!
- Last week, we studied in Ephesians 1:13-14 that the believers in Ephesus were “sealed” with the Holy Spirit. That seal was their security deposit assuring them of heaven. Read Ephesians 1:15-16. Paul starts out “For this reason.” For what reason? (Paul’s understanding that they are saved.)
- What other good things has Paul heard about the Ephesians? (That they have faith in Jesus and they love each other.)
- Do you pray for those who seem to have their act together spiritually?
- Why would Paul consider the salvation of the Ephesians one of his own blessings? (It shows his “fatherly” attitude towards them.)
- Why would Paul flatter the Ephesians with the inside knowledge that he thanks God for them?
Prayer, Wisdom and Encouragement
- Read Ephesians 1:17. Imagine that during the prayer time in church someone stood up and said, “I pray all the time that God will give(insert your name) the spiritual gift of wisdom.” How would you react to that?
- Add the fact that the person praying for you has recently been in some sort of conflict with you. What would you be thinking? Would you stand up and say “I’ve also been praying that (the other person) would be given some wisdom by God, starting with the nature of their public prayers about me!”
What Paul writes could be taken as an insult. Tell me what specific technique Paul uses to keep this from sounding like an insult? (The first thing Paul did was to praise them for their spiritual progress. The second thing he did was to suggest that he wanted them to grow in knowledge. Since everyone can grow, this is not an insult. Third, he addressed it to the group, and did not single out any specific person who was especially in need of wisdom.)
- Notice in Ephesians 1:17 Paul also prays that they will have the Spirit of “revelation.” What do you think that means? (When I looked this up in the Greek, and looked at the way the word had been translated elsewhere, I got the feeling that it was a cross between a greater understanding of Jesus and His plan for His Second Coming.)
- What is the purpose of this additional wisdom and revelation which Paul requests for the Ephesians? (To know Jesus better.)
- We have discussed our reaction if someone else prayed for greater wisdom for us. Do you pray for greater wisdom and revelation for yourself? How about your pastor? Your family?
- Recall that Paul started out saying that the Ephesians were saved – they were sealed by the Holy Spirit. They loved each other. What does Paul’s prayer teach us about being satisfied with mere salvation? (The Christian’s life is one of progress. We should desire to keep moving towards greater knowledge of Jesus, greater wisdom and holiness.)
Prayer for Our Future
- Read Ephesians 1:18. Paul has another “you need to know more” prayer for the people. What is it?
- I’m not sure my anatomy is the same as the people living in Ephesus. My heart does not have eyes. How about yours?
- Seriously, when Paul refers to the “eyes” of the “heart” what does he mean? (He is not really talking about the heart or the eyes. He is talking about spiritual understanding. Something that you know “inside.”)
- What does Paul want us to know inside? (Our future. Our inheritance as saints.)
- Have you ever prayed that God would more clearly reveal your future reward to you?
When I was young, I thought and planned about what I intended to accomplish in my life: what education I needed, what would be my profession, my professional goals. As I get older, I think more about “semi-retirement,” where I will live as I grow old, whether I will have enough money, health and mental ability to get along until the day I die. How about you? When you think about the future, on what are your thoughts centered? (Paul is teaching me that my thoughts are certainly inadequate. I need to be contemplating my “semi-retirement” in heaven. You need to be contemplating and learning more about God’s heavenly reward for you.) Prayer for Power
- Read Ephesians 1:19-21. Paul has another prayer for the Ephesians, a prayer for power. Would you like to become “powerful?”
- For whom does this power exist? (“For us who believe.”)
- What kind of power is this? How great a power for us does Paul request? (This power is like what God the Father used to raise Jesus from the dead and seat Him on His throne in heaven.)
- Would that kind of power take care of all of your “power” needs?
When I was young, during the “muscle-car” days, I mostly drove European sports cars. These cars were designed to be fast around corners, but they had little “muscle” in the engine department. However, one American car I owned was much different. It was a Mercury Cyclone GT, with a huge engine (390 cubic inches), a “dual-feed” carburetor, an aluminum hood held down by racing pins, and various other things designed to allow it to go fast. Unlike the European cars, it was terrible going around corners. The problem with the Cyclone was its tires. They were pretty narrow and that kept the car from effectively applying all of the power of the engine.
- Paul tells us that we have this tremendous amount of power available to us. What do you think is keeping us from effectively applying all of that power? What is the equivalent of the tire problem in my Cyclone?
- What keeps us from having “traction” with the power of God?
Read Ephesians 1:22-23. Who has all authority today? (Jesus. God placed “all things” under His (Jesus) feet.)
- Where do you come into play in this text? (We are the body, the church. Jesus is the head of the church, and we are the hands and feet – the body.)
- What does this suggest about the power of God available to us? (It suggests a couple of things. First, that the way in which the power of God is applied is decided by Jesus. He is the brains of the operation. Second, it is the body (us) who actually apply the power. My brain decides what my body will do, but my body performs the action.)
- What does this analogy to the body suggest about the answer to our question about applying the power of God? What could be the problem? (It suggests the lack of power in the church exists because Jesus has decided not to fully apply it, or it could be that the body is not in close enough contact with the head – so that the instructions from the brain are not getting through.)
- Which answer do you think applies? (Notice again that in Ephesians 1:18-19 Paul prays that the “eyes of the heart” of the Ephesians would be “enlightened” to know about this “incomparably great power.” This implies the problem exists with us.)
Friend, Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be wiser and more aware of the power available to them from God. Will you pray that same prayer for your church and for yourself?
- Next week: The Church: God’s Workmanship.