In Ephesians 6:10-20, the apostle Paul says this:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (ESV)
In this passage, Paul begins to conclude his letter to the Ephesian Christians. He does so by instructing them on how to wage the war of the Christian life. In verses 10 to 17, he explicitly does this in specific military terms. His main points in these verses is that the Ephesians ought to rely on the Lord’s strength to be strong, and to use all of the spiritual armor that God has provided them, to fight against the devil’s schemes and servants.
In verses 18 to 20, though, Paul instructs the Ephesians on how to communicate with their divine Commander, and to call in the power that they need to fight against the devil’s hosts, and to stand firm. He has 10 specific instructions on how to pray in this passage:
- Pray Perpetually (v. 18a)
- Pray Powerfully (v. 18b)
- Pray Praisefully (v. 18c)
- Pray Petitionally (v. 18d)
- Pray Perceptively (v. 18e)
- Pray Persistently (v. 18f)
- Pray Personally (v. 18g)
- Pray for Proclamation (v. 19a)
- Pray for Precision (v. 19b-20a)
- Pray for Passion (v. 20b)
First, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray perpetually:
“. . . praying at all times . . .”
Obviously, he doesn’t mean that they’re to pray without stopping, but that they are to pray in all circumstances, and constantly. In other words, prayer is to be like the spiritual breathing of the Christian.
Second, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray powerfully:
“. . . praying at all times in the Spirit . . .”
What does Paul mean when he tells the Ephesians to pray “in the Spirit”? He means, literally, that they are to pray “in the realm” or “sphere” of the Spirit. That is, their praying isn’t to be a mere exercise of the mind, but is to be motivated and empowered by God the Holy Spirit. To put it another way, they are to pray in accordance with the Spirit’s will, relying upon Him to tell them the right things to pray with His Word, and depending on His power to enable them to pray biblically.
Third, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray praisefully:
“. . . with all prayer . . .”
The Greek word translated “prayer” has to mean something different from that translated “supplication”, not only because they are clearly different, but also because they are two different forms of prayer. While “supplication” refers to making requests, “prayer” was often used to refer to worship or praise offered through prayer. Thus, a more accurate way to understand this word is to think of it as praise or prayerful worship. Again, Paul uses the word “all” here to refer to all kinds of praise and worship, not just one kind. Sometimes even just talking to God as God is an act of worship.
Fourth, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray petitionally:
“. . . and supplication . . .”
The word “supplication” simply means “petition”. It just means to ask for things. Therefore, not only are the Ephesians to worship God through prayer, but they are also to ask Him to do things for them, and to give them things.
Fifth, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray perceptively:
“To that end, keep alert . . .”
To what end are they to keep alert? To the end of “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication”. They are to keep alert to their lives and the lives of their brethren in Christ, so they know what to pray for, and how to pray.
Sixth, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray persistently:
“To that end, keep alert with all perseverance . . .”
Not only are the Ephesians to keep alert to what to pray for, but they are to keep doing this. This implies that they are also to keep praying for those things that have not yet been resolved, but still need to be prayed for. To put it another way, they are not to cease praying, and not to cease looking for things to pray for, but to keep it up. They are not only to “watch and pray”, but also to “stay awake and pray”.
Seventh, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray personally:
“. . . making supplication for all the saints . . .”
Paul adds this as the way in which the Ephesians are to “keep alert with all perseverance”. Their praying isn’t to just be for themselves, but for their brethren in Christ. In fact, Paul emphasizes here that they are to keep alert with all perseverance by praying for their brethren, to the exclusion of themselves. Their praying isn’t to be self-centered, but others-focused — specifically, for “all the saints”, or literally, “holy ones” or “set apart ones” — which describes every Christian. That is, any saint they’re aware of that needs prayer is to be prayed for. If one thinks about, that includes every single saint on earth — all the saints.
Eighth, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray for his proclamation:
“. . . and also for me, that words may be given to me . . .”
The Greek word translated “words” here would be more literally translated “utterance” or “speech”, as the NASB does. So, it’s not just that Paul’s asking for the words themselves, but for the ability to speak those words. He wants the Ephesians to ask God to give him the ability and willingness to speak “the mystery of the gospel”.
Ninth, Paul commands the Ephesians to pray for his preaching precision:
“. . . that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains . . .”
The key word here is “boldly”. The Greek word could be more literally translated “with all out-spokenness”. What this means is that Paul wants to preach all of the gospel, not just some of it. He wants to leave none of the necessary information out of his proclamation. But what does he mean by “the mystery of the gospel”? The word “mystery” simply means “secret”. That is, it’s something that would be a secret unless God revealed it to us through supernatural means. That’s what the gospel is.
And what does Paul mean by the gospel? He defines it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (ESV)
First, the gospel, or good news, is a message to be “received”. That is, it is to be accepted and embraced. Second, it is the message in which people are to stand, or to rely on, so as not to fall into eternal damnation. Third, it is the only message that saves people, but it only saves them if they hold it tight, and don’t let it go. Fourth, it’s the good news that the Anointed One, the divine and human Prophet, Priest, and King, died for our crimes against God, was buried, rose from the dead, and appeared alive, after which He ascended into heaven as the King of the universe. Finally, the gospel includes the command to repent and believe it, and the promises that those who fail to depend on it will be eternally punished, and those who depend on it will have all their sins forgiven.
Paul adds to his command to pray for precision that he’s “an ambassador in chains” for the gospel. What does this mean? It means that he’s a representative of King Jesus — an ambassador — and is in a Roman prison “for” the gospel. In other words, he was imprisoned because he preached the gospel to people.
He tells this to the Ephesians to remind them of the importance of his gospel preaching. He’s even willing to be imprisoned in chains in order to be an ambassador for Christ by preaching the gospel. That’s why it’s so important that the Ephesians pray for his proclamation, precision, and passion in preaching.
The final thing that Paul commands the Ephesians to do in this passage is to pray for his passion:
“. . . for me . . . that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
Although the ESV uses the word “boldly” two times in this passage, the Greek word translated “boldly” here is different from the other one. The one here literally means “confidently” or “freely”, and comes the Greek word meaning “freedom of speech”. Therefore, Paul is commanding the Ephesians to pray for his precision in preaching “that” he may declare the gospel freely or confidently. To put it another way, he wants to have nothing holding him back, and to speak without beating around the bush or hesitating. He just wants to declare the gospel clearly and directly — as he “ought to speak”. He adds this last point to remind the Ephesians that he has a moral obligation as an ambassador of Christ to preach the gospel fully and freely.
So, if you are relying on the Lord’s strength, and fighting against the devil’s schemes and attacks by keeping on a belt of truthfulness, keeping on a breastplate of righteousness, keeping on the boots of the readiness of the gospel, shielding yourself with faith in God’s Word, keeping on the helmet of your future hope of salvation, and using God’s Word as the sword of the Spirit, are you:
- “praying at all times in the Spirit”?
- Are you talking to God as God and asking Him for things that are needed?
- Are you keeping alert with all perseverance to prayer needs and requests?
- Are you petitioning God for all the saints?
- Do you pray that “words may be given” to brethren “in opening [their] mouths boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel . . . that [they] may declare it boldly, as [they] ought to speak”?
- Are you living as an ambassador for King Jesus?
- When you have the opportunity, do you boldly and freely proclaim the gospel, as you ought to speak it?
If you don’t pray by the power and will of God the Holy Spirit, or don’t pray as an act of worship and for spiritual needs, then you most likely don’t have the Holy Spirit, and are still an enemy of God. If this describes you, then make sure you understand and believe the good news of Jesus Christ. Again, this good news is that God sent His eternally divine Son to become a man, Jesus of Nazareth, without ceasing to be divine, to willingly be nailed to a cross to suffer and die as God’s punishment for our crimes against Him, to raise Him from the dead, and to take Him into heaven to be the King of the universe. He’s now commanding everyone to change their minds and trust only in His death for our sins and resurrection as the only grounds of His forgiveness of our sins, since He’s sending Him soon to judge everyone according to everything they’ve ever done. If you reject His offer of mercy and peace, He will send you to the lake of fire and outer darkness to punish you forever for your sins against Him. Please make sure you’ve changed your mind and are only depending on Christ’s death and resurrection as the only grounds of God’s forgiveness of your sins. If you’re doing that, God has forgiven all of your sins, and now Christ commands you to be immersed in water by a true church to demonstrate to them that you know you’ve been forgiven.