Ephesiansby Robert M. Solomon
Prayer must become a pervasive reality in spiritual warfare. It is through prayer that we move to the battleground and gain God’s strength and mighty power. And it is through prayer that we secure victory, because prayer connects us with the victorious Lord.
The underlying importance of prayer is seen in the word “all”, which is used four times in the ESV version of verse 18. We are to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication . . . keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV). The Lord also warned his sleepy disciples at Gethsemane: “ Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Watchfulness (“be alert”, Ephesians 6:18) and prayer go together and are both essential in spiritual battle, for a sleepy army is a vulnerable one.
The Spirit assists us in our prayers (“pray in the Spirit”, v. 18; Romans 8:26–27). We are reminded that both the Spirit and the Son are interceding for us (Romans 8:27, 34). When we pray, we are united with them. That is why one of poet and hymn writer William Cowper’s hymns goes:
And Satan trembles, when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.
We are to pray with “all kinds of prayers and requests”, to “always keep on praying”, and to pray “for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer is a central action in spiritual warfare because it builds on the central spiritual relationship—our relationship with God. Praying for all fellow believers, meanwhile, brings protection for all. The spiritual shield we use covers not only ourselves, but others standing with us.
It is with this in mind that Paul asks for prayer for himself (v. 19). He was in a Roman prison as Christ’s “ambassador in chains” (v. 20). He was awaiting trial, yet his prayer request was not about his personal circumstances; he did not mention release from prison nor his personal comfort and needs. Instead, he asked for prayer that he would proclaim the gospel fearlessly (vv. 19, 20). At his trial, he wanted to claim the promise of the Lord—that words would be given to him (v. 19; see Matthew 10:19–20). The gospel dominated Paul’s thinking even as he faced death.
Reflect on the way Paul uses the word “all” when referring to prayer. What implications are there for your prayer life? Is there an “all” to which you need to give more attention?
What should your prayer requests be when others ask how they can pray for you? How and what are you praying for on behalf of others?