“Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough to speak about it as I should.”
The first step is to put on the full armor of God. But that is not enough. Paul then says that we are to pray at all times in the Spirit. Paul opened his letter to the church at Ephesus with a prayer. He prayed, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength” (Ephesians 1:17-19). Now he ends his letter telling the church that they are to pray.
Prayer is an important part of our lives as believers. The church is commanded many times in scripture to pray. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Paul writes in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” In I Thessalonians 5:16-17, he writes, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In his letter to Timothy he writes, “Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument” (1 Timothy 2:8). And in James 5:13-14 we read, “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” These are just a few examples of verses that tell us we are to pray.
I think it’s important to take a moment and look at what it means to pray in the Spirit. I’m afraid that many people today look at God like he’s a magic genie and he has to do what they ask. That if they claim healing, God has to give it to them. When it doesn’t happen, they are disappointed and turn away from their faith. I think that’s where looking back at the first chapter of Ephesians helps. Paul prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” When we know God, when we know his Word, then our prayers will align with his. Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9-13, “Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
What can we pray for? Everything! In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” And sometimes, we don’t know what or how to pray. Romans 8:26-27 says, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
We are told to stay alert. We see this word in 1 Peter also. “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour (5:8). We need to be alert, and we need to intercede on behalf of all the saints. David Guzik writes in his commentary, “We can battle spiritually not only on our own behalf, but also on behalf of others. This soldier isn’t only concerned with his or her own safety. He feels an instinct to protect and battle on behalf of others.” Paul is such a great example of this. I gave the prayer he said for the church at Ephesus at the beginning of his letter. This was not an isolated event. Paul often prayed for the churches he visited. Some examples can be found in 2 Corinthians 13:7-9, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 and 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.
After Paul tells the believers to stay alert with all perseverance in intercession for each other, he then asks for prayer for himself. Paul understood the importance of prayer. This is something he asked for in his other letters to churches. Some examples are in his letters to Colossians and Thessalonians. Colossians 4:3-4 says, “At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.” In 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2, he writes, “In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith.” His request here is very similar. He asks for boldness to spread the gospel and that the message would be given to him. Paul’s requests for prayer were not about his comfort but about the spread of the gospel of Christ.
Paul was still sharing the gospel, even though he was a prisoner, chained to his guards. He was most likely witnessing to those guards and to the steady stream of visitors that he had. In Acts 28: 23-24, Luke writes that Paul convinced some of them to believe. Paul asks for prayer that he would be bold about sharing the gospel and that he would have the words that he should when sharing this.
Paul says he is an ambassador in chains. The dictionary definition of ambassador is “a diplomatic agent at the highest rate accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his or her own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.” I’m not sure if it had the same meaning back then, but it fits. And I think Paul was going for this stark contrast. An ambassador in chains. This treatment isn’t what we would think of for an ambassador! But he is an ambassador of Christ. Earlier he had described himself as an as a “prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles” (3:1) and “the prisoner of the Lord” (4:1). These are also contrasts we would not expect to see. But Paul is not writing this for sympathy. He considers it an honor to be an ambassador in chains and asks for prayer that he may speak with boldness about the gospel.
Before I close this post, I want to look at some of the things Paul prayed for churches and himself. I think that this will help me, and I hope you, in our prayer lives.
-“We also pray that you become fully mature.” (1 Corinthians 13:9)
-“that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11)
-“At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should.” (Colossians 4:3-4)
-“How can we thank God for you in return for all the joy we experience before our God because of you, as we pray very earnestly night and day to see you face to face and to complete what is lacking in your faith?” (1 Thessalonians 3:10)
-“In view of this, we always pray for you that our God will make you worthy of his calling, and by his power fulfill your every desire to do good and your work produced by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)
-“In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you,and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2)
-“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you,always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Philippians 1:3-4)
As I read these examples from Paul, I am encouraged to pray for myself and others to grow in their faith and for the gospel message to be spread. I pray that the Holy Spirit would give us boldness and speak through us to spread the Good News that this world today so desperately needs to hear!
Grace be with you!