Importance of Prayer
With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.
In Ephesians 6:18, the tremendous importance of prayer is expressed with startling and overwhelming force: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and support”I action for all the saints.” When the perceptive child of God stops to weigh the meaning of these words, then notes the connection in which they are found, he or she is driven to say, “I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and heart into prayer. Whatever else I do, I must pray.
Notice the all’s: “all prayer and supplication”….”all perseverance”….”for all the saints.” Note the piling up of strong words: “prayer,” “supplication,” “perseverance.” Also notice the strong expression, “being watchful,” more literally, “ in this, be not lazy.” Paul realized the natural apathy of man, especially his natural neglect in prayer. How seldom we pray things through. How often the church and individual get right up to the verge of a great blessing in prayer and then let go, become lazy, and quit. I wish that these words, “in this, be not lazy,” might burn into our hearts. I wish that the whole verse would burn into our hearts.
Why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer so necessary? Because there is a Devil. He is cunning; he is mighty; he never rests; he is continually plotting the downfall of the children of God. If the children of God relax in prayer, the Devil will succeed in ensnaring them. Ephesians 6:12-13 reads:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious].” (Ephesians 6:12-13)
Next follows a description of the different parts of the Christian’s armor that we are to put on if we are to stand against Satan and his mighty schemes. Paul brings his message to a climax in Ephesians 6:18, telling us that to all else we must add prayer- constant, persistent, untiring, sleepless prayer in the Holy Spirit- or all will be in vain.
Prayer is God’s way for obtaining things. The reason we lack anything in life is due to a neglect of prayer. James pointed this out very forcibly: “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). The secret behind the poverty and powerlessness of the average Christian is neglect of prayer.
The most painful words I hear are those of a Christian who says, “I don’t know how to pray” or “I can’t pray.” Most of these times it’s when someone is asked to pray in a public gathering. How sad it is that we have made prayer a public speech rather than an intimate conversation with our Father. If we could only see prayer as such, what liberty and what power of prayer would be at work in us. Quite often I hear people read a prayer and while I don’t mean to be offensive about this I’ve concluded that the prayer is more for the benefit of the human listeners than it is that of communicating with God. Someone may say that they have to find a prayer or write a prayer so they can get their words right. So indulge me for a moment. Would any of us sat down with our parents or friends to have a conversation and write down what we are going to say? I think not. I think that the conversation would generate itself as two individuals who know and love each other just shared their hearts and thoughts. I think that one of the greatest thing the devil has done to cause the children of God to not pray is to make prayer something of a rehearsed speech or some formal pre-planned conversation or worse yet, having to use someone else’s words. Second of all, if we only meet and fellowship with our family friends when we are in need and neglect being with them otherwise, we might want to evaluate our relationship with them. I think any of us would be disappointed with a relationship based solely on need and the only time that other person spoke to us was when they needed us to do something for them.
In our text, Paul is saying to us that the real issues in our lives and in the world isn’t people or people generated. I say this at the risk of it being categorized as”preacher speak.” To many of us, to say that the real challenges of life are driven by spiritual powers, is foolish. We would much rather gather in discussion groups hoping to find a human solution to a sin issue. Many of you have heard this from me repeatedly, “The problems of this world are sin and heart issues. They stem from a sinful heart and nature. The only real cure is a heart transformation, one heart at a time.” Heart transformations begin and continue through prayer. Prayers of repentance and prayers of transformation are the constant companions of the Christian development. I think we all know that we have no power to change ourselves, no matter how much we try and if that is the case with us then is it not also the case with others. We “do not wrestle with flesh and blood” and if that be the case-and it is- then we must use to only tool that is effective against the devil and his devices- prayer.
Suppose you were a child walking down the street and you were accosted by evil people. If you were by yourself you might be in trouble. But supposed you were with your dad and he was a strong fearless man. You would know that you were safe since you were with him. This is the focus of Paul’s analogy. We are clothed in the armor of God and yet we must also make our situation known to God. It is in our relationship with God that we can stand against the devil. Now suppose you were told that on that street were evil people and you just laughed it off and sauntered your way down that street believing that they really weren’t there or if so weren’t evil or worse still, you believed you could take them on. You might be lucky to escape with your life but you would probably suffer loss and pain. This is the picture of so many of God’s children. To think that there is an evil presence in this world is disturbing so they shrug it off as a myth and all the while the devil and his demons are at work eating away and bringing division and destruction to the people of God and the church. And sadly, rather than coming together in prayer, we come together in a feeble attempt to resolve the issues with human means.
Over the years I’ve listened to prayer requests that ask God to use humans to resolve our problems. There’s nothing wrong in that in its self but when we dig a little deeper we find that our hope and faith is really in the skills and knowledge of that human. We often trust doctors, lawyers and politicians more than we trust God. We just pray that God gives them wisdom and ability to solve our problems. Compare that to Jehoshaphat, who, when confronted by three armies who had come to destroy Israel, brings the letter before the temple and reads it to God and proclaims these powerful words:
“and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven? And do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand, there is no one able to take a stand against You. They have lived in it, and have built You a sanctuary in it for Your Name, saying, ‘If evil comes on us, or the sword of judgment, or plague, or famine, we will stand before this house and before You ( for Your Name and Your Presence is in this house ) and we will cry out to You in our distress, and You will hear and save us.’ O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless against this great multitude which is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (2 Chronicles 20:6,8-9,12)
Or could we consider how the Acts church confronted their challenges:
“After Peter and John were released, they returned to their own [people] and reported everything that the chief priests and elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “O Sovereign Lord [having complete power and authority], it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything that is in them, And now, Lord, observe their threats [take them into account] and grant that Your bond-servants may declare Your message [of salvation] with great confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders (attesting miracles) take place through the name [and the authority and power] of Your holy Servant and Son Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were meeting together was shaken [a sign of God’s presence]; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness and courage. (Acts 4:23-24,29-31)
I conclude this appeal to us to become people of intense prayer and persistent intercession with the words to an old song:
Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
And He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
You will know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right.
Dr. John Thompson