Ephesians 6:18-24

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 8, 2006


We’ve been talking for several weeks now about the battle we’re in. Max Lucado writes about the battle (from In the Grip of Grace),

God has enlisted us in his navy and placed us on his ship. The boat has one purpose – to carry us safely to the other shore. This is no cruise ship; it’s a battleship. We aren’t called to a life of leisure; we are called to a life of service. Each of us has a different task. Some, concerned with those who are drowning, are snatching people from the water. Others are occupied with the enemy, so they man the cannons of prayer and worship. Still others devote themselves to the crew, feeding and training the crew members. Though different, we are the same. Each can tell of a personal encounter with the captain, for each has received a personal call. We each followed him across the gangplank of his grace onto the same boat. There is one captain and one destination. Though the battle is fierce, the boat is safe, for our captain is God. The ship will not sink. For that, there is no concern.

:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;

praying always – literally, “in all time”, or, “on every occasion”


Unceasing prayer

The Bible tells us that God is always with us. Jesus said,
(Mat 28:20 NKJV) "…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
And if God is with us all the time, we ought to think about talking with Him.  Paul wrote,
(1 Th 5:17 NKJV) pray without ceasing
Several hundred years ago there was a French priest named Brother Lawrence who put together a small little collection of teachings called “The practice of the presence of God”. He wrote,
“Pray remember what I have recommended to you, which is to think often on God, by day, by night, in your business, and even in your diversions. He is always near you and with you; leave Him not alone. You would think it rude to leave a friend alone who came to visit you; why, then, must God be neglected? Do not, then, forget Him, but think on Him often, adore Him continually, live and die with Him; this is the glorious employment of a Christian. In a word, this is our profession; if we do not know it, we must learn it.”
There is a sense in which we all need to learn to have that constant conversation going on in our hearts to God.  I think the more we “practice” this, learning the value of God’s presence with us, it will change a great many things in us.

supplicationdeesis – need, a seeking, asking, entreating


Specific requests

Prayer is more than just having a conversation with God. An important element in prayer is learning to ask for specific things from God.
Mr. Jones Goes To Heaven
There’s a little fable about a Mr. Jones who dies and goes to heaven. Peter is waiting at the gates to give him a tour. Amid the splendor of golden streets, beautiful mansions, and choirs of angels that Peter shows him, Mr. Jones notices an odd-looking building. He thinks it looks like an enormous warehouse-it has no windows and only one door. But when he asks to see inside, Peter hesitates. “You really don’t want to see what’s in there,” he tells the new arrival. “Why would there be any secrets in heaven?” Jones wonders. “What incredible surprise could be waiting for me in there?” When the official tour is over he’s still wondering, so he asks again to see inside the structure. Finally Peter relents. When the apostle opens the door, Mr. Jones almost knocks him over in his haste to enter. It turns out that the enormous building is filled with row after row of shelves, floor to ceiling, each stacked neatly with white boxes tied in red ribbons. “These boxes all have names on them,” Mr. Jones muses aloud. Then turning to Peter he asks, “Do I have one?” “Yes, you do.” Peter tries to guide Mr. Jones back outside. “Frankly,” Peter says, “if I were you....” But Mr. Jones is already dashing toward the “J” aisle to find his box. Peter follows, shaking his head. He catches up with Mr. Jones just as he is slipping the red ribbon off his box and popping the lid. Looking inside, Jones has a moment of instant recognition and lets out a deep sigh like the ones Peter has heard so many times before. Because there in Mr. Jones’s white box are all the blessings that God wanted to give to him while he was on earth ... but Mr. Jones had never asked.
“Ask,” promised Jesus, “and it will be given to you” (Matthew 7:7). “You do not have because you do not ask,” said James (James 4:2). Even though there is no limit to God’s goodness, if you didn’t ask Him for a blessing yesterday you didn’t get all that you were supposed to have. That’s the catch-if you don’t ask for His blessing, you forfeit those that come to you only when you ask. In the same way that a father is honored to have a child beg for his blessing, your Father is delighted to respond generously when His blessing is what you covet most.

Bruce Wilkinson, The Prayer of Jabez, pgs. 25-27

Because I am a child of God, I have some incredible things at my disposal. God will listen to my prayers. God will answer my prayers.
And as God’s child, that means that there are things in my life that I’m cheating myself out of simply because I haven’t been praying.
As your friend, there are things I’m cheating you out of because I haven’t been praying for you.
If you were the child of a hugely wealthy man, a man who has given you a credit card with no limit, and your father has told you to use that credit card for anything you wanted, would you ever use it? Would you ever buy something for yourself? Would you ever use it to buy something for others?
As a child of God, we have something similar in prayer. Except we can’t just buy “anything”. The things we “purchase” must have God’s approval. But why would that stop us from praying? Why not take advantage of this incredible resource that God has given to us.
(John 15:7 NKJV) "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Knowing this, it is important that we learn to ask for specific things.
Just like Winnie the Pooh, I am a bear of very little brain. I have a hard time remembering all the things I need to remember. So for me, I’ve been learning that I need to have a “prayer list”, a list of the most important things, so I can remember to ask for them.


Specific time with God

It’s one thing to be with your wife in a crowded room where lots of people are talking and coming in and out of your conversation with each other.
But it’s not enough for a marriage if you’re just together with other people. You need time where it’s just the two of you, where no one else is a part of the conversation.
It’s the same in our relationship with God. It is important that we learn to develop the continual conversation with God throughout the day. But God wants more than just a casual relationship with you.

by Kirsten Burgess

He sits by himself at a table for two. The uniformed waiter returns to his side and ask, “Would you like to go ahead and order, sir?” The man has, after all, been waiting since seven o’clock—almost half an hour. “No, thank you,” the man smiles. “I’ll wait for her a while longer. How about some more coffee?” “Certainly, sir.” The man sits, his clear blue eyes gazing straight through the flowered centerpiece. He fingers his napkin, allowing the sounds of light chatter, tinkling silverware, and mellow music to fill his mind. He is dressed in sport coat and tie. His dark brown hair is neatly combed, but one stray lock insists on dropping to his forehead. The scent of his cologne adds to his clean cut image. He is dressed up enough to make a companion feel important, respected, loved. Yet he is not so formal as to make one uncomfortable. It seems that he has taken every precaution to make others feel at ease with him. Still, he sits alone. The waiter returns to fill the man’s coffee cup. “Is there anything else I can get for you, sir?” “No, thank you.” The waiter remains standing at the table. Something tugs at his curiosity. “I don’t mean to pry, but...” His voice trails off. This line of conversation could jeopardize his tip. “Go ahead,” the man encourages. His is strong, yet sensitive, inviting conversation. “Why do you bother waiting for her?” the waiter finally blurts out. This man has been at the restaurant other evenings, always patiently alone. Says the man quietly, “Because she needs me.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.” “Well, sir, no offense, but assuming that she needs you, she sure isn’t acting much like it. She’s stood you up three times just this week.” The man winces, and looks down at the table. “Yes, I know.” “Then why do you still come here and wait?” “Cassie said that she would be here.” “She’s said that before,” the waiter protests. “I wouldn’t put up with it. Why do you?” Now the man looks up, smiles at the waiter, and says simply, “Because I love her.” The waiter walks away, wondering how one could love a girl who stands him up three times a week. The man must be crazy, he decides. Across the room, he turns to look at the man again. The man slowly pours cream into his coffee. He twirls his spoon between his fingers a few times before stirring sweetener into his cup. After staring for a moment into the liquid, the man brings the cup to his mouth and sips, silently watching those around him. He doesn’t look crazy, the waiter admits. Maybe the girl has qualities that I don’t know about. Or maybe the man’s love is stronger than most. The waiter shakes himself out of his musings to take an order from a party of five. The man watches the waiter, wonders if he’s ever been stood up. The man has, many times. But he still can’t get used to it. Each time, it hurts. He’s looked forward to this evening all day. He has many things, exciting things, to tell Cassie. But, more importantly, he wants to hear Cassie’s voice. He wants her to tell him all about her day, her triumphs, her defeats....anything, really. He has tried so many times to show Cassie how much he loves her. He’d just like to know that she cares for him, too. He sips sporadically at the coffee, and loses himself in thought, knowing that Cassie is late, but still hoping that she will arrive. The clock says nine-thirty when the waiter returns to the man’s table. “Is there anything I can get for you?” The still empty chair stabs at the man. “No, I think that will be all for tonight. May I have the check please?” “Yes, sir.” When the waiter leaves, the man picks up the check. He pulls out his wallet and signs. He has enough money to have given Cassie a feast. But he takes out only enough to pay for his five cups of coffee and the tip. “Why do you do this, Cassie”, his mind cries as he gets up from the table. “Good-bye,” the waiter says, as the man walks towards the door. “Good night. Thank you for your service.” “You’re welcome, sir,” says the waiter softly, for he sees the hurt in the man’s eyes that his smile doesn’t hide. The man passes a laughing young couple on his way out, and his eyes glisten as he thinks of the good time he and Cassie could have had. He stops at the front and makes reservations for tomorrow. Maybe Cassie will be able to make it, he thinks. “Seven o’clock tomorrow for party of two?” the hostess confirms. “That’s right,” the man replies. “Do you think she’ll come”” asks the hostess. She doesn’t mean to be rude, but she has watched the man many times alone at his table for two. “Someday, yes. And I will be waiting for her.” The man buttons his overcoat and walks out of the restaurant, alone. His shoulders are hunched, but through the windows the hostess can only guess whether they are hunched against the wind or against the man’s hurt.
As the man turns toward home, Cassie turns into bed. She is tired after an evening out with friends. As she reaches toward her night stand to set the alarm, she sees the note that she scribbled to herself last night. ‘7:00,’ it says. ‘Spend some time in prayer.’ Darn, she thinks. She forgot again. She feels a twinge of guilt, but quickly pushes it aside. She needed that time with her friends. And now she needs her sleep. She can pray tomorrow night. Jesus will forgive her. And she’s sure he doesn’t mind.
I think that’s a pretty heart tugging story.  But my intent on reading it is not to get you all emotional and write yourself a note to pray.  I want to encourage you to show up for your time with Jesus.  You may feel uncomfortable at first.  You will definitely find Satan slowing you down and distracting you.  But show up.  Even if just for five minutes, show up.

perseveranceproskarteresis (“toward” + “strong”) – from proskartereo – to continue all the time in a place; to persevere and not to faint; to show one’s self courageous for; to be in constant readiness for one, wait on constantly


The discipline of persevering prayer

(Luke 18:1-8 NKJV) Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, {2} saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. {3} "Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' {4} "And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, {5} 'yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'" {6} Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. {7} "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? {8} "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"
In the story Jesus tells, this widow is supposed to be a picture of us learning to pray. The person the widow keeps pestering is an “unjust judge”, and the idea isn’t that God is somehow “bothered” by our prayers, but the point is that if even an ungodly, unjust judge responds to the plea of a widow because he’s worn out by her, how much more will God listen to the prayers of His children, with whom He is NOT worn out by their prayers.
We need to learn the importance of persistence in prayer.

The “faith” teachers try to tell us that if we have enough faith, then we only need to ask God once for things. But the Bible teaches something different. The Bible teaches that God wants us to learn to pray, keep praying, and pray some more. He wants us to learn to pray “day and night”. He wants us to learn that “men ALWAYS ought to pray and not lose heart”.

I find this discipline being grown in me with my “prayer list”.
I am trying to learn just how to pray for people and circumstances.

As I pray for a specific thing over and over and over again, day after day, week after week, I find certain things happening.

There are some things I’m not sure about when I pray, and sometimes I find that after a week or so, I need to change the prayer request because I find that it’s not right – sometimes I find out that my heart isn’t right in asking for this thing.

Sometimes I sense an “ok” from God to simply stop praying for a situation.

Some things I am committed to praying for long term, even for the rest of my life. And the more I pray for those things, the more I see God working, taking those little boxes off the shelves in heaven and depositing them on my front doorstep.

:19 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,

:20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

:21 But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you;

:22 whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.

:23 Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

:24 Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.

Back in verses 19-20 …

and for me – you could pray for me as well …

…in chains – Paul is in prison

may be givendidomi – to give; the word here is interesting because it is in the form called an “optative mood”. The idea of the “optative” mood boils down to two things – it expresses a request for something that seemed pretty doubtful, and it expressed the strongest possible with regarding an event.

It sounds like Paul isn’t expecting that he’ll have much opportunity to share the gospel, but he really, really wishes he has the chance.


Pray for impossible things

Paul’s situation wasn’t exactly the best for preaching.  He was most likely chained to a Roman guard.
But Paul learned to ask for things that didn’t seem possible.
Are there situations in your life that you hope for but they just don’t seem possible?
Are there situations in the lives of those around you that seem just as unlikely?
We need to learn to pray beloved.
How many of those situations are simply boxes sitting on God’s shelves in heaven, waiting for twenty more prayers before they’re ready to be delivered?  If you found out that the great difficulty in your life would be different if you prayed for it thirty days in a row, would you do it?  What if it took thirty one?