by Pastor Robert F. Johnson
Ebenezer Bible Fellowship Church, Bethlehem, PA
The theme for our consideration this morning is the subject of prayer. The text is taken from Ephesians 6:18 which says "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, and watching there unto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Paul's concluding theme in this book is prayer. It is mentioned immediately following the subject of Christian's armor. Although it is not mentioned as part of that armor, it is the very atmosphere in which the Christian soldier battles. Prayer could be regarded as his very breath. Truly it is necessary equipment for the defeat of the enemy. Jesus said in Luke 18 "Men ought always to pray and not to faint," Actually, there is no need for worry that brings about neurosis or psychosis when we have the privilege of prayer available to us, This theme is strategically placed in the book of Ephesians. In the preceding chapters the Apostle Paul talks about how fantastic it is to be a Christian. Oh, I wish I had the time to share some of these amazing facts with you. This Epistle makes it very clear, that next to the Trinity, we as believers are the greatest commodity in the universe. As a child of God you’ve got it all, It is precisely at this point where a potential problem can arise. The child of God can conclude that he is terrific and therefore, become spiritually over confident, To correct this potential problem Paul begins verse 18 by saying "Praying always." If we as brethren are going to amount to something for God, we must pray. The story's told of a marble sculptor who was busy at work on his knees with a chisel in one hand and a hammer in the other transforming a stone into a statue. A pastor looking on said, "I wish I could deal such changing blows on the hearts of men." The sculptor responded, "Perhaps you could if you worked on your knees like me." Beloved, that is really where it is done, Acts 6 tells us the early Apostles gave themselves to the study of the Word in prayer. That combination is needed to do the job. Now let us look at our text.
You will note the word "all" appears three times in the King James version but is found four times in the New American Standard version. I would like to use these four words as my four points on the subject of prayer.
First, let us note the frequency of prayer, Praying always or all the time, I have often been asked, "Pastor, I'm a night person, therefore would it be appropriate for me to pray just before I retire?" Or others ask, "Pastor I’m a morning person, would it be appropriate for me to have my time alone with God in the morning?" My answer to those questions would be "when do you breath?” A few times in the morning, or a few times in the evening? The Scriptures tell us we are to pray always, Do you really think these verses mean what they say? Let's look at a few other passages, Jesus said in Luke 21:36, "Watch ye therefore and pray always." The early Apostles said, "We will give ourselves continually to prayer. " It is said of Cornelius that he was a devout man and prayed to God always, Acts 12:5 declares, "But prayer was made without ceasing." The early Christians did not stop praying for Peter and when people pray like that the unusual will occur, Since the Bible means what it says, people may ask, "If I am to pray always, how shall I prepare messages, conduct counseling sessions, visit the sick, care for my family and assume other responsibilities that are mine as a Christian leader? I suggest to you that a leader who prays always is one who is constantly conscious of others and their needs. Oh listen, there is never an end to the needs of others. A constant prayer life demands an interest in others. Leaders who fail to pray are selfish people, They pray sporadically and when they do, you know for whom they pray? Yes, they pray for themselves. There is no prayer, no prayer, and then suddenly, "Lord help me." As you study this great theme of prayer in the Word of God, you will find the emphasis is on others. Also, a leader who prays always will be conscious of God. Praying does not require the same opening and closing, Prayer is God consciousness. It can be in any position, with eyes open or closed, for prayer is communion with God. To pray means to be God conscious so that everything that happens is in reference to God. Let me give you some examples. When you arise in the morning and look out your window, you should immediately thank God for the light of another day and the privilege afforded you to serve Him. As you walk from your motel room to Fellowship Hall and cross paths with a brother who through the years has contributed much to your life, you should immediately thank God for him. As you return home from this conference and see your neighbor working in his yard you should call upon the Lord asking Him to do a work of grace in the heart of Ed who is still unsaved. That is praying always. That is a moment by moment God consciousness.
Secondly, I want you to note the variety of prayer. "With all prayer and supplication. " All prayer means various kinds of praying, There are various kinds such as public, private, loud, silent, planned, spontaneous, There is praying that can be done when sitting, standing, walking or driving. Have you ever wondered why there is such a variety of prayer? It is because prayer is designed to be going on with every kind of emotion and every kind of experience. There is no such thing as the wrong time to pray. The word supplication in this passage means that God wants us to pray about specifics. He desires that we be direct. For example, "Lord, bless Al Napier as Navigator Representative as he serves on the Lehigh University Campus. Especially be with him today as he disciples the heavy-weight wrestler who has recently made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. " That is the kind of specific praying we are instructed to offer.
Thirdly, would you note the manner of prayer? "And watching thereunto with all perseverance." The key ward is watching. It means to be alert. First Peter 4:7 says, "Be ye therefore sober and watching unto prayer." We need to constantly be on the look out for things for which to pray. Gentlemen, it boils down to this, live for others, We have in our congregation an elderly woman who is a genuine prayer warrior. Because of her physical problems, she is no longer able to attend services at the church but she is kept apprised of needs by one of our Elder's wives. Some months ago this Elder's wife called her in order to share some specific requests with her. At the conclusion of the conversation, Nellie asked, "Aren't there other things for which I could pray?" The wife of the Elder responded by saying, "Well, you could pray for my husband who is in the basement frustrated because he cannot get our washing machine to function properly." The call ended and a few minutes later the Elder exclaimed from the basement that all was well and the machine was running smoothly. The Elder's wife returned a call to Nellie our elderly prayer warrior to inform her that prayer would not be needed on behalf of her husband only to learn that prayer had already been offered in his behalf. Leaders, do you watch for things in your congregation for which to pray? Not only are we to watch but we are to persevere. That means to stick to it and to stay with it. God responds to constant persevering prayer as Jesus illustrates in Luke chapter 11. I shall never forget as a lad attending the weekly prayer services and hearing a woman constantly request prayer on behalf of her husband. Yes, Mary Reed did this for14 years. One evening after almost a decade and a half of praying, Rev. F. M. Hottel, our pastor, went to the home of the Reed's and led John to the Savior. As a teenage boy, I will never forget the Sunday morning when John Reed gave a personal word of testimony and publicly thanked his wife and the congregation far their perseverance in prayer.
Lastly, would you note the subjects of prayer? "For all saints". This is not a little meaningless thought attached to the end of the sentence. We all know that we are in a battle as a body of believers. We as leaders need to be in prayer for fellow believers and fellow leaders. It is sin to fail to pray for the saints, Samuel said to Israel, “God forbid that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you." Beloved, it is our obligation and joy to pray one for the other. In conclusion, I want to express my appreciation for your prayer support during these days of physical trial. God has been mindful of me and I believe He will answer the prayer that you have offered on my behalf. May God's richest blessings attend all of you as you permit the Holy Spirit to apply to your life the message of the morning.