************ Sermon on Ephesians 6:18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 22, 2018
"Pray in the Spirit"
I The Necessity of Prayer
A We are under attack. "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," says Peter (1 Pt 5:8). In our Scripture reading Paul tells us that the devil schemes and struggles against us (Eph 6:11-12) and tries to destroy us with flaming arrows (Eph 6:16).
Satan is attacking us. Satan will continue to attack us. He attacks us personally with temptations and ridicule. He attacks us publicly:
-a Christian baker has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling against him because he refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple
-Crisis Pregnancy Centers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court a ruling that they have to display abortion notices
-the Pope recently declared there is no hell
-the Pope recently told a little boy that his unbelieving father is in heaven
-a lot of TV shows have a gay person or gay couple
-Governor Jerry Brown and the state assembly have combined to pass a bill that bans sales of the Bible and Biblical based teaching; they claim the Bible promotes hate speech against gays, lesbians, and transgender people
We are under attack. Our Christian values are under attack. Therefore, we need to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power" (Eph 6:10). How do we do that? How can we be strong and mighty in the Lord? Very simple: "Put on the full armor of God," says Paul, "so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes" (Eph 6:11).
B We've been looking at the armor of God. HOLD UP PICTURE:
-belt of truth: that is sound doctrine and being sincere and true about our faith and religion
-breastplate of righteousness: not our righteousness but the righteousness that is ours in Christ
-shoes of the gospel of peace: knowing we have peace with God in Christ we can stand and push back against everything and anything Satan throws at us
-shield of faith: meaning we believe the Word of God
-helmet of salvation: confidence in salvation in all its fullness and glory
-sword of the Spirit: the Word of God by which we defend ourselves and attack the evil one
C But there is more. Notice what is written at the bottom of this picture:
(Eph 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.We need prayer to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Even wearing the armor we need prayer to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. There is a song we sing which speaks to this:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,Did you hear that? "Each piece put on with prayer." Put on each piece of the armor with prayer. Prayer is like an overcoat or a cloak that we put on over all the other pieces of armor.
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you,
Ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
(old P.H. #467:3)
How does prayer help against Satan? When a Christian pours out his heart in prayer, he is at his most formidable; not even the gates of hell can prevail against him.
II The Occasion of Prayer
A Jesus taught that we should always pray and not give up, no matter how difficult the challenge, no matter how formidable the enemy, no matter how hard the victory (Lk 18:1). Men ought always to pray and not be faint. There are two options. You can pray or you can faint. God's will is that we pray "on all occasions" (Eph 6:18).
Did you notice that the word "all" is used four times in our text?
(Eph 6:18) And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Prayer is not something we can ever afford to give up on. It is something we must persevere in at all times and in all occasions. In our struggle against Satan, we must pray at all times. On all occasions.
B Pray always. Pray continually. Pray on all occasions. What does this mean? Exactly what it says. None of us need any explanation here. Jesus said in Luke 21:36, "Be always on the watch, and pray." In the book of Acts, the Apostles asked for the appointment of deacons so they could "give ... attention to prayer" (Acts 6:4). In Romans 12:12, Paul says, "be ... faithful in prayer." In Colossians 4:2, Paul says, "devote yourselves to prayer." And in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we are told to what? We are told to "pray continually."
Pray always. Pray continually. Pray on all occasions. Pray in the morning. Pray at noon. Pray in the evening. Pray at night. Pray all night.
Most people don't pray this way. They pray when some personal tragedy strikes them or their loved ones: cancer, stroke, heart attack, bankruptcy, divorce, death, business loss. This kind of prayer is selfish and self-centered. This is NOT the kind of prayer we are to put over the armor of God.
Paul practiced what he preached. So he wrote to Timothy these beautiful and encouraging words:
(2 Tim 1:3) I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly [what?] remember you in my prayers.
This was also the practice of King David. He writes in Psalm 55: "Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice" (Ps 55:17; KJV).
The Gospel of Luke tells us about the time Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God (Lk 6:12).
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul says that godly widows supported by the church continue night and day to pray and to ask God for help (1 Tim 5:5).
C Pray always. Pray continually. Pray on all occasions. Now, this means more than just a short little memorized prayer: "Lord, bless this food and drink. Amen." This also means more than the set hours of prayer as is done by Jews and Muslims. We are talking about a way of life, a pattern of life, a heart that reaches out to the God Who is always present and always wants to hear our prayers. That's what covers the armor of God.
Pray always. Pray continually. Pray on all occasions. What should be your initial response when something happens? You receive a blessing, and you offer God thanks. You see something beautiful, and you give God praise. You see evil, and you ask God to defeat it. You commit sin, and in prayer you confess it and ask for forgiveness. You see trouble and distress and health problems, and you offer intercession to God. You see God as related to everything in life!
D Pray always. Pray continually. Pray on all occasions. Over the armor of God put on the overcoat of prayer. I read to you a number of years ago a short letter. Listen as I read it to you again:
Dear Christian:You've had it and I've had it -- a day so busy, a schedule so crammed, that you are tempted to skip devotions. But let me tell you, congregation, that when your prayer life slides, your armor becomes dirty and rusty and of little effect. Oh, by the way, the letter is signed "Satan." It is Satan who tries to convince you that prayer is not important, that you can let it slide once in a while. He wants this, of course, because he knows you will then fall in the battle.
When you are faced with a busy day, it is okay to save precious time by skipping your devotions.
Now, let me read another letter to you. A very important letter to which we need to pay careful attention:
Dear Christian:Is this what you do?
When you are faced with a busy day, pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
Signed, Jesus Christ
III The Diversity of Prayer
This brings us to the diversity of prayer. "Pray ... with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Eph 6:18). Notice the word "all" again. All kinds of prayers. All kinds of requests.
What does this mean? If, when, we pray on all occasions, we pray all kinds of prayers: public, private, with your voice, in your mind, soft, loud, deliberate, planned, unplanned, spontaneous, adoration, confession, thanks, intercession, supplication, joyful, sad, standing, kneeling, lying down. Every kind of prayer. Every kind of posture. Every kind of circumstance. That's the idea.
As you face the attacks of Satan, pray in every way possible. As you face the attacks of Satan, pray in every circumstance possible. Diversity and variety in prayer is needed because Satan attacks us at different times and in different places and in different ways. So pray with all kinds of prayers and requests.
No matter what Satan does, no matter where he tries, no matter when he tries, head him off with prayer.
IV The Manner of Prayer
Pray because the devil is attacking. Pray on all occasions. Pray with all kind of prayers and requests. "With this in mind, be alert" (Eph 6:18).
"Be alert." Jesus said, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Mk 14:38). Pay attention. Watch for Satan's attacks. Watch for things about which you can pray. By the way, elders are to be alert as they keep watch over the flock (Heb 13:17). They are to watch for the devil's attacks; they are to watch for things and matters about which they can pray.
V The People for Whom we Offer Prayer
I want to highlight another instance of "all." "Keep on praying for all the saints" (Eph 6:18).
Here we are reminded for whom we pray. We pray for all the saints. We pray for each other. We pray for believers overseas. We pray for believers in other churches.
No Christian is ever to think only of himself or herself. We need to be concerned about the whole body. We need to pray whenever and wherever a Christian comes under the attack of Satan. We need to pray whenever and wherever a Christian has struggles and trials. This is how the body of Christ operates. We come alongside one another in prayer.
We are to be consumed with praying for others. Not just our own concerns. Praying for all the saints.
VI Prayer in the Spirit
A There is one more phrase we need to consider. All of this occurs "in the Spirit." Praying at all occasions, praying with all kinds of prayers, praying with alertness, praying for all the saints, needs to be in the Spirit. If you want to be triumphant over Satan, you need to "pray in the Spirit."
What does it mean to "pray in the Spirit." Pentecostals and charismatics tell us this means we need to speak in tongues. It doesn't mean this at all. To pray in the Spirit means to pray in harmony with the Spirit, to pray according to the mind and will of the Spirit.
B Paul speaks of this in Romans 8 where prayer in the Spirit is prayer by the Spirit:
(Rom 8:26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. The Spirit helps us, the Spirit intercedes for us, because "we do not know what we ought to pray for." In mind here are the many sincere Christians who become tongue tied when it comes to prayer, especially public prayer. These Christians, for some reason or another, are completely at a loss about how to pray or what to pray for.
In mind here are also those times when God's people are confused about what to pray for. I think of the situation many families face with an elderly parent. The parent is full of cancer with no hope of a cure, or is lying there comatose and being tube-fed, or no longer has any control of the mind or body. We know he or she is a child of God. It is hard to know what to pray for in such situations: do we pray for healing, or a painless death? In such situations most families do not know "what we ought to pray for." In such situations, how do we pray to stop the attacks of Satan?
In this weakness the "Spirit himself intercedes for us." The Spirit enters our heart. He sanctifies our prayers so they are fit and proper and worthy of God. In and through and by and because of the Spirit, our heart can talk with God's heart. In and through and by and because of the Spirit our heart's desire becomes the will of God, the glory of God, the praise of God.
What might be the content of such a prayer? What is it that the Spirit puts in our heart to say to God? Don't forget, Paul tells us we are under attack, that we are at war with Satan. So our prayer would be:
Your kingdom come. Your will be done. Deliver us from the evil one.
Rule us. Keep Your church strong. Destroy the devil's work. Let us obey You rather than Satan. Uphold us and make us strong so that we may not go down to defeat.
When we "pray in the Spirit," our prayer is heard and answered and we become strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. When we "pray in the Spirit," our prayer is heard and answered and God enables us to stand against the Devil's attacks and schemes and flaming arrows.
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