“Prayer” John MacArthur writes, “may well be the most difficult spiritual exercise we engage in”. But, he adds, “prayer is simply living life in a God conscious way” (The Master’s Plan for the Church, 64-66 amazon). Are you accustomed to experiencing God’s power in prayer? The Apostle relays to us God’s command: “Pray without ceasing” 1 Thes 5:17). If you study the history of the great men of God, you will find that the most predominant characteristic of their lives, is that they are men of prayer who fellowship with God through reading his word and talking to him in prayers and petitions.
The book of Ephesians is a book about the Church. The first half is about the Nature of the Church, the second is about living worthy of being called into that church. Chapter six thematically deals with the warfare of the Church, and a special focus regarding the conduct of believers can be found in verse 18…
Ephesians 6:18 instructs the believer to be: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints”.
What jumps out at you in a first reading of this passage? You might have caught the following:
A. First, we are commanded to pray! The participle here picks up on the imperative chain that has preceeded it “Put on the full armour of God”. D. Martin Lloyd Jones comments that it is circumstantial, “each piece put on with prayer”. But in any case it is a clear command that we are to pray. Do you pray?
B. Note the “alls”. When something is repeated in Scripture, it is emphatic. Reflect on each one for a moment. The believer is to be praying:
1. At all times
2. With all prayer and supplication
3. With all perseverance
4. For all the saints
C. To that end (prayer) it notes, “keep alert with all perseverance”… Keep alert is literally “keep awake”. It is this very thing that Jesus instructed the disciples to do in the garden on the night we was betrayed… they failed, for the flesh is weak. How are we going to obey this regularly given command to be consistent, persistant, wakeful, and effective in prayer for all the saints?
R. A. Torrey (1856-1928) was a deeply Spiritual man, known for his life of prayer. He graduated from Yale (1875) and from the Yale Divinity School (1878). After further studies in Germany, and a short pastorate he joined D.L. Moody as an associate evangelist preaching the gospel all around the world. During this time he became the founding principle of the Moody Bible Institute. In 1894 he succeeded Moody and assumed the pastorate of Moody’s Chicago Avenue Church. From 1912 to 1924 he served as the founding president of BIOLA. The work of an evangelist, pastor and bible college founder cannot be accomplished apart from constant, persistant, wakeful, and effective prayer, as Scripture commands us to pursue.
In addition to his primary ministry, Torrey was also a writer and one of the two primary editors of the landmark The Fundamentals Torrey argues, “Paul realizes the natural slothfullness of man, and especially his natural slothfullness in prayer. How seldom” he writes, “we pray things through” (“The Importance of Prayer”, in How to Pray and Why God Used D.L. Moody amazon).
So we are called in these words of Ephesians 6:18 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” to constant, persistant, wakeful, and effective prayer for all the saints. But why does God command this? What becomes our motivation and how do we overcome the flesh? Torrey provides a number of helpful and thought provoking answers, which I will relay in a follow up post.