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Thistletown Baptist Church

September 13, 2009

Always Praying

Eph. 6:10-20 (ESV)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. [12] For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. [13] Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. [14] Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. [16] In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; [17] and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, [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, [19] and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, [20] for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

I Introduction

1. Today marks the beginning of our annual Week of Prayer. Its purpose is to kick into the new season by committing it to the Lord in prayer and asking Him to enable us to d what we as a church are called to do.

2. This is the Word of God.

a. It is true.

b. It is our authority. It is God speaking to us. It is God communicating to us everything we need in order to live a godly life. It is possible to misinterpret it and say it says things that it does not say. From those who find in this Book that God always wants oyu rich and healthy to those who say they know when the Lord is going to return, people have always put their own understanding into the Scriptures rather than take out from them what God has already said. It is hard work, when seeking to understand the various parts of the Bible, to make sure we only say what the Bible says. But for the true follower of Jesus Christ it is always worth the work.

c. This morning we are going to look at Ephesians 6:18&19 and see some things there about prayer. There are commands given the church about prayer. There are those, who when they hear the word “command”, get their backs up, resist, don’t want to listen anymore. They just do not like to be told what to do. But God does give us commands and it is good for us to pay attention to them.

d. The real Christian’s attitudes to the command of God are found in Psalm 119.

i. Psalm 119:1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord!

ii. Psalm 119:5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!

iii. Psalm 119:16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.

iv. Psalm 119:47 for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love.

v. Psalm 119:77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight.

vi. Psalm 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

vii. Psalm 119:103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

viii. Psalm 119:129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.

ix. Psalm 119:143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight.

The real Christian delights in what God tells him and what God commands, because he delights in pleasing his God. This morning we are going to consider a few things regarding prayer including commandments that God, in His love for us, has required of us.

e. Let us be eager in our attempts to obey what He has said.

II The Warfare of Prayer

1. These brief instructions that Paul gives about prayer are part of a larger piece of Scripture that is famous in evangelical circles as the “armour of God” text. It starts in verse 10 and finishes in verse 20. It is talking about the spiritual warfare that every church and every believer is engaged in.

a. V. 10 – Be strong,

b. V.11 – put on the armour of God

c. V. 12 – we wrestle against authorities, cosmic powers, this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places

d. Vs. 13-17 – Since that is the case, we should put our armour on – the armour that God provides for us … .

2. There is no option here. You cannot sign up with Christ and be a conscientious objector. Signing up with Christ is signing up for battle. You can be a conscientious objector politically and socially and be a good follower of Jesus Christ. But you cannot be a Christian at all and be a civilian in any spiritual sense.

a. 1 Tim. 1:18 (ESV) This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

b. 2 Cor. 10:3,4 (ESV) For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

c. Rev. 12:17 (ESV) Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.

d. 2 Tim. 4:7 (ESV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

There will be no proper, effective use of the armour mentioned in verses 14-17 if there is no prayer such as what Paul urges here.

3. When we get to verse 18 Paul is no longer talking about spiritual armour. But he is talking about how to keep it on. He is talking about how to use it properly. Prayer is absolutely crucial to the warfare that God has called us to. You can be a Christian who commits himself to being a person of truth (belt of truth), and commits himself to living in righteous obedience to all the commands of God (breastplate of righteousness), and make resolutions to give the Gospel to everyone God puts in your path (Gospel of peace), and you can plan to believe all that God says and have a faith that shows itself in works, as James commands us (shield of faith), and you can set yourself to read through the Bible every year and study all it says about the Gospel and living for God (sword of the Spirit) and fail miserably at them all because you did not pray as Paul directs us to pray in these verse.

a. Prayer is what keeps the armour on. Prayer is what enables us to fight like verses 10-12 say we must. Prayer is spiritual warfare.

b. God sends us into the battlefield to fight. And He gives us this all important instruction – keep in touch with headquarters. Prayer is for those engaged in battle. If you are not in the battle then you do not need to pray. But if you are not in battle then this text tells us we are not on the Lord’s side at all. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ then you are at war and you must be praying without ceasing.

c. In the movie “When We Were Soldiers”, the true story of the first American battle in Vietnam, we see a troop of soldiers moving off to scout out the enemy. This advance group gets trapped and they become separated from the main group of soldiers. They hunker down and fight and keep calling for fire power from the air. They can do nothing else. They are powerless. They have helmets and guns and boots but without firepower from the air they are powerless against a stronger enemy. Finally, after an evening of hiding and sniping and continually calling out for help, the help arrives and they win against incredible obstacles. This is us dear ones. We put our armour on. We march out into battle. We come under attack – will we call for the help that we need, or will we trust ourselves? Will we call and call and call and not give up calling? Or will we say – “All is lost, let’s surrender”. Or worse, will we fight and think that we are winning when in fact we can’t even keep our armour on.

Dear ones, as we enter into our week of prayer we need to gather together morning and evening with a wartime mentality. We need to come with a sense of urgency and desperation that if God does not hear and answer and empower then all is lost. We need to understand that the power is not ours and the victory is not ours and the glory is not ours. It all is His and we must call out to Him for all of it.

III The Fellowship of Prayer

1. But we see in this text that prayer is not just warfare. It is also a fellowship.

2. To not meet with other believers to pray is sin. It is just as if we put on none of the armour of God that we are commanded to wear … . The armour of God is what each believer wears but it is never used in isolation. Soldiers do not fight alone. They fight together. They march as a unit … . Times of solitary prayer alone with God are of great importance. But they are not enough. They are not enough because God commands us to pray with each other. He commands us to pray for each other. And the best of these two things is to pray for each other when we pray with each other. This does not necessarily mean that the only time to pray with other believers is Wednesday night at 7:15. But it does necessarily mean that every believer must pray with other believers sometime. Corporate prayer is not an option … .

a. Acts 12:12 (ESV) When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying … So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

b. Acts 4:23-24 (ESV) When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. [24] And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,

c. Acts 2:42 (ESV) And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

d. See the corporateness of prayer in the most famous prayer of all – “Our Father… give us this day… forgive us … lead us ….

When your Bible study group meets, that little prayer at the beginning of the meeting is not just a ritual that you go through. It is a time to acknowledge to God that if He does not give understanding of the piece of Scripture you are reading then it will not be understood and applied properly. After you have finished the study – pray it in – or it won’t stay. When your committee meets that meeting does not start with prayer simply because it’s a church committee. It starts with prayer because prayer is what God uses for committees to wage war – against authorities, cosmic powers, this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places. This group formed in the church for whatever purpose is, before it does anything else, to pray together. Prayer is not a help to the work. It is not a nod at God. It is helpless saints calling out to a powerful loving enabling God who loves to give good things to His children. And why does He love to give good things to His children? So they can pamper themselves? So they can pray in the comforts of life? NO!! It is so they can wage war together as the church of Jesus Christ.

IV Instructions for the Church at Prayer

The Lord gives the church instructions here on how we are to pray in the warfare together that He has called us to.

1. Ephesians 6:18f Pray

a. At all times – “in all seasons” is a possible translation, meaning that it is always time to pray. When things are going well – pray. When things are going badly…, when in good health/bad health, bills paid/unpaid … This true for the whole church as well – when people are getting saved/not saved, money up/down, attendance up/down … .

i. Interviewing my father about his life and ministry I asked him “what would you do differently if you could do it all over again?” Answer – I would have prayed more – meaning “I did not always pray”.

ii. The church is to be always at prayer.

iii. Never a time when we think we can do it ourselves

iv. There is no such thing as an issue that does not need prayer. Avoid like the plague the thought that “this is not a matter of prayer.”

b. In the Spirit

i. This is not talking about praying in unknown languages or having mysterious mystical experiences.

ii. Under the influence of the Spirit – Eph. 5:18

iii. This is a condition. God will not hear and answer our prayers if we are grieving the Spirit who indwells us. Pray repentantly. That is – confess sins in your prayers. “In our corporate prayers?” …

iv. see Galatians 5:16-24. This means that to pray in the Spirit is to pray in holiness. It means that we are not hiding secret sins from God. It means we come without hypocrisy. It means we come with honesty, without seeking to impress those who pray with us. It means we pray with a longing to glorify Christ – because that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

c. With all kinds of prayer

i. thanks, confession, praise, supplication

ii. With all prayer – With all sort of prayer, public, private, mental, vocal. Some are careful in respect of one kind of prayer, and negligent in others. If we would have the petitions we ask, let us use all. – John Wesley

iii. There is nothing you cannot bring to God.

iv. Anything that helps us in our warfare.

d. With supplication for all the saints

i. Supplication = a common term for a special kind of prayer, an imploring request. “Prayer” for obtaining blessings, “supplication” for averting evils which we fear. – Jamieson Faussett and Brown

ii. Do Baptist believe in healing? Of course they do. That is why we prayed for all these people who came forward this morning that God would heal them. It is why there are over twenty-two people on our prayer list this week with physical needs that we pray for.

iii. Note it well dear ones – we pray for one another. What do you think praying soldiers pray for the fellow soldiers as they prepare to go into battle? Do they pray “O Lord, make him comfortable.” “Make him rich.” … They pray “Make him brave. Keep him safe. Give him courage, boldness …”. Dear ones should it be different for us in our warfare? What will we pray for one another as we go into the battle that 2009/10 is going to be? Check out the prayers of Paul in Eph. 1, Eph. 3, Phil. 1, Col. 1.

e. Alertly –

i. Keep alert – Gk. – ἀgrupnew – to be sleepless – See it in Mark 13:33, Luke 21:36, Eph. 6:18, Heb. 13:17

ii. to be attentive, vigilant – Spiritual alertness as in:

(1) 2 Cor. 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

(2) Col. 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

(3) 1 Thes. 5:6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

(4) 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

iii. George Pritchard – “I prayed all night last night”. “George, really?” “Yes, I got on my knees at the side of the bed to pray and woke up in the same position this morning. I must have prayed all night.” We all know the fatigue that hits us in prayer quite often. We also know that that is not what Paul is talking about here.

iv. Not sleeping – now why would Paul say this to this first century church of redeemed people? Because even they are able to fall into spiritual lethargy. This is not to excuse ours. It is for us to see that we need to do what Paul is commanding here or we will be in big trouble. If it will help us, let us remember that the church at Ephesus does not exist anymore. And the reason it does not exist is because they let lesser things take their hearts (Rev. 2)

v. Prayerlessness is spiritual sleep. Measure your spiritual wakefulness with prayer. What if the soldiers under attack, after a day of battle and weariness, fall asleep? What then? Death. The soldier standing guard at night dare not fall asleep at his post for when he does the enemy will attack

vi. You know why we do not pray with each other as we ought? Spiritual sleepiness, laziness, disinterest. Our interests have been stolen away by other things.

f. With perseverance – continued steadfastness.

i. God has no intention of answering your/our prayers immediately

ii. see Luke 18:1

iii. Unceasing prayer is the mark of the redeemed

iv. There is never a time when we should not be praying

v. the week of prayer is a good time to begin a prayer life that is consistent, daily, corporate, fervent, faithful, hopeful … .

g. With supplications for all the saints

i. There is no Christian who is not worthy of your prayers

ii. There is no Christian who does not need your prayers

iii. “No soldier entering battle prays for himself alone, but for all his fellow soldiers also. They form one army, and the success of one is the success of all. In like manner Christians are united as one army, and therefore have a common cause; and each must pray for all.” Charles Hodge

After saying all that to them Paul takes the opportunity to tell them to pray for him.

h. For the proclamation of the Gospel

i. the prayer here is that the Gospel will be delivered as it should

(1) boldly

(2) with the right words

(3) proclaiming the mystery of the Gospel

Note who asks this. The greatest propagator of the Gospel the church has ever had. He was tempted to not speak because of fear. He was in danger of not communicating effectively. He was prone to misrepresent the essential elements of the Gospel and get sidetracked into other issues. If the Apostle Paul needed the prayers of the churches in order to deliver the Gospel properly, then how much more do we? This is the Apostle Paul speaking here. This is he who was confronted by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus and blinded Paul. This is Paul who stood up to Peter in front of other Christians and unflinchingly told him that he was wrong and that he was starting to give a false Gospel. This is Paul who performed miracles, brought back people from the dead. This is Paul who was brought by God into the third heaven and shown things that cannot be repeated. This Paul says – I need boldness when it comes to giving the Gospel … I need you to pray for me.

ii. Dear ones: are you Retired? Old? Sick?…, just plain sick and tired?

(1) Dear ones pray for us. Join us in prayer.

(2) Form a home prayer group. Those of us in the front lines – visiting, pastoring, at work – we need to meet together to pray. But we also need the prayers of those who cannot join us.

(3) Don’t ever, ever, EVER say – “All I can do is pray”. …

V Closing Remark

In closing just this: We are not told to pray for nothing. The work will not go ahead if we do not pray. The workers will not do the work if we do not pray. People will not hear the Gospel if we do not pray. We will not give it properly/accurately/ if we do not pray. The children we teach, the Bible studies we conduct, the sermons we preach, the ministries we conduct, the Flea Market, the community walks, …. will all produce nothing if we do not pray. God is not giving us busy work. He is telling us – IF you pray then you will … . But if you do not then those things will not happen.