by Mike Ratliff
and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 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, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:17-20 ESV)
Ungodly focus is the focus that everyone has except for the Spirit-filled believer. This focus is oriented to self. Believers who are self-focused are either baby Christians or they have succumbed to Satan’s attacks against them. These attacks are designed specifically to render each believer powerless and without a Christlike testimony. He does this with temptations, fiery darts, that are designed to bring believers to be self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and spiritually arrogant. Of course, these are the marks of a Christian who is not humble, but whose pride is in control.
Satan, our adversary, is the devil. The word devil means slanderer. Here is one description of him by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:41-47 ESV)
How do we fight against these attacks and have a focus that is Godly. The answer is that we must wear our armor, use our armor, and pray at all times. Victory over Satan and his hosts in the great spiritual warfare in which we are engaged demands unceasing and diligent commitment to prayer. Prayer is not merely another godly weapon; prayer is the very spiritual air that the soldier of Christ breathes. It is the all-pervasive strategy in which warfare is fought. Jesus urged His disciples to pray always and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1) in the struggle with Satan, it is either pray or faint. In the epistle of Ephesians, Paul begins by lifting us up to the heavenlies, and ends by pulling us down to our knees. Let us look at prayer and why it is the key to both spiritual maturity and stamina.
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, (Ephesians 6:18 ESV)
The Greek word Paul used for prayer here is προσευχης or “proseuche.” It refers to general requests. The Greek word Paul used for supplication here is προσευχομενοι or “deesis.” This word refers to those requests that are specific. We are to be involved in all kinds of prayer, every form of prayer that is appropriate. The New Testament, like the Old, mentions many forms, circumstances, and postures for prayer but prescribes none. We can pray wherever we are and in whatever situation we are in. (1 Timothy 2:8)
There is no time when we do not need to pray and no time when God will not hear our prayers, except when we regard sin in our hearts. He will not hear our prayers then until we repent. In many ways prayer is even more important than knowledge about God; in fact, only through a regular and sincere prayer life can God’s Holy Spirit add spiritual wisdom to our knowledge. To pray at all times is to live in continual God consciousness, where everything we see and experience becomes a kind of prayer, lived in deep awareness of and surrender to our heavenly Father. Our life becomes a continually ascending prayer, a perpetual communing with our heavenly Father. (Colossians 3:2)
To pray in the Spirit is to pray in the name of Christ, to pray consistent with His nature and will, to pray in concert with the Spirit (Romans 8:26-27), and to line up our minds and desires with His mind and desires, which are consistent with the will of the Father and the Son.
Be on alert with all perseverance and petition. To be steadfast, constant, and persevering (Luke 18:7-8) also involves praying specifically. (John 14:13) Because the greatest problems are always spiritual, our greatest prayer concern and concentration should be for spiritual protection, strength, and healing. The context of Paul’s call to prayer is that of spiritual warfare, and the Christian’s prayer should, above all, be about that warfare–winning the spiritual battle against Satan.
Paul is telling us that the focus or objects of our prayer should be on all the saints. It is only the saints, Christian believers, who are involved in the spiritual warfare for which God provides the armor Paul described earlier. Only believers are able to pray in the Spirit. Paul calls us to primarily pray for others rather than ourselves–the greatest thing we can do for another believer, or that he or she can do for us, is to pray. This is the way the Body of Christ grows spiritually as well as in love. The spiritually healthy person is devoted to the welfare of others, especially fellow believers.
and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. (Ephesians 6:19-22 ESV)
In these three verses, Paul gives us a specific illustration of his teaching on prayer. First, he asks for prayer on his behalf. When Satan tempted Paul to keep quite about Christ, he wanted God’s help to be bold and faithful to proclaim the gospel. That he was in chains was incidental. His great concerns were for the mystery of the gospel, for which he was an ambassador, and for those to whom he was sent to proclaim it. He wanted fellow believers to pray for his victory in the spiritual warfare that this ministry provoked from Satan. Paul also needed the prayers of fellow believers because he was a leader. The more faithful and fruitful a Christian leader is, especially pastors, the more those whom are ministered to by them need to pray for his strength and protection. Even when he requested prayer for himself, Paul’s purpose and motives were selfless, to further the gospel, to encourage other believers, and to glorify his Lord. Paul provided information to the Ephesians believers through Tychicus so that they could pray specifically and intelligently, and he even sent words of comfort and encouragement. The man in chains sought to comfort others.
The only way believers can have a Godly focus is to be Spirit-filled. The only way they can be Spirit-filled is to be humble as they pray at all times. Those with a Godly focus have a God consciousness that sees everything in that context. All experiences, all good things and bad things are viewed and comprehended via this God consciousness that prays at all times. The opposite, of course, is an ungodly focus that is all about self. How do we begin this. If you deeply desire this then praise God because He has given you this desire. How do you start? It begins with repentance and goes from there.
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:2-10 ESV)
Study this passage, line by line, verse by verse. Pray about what God shows you. In order to walk in the Spirit, to be Spirit-led or Spirit-filled, it starts right here. We must draw near unto God and we do that in His Word and in Prayer. It takes both.
Soli Deo Gloria!