Yesterday morning, I had the privilege to complete the section on the armor of God as we’re nearing the end of our series through Ephesians. What better way could Paul have ended that particular section than by focusing on prayer? In Ephesians 6:18-20, after calling the Christians in Ephesus to put on the full armor of God, they were then called to prayer.
It is essential for every follower of Christ to know that the Christian life is not a cake walk. The path to the Celestial City is a hard path. James Montgomery Boice once said:
Many Christians today would judge the teaching of these verses unimportant. They would encourage us to think positively and peacefully, as if there were no spiritual battles at all. They see Christianity not as an entrance into warfare but as an exit from it. They see it as the solution to our problems. If you are sick, Jesus will make you well. If you are discouraged, Jesus will make you happy. You get the impression from those who talk like this that to believe in Jesus is to enter upon a smooth path and to enjoy smooth sailing. 
It’s more like a war, but the war is not a conventional type of war between flesh and blood. The war that the Christian is engaged in is spiritual in nature. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual beings, and Paul has made that point abundantly clear in his letter (Eph. 2:1-3; 6:11-12). The devil is not an impersonal force of evil. The devil and all demonic beings are real personal spiritual beings that oppose the people of God.
After being clothed with the whole armor of God, the very next thing the Christian is called to do is to pray. Paul points out the need to pray in the Spirit and to pray at all times for all believers (within the context of your local church), and to engage in both intercessory prayer and prayers of petition before God. In other words, we’re not alone in this spiritual war. God never intended us to go to war alone. We need to rely upon the strength of God and to pray for one another as we work together in the advancement of the gospel.
Paul makes the point that Christians need to be alert and exercise perseverance in their prayers. Rather than being sloppy and lazy in their approach to prayer, it needs to be carried out with perseverance. In Matthew 26:41, Jesus told his disciples to “watch and pray.” Paul told the Colossian Christians to “devote themselves to prayer” in Colossians 4:2. Likewise, Peter encouraged the persecuted Christians to “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” in 1 Peter 4:7. Peter O’Brien in his commentary writes, “The apostle wants them to realize that a life of dependence on God in prayer is essential if they are to engage successfully in their warfare with the powers of darkness.” 
Last of all, Paul requested prayer for himself. In fact, he asked the Christians to pray for his words to be clear as he articulated and proclaimed the gospel boldly. Paul didn’t want to speak with ambiguity and he didn’t want to become soft under the heavy hand of persecution. While in chains, he was reminded of his need to be bold for Christ. If Paul, an apostle, needed prayer for his words to be clear and his faith to be strong, every preacher under the sun needs that same prayer offered up for them today. Rather than complaining about your pastor’s sermons and critiquing him as if you’re the Christian version of an American Idol judge, consider the great value of praying for his preaching and his faith as a leader.
- Peter Thomas O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 484.
- James Montgomery Boice, Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1988), 224.