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 Lord’s people.19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
(Ephesians 6:18-20 NIV)
As we wind down near the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (and us), Paul reminds us of the privilege and necessity of prayer.
It’s important to recognize that this section on prayer is a new thought in Paul’s letter; prayer is not part of the armor of God. Instead, it is more like the air we breathe – an intrinsic, inseparable part of everything we are and do.
Paul did, however, put these commands to pray after describing the armor of God. So how does prayer tie into the previous “armor of God” section?
One simple way to think about prayer is communicating with God. All along our journey with Christ, we pray – for ourselves, for our loved ones, for those who do not yet choose to follow Christ, for those in authority over us, etc.
And so prayer is to the Christ follower as communication with his commanding officer is to the soldier. The soldier (or group of soldiers) is sent out on a mission, but must radio back and let the commanding officer know where they are and what they need. Yes, the analogy breaks down at this point, because the Bible tells us that God knows all about our situation before we do – but hopefully you get the point about prayer and communicating with God.
When does Paul say we should pray? All the time.
What should we pray about? Everything.
Who should we pray for? Ourselves, and all the rest of the Lord’s people as well.
Paul also asked for prayer for himself, even in his current state of house arrest. Note that Paul did not ask for freedom from his captors, but rather, for a bold witness during his imprisonment and anticipated upcoming trial. Notice that Paul calls himself “an ambassador in chains”. Paul did not see himself as a prisoner with no rights, but rather, as an ambassador of the highest calling, even while he is under arrest.
If we go back to the beginning of Paul’s letter, we see that Paul began with praise to the Lord in chapter 1, verses 3 through 14, then immediately went into prayer for the Ephesians (chapter 1, verses 15 through 23). Paul starts his thoughts towards the Ephesians with prayer, and he ends his main remarks in chapter 6 with prayer. Paul uses prayer as the “bookends” of his letter to the Ephesian believers.
May each of us find time to pray today, even during our busy times, to let God know what’s on our hearts, and to lift up others before the throne of grace, also.