Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your petitions for all the saints.Ephesians 6:18
This passage comes on the heels of a very famous passage from Paul regarding the putting on of the armor of God, and yet this integral instruction on perseverance in prayer for all of God’s people is often omitted.
Paul’s original audience for this instruction was experiencing persecution: real, life-endangering persecution on a regular basis, and this type of exhortation would not have fallen on deaf ears. While most of us can only imagine the severity of their situation, in a crisis it becomes quite natural, almost a reflex, to defer to prayer on a regular basis. But this type of crisis-prayer is typically centered around the individual, and praying for personal safety. However, Paul is here admonishing the Ephesian believers to pray vigilantly and unceasingly for all of God’s people, not just for their own personal needs and desires.
Two types of prayer are mentioned here: prayer which is a type of worship, and petitions for specific needs that are urgent and immediate. All of these are to be offered “in the Spirit,” that is, in accordance with the operation and fruit of the spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…Galatians 5:16, 25 I say then, walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh. … If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
To walk in the Spirit is to have the path of one’s life patterned on the principles of the Spirit that Paul mentioned in this very passage.
Paul was encouraging the believers to pray in this fashion for all of “the saints,” that is, all of those who were set apart within the remnant of Israel, for their specific needs and protection during a time of extreme social and civil duress.
The urgent necessity of this praying for the saints is highlighted by a term that is used for wakefulness and alertness; they should never stop lifting up their brothers and sisters with all the principles of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, etc.
I believe this type of dynamic, urgent, and constant prayer lifting up their brothers and sisters in the Spirit is what allowed that generation to be a positive example for all time, through which God ushered in the new life of the eternal kingdom to all nations.
The example is there for us to receive this instruction for our own generation.
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