Praying Without Ceasing
“…praying at all times in the Spirit…” (Ephesians 6:18)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:18
Preparedness for spiritual warfare doesn’t consist only in putting on the armour of God. There is another activity without which we will never be able to stand against the devil in the “evil day” or deflect his flaming darts. That activity is unceasing prayer (Ephesians 6:18).
“Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication,” Paul writes as he completes his description of the armour of God. Prayer is meant to accompany putting on the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, taking up the shield of faith and so on. “Each piece put on with prayer,” the old gospel hymn goes. Prayer is not an extra “add-on,” a supplement to the other pieces of the heavenly armour; it is to accompany them all.
The way Paul describes the activity of prayer in the verse before us invites our closer attention. “Praying at all times…” he says. This parallels his exhortation to Christians in Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Paul believed in the possibility of cultivating an attitude of heart that was constantly looking to the Lord, even amid activities that demanded the use of the mind. The truth is that there is nothing we do as believers, as those who are “in Christ,” that does not require the grace of Christ to achieve. That is never truer than when we are battling temptation. Our first and greatest need is to develop the practice of drawing life from the ever-present Christ through prayer.
To remind us how impossible it is for us to do this unaided, the apostle adds, “in the Spirit.” This is one of two occasions in the New Testament (the other is Jude 21) where prayer is spoken of specifically as “in the Spirit” (see also Romans 8:26, 27). There is no activity so contrary to sinful human nature as humble, dependent prayer. Even when we become believers and experience new life from God within us, the “flesh” remains weak and listless when it comes to prayer. How desperately we need the strengthening help of the Spirit to pray. And how encouraged we should be that it is his function and delight to enable us to cry out, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
Finally, Paul adds, “with all prayer and supplication.” We are to pray at “all times” with “all prayer.” Paul may well mean by this that we are to pray with all types of prayer – spoken and unspoken, formal and spontaneous, solitary and corporate. He recognises that calling upon God is an act which opens to us a variety of ways of expressing ourselves – in praise, thanksgiving, confession, honest sharing of doubts and desires, sorrows and frustrations and so on. We are to avail ourselves of all of these ways of praying, as well as “supplication” – that is, requests.
Surely, the greatest need we face individually and collectively as God’s people today is a renewed focus on prayer. Without it, we are powerless; through it, we have access to the limitless grace of God.
- Do you think it is possible to pray “without ceasing”?
- What does it mean to you to “pray in the Spirit”?
– Andrew Young