“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.” (Ephesians 6:18-19, ESV).
Although the Apostle Paul tells us the when, how, who, and why of prayer in these two verses, we should consider the context in which he is giving this admonition.
In the preceding verses Paul told the Ephesian believers that there is a war going on–a spiritual war: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (vs. 12).
Paul says that believers are soldiers in this war against evil and must put on the spiritual armor provided by God to fight in the battle: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, boots of readiness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (vs. 13-17).
Once believers are outfitted for spiritual warfare, there is one more thing–pray, and here’s how:
When? Pray at all times or continuously: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
How? Pray in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Who? For all the saints and especially for Paul himself: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (I Timothy 2:1).
Why? That the gospel may be proclaimed boldly. Paul assumed all Christians participate in proclaiming the gospel and, therefore, are engaged in spiritual warfare and need to be strengthened to proclaim the gospel strategically and courageously: “At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison” (Colossians 4:3).
As soldiers engaged in a spiritual war against evil, our marching orders are clear: Pray and Proclaim!