This is part 2 of Prayer: What Do I Say to God? It examines Ephesians 6:18 in detail with an emphasis on the practical and basic aspects of talking to God.
Take your Bible and turn to Ephesians 6.
We are in a series of messages looking at some essentials for our spiritual growth. We have already looked at the importance of God’s Word in our life and last week we began examining the importance of prayer in our life. God wants to talk to us and hear from us.
To encourage us in this core value and this essential to our spiritual life let’s look at Ephesians 6:18 which says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (HCSB). From that one statement we see several basic elements to prayer. Last week we looked at the first four, let’s review those and then finish it out.
I am to pray
First, I am to pray. Paul says, “Pray…” (HCSB). If you were to define prayer at its basic core, you could describe it as simply you talking to God and listening to God. God wants to hear from us. Jesus expects us to talk to God and the early church gave us numerous examples of their devotion to prayer. If you are going to grow spiritually you must talk to God and listen to Him.
I am to pray at all times
Number two, I am to pray at all times. Ephesians 6:18 says to “pray at all times” (HCSB). One translation says “on all occasions” (NIV 84) another one says, “praying always” (KJV). You pray when life is easy and you pray when life is hard. You pray when you are feeling good and you pray when you are feeling bad. You pray when you feel righteous and pray when you don’t feel so righteous. You pray about little things and big things. You pray when God is answering immediately and when it feels like He is not there. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray constantly” (HCSB). Romans 12:12 says, “Be persistent in prayer” (HCSB). You pray at “all times” and all occasions. You have a lifestyle of prayer. You have a relational prayer life with God.
I am to pray in the Spirit
Number three, I am to pray in the Spirit. Verse 18 says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit…” (HCSB). What does it mean to pray “in the Spirit”? It means two things.
- It means to pray in the authority of the Holy Spirit. The way you pray in the authority of the Holy Spirit is to place yourself under the authority of the Holy Spirit. You are submissive to the Spirit of God. You let the Spirit of God guide you in your prayers.
- It also means to pray in agreement with the Holy Spirit. This is praying according to the Spirit’s will. You pray about what the Spirit’s concerned about. One of the best ways to pray in agreement with the Spirit is to see what the Spirit wrote about prayer in God’s Word. God’s Word is God’s Will. You pray His Word, you pray His will. If you pray God’s will then you are praying in agreement with the Holy Spirit.
I am to pray with all kinds of prayers
Number four, I am to pray with all kinds of prayers. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request” (HCSB). Notice the words “with every prayer and request.” Last week we looked at the five most common types of prayers.
- Praise. This is appreciating the Lord for who He is.
- Thanksgiving. This is appreciating the Lord for what He has done.
- Confession. The prayer of confession is admitting to God the sins you have done with an attitude of repentance.
- Intercession. This is asking God to do something in the life of someone else.
- Petition. This is asking God to do something in your
I am to pray with awareness
Number five, I am to pray with awareness. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this” (HCSB). One translation says “watching” or watchful (KJV). Have you ever been praying over a list of people and you find your mind wondering off to what you need to get doing after you pray or you remember something that you should have done before you started praying. It is hard to pray with a wondering mind. God wants us to have an “alert” and watchful mind when it comes to praying. Some people call this intense praying. You are mentally focused on what you are praying about. When you are praying for a believer to overcome discouragement or to give them boldness in their ministry you feel as if you are right in the middle of what is going on. It’s intense, passionate, personal, and powerful.
- Colossians 4:2 put it this way, “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving” (HCSB). Stay alert in praying. Look for those things about which you should pray about.
- 1 Peter 4:7 said it this way, “Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer” (HCSB). The idea of being “serious and disciplined” in prayer carries the meaning of being spiritually alert and observant.
Praying with alertness is praying with a higher level of sensitivity for the believer’s needs and welfare in this battle. You are not easily distracted by the phone, by what’s happening in another room, by thoughts that Satan is trying to mislead you with. You are alert. You are “into” praying for that person, that situation. You are not looking at the clock waiting for “prayer time” to be over. You are engaged in spiritual battle through prayer. You are in it to win it!
I am to pray with perseverance
Sixth, I am to pray with perseverance. Ephesians 6:18 puts it this way, “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance…” (HCSB). To persevere means to keep on going and to not give up. To be devoted to prayer is to earnestly, courageously, and persistently bring everything in your life to God. It is to pray a matter through. It is to hang in there until you have some kind of answer. It is perseverance. It is being relentless in praying. It is seeking until you find it. It is knocking until the door opens. Always keep on praying.
This was so significant that Jesus addressed this specifically in His parable of the persistent widow. Luke 18:1 begins that parable by saying, “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (NIV 84). We can become so discouraged when we don’t see an answer or change immediately, but Jesus says keep on praying and don’t give up.
Let me give you some prayer principles about persistence:
- Number one, persistence in prayer is seeing it through to the end. It’s not giving up until you have an answer or God releases you from it.
- Number two, persistence in prayer is a demonstration you believe God answers prayer. One of the reasons why some people quit praying about something is because they believe God is not listening or is not going to answer them. God answers prayer. He wants us to persist in it. Sometimes He answers “yes,” sometimes “no,” and sometimes “wait.” Persistence can be a demonstration of faith.
- Number three, we persist in prayer because the answer may be “later.” Sometimes the answer is “yes,” but to teach us persistence He will grant the request three months down the road or 6 months down the road or 16 years down the road. God may delay His answer simply to train us in persistence in praying and to not give up so easy.
- Number four, we persist in prayer, not because of the answer, but for the change it brings in us. The Bible teaches that prayer changes things. Sometimes when we are praying about something or someone, the answer to our prayer is not “out there” somewhere but “in here” (inside of us). As you are praying about a difficult situation or a frustration over time, the situation does not change but you do. And that was the real answer you needed to your prayer. You find yourself becoming more like Christ and thinking more like Christ and having a deeper perspective about what you are praying about.
- Number five, persistence does not mean lengthy. Jesus said in Matthew 6, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on…” (v.7, NLT). There are going to be times when you will need to have longer times with God, but most of the time can just simply say it and pray it. Sometimes my kids have a quick question and it takes 30 seconds. Sometimes my kids need to talk something out and it takes 30 minutes. The same is true with your Heavenly Father. Persistence does not mean lengthy.
- Number six, persistence does not mean repetitive. Jesus also said in Matthew 6 don’t be like those who “think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again” (v.7, NLT). Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Can I have this? Can I have this? Can I have this? Do it Lord! Do it Lord! Do it Lord! No. You can pray about the same subject or issue over and over, but God may show you something in His Word or you get advice from a godly friend about the issue and you take that to God to see if that changes the situation or how you pray about it.
There are going to be times that you will need to pray “with all perseverance” and you may be there today. Persevere, persist, and don’t give up in talking to God about it.
I am to pray for other believers
Number seven, I am to pray for other believers. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints” (HCSB).[i] When it comes to spiritual warfare praying (which is the context of this verse) the focus of your praying should be for the Christians in the battle. You are praying for the spiritual infants, the spiritual children, the spiritual young adults, and the spiritual parents we talked about in the last series of messages.
Every day you and other believers face the spiritual forces of evil at work, at school, and at home. Pray for your spiritual leaders, pray for missionaries, pray for your fellow Christians at work, pray for your Christian family members, and pray for the believers that God places on your heart. Pray they would have wisdom, discernment, boldness, and insight. Pray they would grow in their love for God and their love for others. Pray for the believers in your life. In the spiritual battles and spiritual warfare of life. Someone described prayer as providing air support for the troops on the ground. Your fellow believers need prayer.
Sometimes prayer may not feel that powerful. Sometimes prayer may feel like nothing is getting done. But don’t give up on God and don’t think He doesn’t respond to prayer because He does. He is more excited about your prayers and Him responding than you are. He wants to show Himself real and powerful in you and through you by answering your prayers. He is an amazing God.
[i] (John 17:9; Col. 1:3; 4:3; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 1:11; James 5:16)