Do you realize that when you get on your knees to pray that you are actually going into battle? Ephesians 6:12 tells us:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Because of this, it is vital that we pray effectively for the best success. This is especially true during this season of upcoming elections which are critical to the future direction of our country. I don’t believe I am overstating it when I say that these elections will, among other crucial issues, affect whether America will remain strong in sending missionaries across the globe in obedience to God’s Great Commission.
Given that, it is imperative that committed Christians be praying for an outcome that glorifies our Lord, and that believers will win office. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
To be effective, we need to examine how we can be our best at prayer and in prayer, not only for the outcome of the elections, but also for the outcomes of our lives. But what does it mean to pray effectively? The Bible provides the answer.
This week let’s take a close look at how we can elevate our prayer lives to a greater level!
Let us closely examine the closing section of Paul’s address to the church at Ephesus to learn how to increase our effectiveness in prayer. The passage is found in Ephesians 6:18:
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”
In this closing section of Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus, he reveals the purpose for believers to remain in the world after they have been saved. In that specific regard, 2 Timothy 2:4 adds and makes it extremely clear that all believers have been called by Him to be His soldiers in the theatre of spiritual battle post salvation in Christ, prior to going home to be with Him. Paul states to Timothy in this regard:
“No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.”
After being saved by God and His grace, we are to soldier on in this world for Him. In the book of Philippians, Paul reserves the term soldier as the highest moniker of distinction which he uses to describe another believer. In the ascensive progression of Philippians 2:25, Paul states regarding his beloved friend Epaphroditus: my brother, and fellow worker and fellow soldier. This climactic title in Paul’s way of thinking is to call him a fellow soldier for the sake of the gospel. There are brothers and fellow workers in ministry, but there are few he deems as a fellow soldier.
In this week’s home passage of Ephesians 6, Paul codifies the battle that all believers will face after being saved and remaining in the world; the title of fellow soldier is therefore a befitting metaphor of personal distinctiveness relative to the faithfulness of the believer post salvation.
All that in mind, note how this section of Ephesians begins (verse 6:10–13):
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God.”
Herein Paul identifies the main aspects of the believer’s battle armament in the spiritual war that he has been enlisted to fight in by Him as a fellow soldier. Distilled from this familiar passage (verses 11 to 17 that I have not listed due to length) are the following specifics of the fellow soldier’s spiritual armament for this battle:
A. TRUTH: The effective spiritual warrior will be grounded, living, and characterized by truth (without personal hypocrisy) stemming from …
B. RIGHTEOUSNESS: personal holiness, righteous living, and uncompromising in biblical convictions, the spiritual warrior possesses an internal …
C. PEACE: which comes from, and having a reliance in, knowing who enlisted him or her as a soldier in the first place, which means they live their whole life by …
D. FAITH: and not by their own sight, or way of doing things. Scripture is what guides them, not selfish ambition; they live to achieve His desires, not their own. Accordingly, they are empowered mightily by the Holy Spirit because of their …
E. SALVATION: which means they are in intimate contact with their General. It follows that He has trained them and imputed certain specialty skills to each of them via the …
F. WORD OF GOD: which is the only offensive weapon mentioned, is their continual source of knowledge for their specific assignment in battle.
All are marks of an effective fellow soldier. Elsewhere such men and women of God are referred to with different metaphoric, picturesque, and communicative language. Note such in 2 Corinthians 5:20:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us.”
God determines fellow soldiers to remain in the world after saving them to make an appeal through them to the world as His ambassadors!
There is one more basic ingredient found in the context of Ephesians 6 that every mature believer must possess for effective spiritual warfare: A profound, biblically informed understanding of and commitment to prayer! Your skills here are so important to your overall value as a fellow solider!
Don’t misinterpret the elections: they are first and foremost a spiritual battle requiring mature, spiritual weaponry.
The believer should be wiser than those who know not Christ nor His Scriptures: many are those who view the elections through a political lens only. When I say “many” I am including many believers who are naïve to what this study teaches. In contrast, the believer should concentrate on being the most effective prayer warrior in the upcoming elections! May I whisper the point I am making: being a valuable ambassador for Christ is much more important than possessing political campaign skills (as important as those are). To say it bluntly, I know too many Christian spiritual hacks who know nothing about, nor seemingly care to know anything about the spiritual dimension of an election! Don’t be one of them!
If the elections are first and foremost—definitively—a spiritual battle per Ephesians 6:10, then it follows that your best way to run your own campaign and help others in their campaigns is to be a victorious spiritual warrior in an election! Spiritual combat is most triumphant to the degree that one meets and is characterized by the aforementioned! Again, think of the criteria of Ephesians 6 as prerequisites for being the most effective person in regards to the elections: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Do you really believe that?
Accordingly, think of the following as biblical insights on how you can best spend your time and hone your skills as it specifically relates to your personal prayer life.
II. YOUR PRAYERS MUST BE ENDORSED
“With all prayer”
The Greek word that is used in this passage for prayer, (proseuche) is used 85 times in the New Testament (NT); across the board, it is the most comprehensive word to communicate the concept of prayer. Importantly, gleaned from all of its usages, efficacious human prayer— prayers that are heard and acted upon by God—are only achieved through His Son Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Because of man’s fallen nature, he is not in a position to expect God to hear his prayers. Accordingly, how then can God hear the sinner’s prayers? Not based on the sinner’s personal merit. The prayers of unregenerate people are ineffective, save the prayer of repentance from sin. Note specifically Isaiah 59:2, one of many biblical passages that serve to make this point:
“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
It follows that we need the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ in order for our prayers to be heard by God. James (5:16) states this in the positive:
“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
James is talking about imputed, not personal righteousness; no one is righteous based on his or her personal merit. Therefore, the prayers you are aiming at God, the prayers you are hoping He will answer, apart from Christ’s endorsement or enablement, will not be heard by God. We must have an advocate with the Father (cf. 1 John 2:1) for our prayers to be heard. In keeping with the outline, Christ must advocate, i.e., endorse everyone’s prayers to God! This must first be said in regards to any biblically sound study on prayer. Otherwise you are praying ineffectively for the elections.
III. YOUR PRAYERS MUST BE DETAILED
The Greek word for petition (enteuxis) means, “to fall in with someone.” The idea here is that one gets involved in terms of understanding the sinner’s plight. One does not pray for the lost with a cold, detached, mechanical attitude, but with love and concern regarding their future destiny. More specific than the first word examined for prayer, (proseuche), petition (enteuxis) denotes specific requests made to God by the believer. Requesting is therefore appropriate in prayer! Biblical prayer is more than adoration and worship (as important as that is)! Paul expects believers to include supplication, i.e., petitioning in their prayer life! Jesus underscores this in John 14:13–14:
“‘Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.’”
By asking for specific things (in line with scriptural priorities, which is the idea behind praying in My name), the answers ultimately glorify Him! Why? His power is evidenced in the world via answered prayer. To illustrate this, Paul petitioned for Timothy night and day (2 Timothy 1:3) and as a result he was successful in changing the direction of the Ephesian Church from its heretical takeover (cf. 1 Timothy 1:20; 2 Timothy 1:1–2); that turnaround in response to Pauline petitioning brought glory to God in the world. The fact that Paul petitioned with specific, detailed prayers night and day informs us of one element as to how we ought to be praying.
The explicit command to “petition in your prayers” communicates the idea of being detailed in your prayers.
By way of personal illustration, for years I have kept a running “yellow sheet” on my computer wherein I record requests and answers. May I suggest that you list your detailed petitions (that are biblically based with biblical values) on your smartphone. I have my old way of doing things, but I am sure there are good petition apps out there. The point is, God delights in answering detailed quantifiable petitions versus nebulous immeasurable flighty thoughts. This leads to the third point Paul makes in the passage:
IV. YOUR PRAYERS MUST BE DELIBERATE
“pray at all times in the Spirit,”
The Greek word used here for time (kairos) denotes a season of time, when it is found in Scripture coupled with this particular use of the Greek word all (panti). Better understood, there exists in this portion of our passage under study the literal idea of “every critical season.” An upcoming election certainly denotes a critical time both in the life of a public servant and in the course of a nation! The applied, general idea for elected officials, or any citizen for that matter, is that:
We should be praying more when the pressure is the greatest!
Isn’t that how it usually goes with us anyway? But take solace here—in fact Paul is commanding it: in light of the larger context of the passage, when the believer wields the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and Satan reacts through his minions, there will exist critical times or seasons for necessary petitioning—that is, if you are a soldier for Christ! Your prayers must be deliberate and specified especially during these times! This is the best way to understand what all times means in this passage, versus thinking that if you are not praying every second of the day—all the time—that you are disobedient and living in sin.
The closely following phrase in the Spirit need next be understood. Herein is the power source of one’s prayers. It could be an additional point in the outline, “Your Prayers Must Be Driven.” Indeed, that is the case! We glean additional insight in this regard from Romans 8:26–27: This passage declares that it is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for the saints.
When it comes to prayer, think of the Third Member of the Trinity as likened to the power steering pump in your car.
You initiate (based on His prompting), and He takes over and empowers the task!
He energizes our sometimes mumbling gibberish and intercedes: presenting our requests in a form acceptable to God the Father! Wow! Accordingly, don’t feel like your efforts in prayer are somehow lacking in prose and/or adequacy—the Spirit will edit and empower them on your behalf ! You might say that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to spruce you up! He indeed delights in doing just that! What great news for someone like me! Note the following from Romans 8:26–27 that amplifies this thought:
“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Combined with the aforementioned points, it is the believer standing with courage on His Word and its principles that riles satanic forces. It is his or her use of prayer in the Spirit during those critical seasons of time that mightily aid in the victory: the believer is to cry out to God on the various occasions of the assaults of darkness. An election is such a critical time.
In an illustration of contrast, when persecution arose as a result of his earlier identification with Christ, the apostle Peter fled from associating with Him (cf. Matthew 26:69–70) versus going away to pray! What is your response when persecution arises—especially when your opponent conjures up falsehoods against you in an election? Is your first response to pray? Do you believe that God can turn the tide if you react with this kind of spiritual maturity? Your prayers must be deliberate in these crucial times.
V. YOUR PRAYERS MUST BE DETERMINED
“and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition”
The conjunction and (kai) connects what follows to that which has just been stated, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance. The words for alert (agrupnountes) and perseverance (proskarternesis) have similar meanings: One lexical translator states that this means “to continue to do something with intense effort … to devote oneself to, to keep on, to persist in.” This coupling of the ideas of timely prayer with alertness and perseverance is replete throughout Scripture:
Prayer manifests itself in perseverance just as perseverance manifests itself in prayer.
They fuel each other; that is to say, your prayers must be determined! Note this spirit of determination in prayer as modeled in the following passages: In the Gospels, Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray (Matthew 26:41). In Colossians, Paul told believers to devote themselves to prayer (4:2). In the parables, the widow wore out the judge (Luke 18:2–9) because of her relentless perseverance in petitioning, and Peter (years later) would say from earlier failure, Be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7).
All of them—Jesus, Paul, the widow, and Peter—were tenacious prayer warriors. You should be too!
When a believer is faced with spiritual challenges like an election, his first response should be to pray with determined perseverance; such is the time to put your game face on and pray with earnestness! God will strengthen and empower your petition as you step out in obedient faith to pray!
Notice that this is the fourth time the word all has been used in the passage. The believer is to use all prayer forms in all critical times, with all perseverance (intense effort), for lastly, all the saints. (More about that in the final point).
The NT uses other words in the context of prayer that provide us with an even deeper understanding of the subject. More specifically, in verse one of 1 Timothy 2, Paul uses four words to elaborate on specific kinds of prayers. We have already examined two of them from our home passage in Ephesians 6. But let us expand our study to include the two we have not previously mentioned:
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority.”
Notice that the direct object of prayer mentioned in this particular passage is not just all men, but specifically public servants, i.e., kings and all who are in authority! If you are a special, singled-out focus of prayer, it follows you should be an expert on the subject, i.e., what other people are supposed to be doing for you! Each of the following words are in answer to that:
The Greek root for the English word entreaties (deesis) means “to lack, to be deprived.” “To be without something.” Its use in the context of prayer here and elsewhere throughout the Scriptures carries the idea of the prayer warrior’s inner realization of the needs of the lost. The believer is to pray, motivated in part by the hope that God would supply the sinner the remedy for his sin via the cross of Christ. The object of our prayers—men and women who have enormous spiritual needs—should compel one to pray that God would touch each public servant with His grace and forgiveness and lead them to the way of salvation (if they are not already saved)! Accordingly, we must entreat God to save lost politicians, versus hating them because of their lack of character (which is just as present in less visible people as well).
The other Greek word we have not yet studied is the English word thanksgiving (eucharista) which means that the believer should be motivated to pray for the lost because it is a great privilege granted to him by God. As an ambassador for Christ every believer is given a role to play in the salvation of others. Exercising the privilege of leading another to Christ begins with thankfulness to God for the opportunity! Here then is an additional motivation for prayer: what a great and powerful opportunity the fellow soldier in Christ has to battle for the souls of public servants!
In summary of this point, the believer is to petition God on behalf of all men, for Kings and all who are in authority motivated by their understanding of these four distinct facets of prayer found in part in Ephesians 6 and more fully in 1 Timothy 2:
- We entreat Him because we are sensitive and in concert with the needs of lost political leaders.
- We pray to Him and give Him glory because of His power to save.
- We petition Him because we are concerned for their future without Christ.
- We thank Him because we are grateful for the opportunity to witness on His behalf.
These are the four biblically revealed, specific aspects that should motivate us to address God so as to receive God’s answers to our prayers. May these aspects of communion with God inspire us to pray, especially in critical times; may they increase our determination to pray!
VI. YOUR PRAYERS MUST BE DYNAMIC
“for all the saints.”
Remember that Paul is addressing the Ephesian believers as he is teaching about prayer. Accordingly, per the first point, prayer is a discipline for believers. In applying this concept to praying for a God-glorifying outcome to an election, it follows that believers should be praying that believers will win office!
The ideal candidates for public office are those who have a great resume, understand and abide by God’s stated purpose for government in Romans 13:1–8, have a proven track record, and are mature in Christ. Ask God to raise up candidates who possess these characteristics. The former without the latter (and the latter without the former) is not ideal. We need many more mature believers in office. Pray for all the saints; applied here, means your prayers and mine must be for believers to gain office and those in office to come to Christ!
Believers are enlisted in a spiritual battle. Just as nuclear wars cannot be won with rifles, spiritual battles cannot be won by engaging the enemy with the wrong weaponry. Voting believers (and every believer should vote) must sober to the spiritual dimension to elections.
Furthermore, the qualified believer who is in office or is a candidate must sober to the fact that the battle is not against flesh and blood. It is ultimately a spiritual battle and herein is the armament: not the least of which is prayer—and specifically for His elevating you and others in public service in the upcoming elections! Remember, your prayers that are aimed at achieving this will be most effective when they are enDorsed, Detailed, Deliberate, Determined and Dynamic! Pray accordingly with each of these critical elements—elements common to those who are the most powerful prayer warriors—and then watch with anticipation as your prayers are answered and make a difference in the direction of our nation! cm