Ephesians 6:18; Alertness and persistence in prayer.

Class Outline:

Thursday July 21, 2022


At the finish of Paul’s doctrine of the armor of God, Paul adds to the Christian soldier, the need for alert prayer for all the saints.


EPH 6:18

With all prayer and petition pray at all times [appointed time or season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,


Prayer is the universal word for reverent address to God; and petition or supplication is the term for specific requests. Some think that Paul is using both terms for emphasis, while others think he is drawing a distinction between the position of prayer in the mind and the actual requests. It could very well that Paul has both things in mind.


“in the Holy Spirit” refers to us coming to God in an obedient, spiritual, humble, and fearful manner.


We will soon study the ministry of God the Holy Spirit to the believer. It is not as complex or restrictive as some seem to make it. Simply it is humility and obedience to God as a believer. God the Holy Spirit works His will in the believer who is intelligently submitted to His will.


Prayer is for the purpose of communicating with God one-on-one, to know Him deeper, and to intercede for others.


There are definitely more reasons for prayer, but we don’t need a one-stop definition. I want to make the point at the start that prayer is more than God hearing you. As He is omniscient, nothing about us or in us, not one thought or desire, is unknown to Him, i.e., He does hear all.


Prayer is the most enjoyable event in the saint’s life once he or she gets past all misconceptions and misplaced personal wants. Like all things for us that God has given, from birth to salvation to death to eternity, and all in between, God has made prayer to be performed and enjoyed in His way. If we want it to be another way, we are falling for the second temptation of Christ in the wilderness. It’s jumping off the temple, and presuming that although it is not God’s way He will catch us, or for this instance, He will bless our self-made prayer life.


Prayer is awake and alert:


“be on the alert” - watching while keeping awake and vigilant.


The Greek word points to the watchman who upon the gate or wall is always alert, watchful, and vigilant even in the late watches.


Our word here literally means to be sleepless. The NT uses other words that means alert or awake, one of which was used by the Lord in Gethsemane.


“be on the alert” - not forgetting to pray for others in need and all the saints.


Jesus warned the disciples Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane to “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.”


This is the last time Jesus will be alone with them until after the resurrection.


MAT 26:36-46

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and  said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."  37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch [alert, awake] with Me."  39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt."  40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 "Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  42 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done."  43 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. 45 Then He came to the disciples, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 "Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!"


We might wonder what any prayer on their part would have accomplished. All things from this evening on to His resurrection must go the way it has been determined. Would their prayers have made Jesus’ burden a little lighter? Would their prayers have made them stronger and therefore more ready for what was just about to come when the authorities and guards appeared in the garden? It is impossible to answer since they didn’t pray, nor stay awake. So we take from the narrative only what we can, which is all God wants for us.


Jesus watches and prays and His purpose and strength are restored. The disciples, after a futile attempt at resistance, all give up and abandon Him.


Just hours before this, Jesus told them that they would abandon Him. When He did Peter professed:


MAT 26:31-35

Then Jesus said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.'  32 "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee."  33 But Peter answered and said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away." 34 Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times."  35 Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You." All the disciples said the same thing too.


They all agreed with Peter, though they all fled. Peter, however, was the one to deny Him three times. Matthew then tells us that Jesus prayed the same thing three times. It is His own application of His teaching to ask, seek, and knock, which is done in the Jewish fashion of parallel repetition for emphasis. Jesus, apparently not satisfied after one prayer, requires three to overcome the angst within Him. Neither Peter, nor the disciples pray, and they each fail and run in fear. Especially Peter is the contrast to our Lord’s praying: three refusals compared to three petitions.


MAT 26:69-75

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a certain servant-girl came to him and said, "You too were with Jesus the Galilean." 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." 71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." 72 And again he denied it with an oath, "I do not know the man." 73 And a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away." 74 Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man!" And immediately a cock crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.


There would have been no difference to Peter’s cowardice if he just rattled off some prayer he knew or just said the words of the Lord’s prayer or a favorite psalm. He still would have failed miserably, and this is what is revealed about prayer.


Effective prayer is by the one clad in God’s armor, seeking the Father that loves him/her with fear and obedience and love.


It’s not just words. Effective prayer comes from the one who knows and loves God, trusts in God, worships God, and is thankful to God.


Again, this is not to restrict prayer or to make us fear it as something only fit for the greatest saints, but to look at it at its apex in a believer’s life. A child who knows hardly anything of God is heard by God when they say their prayers, but they are still children. If we’re still praying like that, as adults, then we stopped growing and walking with God long ago.


Paul tells us to pray at all appointed times. We’re never told to wait for some level of knowledge of growth. We all know we are cleansed by the blood of Christ and so therefore we can approach God will all confidence and boldness. Prayer is not effective because of how long we pray or how many words we use or what kind of words we use. When we don’t know how to put our requests into words then the Holy Spirit intercedes (ROM 8:26). We might start will selfish requests or foolish ones, but we should keep praying knowing that nothing we say will be able to remove us from God’s presence. If we desire a more effective prayer life, meaning a more effective and rewarding life with our Father, then we will need to mature as any child.


EPH 6:18-20

With all prayer and petition pray at all times [appointed time or season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.


The word petition is resumed at the end of verse 18, in order to enlist the prayers of the readers for the service of the church at large.


Alertness with perseverance is not just being awake, but also being daily alert to the right sort of petitions for others.


We will see that many times Paul asks for prayer for his deliverance and his ministry. Here he asks for prayer that he might know what to say when he appears before the authorities and especially before the tribunal of the emperor, as well as that he may boldly preach the gospel from this condition (in chains) which was new for him. It is clear that Paul understands that the prayers of the saints will make a difference, and as strong a man as he is, he seeks prayer for his work. It would not do for those who received this letter from him to forget to pray for him the day after they read it.


Perseverance - proskarteresis (only in EPH 6:18) - persistence, adherence. The verb is most often tied to prayer.


Who in your life needs prayer or who should you be praying for? Close or barely known or unknown, the Bible shows prayer for all of them. To do so consistently, is also being alert in prayer.


Perseverance is referenced in the NT as persistence in loyalty and in paying attention to things of importance. Consistency in the spiritual life was seen as perseverance, especially in prayer.


ROM 12:10-13

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted [proskartereo] to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.


This lovely passage shows us the persistence of lifestyle that is demanded of the believer, all of whom are the new self, which has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (EPH 4:24).


All who have been attempting to have powerful prayer lives should understand why Paul would entreat us to be persistent in prayer. It takes perseverance to take the time to pray. It is vital to do so, for without knowing the power of prayer through consistency, we will not come to love and desire our alone time with God the Father in the Spirit and in the name of the Son.