THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER
In Ephesians 6:18, the tremendous importance of prayer is expressed with startling and overwhelming force: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." When the perceptive child of God stops to weigh the meaning of these words then notes the connection in which they are found, he or she is driven to say, "I must pray, pray, pray. I must put all my energy and heart into prayer. Whatever else I do, I must pray." The Revised Standard Version is sometimes even more emphatic than the King James: "Pray 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." Notice the alls: "Pray at all times," "with all prayer," "in all perseverance ... for all the saints." Note the piling up of strong words, "prayer," "supplication ... perseverance." Also notice the strong expression, "to that end keep alert," more literally, "in this, be not lazy." Paul realized the natural apathy of man, and especially his natural neglect in prayer. How seldom we pray things through! How often the Church and the individual get right up to the verge of a great blessing in prayer and then let go, become lazy, and quit. I wish that these words "in this, be not lazy" might burn into our heart. I wish the whole verse would burn into our heart.
The Necessity Of Persistent Prayer
Why is this constant, persistent, sleepless, overcoming prayer so necessary? Because there is a devil.
He is cunning; he is mighty; he never rests; he is continually plotting the downfall of the child of God. If the child of God relaxes in prayer, the devil will succeed in ensnaring him. This is the meaning of the text. Ephesians 6:12 reads: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Then comes Ephesians 6:13: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Next follows a description of the different parts of the Christian's armor which we are to put on if we are to stand against Satan and his mighty wiles. Paul brings all to a climax in Ephesians 6:18, telling us that to all else we must add prayer-constant, persistent, untiring, sleepless prayer in the Holy Spirit-or all else will be in vain. Prayer is God's appointed way for obtaining things. The reason we lack anything in life is due to neglect of prayer. James points this out very forcibly in chapter 4, verse 2, of his epistle: "Ye have not, because ye ask not." These words contain the secret of the poverty and powerlessness of the average Christian-neglect of prayer. Many Christians are asking, "Why is it that I progress so little in my Christian life?" "Neglect of prayer," God answers. "You have not, because you ask not."
Many ministers are asking, "Why is it I see so little fruit from my labors?" Again, God answers, "Neglect of prayer. You have not, because you ask not." Many Sunday school teachers are asking, "Why is it that I see so few converted in my Sunday school class?" Still, God answers, "Neglect of prayer. You have not, because you ask not." Both ministers and churches are asking, "Why is it that the Church of Christ makes so little headway against unbelief and error and sin and worldliness?"
Once more, we hear God answering, '.'Neglect of prayer. You have not, because you ask not." Those men whom God set forth as a pattern of what He expected Christians to be the apostles-regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives. When the multiplying responsibilities of the early Church crowded in upon them, they "called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:2-4). It is evident, from what Paul wrote to both churches and individuals, that much of his time and strength and thought were devoted to prayer for them. (See Romans 119; Ephesians 1:15,16; Colossians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:3). All the mighty men of God outside the Bible have been men of prayer. They have differed from one another in many things, but in this they have been alike.
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