"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” (Ephesians 6:18 - ESV)
This verse immediately follows the apostle Paul's powerful reminder that the Believer's real struggle is not a physical one, or "against flesh and blood", but a cosmic battle with the powers darkness and spiritual forces of evil. It is a spiritual battle that cannot be won on our own. In fact, it would be a hopeless battle if we did not know the “rest of the story” that Christ Jesus has insured a victory, and the conquest of all His and our enemies! In the meantime every believer has been given the “full armor of God” to not only just defend ourselves, but to win the battle.
Paul concludes his teaching on the armor of God with a call to prayer. In fact, he seems to imply that it is through prayer that the armor is effective. Paul clearly sees the need for prayer and asks for it personally in verse 19. When commenting on this verse, John Calvin writes, “There is no man so richly endowed with gifts as not to need assistance from his brethren, so long as he remains in this world. Who will ever be better entitled to plead exemption from this necessity than Paul! Yet he entreats the prayers of his brethren, and not hypocritically, but from an earnest desire for their aid” (Calvin’s Commentaries, p. 241). In other words, if Paul sees a vital need for prayer, we should too!
Please note the four “all’s” in this verse. First Paul reminds us that prayer should permeate all that we do when he writes “praying at all times”. Along the same line, in I Thessalonians 5:17 challenges us “pray without ceasing.” This obviously, does not mean that we need to spend every moment of our day muttering prayers, but rather is a way of thinking that automatically takes us to the throne of grace where we bring our thoughts back to our heavenly Father. I think Proverbs 3: 6 sums this up well when it states, “In all your ways acknowledge Him”. Note well the “all”.
The next “all” comes as Paul reminds us that there is more than one method of prayer when he writes “all prayer and supplication”. Scripture gives us many examples of prayer that include praise, profession of our faith, confession, adoration, thanksgiving, lament, petition, intercession and more. We must not limit our conversation with God to one style or formula. He is our heavenly Father, just talk to Him!
The third “all” reminds us not to give up if it seems our prayers are not being answered or seem ineffective. “All perseverance and petition” is a persistence that refuses to back away or give up. The NIV puts it this way, “always keep on praying”.
The fourth and final “all” is “for all the saints”. I believe many of us become discouraged in our prayer lives because the majority of our prayers are not for “all the saints”, but “one of the saints” – often ourselves. As Believers we are called to intercede for one another. If we do that we are all covered in prayer!
Let’s together ask the God of all grace to help us become a people of prayer who are “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 see what God does!