Faithlife Sermons

"Pray For Me"

Armor of God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction: Am I alone in the battle?

Show Clip:
When it comes to movies, I am absolutely a crier. This scene, and scenes like it, get me! It’s that support and faithful friendship that Sam provides, and it’s the dire situation and the hopelessness that Frodo embodies that lead to this beautiful pay off when you realize Frodo is not alone.
Many years ago Pastor Jim preached a sermon series titled “Return of the King” (which is the name of that movie!). And I remember sitting in these pews (at the time) and thinking to myself, how terrible would it be to be experiencing the end of the world alone. And that thought, that I would be alone on the earth, became one of my greatest fears. Some of us like alone time, but none of us want to be lonely. We know this instinctively: There’s safety in numbers. We have frailties and weaknesses, and we need people around us in times of danger.
And it’s no different when it comes to the very real danger of spiritual warfare, as we’ve been seeing in Ephesians 6. Go ahead and find Ephesians 6 in your Bibles.
Last week, Pastor Jim preached on verse 18, continuing this conversation about the armor of God and the spiritual conflict we’re in. And as we saw, Paul is concluding this section by talking about prayer. This week, we’re going to look at the end of verse 18 up to verses 20, but let’s read together starting in verse 16 for context.
Eph 6:16-20 “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
Now as we saw last week, Paul’s conversation about prayer is connected to all that has come before about this warfare language. Up in verse 10 he begins this section by calling us to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And he explains that we are to do this by putting on the armor of God. We are to equip ourselves with God’s armor, His protection, and we are to stand firm. Then, coming to the end of this section, we are to take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, and that gets us to verse 18. I’m taking a minute to show you this because our English translation make it seem like Paul is ending his thought and starting a new one. Like Pastor Jim said last week, the word “prayer” here is not a finite verb; it’s a participle. It’s an action that’s happening as something else is happening. So we are to be strong, we’re to put on the armor, we’re to stand firm, we’re to take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit as we are praying in the Spirit on all occasions.
And so Pastor Jim talked about how we pray, how often we pray, and what we pray. This week, I want to build onto that, so you’ll notice that we’re starting with point four today. And I want to start building on by asking: Who should I pray for, Paul? In this spiritual conflict, for whom should I pray?
And our answer is right in the Text—Paul makes it pretty clear: We should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

4. Who should I pray for? Our brothers and sisters in Christ.

This whole book has been talking about the unity we have in the body of Christ. Is it really any surprise, then, that the thrust of Paul’s call to prayer is aimed at other members of the body? No! Now, is Paul saying we should exclusively pray for other believers? No, I don’t think so. But in the context of the spiritual battle, Paul is trying to highlight the importance of praying for those who are in this fight, standing with us.
And this may seem overly obvious, but let me just remind you that Paul isn’t merely calling us to prayer for the fun of it! Paul is calling for prayer in the battle because prayer is incredibly important to the life of the believer, especially when it comes to spiritual warfare. Let me say it this way: If you want to make yourself totally vulnerable to the Enemy, put your Bible on a shelf and only pray rote, trite little prayers for yourself and your family. On the other hand, if you want to have an absolutely massive impact on the lives of your those around you, develop a deep, Scripture saturated prayer life.
At Open Door, we typically talk about prayer under the C in CHRIST. But praying for others, like we’re talking about here, is a little different. Last week Pastor Jim mentioned “intercessory prayer,” some of you have heard of that language. Sometimes praying for others is called “intercessory prayer.” Intercession just means “the act of intervening on behalf of another.” In intercessory prayer we are talking to God about other people, so this kind of prayer also fits under the R of CHRIST: Relating with Others-Centered love. It is one of our greatest privileges and one of the greatest ministry opportunities we have. As disciples of Jesus, Peter writes that we are “a royal priesthood” (1 Pt 2:9). Part of the role of a priest is to represent people to God. So, since we are a part of the priesthood of all believers, we can present our brothers and sisters before our God and anticipate His loving response. So if you want to love those around you well, pray for them! Developing a habit of praying for your brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the greatest ways we can love and serve one another.
Why? Because…

Partnering with other believers in prayer is essential if we are to stand firm in the battle.

Let’s remember the context again: we’re talking about war! See sometimes I can forget that I am not the only one impacted by this conflict that’s going on. I can get so caught up in my own struggle against temptation, my own concerns, the things that I need, that I forget that there is a whole separate human being with their own deep seated, complex battle driving the car behind me, sitting in the booth beside me, taking my order at breakfast, filling up their gas tank across the lot, looking at children’s toys in Target. We need to put on the armor of God to gain protection from the Enemy; but unless we are praying for one another, we are not fully equipped. Unless we are serious about partnering in prayer, we are missing something.
Let’s be reminded this morning that Christianity is not an independent faith. The way of Christianity is the way of radical dependency—on God, and on our Christian brothers and sisters as well. Put differently, we need one another! This is one thing that the battlefield language and imagery that Paul is using makes so clear. One of the worst things in the world is to be outnumbered in a fight for your life. What Paul is communicating here is that if we want to link arms and stand beside one another, there is one most important way to do that: and that way is to partner in prayer.
One commentary I looked at equated partnering in prayer like standing shoulder to shoulder with other believers in a phalanx formation. Though I don’t think Paul was intending to extend the metaphor this far, I think it’s still an awesome illustration. See because as fierce and impressive as the Greek and Roman military was, one armored soldier can be taken down. Alexander the Great conquered the known world as perhaps the greatest military commander to ever live. But it wasn’t because he had superheroes lining up to fight for him! It was because they know how to stand beside one another. This was the strength of the army! Not the individual, but the phalanx. The reason that the phalanx was so effective is because the soldiers were able to cover one another’s weak points. They we able to help protect one another. When we lift one another up in prayer, it’s like we’re standing beside one another in mutual support.
And so in the same way that we wouldn’t want to leave out the Sword of the Spirit or the shield of faith, we cannot neglect our duty to pray for one another. It’s like walking into combat with an unloaded weapon. It is a recipe for disaster.
And yet isn’t that what we so often do? Not just us, but Christians in general. Many, many of us neglect prayer, and prayer for one another. I actually have a prayer book on my shelf in my office called The Valley of Vision, and in it men of deep devotion confess over and over again that they have been cold in prayer. Here is just one example that I’ve paraphrased from a prayer called “Paradoxes”:
O Lord, I have a wild heart, and cannot stand before You; I am like a bird before a man. How little I love Your truth and Your ways! I neglect prayer, by thinking I have prayed enough and with enough passion when I am reassured that you have saved my soul (128).
Here we have even men of great faith, whose prayers they recorded and have been passed down from generation to generation, admitting that they find their own prayer life lacking. So, if prayer is so important, why do we withhold prayer? Why do so many of us fail to pray for one another so often?
Well, I think one reason we withhold prayer because we feel untrained or awkward about it. In moments that we know there’s an opportunity to pray, our hands get sweaty, and the words “hey, can I pray for you” get caught in our throats.
But friends, all this hesitation is misplaced! It’s evidence of the fact that sin has produced idols in our hearts. We idolize our image and how we are perceived by others, and we think that prayers need to be some ostentatious thing, so we are afraid that others will hear us and think, “oh, what an immature person that is. They clearly don’t know how to pray. This is so awkward- I wish they wouldn’t have said anything.” We withhold prayer in an attempt to hide ourselves from others, just like our first parents Adam and Eve in the garden. We are afraid to be known as we are, so we’d rather maintain our self image than offer the life saving support of honest, heartfelt prayer.
And so we just don’t pray, we let the moment pass, not realizing that…

When we withhold prayer, we rob our brothers and sisters of the support that God intended.

Most of most of the time I act like neglecting prayer is like neglecting to clean my gutters. It’s something I know I should do, and I know it’s getting worse over time, and I’ll get to it eventually and it will be fine; no harm, no foul.
But Paul’s warfare language makes it much more urgent. As I was considering this point, I was reminded of a scene from the movie Saving Private Ryan, in which there’s a solider in hand to hand combat with the enemy, fighting for his life, and his brother in arms hears the struggle, but is too afraid to go in and help, so he slumps down at the bottom of this staircase while his friend is attacked.
It’s an absolutely gut-wrenching scene in the movie, because you think to yourself it almost doesn’t matter how skilled this guy is! If they work together, things could have gone so differently. And if you could have a conversation with that guy, imagine him saying: “Well, I’m just really not that good of a soldier. I don’t think I would have been that much help. Really, what God wanted to happen was going to happen anyway. I was too concerned for my own safety.” In the context of the battle, these excuses are exposed for their shallowness. The reality is that neglecting prayer is much more like leaving our friends to stand against the enemy alone that it is like forgetting to clean your gutter.
The truth is that God is eager to hear heartfelt prayers from His children. He is not impressed by our vocabulary. He is longing to see faith, and genuine concern for our neighbors.
And the truth is that God really does want to impact the course of history using our prayers. And this is what makes intercessory prayer such a privilege: In a way that I don’t fully comprehend, God sovereignly chooses to wrap our prayers up into His ruling of the universe. Check out this reminder from the book of James 5:16b-18
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”
This reminder about the incredible story of Elijah comes in the context of an encouragement to pray for one another. James wants there to be no confusion here: God answers prayers; our prayers really do matter. He’s reasoning on the basis of this incredible example: If God can answer this prayer for Elijah, a man, then He certainly can answer our prayers for one another. So here’s the question:

Application: Do you pray for those around you like it really matters?

Do you pray like the battle depends on it? If you knew that prayer for that friend, neighbor, family member, or missionary would make all the difference, wouldn’t you do it without hesitation? It can be in structured ways: praying for your family whenever you’re driving home for work. Or it can be in spontaneous ways. And it doesn’t have to be this huge thing; it can just be as soon as someone is brought to mind, pray, “Lord, I don’t know why but this person keeps coming to mind. Would you strengthen them? Would you help them today? I know You love them, so would you be present with them in whatever they have going on?” It’s simple! But it can be life changing. Let’s pray like it matters.
So, we should pray for one another! That’s the “who.” Next I want to think about whyWhy should we pray? Let’s see what we can learn from Paul’s example here.

5. Why should I pray? Because we need God’s help to accomplish God’s purposes.

There are tons of ways to answer this question, but let’s dive back into the text and see what we can discern here. Why is Paul encouraging the Ephesians to pray, and why is he asking for prayer? Let’s read again starting in Eph 6:19-20
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”
So what’s going on here? Well, Paul is moving now from the general to the particular. He’s saying to pray on all occasions for all the Lord’s people, and, specifically, pray for me! And this is not unique to the book of Ephesians; this is something we see Paul doing throughout his letters. Just like he often begins his letters with prayer, he often ends his letters by asking for prayer. Here are some other examples: Rom. 15:30–33; Col. 4:2–4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1–2. Notice a common thread here. At times, Paul asks for his own safety; but in each case, his mind is set not on his benefit, but on accomplishing the work that God has called him to.
So what is the situation in the book of Ephesians? What does Paul say? He says “pray for me that whenever I speak, words may be given to me.” Who would be providing the words? God, yes ok, so he’s asking that when he speaks, God would give him words. Words for what? “so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” And then down at the end of verse 20, he says “pray that I may declare fearlessly, as I should.” So Paul is asking for words, and he’s asking for fearlessness, or boldness, or freedom of speech.
And he also says he is an ambassador in chains. When he writes this letter, as we’ve said before, he is in prison, probably in Rome. If we were to check the context in Acts 28, we’d see that Paul is in a close quarters battle himself. He is in the fight of his life. He is in prison awaiting trial before the emperor of Rome. A trial, mind you, that could very well result in his execution. And in this trial, he will have an opportunity to present the Christian faith to the most powerful man in the world in the highest court in the world.
And so what does he do? Does he say, “yea don’t worry about me guys! I’ve got this one in the bag! I’ve been training for this my whole life. I’m ready. I am the apostle Paul, after all!” No! He says, brothers and sisters, pray for all the Lord’s people; but pray also for me. In the fight of my life, I need help. Paul does what we so often are unable or unwilling to do: He humbles himself, and he admits that he needs the help of God and the support of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Why should we pray? Because we need God’s help.

Our prayer requests demonstrate humility.

We need God. Paul admits that in Eph 6:10! If we are to stand firm, it will only be in God’s power; not our own.
But of all people, we might be tempted to think that Paul had things fairly locked down and under control. And yet the man who is responsible for bringing the gospel to the gentile world admits his weakness, his insufficiency, and asks for prayer.
Now, Paul isn’t asking for words because he hasn’t done his homework. He isn’t praying to understand the mystery of the Gospel. He’s praying because he knows that eloquent speech and accuracy are not the deciding factor here. He knows that unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. We pray not to cover our own lack of preparation, but because we recognize that without God all our preparation is worthless. We need God’s help; and when we ask for prayer, when we recognize that we can’t do it on our own, it demonstrates humility.
Paul has already shown throughout Ephesians that God’s power is available to us through prayer. Remember those two sermon series’ on Powerful Prayer and More Powerful Praying? Paul prays then that the believers in Ephesus would receive power; now he flips the tables and asks that they would pray for him to receive God’s help, His power as he’s proclaiming the gospel. Because Paul gets that receiving God’s power is his only hope.
But it’s his only hope in what? What is it that Paul is so fixated on? What is it that he wants? He wants to proclaim the gospel of Jesus! He wants to fulfil his role as an ambassador from God to the capital of the most powerful empire in the world! Not only does Paul’s prayer request demonstrate humility, but it also reveals his priority.

Our prayer requests reveal our priorities.

Think of what you would be asking for if you were in Paul’s shoes. Would you be more interested in the advancement of the gospel of Jesus, or in your own safety?
More often than not, we are laser focused on what we want. The reality of our heart is often revealed in the things that we ask for. The problem is that, when our hearts are far from God, we end up asking for things that will hurt us in the end, or that will short circuit what God desires to accomplish in our lives, and then we sit back and wonder why God hasn’t answered our request.
God loves to answer our prayers. He is a God of untold power and limitless resources. But He is a good Father! If Arden were to ask to play in the street, I would say no! And that “no” would be the outpouring of my love and concern for her, and my desire for her good.
You see, God wants us to partner in the work that He’s doing on the earth, and to participate in it by our prayers. We want to twist God’s arm to give us the life we want. Do you see the difference? What we find is that…

Our prayer requests reveal who we really serve.

Look at what Paul says again. He’s asking for words and for boldness, why? So that he can proclaim the mystery of the gospel as an ambassador of Jesus! Paul is so captivated by the good news of what God has done in the life and death of Jesus. He gets it! He gets that his whole life is about representing Jesus to people! And that is what dominates his prayers and requests. Not his own safety, but rather that he would be like Jesus, and that he would faithfully show Jesus to others with his words whenever he opens his mouth. Paul is asking for prayer because he knows he needs God’s help not to make lots of money, not to beat his older brother in chess, not to have a nice car, not to do whatever he wants to do, but to accomplish God’s purposes!
So then,…

Application: Are your prayers and requests defined by what you want, or what God wants?

When you pray, is it to advance your kingdom or God’s kingdom? Do you only turn to God in prayer when you’re feeling uncomfortable, and then as soon as your comfortable again your prayers stop? Is it all about us and our lives and our glory, or is it all about God, the life given for us, and His glory?
Let’s be reminded of what God wants. He wants us to be blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3-13). He wants for us to be unified; reconciled to Him and reconciled to one another (Eph 2:14-18). He wants us to use our gifts to build one another up in love (Eph 4:14-16). He wants us to understand and be radically changed by who Jesus is and what He has done for us on the cross (Eph 2:1-10). He wants to display His own goodness to the angels by His grace and mercy to us (Eph 2:6-7). He wants us to be transformed to look more and more like His Son (Eph 4:13). He wants us to understand how deep is His love for us (Eph 3:14-19). He wants us to stand firm against the enemy and in the midst of temptation (Eph 6:10-17). And He wants us to represent Jesus to our neighbors with our words and our actions at every available opportunity (Eph 5:15-17).
This is what God wants for us! This is the kind of adventure He has in mind for our lives! These are the things that are truly significant, and that are worth asking for. These are the things that we need God’s help for. And so we pray for these things with confidence! Because…

Big Idea: When we partner in prayer, we receive God’s power to accomplish God’s purposes.

When we pray for one another, God’s power is available to us. And that’s good news this morning. We may be in the fight of our lives, but we’re not alone. As we read this week, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who came before. And as we’ve been learning, we stand beside one another as the body of Christ. And as we read yesterday in Psalm 23, we don’t walk into the valley of the shadow of death alone; but God is with us. And Christ has gone before us in this battle, and He has won the day, and He is with us now! “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? if God is for us, then who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:31-32). And now the God of our salvation invites us to participate with Him, by our prayers, as He is making all things new.
There are people in your life that need your support in prayer. They need God’s blessing and favor. They need restored relationships. They need someone to come alongside them and build them up in love. They need God’s help to conquer sin and addiction. They need God’s power to understand how deeply He loves them.
Don’t let another day go by that you fail to bring them before the Lord in prayer. We’re in a battle. Christ’s death has won the war. His presence and power sustain us. And His body, the church, supports us. Let’s commit this morning to be a church that partners together in prayer, so that we can stand firm today, and every day.
And you need prayer too. I want to close our service today a little differently. At the bottom of your outline, I’ve included some space for you to write. If you were writing a letter, and you wrote, “And pray also for me,” how would you finish that sentence? (Give a few minutes). Now if you would, could you share that with somebody next to you? Some of you just need to spend a moment alone with the Lord in prayer, but I wonder if some of us would be willing to share our need and partner in prayer even right now.
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