TEXT: Ephesians 6:10-18
In Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, the main character, Christian, receives a suit of armor to put on as he prepares to continue his journey to the Celestial City. Bunyan writes, “The next day they took him and had him into the Armory, where they shewed him all manner of armor, which their Lord had provided for Pilgrims, as Sword, Shield, Helmet, Breastplate, All-prayer, and Shoes that would not wear out. And there was here enough of this to harness out as many men for the service of their Lord as there be stars in the Heaven for multitude.“ We, too, face enemies and danger in our walk with Christ, and God has given us armor to put on. So far, in this series, we have looked at six pieces of armor that God has supplied for us as we face spiritual battle every day :
1. The belt of truth.
2. The breastplate of righteousness.
3. The shoes of the Gospel of peace.
4. The shield of faith.
5. The helmet of salvation.
6. The sword of the Spirit — the Word of God.
After a very detailed discussion on the pieces of armor that a Christian needs to put on, one might think that that is all there is too it. But it isn’t. There is one more thing we must do in order to be battle ready. No, it is not another piece of armor. But, based on the way Paul talks about it, it is extremely important. It is prayer.
Three times in a single verse, Paul urges us to engage in prayer as part of our warfare. First, he says we ought to be “praying always,” that is we ought to be in a constant spirit of prayer. We ought to pray “in every season” and at “every opportunity.” Second, he says, “with all prayer,” that is with all forms of prayer which we will discuss shortly today. Third, he says, “and with supplication,” that is to make our requests, in the name of Christ, for things that are in God’s will.
In his commentary on Ephesians, John MacArthur writes, “All the while that we are fighting in the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, we are to be in prayer. Prayer is the very spiritual air that the soldier of Christ breathes. It is the all-pervasive strategy in which warfare is fought.”
Because spiritual warfare is a constant struggle, we ought to be constantly praying. The Bible commands us to “pray without ceasing.” But, what does it mean to pray with “all prayer and supplication.” This means that we should not hesitate to engage in prayer in all its forms — whether alone or with others, in private or in public, silent prayer or praying aloud — all prayer is to be engaged.
Scholars have found in the Bible eight types of prayer. Allow me to share them with you.
1. The prayer of faith. This is a prayer for something that is in God’s will, but is yet to come to pass. In this prayer, you express belief in the power of God to bring things to pass. James 5:15 says, “The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
2. The prayer of agreement or corporate prayer. This is simply praying with other believers. In Acts 1:14, we find that Jesus’ followers “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication” in the upper room before Pentecost.
3. The prayer of request. When Paul used the word “supplication”, he was talking about this kind of prayer — asking God for your needs and desires. Philippians 4:6 teaches us to “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” John R. Rice said, “Prayer is simply asking and receiving.”
4. The prayer of thanksgiving. This is a prayer of gratitude to God for what He has done for you. This is a prayer you pray after God has answered your prayers. Philippians 4:6 says we ought to offer “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.”
5. The prayer of worship. This is a prayer of praise to God where you aren’t asking or thanking Him for anything specifically, but you are just worshipping Him because of who He is. In Acts 13, we read of early Christians who were “worshipping the Lord and fasting.”
6. The prayer of consecration. When something or someone is consecrated, it means that they are set aside to do God’s will and be used for God’s purposes. Jesus Christ prayed a prayer of consecration in the Garden of Gethsemane when He told His Heavenly Father, “Not my will, but thine be done.” Jesus also taught us to pray this way in the Lord’s prayer which says, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
7. The prayer of intercession. This is when we pray for the needs of others. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul says, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” You ought to always have in mind someone you can pray for other than yourself.
8. The prayer of imprecation. These are prayers that invoke God’s judgment on the wicked. David and others prayed these types of prayers in the Psalms. However, Jesus teaches us as Christians to pray for blessings on our enemies, not cursing. He said in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Of course, that is often a hard thing to do, but we can do it through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Those are the eight types of prayer found in the Bible. When we “pray always with all prayer,” we are engaging, at different times, in all types of prayer.
As a final command regarding spiritual warfare, we are told that we ought to be “watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” This means that we must be alert and we must be watching in order that we might pray. We ought to be on the lookout for saints who are faltering that we might lift them up in prayer. We ought to be on the lookout for sinners that we might lift them up in prayer, asking God to deliver them from their spiritual blindness. We ought to be ready to pray for people and situations at a moment’s notice.
John Piper describes this wonderfully when he calls prayer our “war-time walkie-talkie.” He said prayer “is mainly for those on the front lines of the war effort to call in to headquarters to send help. One of the reasons our prayer malfunctions is that we try to treat it like a domestic intercom for calling the butler for another pillow in the den rather than treating it like a wartime walkie-talkie for calling down the power of the Holy Spirit in the battle for souls.”
That is what we need prayer for in spiritual battle — to ask God to step in and defeat the enemy through the power of the Holy Spirit. In other words we need air power through prayer power. Throughout this series we have mentioned numerous times how that we are not fighting this battle in our own strength, but in the strength of “the Lord and the power of His might.” And the only way to call down the power of the Lord into our present-day spiritual battles is through prayer — so pray always!