The prayers of Paul
This is a series on the prayers of St Paul found in the letters attributed to him in the order he is believed to have written them. Letters to the same place or person will be treated together with the first letter to that destination.
The letter to the Ephesians is not written to a specific church. Some copies of the letter do not contain the words “in Ephesus” in Verse 1. It is a general letter written to the churches in what is now western Turkey.
18 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, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. 21 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing,Ephesians 6:18-21a
This prayer comes at the end of the practical section of Ephesians. The theory of how we should live in the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ has given way to practical steps. Firstly how we live. The list of gifts in Chapter 4, apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, are on the surface gifts for ministry, but they are for not a few as these are gifts of maturity. It comes as a consequence of growth in faith.
It also comes at the end of the “Armour of God” section. Wow. I have only ever thought of this section as being about individual Christians before, but am coming to realise more and more the picture of a Roman platoon with shields locked in testudo or tortoise formation. It is about the Church.
With the context of three things, personal morality and integrity, service to others and spiritual warfare as the Church, Paul prays his final prayer. He prays that Christians will pray for each other wherever they are because prayer is the process of including God in building up the body of Christ and strengthening the church in its struggles and Paul makes it clear that it is the Holy Spirit that gives prayer its effectiveness.
Prayer is mentioned twice in verse 18, first as a verb with a present tense in the first person singular, something we are doing now, individually. The second, a noun – supplication in the ESV above but also translated as petition, is linked in Greek to a word for need. We are being told that we should be praying individually constantly for the needs of other Christians. Praying together is also important, but it is not in this passage.
Praying all the time for the needs of all people is a big challenge if we do not know their needs. We can, however, pray for those whose needs we know and for those the Holy Spirit brings to our attention.
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