This sermon is number 35 in a series of 36
Ephesians - Part 35: The Holy War Part 8
"The Strategy For Prayer"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2001 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
That was good singing, let me welcome you to our Bible Reading tonight. It's great to see you all gathered with us to meet around God's word. It's great to be in a place like this, isn't it, tonight? When the world is in turmoil, and our country is beside itself to know what to do. In the 21st century, such a thing as Foot and Mouth [disease] to stop them all in their paths and ask them: 'What is the meaning of all this?'. Isn't it wonderful for us to be able to gather around the word of God, the truth of God, and to have a hope within us - not to be like this world that has no hope, but to have hope in Christ. To know the way ahead, and to know the purpose of all things in this world.
Let me welcome you, and we pray that the Lord may speak to you through the word tonight as you gather with us. Let us turn to Ephesians chapter 6 again, Ephesians chapter 6, and I want you to turn also to Luke chapter 11 and Luke chapter 18 - so if you want to turn to those to get a head start. This is our last study in the armour of God, in the Christian warrior's armour, and indeed our last study on this subject of prayer that we have been taking as a sub-series these last four or so weeks from verse 18. It does say on your study sheet that we're looking at verse 18d, but we're looking at more than that tonight - hopefully, God willing, we want to get right through to verse 20. I apologise that that's not down on your study sheet, but let's read verse 18 together to refresh our memory of the mechanics of prayer that we find within the verse.
Paul says - remember this is a piece of the armour of God, it is the seventh, seven being the number of perfection, the seventh and most needed item of armour: "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto", that's our subject tonight, "watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints". Now Paul speaks of himself: "And for me", pray for me, "that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak".
Then Luke chapter 11, and we'll be referring to these passages to illustrate these truths in our message later on, verse 5. The Lord, first of all, in verses 1 to 4 has given us what is commonly known as the Lord's Prayer - more correctly the Disciples Prayer - 'In this way pray', He says. Then in verse 5 He gives a parable, as it were, an illustration to tell us what it means to really pray to God. "He said", verse 5, "unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?".
Then Luke again and chapter 18, Luke chapter 18, and the Lord gives another parable concerning prayer. Luke records: "And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint", now please keep that in your mind - that that is the purpose, the reason, why the Saviour was giving this parable. Not just to pray, but that men ought to pray and not faint. "Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?".
If you turn with me back to Ephesians chapter 6, we find within it in verse 18 - especially verse 18 part 'd', if you like, the fourth part of the verse - the strategy for prayer. I believe the saying is true: 'Power without control is chaos' - power without control is chaos. In other words, it's one thing to have something, but it's another thing to know how to use it. If I can illustrate it for you: if you can imagine in a war scenario, what use would a tank be if you allocated a Red Cross nurse to drive it? It would be idiotic! Or what purpose has an F-16 fighter jet if you assign a military cook to fly it? It's simply not the right strategy, and it strikes us as elementary - it seems like common sense not to make that mistake. It is not good strategy, generally, to have power and not know how to use it, or how to control it.
In a war scene, if you can imagine the first day of war and the first battle, it is not good strategy to expend and empty all your armour and all your armoury upon the enemy in that first hour, or that first day, of battle. There is to be a strategy, there is to be a plan. You ought to pace yourself, and you ought to think about how you're going to exercise and execute the power that you have. There needs to be planning, there needs to be strategy - so much so that military men, some of them coming on now, study to degree level and higher. They are called military strategists. It's not all about fighting, but it's about how you fight and about the strategy of it.
In one sense, what is important is not the power that you have, not the skill that you have been gifted in, that specifically gives you the victory that you seek - but it is how you use it. It's important that we have all gifts and all blessings in spiritual places with Christ, it's important that we are blessed with all these things - and we have been realising in Ephesians what we are really blessed with in Christ. But if we do not know how to use them they're useless! So you can see in one sense, it's not the power that we have that is important, but what gives us victory is the execution of that power - how we use it to the glory of God. What is our control of it? It is the discipline of the faculties that God has given us - powerful they may be - we must know how to use that power that God has given to us.
It's very simple isn't it? I mean, what use is electricity to a man who doesn't realise that unless he puts the plug in the socket he'll not get any of the power? The power is sitting there, but it must be used. The thought within our passage tonight is exactly that: what good is prayer if you don't know how to use it? What good is prayer if you don't follow the blueprint for prayer, God's divinely given strategy within verse 18? We must follow it if prayer is to do us any good! What flows from that is the implication that if you have all prayer, look at verse 18, all kinds of prayer; if you always pray, you're constantly praying; if you're praying in the Spirit of God (and we learnt last week what it means to do that), the implication is: that is not enough! We may have thought last week: 'Well, if I could do that I'd be flying!' - well, you wouldn't! Not according to this verse, because after that - that's the equipment, that is the armoury of prayer: all prayer, constant prayer, praying in the Spirit and all that that means from the word of God, taking the promises, walking in the Spirit, being born of the Spirit, having the spirit of adoption and crying: 'Abba, Father', all of that - if you have it and don't have the plan, or the strategy, it's useless!
Now, let's cement that into our minds now: the equipment without the strategy will not do anything! Therefore, for that reason, in verse 18 you have that little word 'and' - '"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and...'. I believe that could be better translated, because what it really means is 'and with this in view'. Look at it again: 'Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit and with this in view', or 'in regard to this', or 'to the end that you may watch thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints'. In other words, get these three things: all kinds of prayer, constant prayer, learn to pray in the Spirit - and when you do that, then do this! Connect this equipment with God's given plan and then the dynamite will go off!
Now what is the strategy that Paul gives us for prayer? Well, it's outlined on your sheet. First of all there is a watchful disposition: 'and watching thereunto' - secondly, a persistent determination: 'with all perseverance' - and thirdly, a sanctified direction: 'praying for all the saints'. Now let's look at the first step of strategy: a watchful disposition. Watching, watching thereunto! Now, the Greek word for 'watching' literally means 'to be sleepless', to not sleep, to keep awake! Now, that's what it literally means, but spiritually in this particular verse it means 'a watchful attention to spiritual matters'. It means an alertness, a sober alertness giving heed and taking heed to what is going on around you, turning your attention to things spiritual within the world, within the church, and beware of the things that are going on - a spiritual sleeplessness, a spiritual alertness. Vines says: 'It is not mere wakefulness, but the watchfulness of those intent upon a thing'.
OK, so you want to pray, you want to pray about something? It's not just getting on your knees and lifting your eyes to God and asking God for the thing, but there is a watchfulness, there is a spiritual sleeplessness, where you come before God and you take heed, you give great attention, you're sober, you're absolutely alert, you're taking heed of everything around you, you're giving attention to all spiritual things, you're bewaring of the attack of the devil, and you're coming before the throne of grace and supplicating His throne. Now I want to flesh this out a little for our understanding this evening. In the Old Testament Scriptures - and I told you last week that there is a translation of the Old Testament in Greek and that embellishes for us a little bit some of the meanings of the Greek words that we find in the New Testament, how they were used in the Old Testament Greek translation. We find that in Psalm 127 and verse 1, a very well known verse: 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain'.
That's a wonderful illustration of this watchfulness. There is a city, and the walls around the city, and there's a tower beside the gate. There is the watchman, you read about it extensively in the book of Ezekiel, he's standing on the watchtower looking for the enemy. Here you have it in the Psalm: 'Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city', so the picture is the Lord standing in the watchtower, 'the watchman waketh but in vain'. Unless the Lord's in the watchtower with the watchman, it doesn't matter whether he's asleep or awake. Isn't that right? But you can see the use of the word, it's a sleeplessness, it's staying sober - what good is a watchman if he dozes off on duty?
We turn to the New Testament and look at Mark 13, if you wish to turn to it, Mark chapter 13 and verse 33. The Lord Jesus is speaking of the end times, ultimately of the time of His return, and in Mark 13 and verse 33 He says this: 'Take ye heed', take heed, be alert, 'watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is'. Isn't that what we're meant to do? It is a watchfulness, not to be asleep for the coming of the Lord. Then in Luke 21, in a similar passage, and verse 36 He says again concerning His coming: 'Watch ye therefore, and pray always', watch and pray always, 'that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man'. Watch and pray! Keep awake! Be alert! Take account of the times around you, the signs of the times, what is going on, look for My coming, wait and watch for it. That's the sense of the word: an alertness!
If you turn to Hebrews chapter 13, quickly, and verse 17 - you find there a depiction of accountability within the church. You have the oversight and you have the members, members who are accountable. Let me just say quickly that accountability doesn't come from above, it's not the elders saying to you: 'You have to do what we say', accountability comes the other way when the members put themselves underneath the authority of the oversight: 'We want to do what you say'. Now, there is a difference, for it makes life a lot easier. In Hebrews 13:17 the word is used: 'Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you'. They watch! Do you realise what it entails to be an overseer and watching? Watching that false doctrine does not enter in, watching that wolves do not come in, watching for the conversation and manner of life of the believers, that they are walking in the ways of the Lord. If you're sleeping you can't do that! There has to be this alertness.
Now, that is a verb used there, but the noun, the word used as a noun occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:5, and you read this - Paul: 'In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings'. In chapter 11 and verse 27 of 2 Corinthians, again a description of Paul's life: 'In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness'. What's it talking about? It's talking about the great apostle Paul in sleeplessness, sleepless nights, midnight watchings - why? For the church of Jesus Christ he endured watchings, sleeplessness, for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel. If you go to Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 14, Paul has already given us this sentiment in the epistle: 'Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light'. Waken up! Do you remember the Lord in Gethsemane? Do you remember Him seeing the cup? Do you remember the account that is given? The Lord says to the disciples: 'Watch with me', He goes, He confronts what He must confront. He comes back, He finds His disciples asleep. He goes again, He comes back, they're asleep. He goes a third time, and comes back, and what does He say? 'Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak' - watch!
We read of Anna, there was a perpetual watch in the temple because God orders us to watch - and there that widow of 84 years of age never departed from the temple, watching day and night, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. Why? Because this is what is required. This is the first strategy for prayer, and if we exempt ourselves out of it we're going to lose out. It's a must, this watchfulness, this perpetual prayer, this spiritual keenness, alertness and concentration on the thing at hand. I believe that's what James means when he says: 'The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much'. I hope I didn't mislead you last week, that if you use all prayer, and that if you constantly pray, and if you learn what it is to pray in the Spirit, that that's all that matters and your prayers will be answered - it is not! There is a strategy, and that is watchfulness - fervent prayer is effectual!
Is that not in keeping with our passage - verse 13 - where we are told to stand firm? It's in keeping with the whole - I don't know why people can't see that verse 18 is part of the armour of God! There is that war-like expression of watchfulness, vigilance, stand firm in the strength of the Lord! You can't doze off in battle, you can't have forty-winks in the midst of a full-scale war! There has to be a watchful disposition, it's needed, you can't afford to be off guard for one moment. Therefore in our prayer life, you know as well as I do, that when you get down on your knees you have to watch against drowsiness. You'll doze off if you're tired, or if the room is to warm - all kinds of circumstances come in, and we're all human. I believe, incidentally, that one of the reasons the Lord may have went up a Mount was because of the cool air. Don't forget that He was a man, and He became tired - that's why His head was down in the boat when the storm came. We are all affected with these things, but we have to be on alert toward them - our mind wandering onto unsavoury things. Because we are in a battle it seems that prayer is the very time when those arrows from the devil come, and when we think upon things that we wouldn't even dream of thinking about normally, and we would never ever savour to commit.
Therefore in this exercise of prayer we must be aware of a preoccupation on other things, we cannot let those enter in to that moment of holiness. How do we apply this practically? That's the negative sense: not letting wandering thoughts come in, but in a positive sense: what can we actually do to cultivate a watchfulness in prayer? Well, one thing we can do is be alert to things that are going on around us. Not to have our eyes closed to what's going on in the church, not to be naive and novices and ignorant of the influences that are coming in, the false doctrines, the threats - not see the world being poured, bit by bit, by the devil into the bowels of the church. We're not to be ignorant of what's going on in the world, and being ignorant - as the word of God says - of his devices; of his wiles; 'methodias', his methods - we can't be ignorant! That is what it is to be watchful, to be in the battle, to have your eyes open and go in caring - knowing that you can see what's going on.
If you going to do that you've got to be aware of problems around you, you've got to be aware of the problems of the saints in your assembly. You've got to realise the needs of the assembly, the things that we don't have, because we don't have everything! There's great need, but to be watchful is to realise the need, but also to realise the promises of God. You can be very negative at times, and I can fall into that trap, and not see the promises of God. For it's not watchfulness if you only see the negative things, it's only watchfulness when you see the negative and you see that God counteracts the negative with His positive word - and if you put the two together, get on your knees and pray, then things happen! You need a watchful disposition.
Secondly: you need a persistent determination. 'Watching thereunto with all perseverance', the two are connected. The watching cannot go on without perseverance, the perseverance cannot take place without the watching. Watching in perseverance. Now what does that word 'perseverance' mean? It means 'persistence', it means keeping on, an earnestness toward a thing. If it's toward a place it's an earnest attendance. If the word is used towards a person it's an earnest and continual, persistent adherence closely to that person. If it's a thing it's to wait continually, to endure, to give yourself to that thing. Used as a verb it means 'to be steadfast towards, to continue giving unremitting care to that particular item'.
Paul uses it in Romans 13 and verse 6 - and people in Ulster would do well to read that passage and study it. I don't agree with everything that goes on in our government, but we are told that the government is ordained of God - never forget that. In verse 6 of that passage, Paul says, using the word for perseverance: 'For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing'. He's talking about taxes - what an illustration! Your tax, do you like paying it? You pay it, you have to pay it, and you pay it often - you maybe think you pay it too often. Paul is saying: 'The government is appointed by God, therefore you pay tax to the government because the government is the servant of God and they are attending continually upon that very thing'. You're always doing it, that thing is continual - that's the word 'perseverance', continually doing.
In Mark chapter 3 and verse 9 you find: '[the Lord Jesus] spake to his disciples, that a small ship should wait on him because of the multitude, lest they should throng him'. He's saying to His disciples: 'Do you see that wee boat? Keep that boat for me, keep it there' - that's the exact same word as Paul uses in Ephesians. To wait on that boat, let that boat wait on me! Persevere: to draw it out, to continue, to be earnest towards, that persistency, to be there constantly for the Master's use. It's used in Acts 10 and verse 7 of Cornelius' soldiers who waited on him continually. Now, the question is: is our prayer like that? Waiting on God continually? Waiting on God for the Master's use, continually day by day? Paul talks of it in Romans 12 and verse 12: 'Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer', Colossians 4:2: 'Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving'. What is it doing? Paul is echoing the teaching of the Lord Jesus: 'If you come to your heavenly Father, and you pray, ask, seek, knock, and you shall find'.
The wicked judge didn't fear God, didn't fear men, but because of this little woman annoying him to the point of distraction, he comes and he answers her. Why? Because of her insistency. Is that the way we pray? Do we pray like the stranger coming to the door and knocking, and knocking, and knocking - and because of our importunity God comes down and answers us. But the Lord Jesus says it's not negative like that: 'How much more shall your heavenly Father avenge the cry of the elect, who cry unto him day and night without ceasing', there it is. There must be a persistent determination - oh, I wish we had time to look at it tonight.
It's all through the book of Acts, in Acts chapter 1 and verse 14 you find the disciples on their knees waiting for the promise from on high of the Holy Spirit - the word is used there: they are continually seeking, seeking. You see after Pentecost, after the Holy Ghost comes in chapter 2 and verse 42? They're still seeking! The Holy Ghost has come, and this is why it's persistent: before He came they were seeking, after He came they were still seeking - they're persisting - then in verse 46 you find them continuing steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers - continuing steadfastly! It's a personal thing, it's a corporate thing, you must be at the assembly prayer meeting! That's why the apostles, in chapter 6 of Acts and verse 4, devoted themselves to the ministry of the word and prayer - devoted themselves. A persistence, a continuance toward that specific thing. The Lord Jesus said it in Luke 11:9 that we read: 'Ask, seek, knock and you will find', He ended His Sermon on the Mount with that, Matthew 7 verse 7: 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you'. All those statements are in what is called 'the present imperative', which means this: keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, and you will have!
There is an increasing intensity, an increasing seeking, and it's very difficult to apply this to our lives - do you know why? Because it seems, I don't know about you, but it seems for me that I give up - and I wonder if there was a video played in eternity of my prayer life, and of the Lord with His answer just there ready to give me on a certain date, how many times I've just given up a few days too soon? That's our make-up, isn't it? The spirit is willing, you're listening - I know you're listening - to everything tonight, as I am, and you're thinking: 'That's what I want!'. It's a different thing doing it, isn't it? It's a different thing continuing when it seems that the answer's not coming, there's no sign that the answer's coming - and the flesh gets weak, we get tired, we get bored with the same old petition, so we give up and we lose out on the blessing!
We must, when we look at this, we must see what the Lord is saying: if we do that, if we give up, if our prayers are listless and indifferent to what is happening in our home, to the needs that are there, if we're not seeing the things that are going on in the district, if we're not watchful in our perseverance, seeing what's going on in the nation and in the church - we will have a restricted prayer life! If you don't study the word of God you'll never be a persistent prayer, you'll not know the will of God, you'll not know what God wants, you'll not be enthused enough to seek persistently and continually for what God would have.
There is a watchful disposition and a persistent determination, and thirdly there is a sanctified direction: 'for all the saints'. Do you know that every day is 'all saints day'? Every day. In Luke 11, if we read the first few verses, when the Lord taught the disciples to pray, as you well know He said: 'Our Father', not 'My Father' - for we are all a body. The Lord Jesus, in all of His teaching upon prayer, impressed the importance of praying for others - and He showed it in His own life, that He did pray for others. The miracle of the Gospel is that He came, He died, He was buried, He rose, He ascended, and the very ministry that He has now - the word of God says - He is living to intercede for others. You remember Samuel, after the people cried for a King and he gave them a King - Saul. The old prophet came to the people and he said: 'Moreover as for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you'.
A gentleman said to me this week: 'It's a sin to say the wrong thing, isn't it? It's also a sin not to say the right thing'. There is a sin of silence, and it is no greater a sin than in the very presence of God, when we do not pray for all the saints. The Jews had a saying that went: 'Let a man unite himself with the community in his prayers' - unite yourself with your community in your prayers. Grip onto the church, onto all the saints - and we said last week that often our prayers are too much for ourselves, and too little for others - they're introspective, they're selfish. But what the Lord Jesus wants us to do, and what Paul is teaching here, it is that we would become world-class Christians. We take in the world: do you pray for Africa? Do you pray for Asia and Europe, the Americas and India? Do you pray for them? Do you pray for missionaries specifically, and have a world vision of what God can do and what your prayers can do if you seek God with watchfulness, taking account of what's going on in our world, and persevering with God and not letting go - like Jacob - until He blesses you? Your prayers are instrumental in the lives other believers - that's an awesome responsibility. To realise that there are yet 7000 that have not bowed the knee to Baal, and we're not the only ones left, and we need to pray for all the saints.
Verses 19 and 20 are, perhaps, some of the most beautiful verses in the book of Ephesians, because here you have Paul's private request, his personal request. Just as he started the epistle in chapter 1 with praying for the saints of Ephesus, and praying for the believers and all their needs, he now requests prayers of them - he's asking them now to pray for him. 'For me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel'. Now, there are other letters if you had a moment - we don't - if you looked at his other epistles you find that he asks them to remember him in prayer. He does it at the end of Romans, he does it at the end of Colossians, at the end of first and second Thessalonians. He asks them, personally, for prayer - and every single occasion, except perhaps for one, he asks that he may be prayed for - not for his needs, not for his personal benefits, but for the advancement and the spread of the Gospel and the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
I think the chief element within those truths is simply this: the great apostle Paul recognised his total and absolute dependence upon God. Paul needed his friends, and we need each other. Paul wasn't a great priest who had all the grace in his fingertips to lay hands on someone and give them all they needed, for Paul was coming to the people of God and pleading with the people of God that they pray for him. Paul didn't have a store of endless grace for the Ephesians, he needed their prayers. There was only one store of grace that Paul recognised, and that is the throne of grace! He knew, as an apostle, that it was only through what God Himself supplied to him that he would be enabled to fulfil his role as the apostle to the Gentiles.
Now this staggers me, because if you remember our introductory message, many moons ago, on Ephesians chapter 1: Paul is in prison! I mean, what would your prayer request be if you were in prison? 'Get me out of here! Or if I can't get out of here, at least get me a mattress or something, or a pillow I can put my head on, or a decent meal!' - but not Paul! He didn't ask that God would free him, or make him more comfortable, or make him safe, but what does he ask for? Look at it: rather that utterance, boldness, may be given to him, and faithfulness in opening his mouth to declare the mystery of the Gospel - no matter what the cost! 'Whatever happens to me this is the chief prayer, this is the request that I have: that I may be given the strength to open my mouth, and to preach what God wants me to preach! It literally is translated: 'that the words may be given to me' - what a prayer! If you're a preacher, you pray that prayer: that the words may be given to me - it reflects, literally in the Greek, a formal language of diplomatic procedure - and you're going to see in verse 20 that he speaks of himself as an ambassador. This is a formal language that he wants to be given, it means that he wants permission to speak, and when he is given permission to speak he wants the right words to speak.
You see it in Acts 26 and verse 1 when Agrippa said to Paul: 'Thou art permitted to speak for thyself'. That's what Paul is saying: 'I want to be permitted to speak for myself, and when I'm given that opportunity to speak, that I may speak faithfully to the Gospel, that I may be bold and not miss the mark'. Look at it, he says, literally, 'that I may open the mouth and fearlessly make known the Gospel'. That was a favourite expression of Paul's: 'to make known, to reveal' - do you know what it is? It speaks of frankness, it speaks of being uninhibited - in other words, he's saying it's like being a free man: 'Look, I'm in prison, I'm chained to a Roman soldier, I'm under execution possibly - but when I go into whoever I'm going into for trial, I want to make sure that I speak like a free man who's under no threat'. That's what he's saying. In reality, spiritually speaking, that's the kind of man he was - he was under no threat until God said so.
He said, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, that he did it - in the book of Acts - with all confidence, no man forbidding him. Is that not what the sentiment was behind his great statement in Romans? 'I am not ashamed of the Gospel! I am uninhibited!' - this is this great man, not ashamed, whether it be by death upon his head, he will preach the Gospel! I believe he was possibly looking for an opportunity to speak in the Imperial Court, or perhaps to the Emperor himself, or maybe to a Roman tribunal that was going to try him - or it may have only been those Roman soldiers that would change night after night to be chained to him. He wanted, while he was in prison - if he could do nothing else - to faithfully present the Gospel, why? Because he was a chosen vessel onto God to bring the Gospel before the Gentiles and their kings.
This was the great man Paul on his knees praying that he'll do it right - that's the thing that staggers me. He asks in verse 20, he says that he is an ambassador - and you know that an ambassador is a diplomat and they're granted diplomatic immunity, they're not allowed to be arrested, they're are not allowed to be imprisoned. This is the paradox here, in fact in the Greek it's a title given to the Legate of the Emperor - an ambassador and diplomat of the Roman Emperor, he's using these words! They're not allowed to be imprisoned, they're not allowed to be harmed - but the irony is that the great ambassador of the King of the universe is in chains! There seems to be a bit of a play on words on that word 'chained', because an ambassador in those days would have worn a big gold chain, and I believe Paul is saying: 'And look at the chain I have'.
This great man who was an ambassador for Christ, as though Paul were pleading these people in Christ's behalf to be reconciled to God - and there he is, with his long beard; with his back scarred from those whips, those beatings; with his feet bleeding; bearing on his body the marks of the Lord Jesus Christ. A man who stood before Agrippa, a man who stood before Felix, the great apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to kings, the representative of Jesus Christ upon the earth as an apostle - and he is praying for faithfulness! He is! He is praying that he'll not buckle down, that he'll not bottle it when the chance is given, that he'll give it and tell it as it is, that he'll not accentuate the preaching of the cross and confuse it with wisdom of words - but that he will preach it plainly that men may understand.
He was depending on the prayer of the saints to enable him to preach the Gospel - and do you know what the inference is? That he couldn't do it without them! Can I just say that there are none of us who have got it all, none of us. There are none of us who have reached it, there are none of us who have achieved - Paul even says: 'Not as if I have attained'. None of us! Not even the great apostle, there he is - can you see him in the armour of God? Can you see him? Can you see him with the helmet of salvation on his head, dented and scraped from all the battles he was in? Can you see him with the shield of faith, with all the fiery darts in it at the end of his life? - and look how many there are! Can you see him with the breastplate of righteousness that the devil has tried to pull and strip off him many times, reminding him of the Christians that he chased and fed to the lions, and of Stephen the martyr? Can you see the girdle of truth that the false prophets, the Judaisers, tried to rip off him and let all the rest of the armour fall down? Can you see the shoes of the Gospel of peace that are worn out as he goes to and fro around all of Europe with the Gospel? Can you see it all? Yet that great warrior needed prayer, and I need your prayer, and you need my prayer - and we all need each other's prayer. We need to pray for everything, we need to pray for the right thing, we need to pray at the right time, and we must have this great strategy - we must have it!
So, let me ask you: do you have a watchful disposition? Do you have a persevering determination? Do you pray for the saints? I leave you with the words of Paul the apostle in the book of Romans, listen: 'The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light'.
Let us pray: Our Father, we have heard You teaching us to pray, but who is sufficient for these things? But yet, we must submit that this is the truth of God, and the God who commands also enables. We pray that, by Thy Spirit, we will have a watchful disposition, that we will persevere, and that we will pray for one another - for oh Lord we need it. So Lord help us, as we conclude, to put on all of this armour, and in the days that lie ahead to taste that sweet victory that the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased through His blood. Bless us now, we pray in His lovely name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirty-fifth tape in his Ephesians series, titled "The Holy War Part 8: The Strategy For Prayer" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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