Praying at All Times
December 12, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Paul’s words, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” are well known among Christians, but do we truly live mindfully of spiritual warfare? It is far too easy to allow our sight and physical realities to command our attention. The call of Scripture, however, is to be battle ready for spiritual warfare. Through this multi-week series, we will consider what Scripture teaches about this spiritual struggle. This is part eleven.
There are six pieces of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel shoes, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. We have unpacked the significance of each piece, while seeking to understand how we can be “battle ready” for the spiritual warfare we face. As a reminder, “The choice is not whether you will be a Christian soldier or a Christian civilian but whether you will be a prepared Christian soldier or an unprepared one” (Iain Duguid, The Whole Armor of God, page 12). There is one last item to which we need to give attention if we are truly to be battle ready.
Paul concludes his section on the whole armor of God by stating in verse 18, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” Let’s unpack this verse grammatically and theologically.
I’m thankful that the ESV translates this verse with “praying,” a participle. This is how Paul wrote Ephesians 6:18 in the Greek. A participle, typically written in English with an “-ing” ending, is a verb that functions as either an adverb, an adjective, or a noun. The context and sentence structure help us determine which function is used. “Praying” in Ephesians 6:18 is an adverb. A participle, when functioning as an adverb, is subordinate to a main verb. That means “praying” serves another verb, in this case, “take” in verse 17 and “take up” in verse 16. Adverbs serve their main verb in one of several ways. They help answer questions like how? or why? or to what end?
How does “praying” serve the command to “take up” the armor of God?
“Praying in the Spirit” is one of the chief means for the church to “take up” the armor of God. “Praying” explains how we are to take up the armor. We apply and cling to the power of God’s truth, Christ’s righteousness, the peace of the Gospel, the faithfulness of God, and the hope of the salvation by praying in the Spirit. Without prayer, we are unequipped for battle.
Don’t you love grammar? You should because God choose to reveal his truth to you and me through grammatical structures like this.
Theologically, what does it mean to “pray in the Spirit at all times”? Paul just commanded us to take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). The Spirit does not minister separately from Scripture. They always work in conjunction with each other. So, to pray in the Spirit must take into account the guidance of Scripture. Allow Scripture to inform what we pray for, how we pray, when we pray, even what words we should use. It also means submitting our will and desires and wishes to the revealed truth of Scripture. And, praying in the Spirit means we pray with the comfort and confidence of knowing we are beloved children of God (cf. Rom. 8:15-16). The Spirit applies Christ’s redemption to us by regenerating our hearts and renewing our minds and reconciling us to the Father. We pray out of this secure and delightful relationship with God. The Holy Spirit seals us in that relationship.
Duguid summarizes simply, “Praying in the Spirit is not a mystical experience but rather praying that is prompted and guided by the Holy Spirit” (106).
Are you battle ready? Let’s make prayer a priority as we seek to put on the whole armor of God.