“… 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.”
Paul is describing prayer that is prayer that is relentlessly persistent, clear-minded, Kingdom focused, and Spirit-filled.
When it comes to prayer, Paul admonishes us to “keep alert with all perseverance.” Given that this admonition comes at the end of the section on the armor of God, it is probable that Paul is still thinking in terms of spiritual warfare. Defeating the attacks of the enemy requires that we pray with high levels of alertness, and that we do so with all perseverance.
The admonition to keep alert links to what Peter writes in 1 Peter 5.7-8 about resisting the enemy: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”
To be sober-minded means to see and think clearly. To keep alert means to pay attention to what is going on. It means to be situationally aware. It means that you recognize what is going on around you and you see where the danger and threats are. It means you are discerning.
Being sober-minded and being alert go together because your level of situational awareness and discernment is directly affected by your mental condition. If you are not sober-minded, if your mind is under the intoxicating influence of sin and selfishness, then you will not be alert. You will be easily fooled by the schemes of the enemy.
The adversary is deceitful. He is constantly on the prowl. He is always hunting, and you are the prey he is stalking. In order to deceive you he uses attractive lies; things that look good but aren’t good. He uses undisciplined passions; things that feel good but aren’t good.
In both Ephesians 6 and I Peter 5, scripture tells us to stand firm and resist the devil. When the enemy attacks—and he will—you must be strong. This is where the battle is fought. This is the moment of truth, and you must stand firm and resist. Prayer is at the heart of standing firm against the enemy. Prayer that is relentlessly persistent, clear-minded, Kingdom focused, and Spirit-filled.
It can be a struggle to stay focused and persistent in prayer. The disciples themselves discovered this. “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.‘” (Mt. 26:40-41).
So, discipline is required. There will be times when your spirit wants to pray, but your flesh wants to sleep. There will be times when you will start to pray, but your mind will drift and it will be difficult to stay focused. There will be times when you need to pray, but you just don’t feel like it.
When you experience those times, don’t be surprised, be prepared. Recognize that it is your old nature resisting you, and quite possibly the enemy attacking you. Fight through it. Stand firm and be steadfast in prayer.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)