“… praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication …”
Here is the second “all” that the apostle uses in reference to prayer: “With all prayer and supplication.”
Proseuchē (prayer) refers to general requests, while deesis (supplication) refers to more specific requests. The use of both words communicates that we are to use all kinds of prayer. The New Testament, like the Old, mentions many forms, circumstances, and postures for prayer but prescribes none. We may pray publicly or privately; in loud cries, in soft whispers, or silently; deliberately and planned or spontaneously; while sitting, standing, kneeling, or even lying down; at home or in church; while working or while traveling; with hands folded or raised; with eyes open or closed; with head bowed or erect.
We can pray wherever we are and in whatever situation we are in. For the followers of Christ, every place becomes a place of prayer. The consistent message in scripture is that when we pray, motive is what matters, not method.
Here in Ephesians 6, Paul tells us first to “pray at all times in the Spirit,” and then he tells to pray with “all prayer and supplication.” That means we are to pray and make requests. We are to pray and ask God for things. Having said that, this passage teaches something profoundly important about prayer and the requests we make to God.
When we are in the Spirit — that is, when we are deeply connected to and focused on the things of the Spirit — the nature of our prayers and requests will be very different than when we are not in the Spirit. Consider the situation that Paul was in when he wrote Ephesians, and then look carefully at what he asked the Ephesians to pray about.
Paul was in prison in Rome. He was falsely accused, the Jewish leaders wanted him executed, and the Romans at best were indifferent to his plight. Paul was facing almost certain death.
I think that most Christians would pray that God would get them out of that situation. To be honest, I’m pretty sure that is what I would pray for. But not Paul. He asked the Ephesians to pray that “words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” Paul did not ask the Ephesians to pray that he would be released from prison. He asked that the Lord would give him wisdom and courage to declare the gospel to his captors!!
Paul even described himself as an “ambassador in chains.” Most people would be focused on the chains that bound them; Paul was focused on proclaiming the good news to those who put him in chains. Most people would pray, “Lord, please get me out of this situation.” Paul prayed, “Lord, give me courage to declare the gospel boldly in the midst of this situation.” Most people would see the chains as an injustice. Paul saw the chains as an opportunity. Most people would see themselves as a victim. Paul saw himself as an ambassador of the kingdom.
That is the difference between “praying in the Spirit” and just praying.
So here is the question. What situations are you facing that you need to pray about in the Spirit? In the midst of those situations, how would a deeper connection to the Holy Spirit change the way you see the situation and what you pray and ask God for? Are you seeing and praying from a self-perspective, or do you need to see and pray from a Spirit-perspective? Are you asking the Lord to get you out of the situation, or are you asking the Lord to give you courage to be his agent in the midst of the situation? Do you see yourself as an ambassador in chains, or do you just see the chains?
With that in mind, read Ephesians 6:16-20 again.
“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 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, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
May it be so with us in our time and place in history.