The Epistle to the Ephesians
“Praying always (at all seasons) with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perserverence and supplication for all saints; and 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” (6:18-20).
After the divine description of the nature of the war in which we are engaged, of the tactics of the commander-in-chief of the thoroughly equipped military machine that opposes us as a heavenly people who seek to stand for the present maintenance of our heavenly portion in Christ; and after the description of the armour furnished us in order that we may wage efficient warfare; how necessary it is that we give ourselves to prayer, and never be found off guard.
Praying At All Seasons. We are to be found praying at every season and in respect of every matter that comes up in our lives; every such season becomes an occasion to bring God into it as recognizing His control and our need of guidance. There is to be an habitual attitude of heart that refers to God in every circumstance, never leaving Him out of our reckoning in any matter. As to the bearing of this upon us as individuals, some have been perplexed who had tried to concentrate attention upon spiritual matters all day long, and could not do so. Nothing like this perplexity is contemplated in our passage. For the sake of clarity let us take a Christian who is a machinist. If he does not concentrate attention upon his work, he will dishonor the Lord by defective workmanship, and will be in exceptional danger of losing some of his fingers. In what way then can he pray “at all seasons?” He does so by regularly committing himself into the hand of God about all his circumstances, and then does with his might whatsoever his hand finds to do (Ecc. 9:10), as he “ought to do.”
As to prayer among his fellow-Christians, let us refer the reader to an old booklet by C. H. Mackintosh, entitled “Prayer and the Prayer Meeting.” If no longer obtainable in separate form, it can be found in Volume of his “Miscellaneous Writings.” Some of his remarks therein we insert here. “Some deem it better to stay away” from long, tiresome, desultory, preaching prayers” (such as he had been describing in the article). “Now, we more than question the rightness of such a course… Surely it is not right for any to stay away because of the feebleness, failure, or even the folly of some who may take part in the meeting. If all the really spiritual members were to stay away on such a ground, what would become of the prayer meeting? … One must think of the Lord’s glory…and try to promote the good of others in every possible way; and neither of these ends, we may rest assured, can be obtained by our deliberately absenting ourselves from the place where prayer is wont to be made. We repeat, and with emphasis, the words, ‘deliberately absenting ourselves’ —staying away because we are not profited by what takes place there… We may set it down as a fixed principle that the one who can designedly absent himself from the prayer meeting is in a bad state of soul.”
Now if our brother felt as strongly about conditions when he wrote thus what would he feel if he attended some present-day meetings for prayer. He might get to a place where over a hundred assembled to take the Lord’s Supper, and find a dozen present at the prayer meeting. Let us ask: What does God think of this?
Sometimes we hear standbys at the prayer meetings pleading with God for a “revival” among His people, and we may say, we shall be thankful if it is granted. But we believe one of the first proofs of its elements will be a noticeable increase of attendance at the prayer meeting. We are, of course, glad to see large congregations at periodical conferences, and thankful for searching ministry at them, but we are afraid that the ministry is not laying hold of the conscience until we see a marked change at the prayer meeting.
“Supplication in the Spirit” implies the casting of particular cases upon God with a proper humility, and might sometimes take the form of agonizing before Him about conditions. The Apostle Paul had such exercise of heart about some whose faces he had never seen as, for instance, the church in Colosse (Col. 2:1); while “watching thereunto with all perseverence and supplication for all saints,” entails a recollection of the requests that had been made, and a patient waiting upon God for answers to them. Collective prayer was a characteristic feature in the infant Church, it was habitual, and it was “for all saints,” for all whom God had called by His grace and had set apart from other people for a holy purpose.
In addition to all this, our Apostle says to the saints in Ephesus: Pray “for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly,… as I ought to speak.” It is to be observed that when he requests the prayers of saints, he specifies the subject of request, and reveals the purpose of heart he had respecting that request. He asks their prayers (1) that he might be enabled to continue in his work with the necessary boldness, for (2) he realized that as a special representative of God, in the interests of Christ, being “an ambassador” who was entrusted with a great commission; he must see the matter through, even in a faithful ministry of “the mystery of the gospel.”
This expression seems to suggest that the gospel in its fulness includes “the mystery” we have been considering. Thus Paul speaks of “my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25). This at least is clear, that the proclamation of the gospel to the lost prepared the converts for the subsequent ministry of “the mystery.” Thus in the actual order of his labors, the Apostle speaks of two ministries: (1) The proclamation of the Glad Tidings “to every creature which is under Heaven,” and (2) the ministry of the truth of “the mystery” to the saints (Col. 1:23-26). But as one who was well aware of the unbelief of those whom he approached with the gospel, and of the authority of darkness in control of the many, he realized his need of boldness as granted of God, that he might speak as he “ought to speak,” and therefore sought a share in the prayers of the people of God.
“But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things; whom I have sent unto you for the same purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts. Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen. (6:21-24). Knowing that the beloved saints among whom he had been “by the space of three years” “serving the Lord with all humility of mind and with many tears” (Acts 20:19) would be interested in knowing of his “affairs” and “all things” pertaining to the testimony and his condition as an old man in prison, he tells them that Tychicus, the writer and bearer of this Epistle, will give them all this information, and will comfort their hearts by so doing, he having been sent for that purpose. He concludes with the well known salutation: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.”