By Rob Brunansky
The start of a new year is a great time to assess where you are spiritually and to examine yourself to see where you need to grow in your walk with the Lord. You can look back on the past year and see how your life of prayer went, where it was strong and where it was weak; and you can seek the Lord to help you grow in your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.
At the conclusion of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we see the necessity of prayer in chapter six, verse 18 (“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints”). In spite of how comprehensive all of Paul’s instruction has been to this point, there is still one significant exhortation left to give to believers: pray.
Paul wanted the Ephesians to build a powerful life of prayer – one that was sustained in and out of crises that they faced on earth. He wanted prayer to be part of everything they did. He wanted them to be a people who were defined as prayerful. And he wanted them to dwell in constant fellowship in the presence of the King.
Paul’s letter was penned almost two thousand years ago, but we still face severe difficulties with prayer today. Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “Christ went more readily [to the cross] than we to the throne of grace.” Joel Beeke wrote, “I am convinced that the greatest shortcoming in today’s church is the lack of such prayerful prayer.”
As a remedy for this shortcoming, Paul gives us six necessary components to building a powerful life of prayer.
- Pray all kinds of prayers
We can communicate with God by praising Him, or by confessing our sins to Him, or by prayers that are offered in song. We can pray prayers of thanksgiving or prayers of various passages of Scripture. We should bring all our petitions to the Lord; there are no troubles or challenges we face that God can’t be bothered with. We could also pray in a variety of different settings.
- Pray in every season of life
We are to pray in every season of life, in every circumstance, and at every opportunity. The idea is that prayer should be our constant resource and our reflexive action no matter what is happening in our lives. We should pray during times of great trial and temptation, times when life seems to be going well, or times that are in between crisis and ease. In every situation, prayer is the appropriate action.
- Pray in the Spirit
Praying in the Spirit is the only true prayer that God accepts, and yet it is intensely difficult to do because of the desire of our flesh. We are engaged in war with spiritual forces of darkness that would keep us from our knees. Our great desire in prayer should be to pray in the Spirit, with the Spirit’s help, by the Spirit’s power, and in accordance with the Word of God, given to us by the Spirit in Scripture.
- Pray with a wartime mentality
One reason why we fail to pray as we ought is because we fail to realize the war we are in. And that’s all the more reason why we must take heed to what Paul says here: we must be on the alert. We must be vigilant, recognizing that we have enemies who are a clear and present danger to us, so we can never neglect or abandon prayer except to our own peril.
- Pray through every obstacle to prayer
Don’t give up. Don’t let delayed answers deter your persistence. Don’t let obstacles get in your way of persevering in prayer. Keep seeking, keep asking, keep knocking – until it becomes clear that God has answered your prayer one way or another.
- Pray for all of the saints
For prayer to be powerful, it should extend beyond yourself and reach all God’s people. We can pray for the saints generally or specifically. We must even pray for saints we find to be a little more difficult than the others.
By incorporating these components in our prayer lives from Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians, we will, as Joel Beeke wrote, “use heaven’s greatest weapon as we should.” I hope we all resolve to make 2023 a year dedicated to building a powerful life of prayer, a life of prayer that will have consequences – not only in the years ahead – but for eternity.