Alfred Place Baptist Church

6:18 Praying in the Spirit

Ephesians 6:18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Fifty years ago this summer I went to my first Christian camp on the Gower peninsula near Swansea , in south Wales . On that Saturday evening Nat Davies, one of the boys sleeping in the bunk next to mine (it was a camp for boys only), suggested that we should have a prayer meeting each day as boys asking God’s blessing on the camp with no officers. What a radical suggestion! A prayer meeting consisting exclusively of teenagers was uncharted territory for me, but those boys sitting and praying in a circle was one of the sweet memories I still retain of that week. I had been a Christian for two years but had never before heard boys my age praying. It was intensely . . . delightful. I suppose it was that emotion of joy that was paramount, perceiving their grasp of Scripture, their quoting of old hymns, and their general solid theology. I wrote home to a friend during the week and said something like, “If you opened your eyes you’d think you could see the Lord there in the room.” I am still in touch with two of those boys. We are all Christian pensioners now.

Preaching about praying is hard because praying is the most difficult thing in the world. I always feel a hypocrite when I speak on this theme because private personal praying seems a disaster zone for me. The saddest thing about making that statement is that all of you take it in your stride. If I’d said, “Preaching about sexual purity is so hard. When I speak about it I’m conscious that I am a one man disaster area in this realm of sexual self control,” then you would look twice at me. Or if I said, “Preaching about not getting drunk is hard for me because I’m just a total failure in this area,” then you would start to feel uneasy. Or if I confessed that I found not murdering people, or resisting heroin, or not holding up banks in armed robberies were difficult things for me to avoid then you would be visibly shaken. If I had spoke like that I hope you’d all see the hazard lights flashing; you would be very alarmed, and properly so, but we all take it in our stride when we hear a preacher saying that he finds it hard to pray and that he fails constantly in this area of his life. That is a pretty crucial failure isn’t it?

You think of the early church where the leaders had been with Jesus Christ, and they’d been commissioned by him as his apostles. They could demonstrate the signs of being an apostle with revelatory gifts of the Spirit and wonders. Yet these apostles were troubled that all the time and energy it was taking to care for starving widows was taking them away from their chief calling. The church agreed and appointed seven proto-deacons; the apostles said, “we will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Every church has to insist that its minister devotes himself not only to the Bible but also to praying. “Go to your room, close the door and pray!” it must say to its pastor. When it prays for him it must cry, “Make our preacher a man of prayer.”

The Puritan William Gurnall wrote his study on The Christian in Compete Armour and filled what is today three thick paperback books with his exposition of these verses. One third of what he wrote was on the subject of praying. There are just three verses here in Ephesians chapter six on praying, but Gurnal wrote almost a hundred pages on each verse. Clearly that man considered praying to be crucially important. One of the greatest preachers of the 19th century was a Welshman named Henry Rees. His most significant ministry was in Liverpool and he spent time in his church every day where he had his study. But his favourite place to pray was one particular pew where he often was found crying to God for his blessings. When he was an old man a young pastor named John Prichard asked if he could see him for any advice he could give him. Henry Rees arranged a time and John Prichard was there on the dot. There happened to be someone with Mr. Rees at the time; but he soon disengaged himself, and went upstairs to a quiet room with young Mr. Prichard following. They sat one each side the fire. Mr. Rees said, “Well, your mind is bent upon preaching the Gospel—the most serious and solemn duty any man can ever engage himself in,” and, with his hands crossed over his knee, and rocking himself to and fro, as was his custom, he said, “Praying, praying; praying, praying; praying, praying,” and so on, repeating it many times. “We are not aware of the thousandth part of the power praying has upon preaching.” Then, moving backward and forward, he again went on, repeating the word, “Praying, praying; praying, praying; praying, praying,” and so on. “If I were called upon suddenly to preach on any great occasion, and had only two hours of time to prepare for it, I should spend them every moment in praying. Praying, praying; praying, praying,” and so on, and his tears the while were flowing fast. Then, restraining himself a little, he said, “I cannot tell you of any particular volumes to read; I do not know very much about books, but try to read those works which will be most likely to nourish and strengthen the spirit of prayer in you. The great thing with preaching is praying, praying; praying, praying.” Mr. Prichard says that these were the most awful moments he ever experienced in his life (Owen Jones, Some of the Great Preachers of Wales, p.397).

I appreciate the way David Feddes links this emphasis on praying in our text with what Paul has been describing in the six pieces of armour. “Napoleon once said, ‘An army marches on its stomach.’ He didn’t mean that soldiers always crawl on their bellies; he meant that troops need plenty of good food and supplies in order to march to victory. No matter how brilliant the generals, no matter how brave the soldiers, they can’t win battles if they are starving or freezing. Troops need food and other supplies. Even though Napoleon knew this, a shortage of supplies led to his downfall. In 1812 he invaded Russia with a huge army, larger than anyone had ever seen. As Napoleon advanced, the Russians did little to stop him. Rather than fight a head-on battle, the Russians kept retreating. As they retreated, they left nothing behind for the invading army to use as supplies. The farther Napoleon advanced into Russia, the longer his supply lines grew behind him, and then small groups of Russians began attacking the supply lines at various points. Eventually the supply lines were so long and so unreliable that Napoleon’s army faced devastating shortages. Many of the soldiers suffered from lack of nourishment. Many perished from a lack of proper treatment due to a shortage of medical supplies and bandages. There was also a shortage of clothing and fuel for fires and heating, and when the terrible Russian winter struck, many of Napoleon’s men shivered and died of cold-related diseases. For every man who died in battle, five died of other causes, mostly due to shortages of supplies. So Napoleon had to leave Russia with his army in tatters. Military campaigns depend on supplies. That’s true in spiritual warfare as well. When you’re fighting Satan, you need to be strong, brave, and well equipped with God’s armour and weapons, but you also need nourishment and a supply line to keep up your energy.

“What’s your spiritual supply line? What connects you with headquarters? Prayer. Prayer is the line between you and God. Through prayer God supplies your daily needs. Through prayer you get refreshed and reenergized for serving Jesus and battling Satan. In Ephesians 6 the Bible calls God’s people to combat and provides various pieces of spiritual armor and weaponry. Then Ephesians 6:18 goes on to say, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Prayer is the way to get fresh supplies, inner nourishment, and everything necessary for a soldier of Jesus to stay healthy and strong in spirit” (David Feddes, Radio Pulpit of the Back to God Hour, “Warrior Prayer,” September 2003, pp.18-20).

Prayer isn’t a part of the armour that protects us. Rather, it describes the manner in which you put on the armour, and wear the armour. Have you noticed how emphatic and embracive Paul is as he writes about praying in verse eighteen? We are to pray at all times. We are to pray in all ways – with all prayer and supplication. We are to pray with all perseverance. We are to pray for all the saints. Sinclair Ferguson says that it is perhaps, Scripture’s most comprehensive single sentence on how we are to pray. It incidentally supplies me with four nice divisions about praying, but before I get to them I must first say a word about this exhortation, “pray in the Spirit.”

1. PRAY IN THE SPIRIT.

What is it to pray in the Spirit? It is not the phenomenon called today ‘speaking in tongues.’ There was in New Testament times praying in a tongue. When there were apostles, and before any New Testament Scripture was put into writing, people could then speak in languages which they had had no contact with before that time, but even then, if people lacked love, then these tongues-speaking folk were only resounding gongs – BOIIING! – or clanging cymbals – CLASHHHHHHH! Love during apostolic days was esteemed as far superior to the gift of languages. How much of the Spirit of God does a gong have? Zero. How much of the Spirit of God does a cymbal have? Zero. So, far from speaking in tongues proving that a person was full of the Holy Spirit bare tongues, without love, profits you nothing. So you can pray in tongues but not be praying in the Spirit. You must be filled with love.

We can read about praying in a tongue in I Corinthians 14:14, where Paul comments, “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful,” but Paul did not want the Ephesians’ understandings to be barren. See how he exhorts them in our text, verse 18, to great vitality of mind – “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Be alert! Don’t be content with your own spirit praying when it’s disconnected from your mind. Be alert to the danger of that! Don’t switch off your stammering to God in prayer because you are tired, finding putting the right words to your praying wearisome. Don’t then slump and go into automatic prayer pilot by tongues speaking – which someone has coyly told you is your “spirit language.” Don’t do it. Don’t believe them. Tell God of your tiredness and struggles. Jesus himself has described this battle when he said the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. He was compassionate to his disciples. Try to pray a little bit longer, and don’t faint; “I’m sorry I’m so tired Lord.” There is no one here who has not found themselves one night sleeping on their knees at the side of the bed, and God has not been insulted.

So praying in the Spirit is not speaking in a language, nor is it praying in a heightened atmosphere of expectancy and deep assurance and brokenness. There are such wonderful times. Come back with me half a century and see that lanky teenager praying in a circle with ten teenagers feeling the Lord to be so near. How precious that occasion was. Surely the Spirit was there giving my heart some sweet assurance that I was a believer. Who dares belittle such times as ‘emotionalism’? May we have many more such times when Jesus by his Spirit manifests himself to us as we pray together, but my point here is that splendid and memorable though such times might be they are not what Paul is talking about when he exhorts us to pray in the Spirit.

Praying in the Spirit is praying with the illumination and understanding and longings and wisdom that the Spirit gives to his people. Praying in the Spirit means relying on the Spirit’s enlightening and assuring work, as we are energized by him to pray. What is the Spirit’s sword? It is of course the word of God. The Bible is God-breathed; it is inspired by God; the holy men who wrote it were carried along by the Spirit of God. So praying in the Spirit means that our mind and thoughts and will and desires are all influenced and mastered by God’s Word. We ask for those things that the Bible tells us are pleasing to God. We worship God for all that we’ve found him to be in the Bible. We confess our sins with the broken and contrite spirit that we find in Psalm 51 in the Bible. By the Spirit we develop instincts and affections that are given by God the Spirit and sustained by him. By the Spirit we mortify those excesses in praying that are sheer animalism, ranting, and shouting, and laughing, and ordering God about. By the Spirit we put away childish things. By the Spirit in our praying we are understanding men and women. By the Spirit we become dissatisfied with the mere notion and form of religion. The attitude of a prayer meeting in which its participants are praying in the Spirit is described for us in the opening verses of Philippians 2. Hear what this group of praying men and women have got; “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:” (Phils 2:1-5). Such a group of praying people has learned to pray in the Spirit.

2. PRAY ON ALL OCCASIONS.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (v.18). This is a familiar exhortation in the New Testament, Jesus saying that men should always pray, and the apostle urging the Thessalonians, “praying always” and he told the church in Rome that without ceasing he made mention of them in his prayers. The grace of prayer is like the lungs, always being used. In other words, don’t limit yourself to prayers repeated on five occasions a day – pray always. Don’t start off like the senior boys on the school cross-country race, all sprinting for the first hundred yards and then most of them spluttering to a halt and trudging, heads down, for the rest of the way. Keep running! Don’t just pray at moments of high joy. Don’t let your feelings become the touchstone of your duties. Prayer is not to depend on your emotions. You are sitting around the table and your baby brother says to you, “Pass me a spoon.” You don’t quiz him about the state of his heart and mind before passing him the spoon. If you did he would look blankly at you and say, “My state of heart and mind is this; I desire a spoon.” Keep praying, every day live in a spirit of prayer. Prayer is good, the habit of prayer is better. The Christian life consists of putting off bad habits and putting on new habits. We are all called to run the race that is set before us, and the more we train ourselves in godliness the more stamina and strength of character we develop – patience and endurance and longsuffering.

There was a fraternal of ministers which met each month in London and they opened it to the public who listened to what the preachers discussed. On one occasion they were asked to discuss this question, how can men pray always. The ministers opened it up contributions from the audience and a woman humbly spoke up, “In the morning, when I open my eyes, I pray, ‘Lord, open the eyes of my understanding that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.’ While I am dressing I pray, ‘Lord, may I be clothed in the robe of righteousness, and adorned with the garment of salvation.’ As I am washing myself I pray, ‘O Lord, may I be washed in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness!’ When kindling the fire I pray, ‘O Lord, kindle a fire of sacred love in this cold heart of mine.’ And while sweeping the room I pray, ‘Lord, may my heart be swept clean of all its abominations.’ And so I am praying like that all day.”

So, as you wake up appropriate your great High Priest and thank him for another day; present your body and mind to him. Thank him for breakfast and then throughout the day for all your meals. Then make a time for communion with him, reading his word and responding in prayer. The place is immaterial and the posture is of little importance. There was a Christian I heard of who slipped down a narrow shaft head first. He said, “The prayingest prayer I ever prayed I prayed upside down.” Praying aloud is not an essential element in prayer – there are places where it is wrong to pray aloud; the Pharisees prayed aloud to be heard by men. However, though you are living in a spirit of prayer Jesus tells us to go to a quiet place and there in secret, behind a closed door, have a period when you talk to God. And so on, before every decision, when the telephone rings, when someone comes to the door, as you go out shopping and meet people, as you face your chores, as you read the paper or read a book, as you switch on the internet, as you watch TV then mix everything with prayer. Set the Lord always before you. Remember Nehemiah, King Artaxerxes’ cup bearer, going into the king’s presence who looked at his long face and said to Nehemiah, “‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven and I answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favour in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.’” (Neh. 2:4&5). Before Nehemiah answered then in his heart he cried to God for wisdom to speak the right words, and to say them in the right spirit, and to prepare the heart of the king to receive the request he would make. Such a prayer took a second. Artaxerxes didn’t notice the pause. We call this kind of praying ejaculatory prayer. It is aimed at one target, like a marksman letting off one shot.

3. PRAY WITH ALL KINDS OF PRAYERS AND REQUESTS.

We use the mnemonic A.C.T.S. to remind ourselves of the different forms of prayer, adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication, but prayer is more than that. Let me talk to you about three particular kinds of “prayers and requests” (v.18).

i] One form of prayer is communion. A husband may work in his study upstairs, and his wife works downstairs, and there are occasions throughout the day when one will either go upstairs or downstairs just to see the other person, not for any other specific purpose. There’d be something wrong if we met together just to eat a meal and wash up, or to discuss our plans for the future, or tell the other what one of the children just said on the phone, or to watch the news on TV together. A relationship isn’t just one magical moment; it involves regular communication and frequent expressions of love. Prayer is a relationship, not just a set of poses. If God is a complete stranger to us and the only time we talk to God is when we want something from him, then we need to discover relational prayer. Relational prayer is having a conversa­tion with God—not just telling him what we want, but having a real conversation in which we not only talk to God but also listen to him as he speaks in the Bible, and get to know him and become closer and closer to him. Relational prayer respects the personal nature of God. Rela­tional prayer seeks a living, loving relation­ship with God. God is the most powerful, most beautiful, most personal being that exists, so a relationship with God is the most powerful, most beautiful, most personal relationship we can have. In other words, nothing in the world is more important than relational prayer.

“Prayer is beyond any question the high­est activity of the human soul,” said Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. “Man is at his greatest and highest when, on his knees, he comes face to face with God.” Prayer brings you into God’s throne room and puts you in touch with the King of the universe. If it’s a great thing to talk with a president or prime minister or king, if it’s a great thing to be a personal friend of a great ruler, then surely the greatest thing of all is to talk with the Ruler of the entire universe and have a personal relationship with God. Rela­tional prayers involves hanging around with Almighty God; that’s the highest possible company, and it lifts us higher than anything else we do.

Relationships are like mobile phones; they need to be recharged repeatedly. In marriages and friendships, for example, this happens regularly through talking, and kindness, and generosity, and thoughtfulness and love. The greatest relationship of all, our relationship with God, needs to be powered up through relational prayer. As you speak to God and listen to him, you connect with God, and the power of the Holy Spirit recharges your relationship.

ii] Another form of prayer is contented gratitude. If you don’t live in a spirit of prayer you will live in a spirit of selfishness. You will see picture of beautiful houses and you will be depressed about your own house. You will see make-overs of people who have been transformed and you’ll ache that you could look different with some plastic surgery and a personal trainer and your own dietician and a new wardrobe. The teenager will envy the old man’s possessions and the old man will envy the young man’s health and strength. You will never become satisfied with your providence if you don’t live in a spirit of looking to God. It is indispensable to be in prayer on all occasions. The unthankful heart will always be complaining about being hard done by, but the heart of prayer is a grateful heart. There was once a child kneeling with her mother at the end of the day and she was praying aloud thanking God for all he had given her, “Thank you for my mother and my . . .” then she stopped for a long time, and she said to her mother, “I can’t pray any longer for Daddy” (her father had died) “but I hate not saying a word about him.” She paused, and then she went on, “Thank you God for Mummy and that I once had a wonderful Daddy.” And so she prayed with gratitude to God even after that loss. We can always be thankful to God on bad days that things are not worse than they are.

iii] Another kind of request becomes the means of prevailing over temptation. Jesus said, “Pray to be led away from temptation and delivered from evil.” Without prayer, your inner being – what the Bible calls your soul or spirit – becomes emptier, weaker, and more famished, and you end up in defeat. We have recently heard of a church leader who has fallen into scandal. He will never preach again. Other men don’t do anything awful; they just give up. There are men I know who seem to be just ticking over, simply idling, perhaps overwhelmed with discouragement. Last year there were sixty in their congregation but this year there are only thirty. When do leaders become most vulnerable to falls? Often it’s after they’ve poured their energy into people and projects and neglected to take the time to renew their own souls through prayer and communion with God. Some leaders burn out, give up, and quit their callings not because of a lack of talent or training or accomplishment but a lack of being with God. Long before Satan attacks with a particular temptation or an over­whelming feeling of despair, he may first be busy attacking supply lines, keeping people from connecting with God through prayer. There are all kinds of prayers and requests. Keep your supply line open. Stay in touch with God, and then you will be able to resist temptation and discouragement, and you can help those around you. As the Bible says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me. . . . And my God shall sup­ply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:13, 19, NASB). When you have that kind of supply line, you can feast on God’s goodness and rejoice in God. This is the nourishment you need to stay strong against Satan.

4. PRAY WITH PERSEVERANCE.

“With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying” (v.18). The apostle Paul once had a terrible problem. What was it? Paul won’t tell us, but he called it “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger from Satan” that tormented him. What did Paul do? Simply accept it as coming from a Sovereign God? Oh no, he prayed about it and kept on praying. Again and again Paul pleaded with God to take the problem away, but God didn’t do it. Finally God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7, 9). Paul’s problem remained, and it made him feel weaker than ever; yet he also felt God’s power working more strongly than ever. Paul kept praying and God’s answer was not the removal of the problem but a better answer: more of himself.

It’s comforting to know that God loves you and is listening to you even if he doesn’t grant your request, even if he puts you through terrible pain and loss. In the months that followed C.S.Lewis’ loss of his wife he was given an unusual experience from God. Have you read about this? The experience served to renew a sense that God was near him. C.S.Lewis couldn’t really describe it except by a simile, a word picture. Let me prepare you; this is not going to be at all what you are expecting. It seems to me to be a very British Oxford professor experience, as if to show us that God matches the experiences of himself that he gives to us to our own individual condition, where and what we are. So my experience as a teenager in camp was exactly suited to me then, but not for C.S. Lewis perhaps.

This is how he described his experience – remember he had to use a simile to describe it: think of a man in total darkness, he said, not really knowing where he is but believing that he’s trapped in a cellar or a dungeon and feeling dread. “Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound far off—waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he’s not in a cellar at all, but free, in the open air. Or it maybe a much smaller sound close at hand—a chuckle of laughter. And if so, there’s a friend just beside him in the dark. Either way, a good, good sound.” That was it. Lewis didn’t want to make too much of this experience. Of course not. God uses rather embarrassingly simple words and actions to raise us up. Sometimes your dog comes up to you and licks your hand. Sometimes you see a bird jumping across the lawn looking for worms. Sometimes your child comes and holds your hand, and after any such experience things are different. Your heart is lighter than it’s been for weeks. The door isn’t locked and bolted after all; touch it and it swings open. Go on praying!

But what if you haven’t heard that tender chuckle in the darkness? What if you only experience the locked door and the terrible silence? Well, you persevere in prayer by waiting on God. That’s what I say, “Wait!” That may sound like lame advice, but often there’s not much you can do to deal with the anguish of our providences except to wait for God and depend more on him. In Psalm 27:14 the Bible says, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 130:6 says, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.” When it’s night, you can’t do anything to make it day­time. You have to wait for the sun to rise. But that waiting can be positive waiting, peaceful waiting in strong expectation. You might be in the darkness of disappointment and sor­row, you might not see any rays of gladness or hope, but you can wait for the Lord to shine on you.

And as you wait, you can be sure that the Lord Jesus knows more than any of us about feeling forsaken by God. Though Jesus is the Son of God, his heavenly Father did not grant his request to be spared from horrible torture and death or to be relieved from bearing the pain of all the sins of the world. If you cannot yet hear God’s chuckle in the dark, you may still hear the echo of Jesus’ scream in the dark as he hung on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Christ kept praying always, even when he was hanging dying on the cross – and no one has ever suffered as terribly as Jesus did. But after the suffering came the chuckle in the darkness, then the earthquake, and then death itself was con­quered with the resurrection power of God. I don’t want to sugarcoat sorrow or offer instant comfort by saying, “All’s well that ends well.” But I do want to offer a gentle reminder that if you belong to Jesus, all does end well. If you’ve been praying for some­thing for many years but haven’t received it, it can be a long, grinding disappointment. Sometimes you may feel unable to hang on, and you may fall apart. That’s okay. God knows how to strengthen and renew things that fall apart. A day is coming when all things will be made new, all tears wiped away, every prayer granted in the fullest, most wonder­ful way. “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying” (v.18)

5. PRAY FOR ALL THE SAINTS.

“Always keep on praying for all the saints” (v.18). I began with a quotation of David Feddes describing Napoleon’s army losing because its supply lines were destroyed. Let me end with another quotation of his. I have been so thankful for the lively preaching of this fellow minister who has made his preaching available to help others. I want to be the same. David Feddes writes on praying for all the saints:

“Another thing to remember in the fight against Satan is that you’re not the only sol­dier in the struggle. If you’re a Christian, you’re part of an army. You should care not just about yourself but about your fellow war­riors in the struggle against Satan. What hap­pens to any part of the church affects the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you succeed against Satan, it helps your fellow sol­diers; if they succeed, it helps you. If you fail, it hurts their position; if they fail, it hurts you. The apostle Paul says, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29).

“In the Lord’s army, it’s all for one, and one for all. So when you pray, don’t just pray for yourself. Pray for all who are working and fighting for the Lord along with you. As Paul puts it here “Always keep on praying for all the saints.” So don’t just pray for your own congregation. Pray for the church of Jesus all around the world. Sometimes when someone is going through a time of terrible stress or suffering, they find it hard to pray. Their mind is spin­ning, their spirit is exhausted, and they’ve already prayed so much that they feel prayed out. But even if they’re so overwhelmed that they can hardly pray, you can pray for them. A number of Christians who have gone through hard times have told me what a comfort it was to know that even when they couldn’t pray, others were praying for them, and God was hearing those prayers. Part of spiritual warfare is being alert not only to Satan’s attacks on you but also to his attacks on others—and praying for those who are facing the fiercest attacks.

“One of the worst problems for many of us today is plain old self-centeredness. It’s pos­sible to be so focused on my health, my suc­cess, my looks, my reputation, my spiritual standing, that it makes me sick in spirit. If all I think about is me, me, me, and if all I pray about is me, me, me, that makes me spiritu­ally unhealthy. Many individuals and churches could get beyond petty problems if only they would recognize the threat of Satan, trust the power of God, and pray for each other and all the saints and for the advance of God’s kingdom rather than focusing on themselves.

“Pray for young Christians who are sur­rounded by more temptations than any gen­eration of youth in history. Pray for Chris­tian parents who aren’t sure they’re up to the challenge of raising children. Pray for single Christians who struggle with loneli­nes. Pray for middle-aged Christians who wonder if their life really counts for much. Pray for elderly Christians who are in failing health and may face cruel demonic attacks of doubt and fear as death comes closer.

“Pray for all the saints. Pray for Christian teachers who mentor children and lecturers in Bible colleges. Pray for Chris­tians in business who fill in their VAT forms and struggle to be honest. Pray for Christian farmers, solicitors, doctors, and others who struggle to apply their faith to their daily work. Pray for all Christians everywhere who must shine for Christ while fighting off Satan’s attacks.

“Pray especially for Christians who are persecuted or in prison. The Bible says, “Re­member those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mis­treated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). Many persecuted Chris­tians say that this is what they want most: to be remembered, to be prayed for, to know they are not abandoned by God or forgotten by fellow believers” (David Feddes, The Radio Pulpit. Back to God Hour. “Warrior Prayer,” September 2003, pp.26-28).

5th March 2006 GEOFF THOMAS