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Why Is Prayer So Hard? (Ephesians 6:10-20)

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MOTIVATE

A long standing tradition for many athletic events is to sing the National Anthem. The anthem is a courtesy but most people do not understand the meaningful connection to the game itself.[1]

Unfortunately, many people treat prayer the same way. We may casually pray during the day as a courtesy to God but often have little understanding to its meaningful connection to how we live our daily life.

  • Today’s message is a reminder about the priority of prayer.
  • Prayer is a battle of our wills, to either rely on our flesh or our faith; faith links our impotence to God’s omnipotence.
  • Prayer is the difference between the best we can do and the best God can do.
  • Christians lack God’s power because they lack Spirit-filled prayer.

 

And before we get into the actual text, it is helpful to note the context.

  • Ephesians 1-3 doctrine of God, salvation, church
  • Ephesians 4-6 application of doctrine in life, relationships, family, work
  • Ephesians 6 spiritual warfare

ephesians 6_prayer

Understand Paul’s aim? If you live the Christian life there will be a fight, especially in family life.

  • Fight against external cultural values and worldly standards; constant pressure for families.
    • finances as god – DOW stocks drop
    • politics and earthly citizenship as god – Rep v. Dems. cycle of fascination
    • anger & self-rage as god – social media murder on live news
    • sexual fulfillment as god – Ashley Madison fall out
    • education as god – start of school and parents must not entirely outsource education of children.
    • sports & entertainment as god – start of fall sports as parents discern boundaries
  • Fight against fleshly desires that seek our comfort and happiness.
    • easy & comfortable to not serve in a ministry
    • easy & comfortable to not wake up earlier and participate in Sunday Bible Group
    • easy & comfortable to nap & veg. watch sports instead of participate Sunday Eve Family Min.
    • easy & comfortable to not give generously to church… *** – ~17K of budget
  • Fight against each other’s expectations and demands (why Paul says it’s “not against flesh & blood”).
  • Fight against Satan with real power & influence & is like a roaring lion preying upon weak in faith.

Ephesians 6:10 “Finally…”

This is Paul’s closing battle speech to rally the Ephesian church.

Other famous battle speeches:

  • Mickey to Rocky

Come here Rock, My God your ready ain’t you, That apollo won’t know what hit him, Your gonna roll over him like a bulldozer an italian bulldozer, You know kid I know how you feel about this fight that’s comin up, cause I was young once too, And I’ll tell you something if you wasn’t here I prolly wouldn’t be alive today, The fact that your here and doing as well as your doing gives me what do you call it motivation, Huh to stay alive, Cause I think that people die sometimes when they don’t want to live no more, And nature is smarter than people think, Little by little we lose our friends, we lose everything, we keep losing and losing until we say Aw what the hell am I living around here for I got no reason to go on, But we do kid, Boy I got a reason to go on, And I’m gonna stay alive, And I will watch you make good, And I’ll never leave you until that happens, Cause when I leave you you’ll not only know how to fight, You’ll be able to take care of yourself outside of the ring too is that ok, Now I got a little gift for you, Wait a minute, Wait a minute now, Wait a minute, Look at this, See that, This here is the favorite thing I have on this earth and rocky marciano gave me that, You know what it was, His cufflink, And now I’m giving it to you, And it’s gonna be like an angel on your shoulder, If you ever get hurt and you feel like your going down, This little angel is gonna whisper in your ear he’s gonna say Get up you – – – – , Cause micky loves you, Ok go after him kid, Go after him.

  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – Aragorn

Sons of Gondor, of Rohan. My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me! A day may come, when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of Fellowship, but it is not this day! An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you, stand, men of the West!

  • Braveheart – William Wallace

Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace. Yes, I’ve heard. Kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse. I AM William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight? Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom! FREEDOM!!!

EXAMINE                       Ephesians 6:10-20                Why is prayer so hard?

Prayer is hard because it requires power beyond ourselves (6:10).

Paul concludes letter with exhortation for them to “be strong in the Lord” (Eph 6:10) and later “pray at all times in the Spirit (6:18). Strength comes from the Lord and His Spirit (Zech 4:6; 2Cor 4:7). God will frequently give us more than we can handle that we might learn to prioritize prayer and pursue His purposes – so we are not building our own kingdom but His!

  • Command is passive “be strengthened”[2]. People cannot strengthen themselves but they can avail themselves of opportunities to gain strength.
    • physically: eating habits, exercise, weight lifting
    • spiritually: bible reading, prayer, biblical community
  • Martin Luther, “God created the world out of nothing and so long as we are nothing, He can make something out of us.”

Paul provides a purpose for being strong in the Lord – that of Satan’s power. Scripture describes Satan as a ruler of this world with “authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”. He is called prince of this world and power of the air (John 12:31; 14:30; 2Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2).
Satan has schemes (6:11 μεθοδεία – methods, deliberate plan). The devil is deliberate and as believers we must be spiritually disciplined; an undisciplined believer is a defeated believer.

In football season, training camp and preseason is practice against other teams to discern qualities and skills of players. However, in regular season the teams actually game-plan against the other teams players by watching tape of other players to know their skills and tendencies. Further, in every game during the half time, good teams and coaches course correct their strategies based on the opposing teams strategy.

Likewise, Satan has a deliberate game plan for your life. Satan has watched the tape of your life and he knows every flaw and fault. As believers we must counter strategy by being strong in the Lord.

à Strength in salvation. If you are not saved in the Lord then you are not strong. Today is another God-opportunity for you to receive salvation through Jesus Christ.

à Power in prayer partners (cf. James 5:16 confess & pray for one another).

  • – – In coming weeks we are going to discuss micro-groups for disciplemaking and strengthening faith.
  • If you do not have a prayer partner – ask 1-3 people who you should ask. If they are not the person then maybe they can direct you to someone.

Prayer is hard because it requires perseverance each day (6:11-18).

Paul gives several commands for being strong in the Lord: put on (6:11); “take up” (6:13); “stand” (6:14); “take” (6:17). Each of these verbs rally the believer to recall the same power that resurrected Jesus from the grave to be at work in their life. There are at least 3 characteristics of the strength and armor of God:

  • The armor of God and His power is supplied at salvation.
    Eph 1:3 “God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”
    Eph 1:19-21 “the immeasurable greatness of his
    power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come”
    Eph 3:7 “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his
    power.”
    Eph 3:16 “that you may be strengthened with
    power through his Spirit in your inner being”
    Eph 3:20 “according to the
    power at work within us”
    Eph 6:10 “strong/
    empowered in the Lord in the strength of his might”
  • The armor of God is necessary.

Each believer faces a spiritual battle from a real devil (Eph 2:2-3; 6:12)

– life is war, from womb to the tomb;  your soul, your family, your career are all fields of warfare

– not against flesh & blood

  • The armor of God is sufficient.

Each believer is given the promise of standing in victory as they put their hope in Christ
(Eph 1:22; 6:11, 13, 16).

Believers are to put on the armor of God rather than rely on the flesh. The putting on is like clothing daily. Each item of the soldier’s armor is important for protection from head to feet.

  • Eph 6:14 having fastened on the belt of truth or literally “having girded your loins with truth” is the idea of first preparations before putting on armor is to tuck in your undergarments and ready for battle. Soldiers would wear a belt to hold all items of a person’s attire together. The belt of truth holds the believer together.
  • Eph 6:14 breastplate of righteousness shows the breastplate covering the vital body organs such as the heart. Likewise, the breastplate of righteousness covers the believer’s character and purity of heart.
  • Eph 6:15 shoes of the gospel of peace shows boots were used for firm footing and advancement against the enemy. The gospel grounds the believer and advances peace through evangelism.
  • Eph 6:16 shield of faith shows a large shield, like a door, used against incoming objects for protection. The shields were likely leather with hard metal or wood to protect against flaming arrows. A believer’s faith protects from attack. Without faith the believer is defenseless.
  • Eph 6:17 helmet of salvation shows helmets equipped with cheek pieces and to protect the head. A helmet of salvation guards the believer’s thinking and decision-making.
  • Eph 6:17 sword of the Spirit is a short (not long) sword used for close range battles. The sword of Spirit is the Word of God and is sharper than any two-edged sword able to penetrate hearts (Hebrews 4:12) and can be used both offensively and defensively (Matthew 4:4).

“So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light… put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:12-14

  • Daily prayer for provision of needs, pardon for sin, protection from evil & pursuit of right (Matthew 6:11-13)
    • Security in Christ as Savior: Evening prayer of Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
    • Surrender to Christ as Lord: Morning prayer of Psalm 5:2 “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice, I prepare for you…”


Prayer is hard because it requires proclaiming the gospel in challenging circumstances (6:19-20).

Paul wrote this letter of Ephesians under house arrest, chained and jailed in Rome (Acts 28:16). Undoubtedly he observes the Roman soldiers power and armor and compares to the believer’s spiritual armor. His point is to emphasize the spiritual realm is far superior to our earthly circumstances, regardless of how depressed we may be.

Often times in Paul’s letters he is praying for churches and believers. In fact, Ephesians has several prayers for the believer to model in their devotional life (1:3-14; 1:15-22; 3:14-21). Yet here, Paul is requesting prayer for himself.

  • This is a reminder that we all need prayer. Not asking for prayer is not a sign of strength but of stupidity. It shows you have underestimated the influence of the world, the devil, and your own flesh. Further, you are undervaluing the power of prayer in the Christian life.
  • Paul also reminds us to pray for persecuted believers who are boldly proclaiming the gospel throughout the world despite their hardships.
  • ***The hardship of prayer causes us to neglect our devotion to God because we know it should result in action, which we avoid out of personal comfort.
    • We avoid praying for a person’s salvation because it would require us to act and risk rejection in sharing our faith.
    • We avoid praying for an ill or the impoverished circumstances person because it would likely require us to sacrifice personal comforts of our time and treasures.
    • We avoid praying for God’s kingdom advancement in our church because it would likely require us to sacrifice our idols of worship styles, preferred ministry programs, and cherished traditions.

However, Paul understands the believer’s salvation and equipping of faith armor is not just a clothing exhibition but is combat engagement; we must live sent into battle. The battle is waged when we are Christ’s ambassadors and declare the gospel. Paul recognized that every believer is an ambassador – the church is saved by God and sent by God.

  • Too often do Western Christians want to escape the world’s chains whereas early Christians sought not escape but bold endurance in the midst of chains
    (ex. Acts 4:29; 7:60; 8:4; 9:16; 16:25; 18:9-10; 20:24; 23:11; 28:31).

à How can you use your trials for a testimony of the gospel and God’s grace?

APPLY/THINK

Over past couple years I have taught myself how to play chess. It started as playing a game on the computer and then with a phone app. One of the reasons I play is for a mind stress reliever. When you play chess you have to think about strategy. Playing chess is a game of constant move and counter moves.

Scripture portrays each move and counter between God and evil. On the surface it seems there is balance of power between God and Satan. However, there comes a time when one move becomes the defining move of all moves. The cross is God’s ultimate checkmate to Satan where sin and death are conquered and God is gloriously victorious.

  • Life is a battle and you cannot win on your own. You need God and His spiritual armor.
    • Salvationreceive your armor.
    • Strengthrenew by putting off the old worldly clothing and putting on the new armor.
    • Sentrealize the armor is not for exhibition but engagement

[1] However, singing the anthem has brought meaning to our nation historically and should each time as a pledge allegiance reminder of the cost of citizenship in America: http://espn.go.com/espn/story/_/id/6957582/the-history-national-anthem-sports-espn-magazine

[2] Peter T. O’Brien, Pillar NT Commentary, Ephesians 6:10.