Prayer Is an Aid toward Watchfulness
Lord God, we praise you for bringing Your Word to our young people and working faith in their hearts. Be with the confirmands this morning. Enable them to declare Your Word and may we all be blessed by their proclamation. Preserve them in true faith and love for You throughout their lives. Amen.
Confession of sins
Text: Ephesians 6:17-18
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints."
In Christ Jesus—through whose work we are able to approach the Father’s throne in prayer—dear fellow redeemed:
It has been said that there are no atheists in a foxhole. This is said because everyone in the frontline of a war would pray. There should be little doubt that this is true, because under the stress of imminent death there are few, if any, who would be unshaken and unwilling to admit the existence of a higher being.
Still, a "pray-er" does not necessarily equal a believer. The false prophets of Baal prayed mightily to their false god. The Pharisees uttered prayer on top of prayer to the God of Israel—the same God to whom we offer prayers—but their prayers were from prideful hearts seeking earthly approval.
A "pray-er" does not equal a believer because prayer is not a means for salvation. The Gospel—that is the good news of what Jesus has done for our salvation—is the one and only means God has revealed to us as a way to eternal life. The Gospel in Word and Sacrament provides salvation. The Word of God provides His guidance. This is not to say that prayer is not a tremendous gift from God and a powerful tool in our lives because it is exactly that.. Although prayer is not a means for salvation, PRAYER IS AN AID TOWARD WATCHFULNESS.
The section of Ephesians from which our text comes takes us into the "foxholes" of our battle against the Devil. Paul has just described the armor which God gives to His children in order that they might be able to “withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand.” (v.13).
Throughout the earlier verses, Paul describes each piece of our armor and identifies it with blessings that we receive through the work of Christ and the message of the Gospel—the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the preparation of the Gospel of peace as the shoes to provide protection and sure footing, the shield of faith with which [we] are able to quench the firey darts of the Wicked One, the helmet of salvation, and THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT WHICH IS THE WORD OF GOD.
The Word of God is the sword of the SPIRIT because, as God tells us elsewhere, it is the Holy Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture to be recorded. Furthermore, as Nathan mentioned in his presentation, it is the Spirit Who works through that same Word to bring us to faith and keep us in faith, despite the enemies’ best efforts. The Word of God and it alone is our salvation and our defense against all who would seek to rob us of that salvation!
Prayer does not clothe a sinner in the armor of God. The Spirit working through the Gospel does that when He brings us to faith. However, praying is an activity for those who are clothed in the armor of God.
Perhaps a comparison to an earthly battle will help us. . . During war, the frontline soldiers communicate with the General. Their communications tell their Leader "we need supplies! We need weapons!! HELP US!!" Those communications from the frontline to the Overall Commander do not themselves provide protection against the enemy and do not satisfy the hunger of starving troops. However, the artillery, food, and supplies that the Commander sends because of the communications do satisfy the soldiers’ needs.
Prayer is our communication to God. God speaks to us through His Word. We speak to Him through our prayers. God answers our prayers through His Word and the blessings He sends us.
All who have been made righteous before God through faith in Christ Jesus have an open door to God’s throne of Grace. They have God’s ready ears to hear their "communications" -- their prayers.
Paul says to pray with all prayer and supplication, that is, with every kind of prayer. Communicate to God every kind of request—big and small. Cry out your troubles to God. Express your frustrations—"God I just don’t know what to do!" Communicate your thanksgiving and praise for what He grants you; or when everything is just going right in an every-day-kind-of-way stop and say, "Wow! Thank you God what a wonderful day you have given me!"
Paul includes praying for “all the saints.” In our prayer life, God wants us to pray for anything and everything in our own lives, but also for one another. There are so many for whom we can pray….Parents, children, other family members; employers, employees, government officials; the stranger who is walking in unbelief…the friend who is walking in unbelief; your pastors, teachers, and other church workers; missionaries in the United States and in foreign lands…the list goes on indefinitely. Paul wrote Timothy, “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).
Paul also speaks of praying “in connection with the Spirit” because any prayer that is not offered out of a genuine Spirit-worked faith in Jesus is not truly a prayer and is not heard before God. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous (believers in Christ), and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the LORD is against those who do evil (unbelievers)" (1 Peter 3:12).
“…praying…being watchful to this end with all perseverence…" Prayer does serve as an aid toward watchfulness because as we daily remember to ask God for our needful blessings we keep in mind that every good thing is from above and turn to our Father in trust. When we are daily communicating our deep sorrow over our sins and our plea for forgiveness, we are reminded to go back to the Word where God communicates to us the wonderful news of forgiveness.
In Gethsemane, Jesus told the disciples to watch and pray that they enter not into temptation (Matthew 26:41). It’s hard to be deceived and swallowed up by the enemy when you are continually pleading for the Lord’s assistance and continually clinging to His Word.
Having the confidence of casting our every care upon the Lord with the sure promise that He will hear and will help, means that we will find the strength and desire to persevere. For a soldier can be brave in a foxhole when he knows that the Commander has heard his communication for help and is even now sending reinforcement. Prayer aids in our watchfulness and perseverance because God answers those prayers
In the foxholes of our spiritual battle "against the rulers of the darkness of this age and the Wicked One” your armor and firepower is the salvation of Christ revealed in the Gospel, but having been clothed in that armor, praying always with every kind of prayer and supplication, be watchful toward a glorious end! Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt