The word of the day is “watchful. ” St. Paul closes his letter to the Ephesians with insights on prayer in today’s reading of Ephesians 6:18-24. Just before our reading, Paul described the weapons that believers should use against the forces of wickedness (vs. 12). Then fully armed, the believers must stand guard, praying at all times with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (vs. 18). They must be “watchful” as the Lord admonished Peter in the Garden on the night of His arrest (Matt. 26:41).
The Greek word for “watchful” refers to being awake and alert, not merely to ward off sleep but to achieve a purpose (Strong’s #69, 4). Thus, we must stand in prayer like the guardians of a king. With perseverance, we must “pray in the Spirit.” When we pray, we must not be slothful or preoccupied with the affairs of this world. Nor should we be fearful or cowardly. But we should be diligent, single-minded, bold, and courageous. And we should persist through all temptations within and turmoil without.
Watchful In the Evil Day
If there were no threat, we would not have to stand so unmoved and unshaken in prayer. But Paul writes that we must put on the “whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand” (vs. 13). What is the evil day? In the previous chapter Paul writes, “See that you walk circumspectly… redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15). The “evil day” is whenever the devil works actively to effect harm (Strong’s #4190, p. 207). In prayer, believers must be ever on guard to “withstand,” that is, “to set themselves against,” the attacks of the devil, for they will surely come (Strong’s #2480, 122).
Ready to Make Petitions to God
When they take the posture of readiness in this way, then believers are prepared to make their supplications to God (vs. 18). The Greek words for petitions refer to two types: the general and the particular (Strong’s #1162, 63). Paul here urges the Ephesians to make specific requests to God. He states in Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests to be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). “Supplication” means specific appeals and requests for what is needed or required (Strong’s #155, 9). Thus, Paul asks his flock to pray for him that he would speak the “mystery of the Gospel” boldly at his trial (vs. 19). But without watchfulness, these petitions would be mixed with impure motives and selfish appeals that are not worthy of being delivered to the Throne of Almighty God. Watchfulness is the attitude that guards the door when believers bring their needs and concerns to God.
How often do we rush through our prayers or even neglect them because we take God’s grace for granted? Prayer that is “in the Spirit, ” however, brings us into the presence of God, the Holy Trinity. But in this life, we must be aware that the devil stands outside our closet while we pray. Paul says that he forgives, “lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11). Especially as we pray, we must beware of the Evil One’s schemes. Prayer stirs up Satan, for there is nothing more hateful to him than that we should ask for and receive the blessings of God. To interrupt and spoil our prayer, the devil has the “darts” of distractions, wayward thoughts, and disturbing remembrances along with the moods of boredom, restlessness, and coldness of heart. So the words of Paul about “watchfulness” are of vital importance to our prayer life. Let us resolve to “put on the armor of God” and to be alert, watchful, and steadfast in prayer. Then, by the Spirit, we will turn away from evil and turn to the God of grace, the God who is ever ready to hear the prayers of all who call upon Him with their whole heart.”