Ephesians Sentence by Sentence: 6:18-20

Διὰ πάσης προσευχῆς καὶ δεήσεως προσευχόμενοι ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ ἐν πνεύματι, καὶ εἰς αὐτὸ ἀγρυπνοῦντες ἐν πάσῃ προσκαρτερήσει καὶ δεήσει περὶ πάντων τῶν ἁγίων καὶ ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός μου, ἐν παρρησίᾳ γνωρίσαι τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, ὑπὲρ οὗ πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ παρρησιάσωμαι ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι. Through every prayer and petition praying in every opportunity in the Spirit, and to this watching in every perseverance and petition concerning all the saints and for me, that to me he might give a word in opening of the mouth of me, in boldness to make known the mystery of the good news, for which I am an ambassador in chain, that in it I will speak with boldness as it is necessary for me to speak.

Paul has finished describing the full armor of God that Christians should take up. Now he turns to the action of the Christian. Part of standing and resisting involves taking up the right equipment, but it also involves prayer. The participle, προσευχόμενοι, “praying,” expresses means in relation to standing as do the previous participles describing the full armor of God. Prayer is to be done ἐν παντὶ καιρῷ, “in every opportunity.” The preposition is temporal, and therefore we can translate it as “at.” Christians should take every opportunity to pray. But when they pray, it is to be done ἐν πνεύματι, “in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is involved in the act of prayer. It is best to understand ἐν πνεύματι as a dative of means. Christians pray to God by means of the Spirit. Such prayer is to be done διὰ πάσης προσευχῆς καὶ δεήσεως, “through every prayer and petition.” How is διὰ functioning here? Is it expressing means or manner? If ἐν πνεύματι is expressing means, then διὰ is likely functioning as a marker of manner. If διὰ is expressing manner, in what sense is it adding color to the participle? It seems that it is neither manner nor means, but rather, it is marking attendant circumstance, and therefore it ought to be translated as “with,” so that we will render the phrase in this way: “pray with every prayer and petition at every opportunity by the Spirit, . . .”

Not only are Christians supposed to resist by standing and praying, but they are also to keep watch. Paul tells his readers and listeners to keep watch for this. The prepositional phrase, εἰς αὐτὸ, “for this,” marks purpose (“for this purpose”). The purpose of keeping watch was to persevere in making petitions for all of the saints and for Paul. Paul tells his readers and listeners, “. . . keep watch in every perseverance and petition concerning all the saints and for me, . . .” What does this mean to keep watch in all perseverance and petition? It means to be persistent in prayer. They were to keep alert for a purpose, to pray persistently for fellow believers. Paul delineates what he wants them to pray for on his behalf. He wants them to pray that he will receive a message or a word when he opens his mouth. He wants them to pray for him that he will be able to make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness. After all, as Paul himself states, it is for the gospel that he is an ambassador in chains. This phrase, ἐν ἁλύσει, “in chains,” is actually singular, but it speaks of imprisonment, hence, being in chains. Paul wants to be able to speak the message boldly, which, in his words, “it is necessary for me to speak.” He wanted encouragement through prayer to be able to courageously speak the gospel in a way that was fitting for an ambassador.

With every prayer and petition, praying at every opportunity by the Spirit, and for this purpose watching in all perseverance and petition concerning all the saints and for me, in order that a message might be given to me when opening my mouth, in order to make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness, for which I am an ambassador in chains, in order that in it I might speak with boldness as it is necessary for me to speak.

Prayer is important in this struggle against the powers in the heavenly places. It causes us to participate in the struggle and not simply stand idly. But we are to be ever dependent upon the Spirit when it comes to prayer. Are we praying and so relying on the Spirit for strength? The Spirit of Christ is in each and every one of us who believe. Therefore, we are all empowered with the same Spirit, and, as a result, we should join together in prayer, lifting each other up with our words, making requests of God on each other’s behalf. It is an encouragement and it is spiritually edifying. And in this battle, we need to be equipped not only with armor, but also with prayer. If we are equipped with the defensive garbs but have not prayer, we will not be tapping into God’s power, and therefore we will be lacking. Prayer is vital. Paul knew it, and so he requested not only that his own audience would pray diligently, but he even gave them specific things to pray for on his behalf. We need to keep an open line of communication with God. Tell God your fears and troubles. Request your desires, including pleas for help. It is important to interact with God with our mind and our words, and this practice is prayer. But prayer is about community as well. We do not pray only for ourselves, but we pray for each other too. Therefore, prayer entails relationship between us and God and each other. If we are not in such relationship, then we will be all alone in the struggle. But there is strength in numbers. If we want to stand victorious, we have to enter into prayer.

And what can we say of the idea of Paul being an ambassador? We too are ambassadors. We are God’s representatives. How are we boldly proclaiming the gospel? We should certainly be spreading the gospel with our actions. Our lives are messages and testimonies in themselves. We should boldly do what God desires of us. We should courageously follow Christ, pursuing righteousness in all that we do, seeking to please God in every aspect of our lives. In so doing, our lives can become a message that speaks against the contrasting ways of the world. While we boldly decide not to be drunkards, our lives therefore shine a contrastive light on those in the world who are drunkards. While we courageously pursue right, ethical behavior in the work force, such as refusing to embezzle, bribe, or blackmail, our actions place those who do such things into the light, so that our deeds speak a message. Our lives show the world’s actions for what they really are. The message is clear: Jesus Christ changes lives, transforming those who are morally corrupt into righteous sons and daughters of God. As ambassadors, it is important that our lives are speaking this message. When they do, we can also boldly proclaim with our mouths the message of the gospel, but our words must be backed by our deeds, lest our words show themselves to be empty and void. As ambassadors, we have the responsibility to boldly proclaim the message in both our words and our actions.

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