Home Media Sermons by Pastor Nicki Coertze Series 6. Experiencing the power of the cross . No 13:- Dead to Satan (Part 9) Praying in the Spirit 1

. No 13:- Dead to Satan (Part 9) Praying in the Spirit 1

 

EXPERIENCING THE POWER OF THE CROSS


PRAYING IN THE BATTLE

 

Ephesians 6:18-21 (ESV) 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

For the past 8 weeks we have been looking at the victory we enjoy as children of God over Satan through the power of the cross where Satan was defeated. Now while Satan is a defeated foe, he is still active and will remain public enemy number 1 for Christians until our final glorification. So for the past few weeks we looked at our combat against Satan and here in Ephesians 6 we saw the importance of taking up the full armour of God so that when the day of evil comes we will be able to stand. Last week we looked at the last part of the armour which is not only a defensive part but also an offensive part and that is the Sword of the Spirit. However Paul is not finished with his argument about the armour of God yet. He ends it by wrapping it up with verse 18-20.

Many of you might know the book written by John Bunyan entitled “Pilgrim’s Progress”. In it he talks about prayer as the final weapon in the armour. He says ‘when all else has failed there is prayer’.  It reminds me of the saying: “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint on their knees.” Well whether you view it as a weapon or not, prayer is here enjoined to the armour of God and it is the closing theme of the whole epistle, so it necessitates us spending time on it.

I think we could maybe say that prayer is to the battle armour what skin is to the body. You just never take it off. I remember a song I heard as a child so I had to check it up. It says:

You've gotta have skin
All you really need is skin
Skin's the thing that if you got it outside
It helps keep your insides in
It covers your nose
And it's wrapped around your toes
And inside it you put lemon meringue
And outside you hang your clothes

Skin is what you feel at home in
And without it furthermore
Both your liver and abdomen
Would keep falling on the floor
And you'd be dressed in your intestine

A Siamese twin
Needs an extra set of skin
When the Doctor knows that you're feeling sick
Where does he stick his needle in
In the end of your skin

All your friends and all your kinfolks
Whether poor or whether rich
They have all got lots of skin folds
It's convenient when they itch
Nothing can match it when you scratch it

It fits perfectly
Yours fits you and mine fits me
When you're sitting down
It folds and looks grand
And then when you stand
It's where you've been
Ain't you glad you got skin?

When you were just a little baby
Well your skin fit fine
And it's still going to fit you
When you're 6 foot 9
So whether you're fat, tall
Big, small, chubby or thin
Ain't you glad you got skin?

Now I know it is a humorous song, but it makes the point I want to make today. Prayer is that 24/7 activity that takes place 365 days a year, which carries us in our walk with the Lord. You gotta have prayer, as prayer will keep your spiritual body together even in the battle. We learnt in our first week on the armour that we stand in the strength of the Lord and His mighty power, and while the whole armour acknowledges that, I believe prayer is that part of our Christian discipline through which we keep on acknowledging our dependence on God, to God. Luke 18:1 (ESV) “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” No matter how difficult the challenge is, no matter how formidable the enemy, no matter how hard the victory, men ought always to pray and not to faint. These are the two options. You can pray or you can faint. The Lord opts for the praying side.

I think that what Paul is doing here in Ephesians 6 by latching prayer on just after the armour is to say: ‘Christian just before you think you are invincible to the enemies attacks, which in a sense you are, don’t be overconfident, don’t start relying on yourself, don’t look at your doctrinal security which is what the full armour is, always look at God.’

Everything to do with the armour so far was knowledge about the parts of the armour and how it protects us, but now you must look at your relationship with God, without which you are nothing.’ John 15:5 (ESV) “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Yes, you have all the blessing and all the guarantees, but you are still human and still a sinner saved by grace, and your personal relationship with the Lord is what is going to keep you at the end of the day.  We must never become smug and feel adequate in ourselves and think that we can just march on in the understanding of these theological truths with no need of God. I think it’s a latent danger that Christians who have a very strong knowledge of doctrine, a fairly effective grip on principles of living the Christian life can become satisfied and that sort of heart-rending passionate constant dependence on God isn’t there. And that is sin. And that is dangerous.

So when all is said and done, Paul says, you remain dependent on God, your relationship with God is personal, it is not just about wearing the armour, that relationship must be kept in check. Now, stop celebrating the strength of the military you are in, get to know the General and that leads us to Ephesians 6:18 (ESV) “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

So what is prayer? I believe it is simply our continual spiritual communication with God. Prayer is the breath of the Christian’s life; it is the air which we breathe because without prayer there is no relationship and there is no life. The fullness of the Christian life can only really be understood and enjoyed in the realm of prayer. All of us need to be moving throughout all the days and hours of our lives in the presence of the Lord aware of His presence and in communication with Him. That’s the general essence of what this is coming to. Sadly for most Christians prayer seems to be something of an option. But here it’s the culmination of everything, on top of everything, with all your blessings and all the armour, praying at all times is on top of that.

Now notice the text before us and something interesting pops up. There is a little word tucked into verse 18 four times and that is the word ‘all’. This is important; this is critical, it is pervasive and this has far reaching effects and this gives me four relatively easy points directly out of the text. We will tackle some today and the rest next week. We will look at the frequency of prayer based on “praying at all times”, then we will look at the variety of prayer based on “all prayer and supplication”, then we will look at the manner of prayer which is based on “alertness with all perseverance”, and then lastly we will look at the object of our prayers which is ‘all saints’.

Firstly, the frequency of prayer.

“Praying at all times.”

For many Christians the frequency of prayer is limited to a little prayer in the morning and a closing one at the end of the day, and then of course we must not forget meal times. There is even an age old song that encourages this kind of prayer lifestyle. The song goes:

“Whisper a prayer in the morning,
Whisper a prayer at noon.
Whisper a prayer in the evening,
He will keep your heart in tune.

God answers prayer in the morning,
God answers prayer at noon.
God answers prayer in the evening.
He will keep your heart in tune.”

Now the words of the song seems cool, but I believe it is contrary to Biblical teaching as far as New Testament believers are concerned. With all respect, I do not want to serve a God who only answers prayer in the morning, noon and evening, and I am sure He does not want children who pray three times a day. It might work for Muslims, but it does not work for those who serve the real and true and Living God. Now it is true that in the Old Testament you for example have Daniel praying three times during the day, but Daniel knew nothing of New Testament theology which is “Christ in me, the hope of glory.’ Other songs that have also encouraged this kind of praying is songs like ‘sweet hour of prayer’ which created this mind-set of a single session with God.

You might say now. Pastor Nicki, I know where you are going, but is this not what Jesus did? Mark 1:35 (ESV) surely says: “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Now listen carefully, if this was what Jesus did every morning, traditionally, ritualistically, the next two verses would not make sense. Mark 1:36-37 (ESV) “And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” If He did this every morning, then somebody would know where He was. I believe Jesus went aside that morning to be alone with the Father in the light of what was to come, which we see in Mark 1:38-39 (ESV) “And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” There was purpose in His time alone with God, but I do not believe that Jesus Christ’s communion with God was restricted to a morning, noon and evening prayer.

So what does ‘all times’ in Ephesians 6 mean? It means exactly what it says. It means simply this, that as a child of God in the continuous presence of God you have to remain in communication with God 24/7 for 365 days a year whether it is praying to the Lord as you continue your day or whether you go aside for a specific purpose. If it is all about a morning and evening prayer, and simply ‘for what we are about to receive’ during meal times, we are messing up the very understanding of prayer and it’s meaning in our relationship with God. What stuns me is that we will thank God for our food, but buy a new car or a new house and not thank Him for that.

What does the New Testament teach us? Jesus said in Luke 21:36 (ESV) “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Some translations simply say: “Watch and pray always.” This does not mean that you do not go to bed, it is really about being watchful. It is like we say in Afrikaans, ‘jy moet wakker slaap’. It does not work in English but it means ‘be awake in your sleep’.

The early Apostles said in Acts 6:4 (ESV) “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Most translations put in the word ‘continually’, as ‘devote’ is in the present continuous tense. It is said of Cornelius in Acts 10:2 (ESV) that he was “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” Paul writes to the church in Rome and says to them in Romans 12:12 (ESV) “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Colossians 4:2 (ESV) Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV) “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV) “pray without ceasing,” 2 Timothy 1:3 (ESV) “I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”

Then there are all those verses where Paul will say something like this. ‘Whenever I think of you, I pray for you, or I thank God for you.’ So for Paul, prayer was not a two times a day deal, it was not a three times a day deal it was a 24/7 deal. There is a great spin off in this, because if you pray continuously, then you are very much aware that God is with you continuously and that knowledge will affect your life without a shadow of doubt.

Do you realise that the reason we pray wrong, and recite prayers is very much because we do not pray 24/7. For the Jews in the Old Testament it was about formula prayers, hours to pray, times to pray, places to pray, postures in which to pray. That’s not what we’re talking about, we’re talking about a life pattern. We’re talking about a consciousness of God’s presence at all times that leaves my heart open fully to Him. That’s what this is all about. To be so God-conscious that you see and experience everything with reference to Him, and that you see all events in life as related to God.

 

If you see something good, what is your immediate response to what is good? It is to offer God thanks and praise and adoration. You see evil; you see sin, what is your response? You ask Him to make it right. You confess it. You pray for the sinner. You grieve that God is dishonoured, that His name is reproached. You ask God to vindicate Himself and to bring righteousness where there is only iniquity. You see trouble. You see people in distress.
What is your initial response? To go to God and ask that God will somehow be honoured in the distress and bring deliverance that can glorify His name. It’s simply living your life in that kind of dominant God-consciousness so that God is the filter through which every experience passes.

What it means at the end of the day is to have a God-mind and God eyes as we walk through our days with total commitment to Him. Prayer is relational, and your relationship with God does not exist in segments. Christian, never switch off to God. This whole service this morning should be about you in relation to God to the point that from the time you prepared for church you should have had a God-conscious experience. You want to be here, you want to be on time, because it reflects your walk with the Lord, when you arrive, you thank God in your heart for fellow brothers and sisters, the time of worship is prayer, your giving is prayer, sitting under His Word you are in prayer, as you ask God to speak to you, and as I preach the Word of God you are in prayer. Responses like ‘God thank you for revealing that to me, I need to change,’ or ‘Lord, my mind has just been touched regarding somebody whom I love dearly, and I want to bear him or her before you now’.

Prayer that is continuous is not praying with a shopping list mentality. Simply what I always call slot machine prayers, as you just keep putting in, pulling the handle and if there are no results, who cares, tomorrow is another day. True communication and relationships are not results driven, they are heart driven. I share how I feel, it is not always asking.

True prayer Christians acknowledge that every single thing going on with you or around you is worth talking to God about. I must acknowledge that when prayer was all about a morning and evening thing, it did not really mean much to me, as your mind wonders and you simply sit and wonder, now what more must I add. That is when we start with this ‘dear Lord, bless, and be with, and give me, and help me and we tend to waffle, because we end up praying prayers that is non-relational and therefore non-conversational.

When Paul said in Colossians 4:2 (ESV) “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving,” he uses the Greek verb  proskartereo {pros-kar-ter-eh'-o}

for ‘continue’ which means to adhere to one, to be devoted or constant to one, to be steadfastly attentive unto, to give unremitting care to a thing, to continue all the time in a place, to persevere and not to faint, to show one's self courageous for and to be in constant readiness for one and to wait on constantly. I believe all of those statements fit with the intention here. Paul says, watch what is going on around you and keep talking to God about it.

Logos family, what I desire for all of us is a God-consciousness. Sometimes it will mean that we will question God, and even complain to God, like Habakkuk who says in Habakkuk 1:2 (ESV) “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” Let me show you a man who is aware of the presence of God, a man who has a God consciousness, and a man who was honest with God even when his honesty towards God hurt. Look at the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:7-9 (ESV) O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long."

What an honest conversation towards God? But listen, his honesty is reflected in his prayer, but it did not affect his commitment towards God one little bit. Listen to the next few verses: “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

This is what I said earlier about that 24/7 praying will make you more aware of God and will affect the outcome of your commitment. ‘Lord I am struggling with this, marriage, relationships, sin, whatever, but at least I can talk to you about it as it is happening, and immediately find my solutions in you.’ It is very different than a whisper in the morning, noon and evening, as it drives you towards immediate results and commitment. A God-consciousness is not always easy, and it does not always imply understanding, sometimes it is a struggling God-consciousness, but it is always a blessed God-consciousness.

So you get up in the morning and you thank God for a new day, the first thing you encounter is an angry wife or mother in law, and you thank God that you at least have one even though she is angry, if she burns the food, well thank God for burnt offerings, so you sit down for breakfast and you thank God for the food, you get in the car to drive to work and you thank God that you have a car, and instead of asking God to drive, you commit yourself to be a righteous Christian who keeps the rules of the road, because you are clothed in the breastplate of righteousness, you arrive at work and you immediately are confronted by a colleague who is the biggest pain one can imagine, and you pray for him that God will help you to see him through the eyes of Jesus and to love him, you sit down to work and struggle with wisdom and discernment, and you ask God for it, suddenly you encounter a situation where the easiest way out is to lie, and you immediately thank God for the belt of truth, which qualifies you as a truthful person and you tell the truth no matter the cost and so I can keep on going. But it is all about you in relation to a living God, seeking to glorify Him in everything.

I believe that when you are a 24/7 Christian, you will be in 24/7 prayer, and you will be able to agree with Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

How can I do that? I can when I live with a God-consciousness. This kind of thinking is exciting, meaningful and brings about WOW Christianity. Isn’t that what we all want? May God, give us the grace to attain that.

 

Amen.

Logos Community Church: - 9 June 2013