Prayer in the Spirit – Ephesians 6:18 Sermon

In this sermon Tim continues our Ephesians series by calling us to pray in the spirit on all occasions, to be aware that we are in a spiritual battle and to stand firmw with the armour of God!

Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday July 17, 2021.


Change to plans – this was meant to be the final week in Ephesians…

  • Was going to talk on these last verses in Ephesians about prayer and declaring the Gospel… leading to a season on outreach and evangelism… 
  • Uncle Nath and launching Alpha…
  • In our grand scheming it was all going to flow so wonderfully effectively. 

Anyhow, like a lot of things, our plans are evolving…

  • Guess what – instead of 1 more week in Ephesians, we are going to do 3 more weeks in Ephesians! Waahoo! Dance! (music plays while I dance)…
  • Why – because Paul actually closes the letter speaking about proclamation, and encouragement and people of encouragement… 
  • So we don’t want to skip over that!
  • Not in a time like this where we all need to be encouraged. 
  • I wonder have you ever had some one cheer you on or encourage you and not felt uplifted!
  • I love it in Mark 3 where Jesus renames some of his disciples the “sons of thunder” 
  • Was that because they farted a lot? I don’t know.
  • But I would love on my tomb stone to be called a “son of encouragement.” Anyhow I digress…

So let’s have a read of today’s passage – Ephesians 6:18-20

  • A reminder… Paul is writing from jail in Rome to the church of Ephesus that he had helped establish over 2 years of ministry.
  • He loves them, and he has seen the remarkable good news of the gospel take hold of a people, made up of Jewish believers and gentile believers… 
  • And they had come from all kinds of spiritual backgrounds, including temple worship of the fertility goddess Artemis. You can read about it in Acts 19.
  • So Paul longs for them to stand firm in the faith, to be strong in the Lord (verse 10-110 knowing they are and will come against all kinds of opposition. 
  • Both from temptations, old ways of life, and spiritual forces of evil that are at work in the world. 

So Ephesians 6:17-18

17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

So really this passage is a continuation of what Greg has been preaching on the last 2 weeks.

  • It speaks to the reality of spiritual warfare and the need to be alert to what may destroy faith within us. 
  • As Greg helpfully pointed out, sometimes we hear stories of spiritual warfare in developing countries and think that is something that happens “over there”… but not really here. 
  • One of my first encounters with this kind of overt spiritual warfare was when I lived in Kenya
  • Young lady at Nairobi Pentecostal Church… manifested… prayed over and eventually was delivered.
  • Back story was she had moved to Nairobi from the country and was staying with an aunt who was into witchcraft… and she had been cursed by her aunt.

But you know even last week when we were in Byron Bay with Calum, you sense the spiritual warfare – everywhere you go there are Eastern spiritualities and crystals and tarots and so on…

  • Of course the world thinks this stuff is harmless. Uh, uh…
  • And we met a girl at Calum’s baptism who had been saved out of the New Age 
  • Spoke about how oppressive it was… and how coming to Jesus had changed her life.
  • Basically in the midst of nightmares and darkness she called out on the name of Jesus…
  • And she hasn’t looked back!

So again, you may think, yep in Africa, yep in a place like Byron, but what about in my world.

  • And I guess I would echo Greg’s thoughts from the last two weeks, that we are no less in a spiritual battle that would stop us from standing firm
  • So in our lives, what is it that makes relationships deteriorate and fall apart?
  • What is it that causes divisions and gossip and enmity within communities?
  • What is it that makes temptation so hard to resist? What is it that make addictions so hard to break. 
  • Says in the scriptures, do no let the devil get a foothold.

The idea being, that to us who belong to Jesus and have received all the blessings that Ephesians talks about – redemption and adoption into God’s family, forgiveness and grace!

  • Do not let the enemy get an inch of your life that may cause you to stumble!
  • And that may be being exposed to witchcraft or the New Age… or it may be opening doors to pornography, or substances or gambling…
  • And then you find yourself not able to stand firm in the faith. Right?
  • And the question is, who is behind all of this? 
  • Well the scriptures would tell us that it is the devil, spiritual forces at work in the world trying to undo the good work God has begun in you. 

You know think about pornography. I don’t mean to pick on it… the Lord knows there are a multitude of things that come against us…

  • But statistically a massive problem, particularly but not exclusively to men. 
  • And I don’t mean this to be condemning… but no point having a pulpit and not talking about real issues…
  • I just don’t see how it is any different to adultery. To cheating on your spouse. 
  • I mean get real, you don’t think you are in a spiritual battle? 
  • You don’t think the devil hasn’t used pornography to distort your mind and sow seeds of discord between you and your partner. 
  • I know of a marriage of some people who were here at Manly Life that busted up for that exact reason. 
  • And if it is an issue for you, don’t hide in the darkness, engage the battle… get help, fight the good fight… 

So anyhow, Paul speak to the church in Ephesus and says be strong in the Lord!

  • He says stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  
  • And put on the armour of God. 
  • Right as Peter says in 1 Peter5:8 “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Far out… that just got real…
  • And as Pastor I see people get devoured all too often. And it is so sad. 
  • People get taken out because as that verse in 1 Peter 5 starts, they didn’t pay attention to when it says “Be alert and of sober mind.”

To the question of how do we stand firm against spiritual forces of evil and all of the things that would make Christians fall away. 

  • Paul says “put on the armour of God.”
  • Paul has said there are some defensive strategies. 
  • And this week we come to the offensive strategies. 

The defensive strategies were… verse 14 of Ephesians 14

  • The belt of truth around your waist. Right elsewhere it says the devil is a liar. But we protect ourselves by living in the truth. 
  • It talks about the breastplate of righteousness. That is both your position before God because of what Jesus has done on the cross, and also our increasing holiness that comes from following the Lord.
  • Feet fitted with the gospel of peace. So we are protected from attacks by being peacemakers and agents of forgiveness and mercy.
  • The shield of faith – right? Take your stand with the gift of faith in a cynical and self serving world. 
  • Finally on the defensive armour, the helmet of salvation. 

And now Paul says we, like any good soldier do not just try and stand firm by defending off attacks…

  • But we get on the front foot and attack… we take ground for the kingdom
  • So verse 17 mentions the sword of the Spirit. We have God’s presence at work within us to push back against what would make us stumble!
  • And the Spirit operates through our prayer and proclamation. 
  • We speak out our prayers in the Spirit.
  • And like Paul requests, we make known the mysteries of God by declaring the Word fearlessly. 
  • So lets go through this passage… looking at prayer and then next week, proclamation…

So prayer…

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

So when it comes to engaging the battle, Paul suggests to the Ephesians that they should pray in the Spirit on all occasions. 

  • Now clearly in the scriptures there are two types of prayer, that which we do with our mind, and that which we do in the Spirit, and this is most commonly known as praying in tongues.
  • So prayer with our mind is amazing… we pray the Lord’s prayer. That is a conscience, articulated prayer that Jesus teaches us to pray.
  • Elsewhere we are encouraged to bring to God all kinds of prayers and petitions. 
  • So we have worries or requests and praying with our mind, we bring these things to our heavenly Father.

But then there are times to pray in the Spirit. And this is where the Spirit of God, alive in us helps us to pray in a way that our minds do not understand.

  • And yet it is fruitful in spiritual warfare and building up the faith of the individual and body of believers. 
  • God if you like helps us to pray in our weakness, to take on the things that are seemingly unable to overcome. 
  • It is a wonderful gift, or piece of armour that the Lord gives us in the battle we find ourselves in.

Now should we talk about tongues and prayer? 

  • I don’t think it is something I have spoken about much here at Manly Life, even though it’s a part of many of our spiritual lives.
  • Should just note here that profound NT scholar Gordon Fee helps me here a lot…
  • He states; “There is every good reason to think that Paul intends this phrase “praying in the Spirit” to refer to that form of prayer in which the Spirit assumes a special role in the praying, especially, though probably not exclusively, praying in tongues.”
  • So there is praying with the mind, and praying in/with the Spirit. 
  1.  Not everyone speaks in tongues

That might seem a weird place to start, but I think it is helpful to remind us that there aren’t different classes of Christians. 

  • I mean I have met Christians who pray in tongues who are a nightmare…
  • And of course this is not me saying this, the Apostle Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthains 12-14, in which he makes clear not all have this gift from God. 
  • So while we are told to desire the spiritual gifts available, not all, have all gifts. Because we are a body with different parts. 
  • So God gives different gifts to different people and many mature, mighty men and women of the faith do not speak in tongues or pray in the Spirit in this way. 
  • Now why is this so. Why do dome pray in the Spirit and others pray mightily with their minds…
  • And I have a profound and spiritual answer to this… 
  • I don’t know. Maybe it’s a disposition thing or a personality thing, or a cerebral versus emotional thing. I don’t know. 
  • But if you desire to pray in the Spirit, pursue it, but also don’t be worried if nothing happens. 
  1.  It is given to help us in our weakness

And I think this is an insight into why it helps us stand firm in the battle.

  •  And I get this particularly from the Romans 8 reference to praying in the Spirit. 
  • Let me read it – Romans 8:26-27

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

You see, so often in the spiritual battle that we are in, it is in our weakness that we begin to pray in the Spirit, as God in one sense kicks in and helps us out.

  • What it says is the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
  • It is in our weakness where we don’t know what to pray, that God prays for us, or with us, or in us… 
  • The first time I ever prayer in tongues was in South Africa…
  • Another example happened in this room… Jesse and Em Mitchell…
  1. It is not to be overused, particularly in corporate gatherings.

We know that right, because of 1 Corinthians 12-14, where there is all kinds of warnings against excessive use of tongues in public meetings… 

  • Mainly for the sake on unbelievers not thinking we’ve gone livin ‘ lavida loco!
  • So we don’t want to get obsessed maybe with our own spiritual importance if this is a gift God has given you…
  • And of course we are told early in Ephesians that a result of being filled with the Spirit is singing spiritual songs… 
  • So it is not something we avoid completely in church meetings, and indeed in our meetings someone may pray in tongues and then have that interpreted as a way of encouraging the believers…
  • So not too much… not too little. Sounds like a lot of things!
  1. It can really help 

And I guess this is what I really want to focus on… if we take it to be real and true that there is a spiritual battle going on. We need to be clothed in the armour of God. 

  • We need to go into battle with the resources that God has given to us. 
  • Verse 17 stuff… the Spirit is the sword of God! 
  • Right, the Spirit helps us declare the Word of God over situations… right? Declaring Jesus over situations, declaring his Word. 
  • Declaring that the light has overcome the darkness.
  • Declaring our spiritual authority that has been given to us in Christ. 
  • And verse 17, the Spirit is the Word of God… because the truth is present in his presence!

So praying in the Spirit, declaring the truth of God is very powerful!

  • Jacqui Pulinger talks about whenever she felt cold in her faith she would take her team in Hong Kong and go and lay hands on people and pray in the Spirit…
  • And then whoosh! Alive would come her faith!
  • And I think it helps because while our prayers are great and important and expected in our Christian lives…
  • Praying in the Spirit is taking the battle to the enemy with the resources of God. 

When Victoria had a stroke… I can assure you I prayed both with my mind and with the Spirit. 

  • Now depending what story you live in, you could understand that as simply a misfortunate medical emergency.
  • Or if you come into a spiritual awareness of what can often lie behind the events of life…
  • Victoria has often said to me that growing up she had many premonitions that she would die young.
  • And she believes that the day of her stroke 7 years ago, may have been the day the enemy planned to take her out of action.
  • But God. But God. 
  • And as she was in surgery and word got out of what had happened, my prayers in the Spirit and the prayers of faithful Christians, both through their minds prayers and in the Spirit sought the Lord. 
  • And as you know we believe we got a miracle that day with Victoria’s full recovery and no deficits. 

Stand firm Manly Life. Stand firm against the enemies plans and evil spiritual forces at work in the world and around you today!

  • Don’t get taken out. You are loved by God and you are given the armour of God to stand firm.
  • Stand firm Manly Life. Don’t let your marriage get taken out. 
  • Don’t let pornography take you out. 
  • Don’t let bitterness or division or loose words take you out. Stand firm. 
  • And pray in the Spirit on all occasions….

So finally, how do we start praying in the Spirit?

  • I have another deeply theological answer. I don’t know…
  • But here is what I have seen…
  • Often in deeply felt spiritual crisis or battles…
  • Often in an atmosphere of faith and worship… there is something ecstatic about it… 
  • Often imparted from a spiritual mentor or leader who has lived the battle and imparts it to the next gen. 
  • I saw this with Jacqui Pulinger. 
  • Finally I would say just start making noise… abba, papa…

Published by timgiovanelli

My wife Victoria and I are planting a new church in Manly, NSW

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