The Essence of Prayer VIII – Perseverance and Watchfulness

Ephesians 6  Paul is teaching on the spiritual warfare of the Christian life.  Part of this spiritual warfare is the global nature of the participants, v. 12  Paul exhorts the believer to be strong in the Lord.  This is not advice to put “your best foot forward”, to depend on your own strength.  This is a spiritual battle and the strength is ultimately the Lord’s, not the believer’s.  We have been looking at the component of prayer and in particular supplication – an element of prayer that is not superficial but in the mode of battle.  This is a real battle; there are real wounds inflicted.  The believer must enter into this spiritual warfare on a real level.  That is supplication.  Beyond that, Paul exhorts the believer to watchfulness, to perseverance, and again to supplication.  The believer is called to watchful, persevering supplication.  The believer cannot just stand back and once in a while throw up a prayer – he must enter in and be engaged on the front line.  He is not just a sometime warrior on rotation; he is a front-line warrior.  During World War II, it became clear that it was a strategic necessity for us to take Iwo Jima from the Japanese.  We didn’t know there were miles and miles of tunnels in these islands but the Marines went in anyway.  Three out of four were killed in the first assault but they took the islands, changing the outcome of the war.  The Christian must be of that caliber.

This is call to prayer and not fainting, not being overcome.  Matthew 26:36-45  When Peter, James, and John were in the Garden with the Lord Jesus, they were reeling under the prophecy that one of the disciples would betray Him and from knowing that He was going to death.  They were emotionally and spiritually overcome and could not even stay awake.  We are frequently emotionally and spiritually overcome in the battle.  Thus Paul’s exhortation to watch and persevere.

How must we respond to battlefield conditions?

  1. We must watch our own hearts; we must be aware of ourselves, Proverbs 4:23.  Peter had been warned that Satan wanted to sift him but he ignored it.  If we aren’t physically fit we can’t run a foot race.  In the same way, if we don’t watch our hearts we can’t pray.
  2. Prayer that perseveres, that is ongoing, is not natural. We are a little lackadaisical, happy-go-lucky.  There may be an occasional crying out when we are in need but persevering prayer is not natural.  It is also not without ceasing, so we are exhorted to these particular elements of prayer.  Hebrews 5:7  This was the prayer of the Lord Jesus but we shy away from it because it is not natural.  But it is a battlefield necessity for the believer


What does it look like?

  1. Prayer that is regular, serious, and engaged deals with the issues of life that are hard to face.

This is prayer that acknowledges desperate need for sinfulness and daily difficulties.  It recognizes that we cannot make the changes needed in ourselves or others, that we need God’s intervention.  Peter, James, and John may have been overcome by guilt and they could not pray.  Persevering prayer is not “it’s all my fault” prayer.  It goes beyond guilt because it is in the presence of the Savior.

  1. It is not shallow but engaged, intense communion with God.
  2. It needs to be daily and regular.
  3. It needs to be time set aside, not just in the midst of daily activities. But it needs to be realistic.  Don’t try to start out with an hour.  Start with ten minutes and then expand it.


There is an implied promise, James 5:16.  The fervent prayer of the believer has real power.