Paul Requests Prayers of the Ephesians
And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Eph. 6:19,20)
Paul has presented the call to arms of all Christian soldiers. They need to arise and put on the complete armor of God. As a prisoner under house arrest in Rome, Paul awaited his appeal to Caesar. The Roman soldier holding him under guard was perhaps a model for the spiritual armor for the Christian soldier. Each part of the armor represented a spiritual aspect of the armor of the saints: the belt symbolized truth, the breastplate stands for righteousness, the feet were shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; faith corresponded to the shield, the helmet represented salvation; and finally the sword exemplified the Word of God given to man by the Spirit.
After describing the armor of God Paul calls upon all of God’s army to communicate with their heavenly headquarters. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Eph. 6:18). Attached to the thought of the saints at Ephesus praying for all the saints reminds Paul of his need for their prayers. Paul often ended his letters to the churches with personal prayer requests (Rom. 15:30-33, Col. 4:2-4; 1 Thess. 5:25, 2 Thess. 3:1-2).
Ambassador’s Need for Prayer – and for me (6:19a)
Whereas all the saints are soldiers of Christ, in this context Paul sees himself as an ambassador for the Lord. While under house arrest he was humbled to the point of needing prayers for strength. Even the strongest of Christians or apostles should be wise enough to see their own dependency upon the prayers of the righteous. Although he was in Rome far from Ephesus, Paul had the faith in the power of intercessory prayer to bridge the distance. After all what is a few hundred miles when it comes to the power of prayer to reach the God of Heaven? Christians are to pray for the leaders of his land, even those who are wicked atheists. How much more should they pray for their leaders. If the lion kills the shepherd, the sheep will be next. Paul needed their prayer just as much as they needed Paul’s preaching. Just as Joshua was needed to use the sword to lead the Israelites in battle, so Moses and the rod he held up was needed too. Furthermore, even Moses needed Aaron and Hur to support Moses’ arms as he held up the rod of God. For these reasons and more Paul often requested prayers from the brethren. “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me” (Romans 15:30).
Opportunity for Speaking Freely – that utterance may be given unto me (6:19b)
The Greeks were said to be the inventors of democracy. Citizens of Greece also enjoyed the freedom of speech which inherently goes with it. The term for freedom of speech in the Greek is parresia. Twice Paul employs this term to denote the boldness to speak uninhibited by others and circumstances. Although the original messages he preached came from God through the Spirit, he needed the opportunity given him to preach it freely. This is a prayer requests all preachers and teachers of the truth should request of God for one another.
Boldly to Speak with Courage – that I may open my mouth boldly (6:19c)
During times of persecution any messenger of God could be pressured by temptation to compromise the message. Paul like the other apostles needed boldness to preach effectively and consistently. Consider the prayer of the apostles with the church at Jerusalem. “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31).
Clarity of Message – to make known the mystery of the gospel (6:19d)
The “mystery” is not some Divine unknown secret to Paul It is the mystery of the Gospel which has been revealed to him in by Holy Spirit. A mystery is only unknown until it is revealed. Paul does not find it hard to understand or teach. According to this letter to the Ephesians it is the mystery of how the Jews and Gentiles are reconciled into Christ’s body, the church (Eph. 3:3-6,9). It is the same message which he has been preaching to both Jew and Gentile throughout his missionary journeys. Ironically, it is this same mystery revealed which has landed him in prison time and again. In Paul’s case it is not a misunderstanding of the mystery which is the problem. Paul in fact wants to make the message clear to all as well as have the courage to preach it. “Clarity without courage is like sunshine in the desert: plenty of light but nothing worth looking at. Courage without clarity is like a beautiful landscape at night time: plenty to see, but no light by which to enjoy it” (Stott 286).
Responsibility as Ambassador – For which I am an ambassador (6:20a)
As mentioned previously, Paul considers himself an ambassador. The term “ambassador” is from the Greek presbeuo, which means “the emperor’s legate.” A presbeuo was a representative of the king or a governing official. Being an ambassador is the same as saying Paul is an apostle of Christ. An ambassador represents the interests of the sovereign of one nations to that of another nation. In this case he is representing the kingdom of God to the lost in the kingdom of darkness. His message is that of reconciliation to God through Christ.
Difficulty Notwithstanding – in bonds (6:20b)
“The term ‘chain’ (alusis) signifies among other things the (golden) adornment(s) worn around the neck and wrists by rich ladies or high ranking men. On festive occasions ambassadors wear such chains in order to reveal the riches, power and dignity of the government they represent” (Barth 782). Having just mentioned his duty as an ambassador, perhaps Paul wants to point out that his bonds or chains are not a negative thing, but represent the position he holds in the Kingdom of Christ. So, mentioning his chains is not an attempt to garner sympathy or ask for prayers that he be set free or as an apology for his condition. The very bonds which ended his travels in preaching are the not opening up opportunities for him to preach to others. He does not even consider himself a prisoner of Rome. Instead Paul calls himself “a prisoner…on behalf of you Gentiles” and “a prisoner for the Lord” (Eph. 3:1; Eph. 4:1). Being a prisoner does not take away his obligation or his credentials as the Lord’s ambassador. In fact, while under house arrest in Rome, Paul met with Jewish leaders “in great numbers.” He even converted a runaway slave, Onesimus. For two years he was “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). Shortly after writing this letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and explained his situation. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:12-14). Even during his second incarceration in Rome Paul remember that their prayers for him had been answered during his first arrest in Rome “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion”(2 Tim. 4:17).
Necessity – that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (6:20c)
Paul always felt a deep sense of obligation to preach the Gospel. It made no difference to whom or from where. He told the church at Corinth, “for if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).
Soldiers of Christ arise and put your armor on to stand in spiritual warfare. Furthermore, Soldiers of Christ must kneel in prayer for one another, even an ambassador in prison.
– Daniel R. Vess