17. Spiritual Vigilance

Check Your Panoply

". . . during every prayer and petition

praying on every occasion, in spirit, being vigilant also for it . . ."

PUNCTUATION MARKS as we have them in our English versions are not inspired, and so are always open to some question. In this article, we propose to repunctuate Ephesians 6:17 and 18 to draw attention to a very striking interpretation of these verses. In order to do this, we shall, for the moment, leave out the lightface word “be” (in “be praying”) which is now found in the CONCORDANT VERSION, and arrange them in eight short lines, with the important words in italics:

Receive the helmet of salvation
and the sword of the spirit,
which is a declaration of God,
during every prayer and petition
praying on every occasion, in spirit,
being vigilant also for it
with all perseverance and petition
concerning all the saints . . . ”

The above arrangement shows that praying and being vigilant (the first words in lines five and six) are both connected with receive, the introductory word of the quotation. Our arrangement also serves to show that spirit is the underlying thought, the common denominator in every phase of the operation. This is no surprise to us, for, time and again, in our previous studies, we have found evidence to show that we are engaged in a spiritual strife with spiritual powers and that our being in Christ is not enough to equip us for this warfare. We need a spiritual suit of armor. This is a figure of speech for appropriating truth, righteousness, peace, and faith, to which the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit are added by our Lord. In accord with this trend of thought, we receive helmet and sword while we are praying in spirit, at the same time being vigilant also for it.

Three different operations are necessary in order to invigorate us in the Lord and in the might of His strength. Following the sequence given in Ephesians 6:10-20, they are: our cooperation, the Lord’s operation, and our prayer and petition. While putting on the panoply of God, our cooperation (in girding the loins, putting on the cuirass, etc.) should be accompanied by such prayers and petitions as were practiced by Paul and his associates, for nothing can ever be accomplished without “praying on every occasion, in spirit.” As long as we cooperate in the four phases described in Ephesians 6:14-16, there will be pertinent evidence of the Lord’s operation in that we are given a helmet and a sword.

The sword is defined as a “declaration of God,” a truth that originates in God and is communicated to us by His spirit through His written Word. We may even be unaware of the fact that we are wielding this sword of the spirit when we are praying unintermittingly, in spirit, and are vigilant for this operation of the spirit.

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In our spirits, we are aware of our relationship with God Who has created us, and Whose holy spirit is homing within us so that we can praise Him unintermittingly without neglecting our daily duties. Hence it is possible to maintain a spiritual attitude which will enable us, even without conscious effort, to remain constantly in harmony with God. Thus all our work can be done in an atmosphere of fullest subjection to Him. This unspoken attitude of our own spirit will find its expression in thoughts or words of prayer as soon as an opportunity presents itself. We might rouse from sleep with words of praise and prayer on our lips, especially if we fell asleep in peace with God and men. Human language fails to voice to the full the glory of Him Who shines in our hearts, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ Who died for our sakes, making peace through the blood of His cross!

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Since “we obtained . . . the spirit which is of God . . . we may be perceiving that which is being graciously given to us by God, which we are speaking also, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by spirit, matching spiritual [blessings with] spiritual [words] ” (1 Cor.2:12,13). When we are fully aware of the riches of His grace which He lavishes on us, then we are overwhelmed by the earnest desire to cooperate with Him for the laud of His glory. Enjoying this constant harmony with God means praying continuously even though our mouth is silent and our head and hands are occupied with other things.

But whenever we are not busy for a moment we will become conscious again of our harmonious relationship with God. When we have a second or a minute for ourselves, no special effort is necessary in order to establish contact with God. It is there already, and our spontaneous praise and prayer will confirm this fact by means of words taught by His spirit. Since human wisdom cannot perceive God’s gracious gift, it cannot appreciate it either. Only by means of God’s own holy spirit may we perceive that which is graciously given to us by Him. And only through His spirit, which we obtained, are we able to express our heartfelt appreciation with appropriate words. They are words from the Divine vocabulary, which He uses in order to introduce us to the full range of the counsel of His will. They are words taught by His spirit—the only words which match our spiritual blessings! In spirit, we can always have a full awareness of these graces, and thus enjoy closest fellowship with God, even while we are going about our daily tasks.

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We have ample scriptural evidence to show that “praying unintermittingly” goes hand in hand with a number of other things, some of which are mentioned in Paul’s prayer guides. As compared with them, the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-19 differs in the admonition of verse 20, “Scorn not prophecies!” (But we must remember that the Thessalonian epistles were written very early in Paul’s ministry, at a time when the gift of prophecy was especially adapted to meet the need of the ecclesias until God’s complete revelation should be given in the prison epistles. The moment this was done, no such admonition was necessary any longer, and, adapted to our needs, it would rather read: Scorn not the prison epistles!)

Some of Paul’s prayer guides were discussed in the second and third articles of this series (volume 51, pages 85-92 and 130- 136). The texts now under consideration for comparison are taken from Ephesians 6:17-20; Philippians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:3-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-19; 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

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The common feature of all these passages of Scripture is peace and joy in holy spirit. Peace and joy are the outstanding characteristics of our spiritual vigilance when we are in harmony with God. A threefold evidence of this attitude should be discernible to the spiritual eye, such as that which we read of in Romans 14:18, ” . . . for he who in this is slaving for Christ, is well pleasing to God, and attested by men.” The Greek for “attested” is dokimos which we render qualified elsewhere (e.g. 2 Tim.2:15). We will use the latter term in listing the pertinent parts from the five texts (as indicated above) under one of the three headings: Pleasing to God, Slaving for Christ, Qualified as to men. (We will identify these parts by means of abbreviations: Eph., Phil., Col., 1 Thes., 1 Tim.).

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“Receive . . . the sword of the spirit, which is a declaration of God, during every prayer and petition praying on every occasion, in spirit, being vigilant also for it . . . ” (Eph.).

“Let nothing be worrying you, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, that is superior to every frame of mind, shall be garrisoning your hearts and your apprehensions in Christ Jesus” (Phil.).

“We do not cease praying for you and requesting that you may be filled full with the realization of His will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding . . . growing in the realization of God, being endued with all power, in accord with the might of His glory, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col.).

“Be rejoicing always! Be praying unintermittingly! In everything be giving thanks! For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Quench not the spirit!” (1 Thes.).

“ . . . for this is ideal and welcome in the sight of our Saviour, God, Who wills that all mankind be saved and come into a realization of the truth” (1 Tim.).

In the word of God, the truth is safeguarded by repetition. This is the method used by His spirit in order to teach us the very words which match the spiritual blessings which He lavishes on us. Thus we are afforded the privilege of communicating with Him on every occasion, without worrying, praying, and giving thanks for everything in spiritual understanding. Peace and joy in holy spirit enables us to lead a mild and quiet life in all devoutness and gravity (1 Tim).

In 1 Thessalonians, praying unintermittingly is closely linked with rejoicing always and giving thanks in everything. In Ephesians, the emphasis is on every prayer and petition, every occasion, all perseverance, and all the saints. This universality of prayer as to mode, time, and with regard to persons is even more evident in the Greek where these words read: pasees, panti, pasee, and pantoon. All of this contributes to our spiritual vigilance and our harmony with God which is so pleasing to Him.

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“ . . . that to me expression may be granted,
in the opening of my mouth with boldness,
to make known the secret of the evangel,
for which I am conducting an embassy in a chain,
that in it I should be speaking boldly,
as I must speak” (Eph.).

“Be rejoicing in the Lord always!
Again, I will declare, be rejoicing!” (Phil.).

“ . . . to walk worthily of the Lord for all pleasing,
bearing fruit in every good work . . . ” (Col.).

“ . . . toiling among you and presiding over you in the Lord
and admonishing you . . . ” (1 Thes.).

“ . . . leading a mild and quiet life in all
devoutness and gravity . . . ” (1 Tim.).

The scriptural term “in the Lord” means slaving for Christ, both in walk and service. We have already seen that prayer and petition should concern all the saints. Hence let us plead for those who try to imitate Paul, but need boldness in order to make known the secret of the evangel. Let us give thanks for those who are rejoicing in their work for the Lord. Let us not cease praying for all the saints and requesting that their walk (and ours as well) be pleasing to the Lord. Let us pray for evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, and supervisors who are toiling in the Lord. Let us also look to the service which we accepted in the Lord, that we may fulfill it, as Paul reminded Archippus in Colossians 4:17. Because of our various limitations, our service may be just praise and prayer, but even then it will help us to lead a mild and quiet life in all devoutness and gravity.

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“ . . . petition concerning all the saints . . .
that expression may be granted . . .
to make known the secret of the evangel . . ."

"Let your lenience be known to all men:
the Lord is near!" (Phil.).

“We are thanking the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying concerning you, on hearing of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints, because of the expectation reserved for you in the heavens, which you hear before in the word of truth of the evangel, which, being present with you, according as in the entire world also, is bearing fruit and growing, according as it is among you also, from the day on which you hear and realized the grace of God in truth, according as you learned it from . . . our beloved fellow slave, who is a faithful dispenser of Christ for us, and who makes evident also to us your love in spirit . . . at the same time giving thanks to the Father, Who makes you competent for a part of the allotment of the saints, in light” (Col.)

“Now we are asking you, brethren, to perceive those who are toiling among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you, and to deem them exceedingly distinguished in love, because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves! Now we are entreating you, brethren, admonish the disorderly! Comfort the faint-hearted! Uphold the infirm! Be patient toward all! See that no one may be rendering evil for evil to anyone! But always pursue that which is good for one another as well as for all!” (1 Thes.)

“I am entreating then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, pleadings, thanksgiving be made for all mankind, for kings and all those being in a superior station . . . God wills that all mankind be saved . . . ” (1 Tim.)

A believer can hardly be considered qualified in human relations as long as he harbors a distorted idea of God’s plan for all mankind. Since divine truth is safeguarded by means of repetition, continuous thanksgiving for universal reconciliation will become a daily reminder to us of God’s eonian purpose. Such praise and prayer will help us toward a more objective outlook toward all men and events around us. We may be leading a mild and quiet life, not because God will remove wicked men and false brethren and turbulences, but because we will begin to look at them the way He does.

It is God’s irrevocable will that everyone be saved and come into a realization of the truth about God and himself. Though this will not happen in our lifetime, we can look at everyone as a friend and as a potential believer. For we know that he or she will be in the consummation. Hence we may rejoice in always including, all mankind in our pleadings, with thanksgiving not forgetting kings or presidents and others in a superior station, in this country and elsewhere. Thus, lenience toward all men will become part of our spiritual attitude.

In addition to this, we should not neglect praise and prayer when we hear how the word of the truth of the evangel is bearing fruit and growing in the entire world. There are many faithful dispensers of Christ for whom we should pray on every occasion, that to them expression may be granted in the opening of their mouths with boldness, to make known the secret of the evangel. Some of these beloved fellow slaves we know face to face, some of them we know by name only as we read of them in our magazine and elsewhere. Should we not give thanks for those who help us to realize the grace of God in truth? Should we not deem them exceedingly distinguished in love, because of their work? Since they are toiling among us, should we object to their presiding over us in the Lord and admonishing us?

When we give thanks for the faith of our fellow believers and the love which they have for all the saints, we may be patient toward all of them, despite their shortcomings. And we may be able to comfort the faint-hearted and uphold the infirm, we may even admonish the disorderly when we are qualified to do so.

The spiritual growth of a believer, when he follows Paul from Thessalonians and Timothy through Romans to the prison epistles, will be reflected by an ever-increasing range in his prayers, although the underlying spiritual attitude remains basically the same: pleasing to God, slaving for Christ, qualified as to men. We will not now go into the details of the above-mentioned prayer guides since they were discussed before. In a later article, D.V., we will take up Ephesians 3:14-21, in order to round out what Paul may have had in mind when he wrote, “during every prayer and petition.” Ephesians 1:15-23 has been dealt with earlier in this series. Nevertheless, we would like to re-emphasize its importance by quoting from volume 40, page 115.

“Perhaps the most important example of prayer for us in this administration is the petition for a spirit of wisdom and revelation. Paul prayed that we should have it, and God puts this desire into the hearts of those of His saints to whom He wishes to reveal Himself through a knowledge of the secrets which underlie the present administration (Eph.1:17). These are all clearly set forth in Paul’s epistles, yet have been so smothered by tradition that very few of the saints have more than an inkling that there are some ‘inexplicable’ mysteries which may be revealed to us in heaven. Yet this is quite right if we are not graciously granted the spirit of revelation in order to apprehend them beforehand.

“First, God awakens in us a wish to know what these mysteries conceal. When this wish is directed to Him it becomes a prayer, even though it be too vague for utterance. The spirit of revelation is the spirit of God which reveals Him and which inspired Paul to record the revelation of the various secrets of which the truth for the present is largely composed, for these unfold the fullest and highest revelation of the Deity. The spirit which is imparted to us, in order that we should understand it, is the same spirit that wrote the record. It is a special installment of that life-giving spirit which all the saints possess in limited measure as an earnest. It will reveal these things to all when they are vivified. But at present it is the portion of those who are led to ask for it in order to know God more fully.

“This prayer it was, more than any other, that led to the study of The Secret of the Evangel. Along with the light came a deep conviction that all was of God, not of us. So that we look upon the revelation of the spirit to us as a manifestation of God’s grace, just as the written revelation is an unfolding of the exceeding riches of His favor which He bestows on us who believe. We deserve the opposite, yet this makes us the best means for displaying the overwhelming wealth of His grace and love.”

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