Author and preacher Franklin Ferguson (1866-1957) from New Zealand, who for 30 years edited The Treasury magazine, writes a helpful article on “How to Pray” based on Ephesians 6:18-19a: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me…” He broke the verses down into 7 sections as follows:
The Season of Prayer – “Praying always”
Most of us have set times for prayer, morning and evening, and perhaps at noon; some may arise even in the night, when all is still. But we should also pray hourly through each day, as matters arise, in a simple and brief lifting of the heart to heaven – it may be only a sentence – thus we live in the attitude of prayer, we are “praying always”.
The Manner of Prayer – “with all prayer and supplication”
That is, with every kind of prayer – earnest, believing, thankful, joyful, importunate, agonised; and any other kind of prayer befitting our state of soul, or the thing prayed for. “All” prayer implies a zeal of the suppliant that leaves nothing untried to obtain the gracious answer of our God.
The Power of Prayer – “in the Spirit”
To thus pray is to pray in deep fellowship with the Lord, with an indwelling and ungrieved Holy Spirit leading forth our supplication, “according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-27); then freely and blessedly “in the Spirit” do we feel our hearts praying with a liberty which otherwise could not be possible.
The Guardian of Prayer – “and watching thereunto”
We watch as well as pray; for Satan may steal the time that should be given, and we are robbed of “mercy” and “grace to help” when in need. Prayer keeps open the channel from above, and strengthens the encircling fence of God’s protecting care.
The Continuance of Prayer – “with all perseverance”
It must be “without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). That is, continue until heard. We ask a petition for a week, a month, a year; then we tire for want of “patient continuance”, forgetting that delays are not denials, but tests to faith. Do we really desire the things we ask for? Can we hold on to God till He shall answer? Though the answer tarry a long while, yet it shall come when patience has done her perfect work.
The Subjects of Prayer – “for all saints”
This will keep us fully and blessedly occupied when upon our knees. Is there a felt lack of what to pray for when the usual petitions are being made? Then let us name, one by one, saints known personally; this enlarges the heart and greatly widens our interests and sympathies. The range is as wide as the Church of God.
The Individuality of Prayer – “and for me”
In there words are expressed that deep personal sense of needing the prayers of fellows-saints; and if an inspired Apostle like Paul solicited such a personal interest, how much rather should we desire this benefit, who come so far below the high spiritual attainment he reached.