Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…
1. First, let us turn to the express injunctions of Scripture. For instance, the text itself: "Praying in every season with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and abstaining from sleep for the purpose, with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." Observe the earnestness of the intercession here inculcated; "in every season, with all supplication," and "to the loss of sleep" (see also Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 1 Timothy 2:1, 2, 8; 2 Thessalonians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 14:3). Next consider St. Paul's own example, which is quite in accordance with his exhortations (Ephesians 1:16, 17; Philippians 1:3, 4; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2). The instances of prayer, recorded in the book of Acts, are of the same kind, being almost entirely of an intercessory nature, as offered at ordinations, confirmations, cures, missions, and the like (Acts 13:2, 3; Acts 9:4).
2. Such is the lesson taught us by the words and deeds of the apostles and their brethren. Nor could it be otherwise, if Christianity be a social religion, as it is preeminently. If Christians are to live together, they will pray together; and united prayer is necessarily of an intercessory character, as being offered for each other and for the whole, and for self as one of the whole.
3. But the instance of St. Paul opens upon us a second reason for this distinction. Intercession is the especial observance of the Christian, because he alone is in a condition to offer it. It is the function of the justified and obedient, of the sons of God, "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit"; not of the carnal and unregenerate. "God heareth not sinners"; nature tells us this; but none but God Himself could tell us that He will hear and answer those who are not sinners; for "when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants, and can claim no reward for our services." But He has graciously promised us this mercy, in Scripture, as the following texts will show: James 5:16; 1 John 3:22; John 15:7-15.
4. The history of God's dealings with Abraham will afford us an additional lesson, which must be ever borne in mind in speaking of the privilege of the saints on earth as intercessors between God and man (see also Exodus 20:12; Jeremiah 35:18, 19; Daniel 10:2-14; Mark 9:29).
5. Why should we be unwilling to admit what is is so great a consolation to know? Why should we refuse to credit the transforming power and efficacy of our Lord's sacrifice? Surely He did not die for any common end, but in order to exalt man, who was of the dust of the field, into "heavenly places." He died to bestow upon him that privilege which implies or involves all others, and brings him into nearest resemblance to Himself, the privilege of intercession. This, I say, is the Christian's especial prerogative; and if he does not exercise it, certainly he has not risen to the conception of his real place among created beings. He is made after the pattern and in the fulness of Christ - he is what Christ is. Christ intercedes above, and he intercedes below. Why should he linger in the doorway, praying for pardon, who has been allowed to share in the grace of the Lord's passion, to die with Him and rise again? He is already in a capacity for higher things. His prayer thenceforth takes a higher range, and contemplates not himself merely, but others also. To conclude. If anyone asks, "How am I to know whether I am advanced enough in holiness to intercede?" he has plainly mistaken the doctrine under consideration. The privilege of intercession is a trust committed to all Christians who have a clear conscience and are in full communion with the Church. We leave secret things to God - what each man's real advancement is in holy things, and what his real power in the unseen world. Two things alone concern us, to exercise our gift and make ourselves more and more worthy of it.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;