Summary: The ability to effectively use the Armor of God comes through prayer. This is the force behind the armor, and the key preparation for battle. This critical component of prayer is how we utilize our spiritual resources.
On January 17th, 1991, I was leading an outdoor worship service in the desert of Saudi Arabia for the 28th Combat Support Hospital. Our service was interrupted by a messenger from Colonel Mike Ball, our XO: “Fall in! The ground war is about to begin!” This was the moment we’d all been waiting for. And so I announced that we would close our service at that point with a quick prayer. I prayed that we would be brave and effective, and go forth in God’s strength…and thus, Desert Storm began. Not far from us, Dave Peterson, General Schwarzkopf’s Chaplain, was also offering prayer at the Command Tactical Operation Center.
We’ve reached the end of our series, where Paul suggests that the final piece of armor is prayer. The ability to effectively use the Armor of God comes through prayer. This is the force behind the armor, and the key preparation for battle. Our hymn “Stand Up For Jesus” urges: “Put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer.” This critical component of prayer is how we utilize the spiritual resources God has issued us.
Fighting sin and Satan without prayer is like David fighting Goliath in Saul’s armor. The armor doesn’t fit, and is ineffective. Like a HUMVEE engine without oil, our armor is useless unless we pray. Our prayer life is foundational for the deployment of our sword and shield, our helmet and belt, our breastplate and boots.
We can’t fight the powers of darkness with philosophy, or even with knowledge. If our wealth of understanding doesn’t lead us to prayer there is something wrong with us. “Our ultimate position as Christians is tested by the character of our prayer life” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones).
Prayer is both a duty and a delight. It is how we obtain readiness and perseverance as soldiers of God. Paul says “always keep on praying,” no matter how long it takes. Our battle is ongoing. Elsewhere, Paul insists, “Pray without ceasing” (I Thes 5:17). We sustain a constant attitude of prayer. Just as soldiers maintain readiness, we maintain an open line to God and pray without hesitation. Jesus warned His disciples of impending danger: “Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is” (Mk13:33). Prayer is a spiritual discipline. We need to be alert, vigilant, and always on praying ground, in touch with Higher Headquarters.
When I was being issued my armor and field equipment for Desert Storm at Fort Knox, several concerned soldiers approached me and asked me to tell them how to pray. It was something they hadn’t done in a long time. Awareness of an impending war will drive people to their knees. When I got to Iraq, one night in the desert I was staring up at the starry sky with an Army doctor, Colonel Waters. He turned to me and reflected: “Chaplain, a lot of new voices are talking to God tonight.”
Battlefield prayer is communication with our Commander-in-Chief. It is reporting for duty! We pray, often out of desperation, and the result is bold action in the face of conflict, as Paul indicates in this passage. “The only conversation that works is the one with God” (Lauren Winner).
In Exodus 17 we see Moses praying for the army of Israel engaged in battle. The fighting went well so long as he lifted up his arms in blessing, but when he tired, the tide shifted, so Aaron & Hur held his arms up. The hilltop overlooking the battlefield was where the battle was truly won. We need support in prayer; it’s not something to attempt alone. We need partners in prayer; they’re our “battle-buddies.”
Maybe you lost a battle recently. Whatever has happened in the past, we can be renewed day-by-day. Never give up. Prayer gives us courage to make difficult decisions and the confidence to leave the results to God. After the prophets of Baal prayed all day long on Mount Carmel, God’s prophet Elijah uttered one simple, brief prayer, and the fire of God came down!
Paul points out that we pray “in the Spirit.” Everything depends on the Holy Spirit. He enables us to stand and resist the foe, to remain steadfast in our faith. “Praying in the power of the Spirit” means we pray by the leading of the Holy Spirit, with His help, and according to His will. What we call our “quiet time” is actually a busy time. Prayer is vital, crucial, essential. When faced with insurmountable odds, do we fall apart, or fall to our knees? Do we trust self, or the Lord of Hosts?
Are you ever at a loss for words? When people question our faith, we can sometimes shut down; we feel put on the spot, and struggle to come up with answers. When we pray in the Spirit, God helps us to respond with wisdom. In Matthew 10:19, Jesus told His disciples: “When you are arrested, do not worry about what to say or how to say it, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”