Ephesians 6:18-19 come at the end of the signature passage on Spiritual Warfare – Ephesians 6:10-18. With this as its context, Paul’s exhortation on prayer must be seen as an integral part of Spiritual warfare, and as such takes its rightful place in the accoutrement of the Believer in Jesus Christ.
With this in mind, I could not resist the temptation to compare this last item in our accoutrement, with the others that are listed. It would seem to me that, with the possible exception of the “sword” of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, everything else falls into a category that is distinctly different from prayer. So let us take a look and explore them one by one.
Ephesians 6:11 tells us that the purpose of the whole armor is not necessarily to attack and conquer by invasion, but to stand and withstand in defensive mode against the tactics of the Devil. The command to stand, and do everything to withstand and stand is repeated in Ephesians 6:13-14. This paints a picture of the Devil being the only real problem that confronts the Child of God. If we can somehow functionally extract the devil from our daily circumstances and situations, left to the influence of the Holy Spirit alone, we would all be well on our way to becoming outstanding saints. So much for wishful thinking. The Devil is a reality and until God says enough is enough, he is here to stay, and not just stay passively, but stay aggressively.
In Ephesians 6:12-13, Paul amplifies, expands and reinforces what he says in verse 11. Many times we make the mistake of believing that our enemies are people, and that includes our closest and dearest loved ones. It is a good reminder that it is the Devil that works through people that creates enmity between people, and ideally, we must learn to love the people and hate the Devil. You will also note that Paul gives a long list of “sub-divisions” of the Devil in Ephesians 6:12. But whether “rulers”, “authorities” or “world powers of this darkness” – the common denominator is the Devil; and be not deceived, he is firmly in charge of his demonic forces.
“Truth” serves as a belt around the waist, and as such is designed to provide support for the back in strenuous conditions, but also as a convenient carrier for implements, and an overall aid to good form and posture. When we are in “truth” we can stand tall and fear no lie, nor false witness. We do not have to rehearse truth, it is always present, always fresh. It will prevail and it shall ultimately set us free. This is a defensive component of our accoutrement.
“Righteousness” can be seen as a by-product of “truth”. Because we really messed up before our conversion, and many of us are still messing up to a lesser degree, we have no righteousness in ourselves. But because we are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, we can proudly advertise His righteousness on our chest with the knowledge that it is an impenetrable breastplate. This is also defensive.
The next one is interesting at many levels. Our feet are to be shod with “readiness” for the gospel of peace. Preaching the gospel is not a part of our Spiritual warfare, for war and peace are incompatible. It is even as we stand and withstand the Devil, who will leave us for a season, that we are ready to peacefully share the gospel… not violently as the Muslims do and as the Christians did during the period of the Crusades, but peacefully, knowing that no man comes to Jesus unless God the Father draws him.
The shield of faith compliments the breastplate of righteousness, but typically precedes it. We know that without faith in God, it is impossible to please God. Ultimately it is by grace we are saved, through faith. The culmination of our salvation is futuristic. Our one-on-one encounter with Jesus Christ is futuristic… The Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame honorees believed and it was counted to them for righteousness, and they all died without physically grasping what they believed in and lived and died for. This is also defensive. It is designed to extinguish the fiery darts of doubt and disbelief that the Devil hurls at us daily. It was one of those darts that he hurled at Eve in the Garden of Eden. She was not wearing the shield of faith… and the rest, as they say, is history.
The “helmet” is protective and defensive. Salvation is not a weapon of attack. It is the assurance that we enjoy that regardless of what happens in the brief interim we spend on earth, our eternal future with Jesus is secure.
The “sword” of the Spirit at first glance might seem like a weapon of attack, until we discover that the Greek word sued for sword is “machaira”, which depicts a short sword or large knife used in hand-to-hand close-corner combat. This too is a weapon of defense.
Next comes Ephesians 6:18-19 – our weapon of attack, and yes, one that we can and should use while standing in defensive mode. If we associate a short sword with defense and a long sword with attack, then prayer is the ultimate weapon of attack because of its long reach right up to the throne of God. The fact that I can stay right here and pray for, with or about someone half way around the world with the other end of my connection reaching all the way to heaven, does make prayer the most powerful weapon on earth. And it is the fervent effectual prayer of God’s children that is valuable in unleashing the armies of heaven who are trained to do battle with their fallen counterparts. I need to pray more often.
We are to pray in every season and at all times – an amplification of “always”. We are to pray “in the spirit”. I am very willing to fellowship with my brothers and sisters who interpret this to mean that they pray in what they refer to as their heavenly language. And I agree that since they are praying to God, and not edifying the Body, there is no need for an interpreter. What I am sure about is what I am told in Romans 8:15 and Romans 8:26. Our most effective prayers are those made on our behalf by God’s Holy Spirit.
But there is no need for any serious parsing of the word “prayer”, for we are commanded to pray all kinds of prayer, and clearly there is a wide variety, some of which I am sure are conducted in our heavenly language. But there is one observation that I must make. Included in the all kinds of prayer must be “praise”. We know that praise is a weapon of attack. When the Children of Judah began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments and destroyed the enemy (2 Chronicles 20:22). There is no way that praise and worship can be excluded from the life of the victorious Christian, therefore it must be included in all kinds of prayer.
Every Child of God is constantly in the cross-hairs of the Devil’s attack devices. In addition to what we do for ourselves in putting on the whole armor of God, we are required to support our brothers and sisters in their battles with the Devil, that victory will be theirs. Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32). This is Paul’s command in Ephesians 6:18 – Stay alert in all kinds of prayers in the Spirit as you intercede with all perseverance for all the Saints.
Could it be that after all, serving God is a full-time occupation?
Remember to visit RBC’s Our daily Bread today at www.ODB.org