A Wartime Mentality in Prayer
In Ephesians 6, Paul gives us six strategies for fighting against Satan. Interestingly, the thing about these six strategies is that each of them is actually a counter-strategy against six ways Satan tries to attack us.
We fight his lies with the belt of truth, we fight his temptations with the breastplate of righteousness, we fight his diversions with the readiness given by the gospel of peace, we fight his doubts with the shield of faith, we fight his uncertainty with the helmet of salvation, and we expose his deceptions with the sword of the Spirit.
But then, after listing these six counter-strategies, Paul gives us a kind of bonus strategy. And although he doesn’t compare this strategy to a piece of armor, but he still links it together with the armor of God.
He tells us to pray.
Look at verse 18: “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” If you’re not praying, I can tell you right now that you’re not accomplishing much of anything in the fight. Prayer is the way we put on all of those pieces of armor. It’s the way we stand firm in truth, in righteousness, in the gospel, in faith, in salvation, in the Bible. You can’t properly don that armor without prayer.
Many times, we think of prayer as a way to get what we want out of God—as if he’s some kind of cosmic vending machine whose sole purpose is to satisfy our every whim and wish. But as we see in this passage, that’s not what prayer is. Prayer is something we use as we go to war.
Here’s what John Piper writes in his book Desiring God: “Isn’t it plain that the purpose of prayer is to accomplish a mission?...It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission, handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general’s headquarters, and said, ‘Comrades, the General has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end He has authorized Me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to His mission and seek His victory first, He will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you need it.’ Could it be,” Piper asks, “that many of our problems with prayer and much of our weakness in prayer come from the fact that we are not all on active duty, and yet we still try to use the transmitter? We have taken a wartime walkie-talkie and tried to turn it into a civilian intercom to call the servants for another cushion in the den.”
So what is prayer for you? Is it a wartime walkie-talkie, or have you turned it into a civilian intercom to call for another cushion in the den? Clearly, here in Ephesians 6, prayer is linked to war.
And the reason prayer is so essential our spiritual war is that prayer is way look to God for victory. Left to ourselves, there’s no way we can win this war. Satan’s smarter than us, he’s more powerful than us, and if we try to go up against him in our own strength, trusting in our own abilities, he will eat us for lunch.
Our only hope of victory is Jesus Christ. It’s putting on the armor he supplies and even looking past the armor—looking past the strategies—to our great Redeemer himself as our only hope of victory.
These lyrics, written by Martin Luther, say it well:
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Jesus is our great Victor. He won his great victory when he resurrected from the dead and he’ll bring his victory to full fruition when he returns to this earth. And his victory is our victory as we put our trust in him. Let’s pray.