The Armor of God: Part 8 - The Weapon of Prayer
by Aneel Aranha
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
Continued from Part 7: The Sword of the Spirit
One of the most vital components of any war is maintaining constant communication with Command Headquarters. Not only does this communication allow you to request reinforcements should you need it, you have constant access to instructions on what you are required to do in a particular situation and, if you are in a position of leadership or on a special mission, access to vital intelligence. Lines that are free of interference obviously make for better communication.
The Roman Gladiator was the most formidable warrior of his time. Paul used his armor to illustrate how we should be clad in battle.
It is no different in our spiritual war, where prayer serves as our communication link with God, and keeping the lines static free—having no unforgiveness in our heart or unrepented sin on our conscience—ensures for more effective communication. Most spiritual battles are won with prayer, where requests for assistance often result in the total and complete annihilation of enemy strongholds.
I have had problems with alcohol, cigarettes and other addictions in my life, none of which trouble me anymore. Although my taste for whiskey was not taken away as a result of prayer—God blasted that particular fortress without my asking and nuked it so thoroughly there has never been the slightest desire to imbibe ever since—all other enemy strongholds in my mind were destroyed in response to prayer.
Prayer is like a ballistic missile, guided and extremely powerful. I find it nothing short of amazing that this remarkable weapon, which is available to everybody, is so rarely used. And, when used, is often utilized ineffectively. We often radio in our call for help, but then, rather than prepare ourselves for the battle to follow, we do the equivalent of digging ourselves into a foxhole and waiting for the heavy artillery to arrive. This isn't going to get us anywhere! God is there to help us win this war (which, in case you need reminding, is against an enemy who has already been defeated) but we have to do what needs to be done: fight!
We also have the habit of spending most of our prayer time in one-way communication. Yes, we need to let God know what our situation is and what we need from him, but we also have to listen to what he says in reply! We can't listen if we are yammering away all the time, which is what most of us do in prayer.
And then, those of us who do listen, don't obey! Obedience is critical in war—any war. If there is one thing that I have learned in my life as a Christian soldier, it is to obey, and to obey without question. You have to recognize that your commander has a much better idea of what is going on in the field of battle and his instructions are as much as a result of that as of overall strategy. When you disobey his instructions you jeopardize everything, including the salvation of your brothers who fight alongside you, and towards whom you also have a responsibility.
Looking out for your brothers is important. We are not fighting this war on our own. Our compatriots fight with us and if they go down, we go down. Most of us don't seem to understand this basic fact, and rather than uniting in fighting the enemy, we squabble amongst ourselves. The enemy is not the Pope. Or Mother Teresa. Or Benny Hinn. Or Gene Robinson. Or the next door neighbor. The enemy is the devil and if we are to beat him we have to fight him together. This is why Paul advises us to "always keep on praying for all the saints". The saints are our fellow Christians and it is our duty to constantly intercede for their protection.
There are several other things to keep in mind when praying. Here are a few of the more important ones.
- When you request for assistance, be specific. If you have a problem with a particular sexual sin, for instance, pray for deliverance from that particular sin, not for deliverance from all the sexual ills of the world. Or if you have difficulty in forgiving one particular person who hurt you, pray that you be granted the grace to forgive that person, not his family whom you have nothing against.
- Don't put limitations on what you ask for. There are, after all, no restrictions on the assets available to you. If you need heavy guns, ask for them. If you need reinforcements ask for them too. God will even send his angels to protect you if you put in the request.
- Understand that not all requests will be granted. As stated earlier, your field commander has a greater understanding of what is happening on the battlefield than you do. Consequently he might deny some of your requests as unnecessary or even detrimental to you. Accept these "denials of requests" with the full faith that God knows what is best for you.
- When you are under severe attack, the hardest thing to do is to drop down to your knees in prayer, but it is the one thing you absolutely have to do if you don't want to go under. Let your prayer be impassioned at these times; just the way you would beg your commander for help if you were surrounded on all sides by the enemy in a "real" battle and were in risk of losing your life.
- Don't be afraid of "losing face" by asking your fellow soldiers for help if you need it. Last month, I was subjected to the most ferocious attacks I have experienced in recent months. I fought them off without too much difficulty but when the attacks continued for days without ceasing I realized that the enemy had embarked on a new strategy to get me to fall. He was trying to wear me out — and I was getting weary. I promptly asked for prayer support from my friends. Before the day was over the attacks had ceased.
- Don't report only your losses to God; tell him of the victories you have achieved too. Some of us beat the enemy continuously for weeks and months on end but then are hurt by a stray arrow. We instantly forget all the victories we achieved and focus on the defeat. This plays right into the enemy's hands, who thrives on discouragement. Don't give him that satisfaction!
- When you are hurt, go straight to the infirmary, get yourself treated for your wounds, and return to battle as soon as you can. Translated, this means that if you fall, waste no time going to God in repentance, accept the complete forgiveness that he gives you, and get back to war, determined to pay the enemy back a hundred times for what he did to you.
- Do not ever forget the power of coordinated fire. Rambo-style missions are great on the odd occasion, but hit-and-run tactics don't work very well in this war, which mostly needs the concerted and persistent effort of soldiers. So pray together with your brothers and sisters often and pray with persistence. It often takes a lot of effort and patience to smash a well fortified bunker!
Before I conclude, I would like to leave you with a prayer that you can say when you wake up each morning. Envisage yourself donning the armor of God, putting on each item one by one. As you buckle the belt of truth, pray that God keeps it firm throughout the day and reveals any weaknesses in it that might cause it to snap. As you fasten the breastplate of righteousness, ask God to make you the person he created you to be, and remind yourself that you need to be good in his eyes alone; the opinion of the world does not matter. As you slip on the gospel shoes, pray that God takes you to places where people don't know him and gives you the chance to bring them his message of love. As you pick up the shield of faith, pray that he strengthen it, so that you are protected from anything and everything the enemy might hurl at you. As you wear the helmet of salvation, celebrate the victory that God has won for you and pray that you turn deaf to all the insidious whisperings of the evil one. And as you raise the mighty sword of the Spirit, pray that God continues to give you the wisdom, the skill and the strength to wield it effectively during the day that follows.
May the Spirit be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha. All rights reserved.