|THE ARMOR OF GOD: PRAYER IN THE
Communication on a battlefield is a key to victory. Without communication
between headquarters and a front line unit, direction and support is
lacking. Those who are in the midst of battle need to know their mission,
from their central command. They also need to know that they can call on
central command for the resources they need to give them cover and to
enable them to achieve their objective.
God gives us his revelation through the words of Holy Scripture as
illuminated by the Holy Spirit. He gives us our orders. He spells out our
mission and purpose. He delineates our goals and objectives in life.
we read the scriptures and meditate on their application for our lives, we
become familiar with what we are meant to become, and how we are to go
about it. But we also need to be in touch with God to seek clarification
about our specific mission in life, to talk over the difficulties and
challenges we are experiencing, and to request help for
ourselves and others when we need it.
St. Paul describes our battlefield: "our struggle is not against flesh and
blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers
of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the
heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12) Therefore we need spiritual weapons.
The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, is one
weapon. The other is to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all
kinds of prayer and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep
on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me..." (Ephesians 6:18,19) As
The Message puts it, "God's Word is an indispensable weapon.
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare."
Prayer in the Spirit is our communication with central command. It is our
response to the revelation we have received. It is the human side of our
dialogue with God. If I were to sit down with you and ask you about your
communication with God, how would you describe it? What could you tell me
about your prayer life? What is the quality of your conversation with God?
My understanding is that our success in the conflicts we experience in
life depends upon how we communicate with God in prayer.
For it is in those communications that we seek and find help for the
challenges we face. It is in prayer that we express what resources, cover,
and support we need. Absence of such communication means that we have to
go it alone, in a battle that we cannot win on our own. We need all the
help that we can get. Paul recognizes this by requesting prayers for
himself. He knows that he cannot succeed on his own. As able as he is, he
knows that he needs the guidance of the Spirit, so that whenever he opens
his mouth, "words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the
mystery of the Gospel." (Ephesians 6:19)
He calls this 'prayer in the Spirit.' Prayer in the Spirit is prayer
inspired by the Spirit. "In the same way the Spirit helps us in our
weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself
intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who
searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit
intercedes for us in accordance with God's will." (Romans 8:26,27)
We do not need to know how to pray. All we need is to come into God's
presence and seek his help, offering our weakness, our concerns, our loved
ones to God, believing that the Spirit will take our concerns and
translate them into intercession. The Holy Spirit directs our prayer,
creates the prayer within us, and empowers us to offer it and pray it.
The Holy Spirit orders our mind, gives the prayer, directs it, and
Prayer in the Spirit is the recognition that we have direct access to God
through Jesus Christ. "For through him we both have access to the Father
by one Spirit." (Ephesians 2:18) Jesus has won that for us in his Cross
and Resurrection. He has broken down the barriers that existed because of
our unworthiness, our sins. There is no chain of command through which we
have to go to get to the Commander-in-chief. We can
walk right into his presence. We do not barge in relying on our own
merits, but we are invited in by his grace. Therefore we enter in
humility, giving thanks for our admission and acceptance in Christ, and
for the knowledge that through Christ our prayers are heard.
Prayer in the Spirit is asking for the Spirit's help to know what we are
to do to win the battle. We are reassured by the knowledge that both the
Spirit and Christ intercede for us as we struggle to pray for rightness in
our own lives. God is not far off but near at hand to support us
personally in the conflict in which we are engaged. In fact, when we do
not know what to ask for, we can be confident that the Spirit knows our
need, and can send the support that is in line with God's will for us.
"Prayer in the Spirit is prayer from the heart, springing from awareness
of God, of self, of others, of needs, of Christ." (Jim Packer)
The main emphasis in Ephesians 6:18 is on intercessory prayer, prayer for
others. St. Paul urges us to pray for all the saints (those who are
members of our community of faith). We are all engaged in the same
struggle. What happens to us as individuals, what happens to us all
together, is but one incident in a battle in a realm much bigger than
ours. The ultimate truth is that it is Christ who is engaged in this
battle. It is a cosmic battle. The more we think of it in these terms, and
the less we think of it in terms of ourselves and our own personal
position, the better it will be for us. This is the great battle of the
ages - between heaven and hell. That is the real conflict, and the extent
to which we realize that we are involved in this great fight of God
against evil is the measure of the extent to which we shall be strong. We
shall be delivered out of our morbid subjectivity and see exactly what is
happening, and so we shall fight with a new spirit and outlook.
We are urged to pray for one another. We are to remember our comrades in
the line of battle. We are not to be for ever looking at ourselves and
concentrating on ourselves. We are to consider the whole front line and
pray that all may stand for good against evil. This is the way to avoid
discouragement even for yourself. This is the way to have the assurance
that you belong to a victorious army, and that nothing can possibly defeat
the cause to which you belong.
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, "Prayer is the sovereign remedy for many of
the ills and diseases of the soul that tend to defeat us all. It is the
sovereign remedy for introspection, for morbid self-concern. Self is the
last enemy. It is self that causes most of our troubles. We sit thinking
of ourselves and what is going to happen to us. We turn in on ourselves
and pity ourselves and are sorry for ourselves, and spend our time
commiserating with ourselves. One of the best ways of getting rid of such
a condition is to pray for other people. Lift up your heads, look away
from yourself, and you will forget yourself."
St. Paul urges us to pray at all times with 'all kinds of prayers and
requests.' What are all kinds of prayers and requests? I use a method in
prayer which ensures that I use all kinds of prayers and requests. It is
called by the acronym ACTS: standing for Adoration, Confession,
Thanksgiving and Supplication.
A stands for adoration. Begin by becoming aware of the presence of God.
"Be still and know that I am God." (Ps.46)
"The prior act of praying for the awareness of God's presence accomplishes
two things. It helps you to focus your attention on God, and it heightens
your sensitivity to the things of the Spirit, opening up your
consciousness to signs of God's presence. You are on the alert, waiting
expectantly, vigilant. So the next step on this journey is to assume an
attitude of alert but relaxed attention. Mindfulness. You must cease your
frenzied rush from one thing to another. Do one thing at a time, quietly,
letting your mind and heart be filled with the gift of the present moment.
And begin to be present to - look around for - signs and symptoms of God
within and without." (Jane Marie Thibault)
C stands for Confession. Admit your weaknesses, and sins of commission and
omission: the things that you have done that you ought not to have done,
and the things you have not done that you ought to have done. Come to the
Cross in repentance, and seek the cleansing of forgiveness based on the
atoning sacrifice of Christ for your sins. Ask that the Holy Spirit would
fill you so that you may produce in your life the fruit of
the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.
T stands for thanksgiving. Review all of God's blessings in your life and
be grateful. We will never appreciate all that we enjoy unless we recall
them to mind. Gratitude puts all our needs into perspective. We take so
many things for granted in our lives for which we never give thanks. The
ability to live and love, to walk and talk, to see and be seen, are gifts
of God. Even when we are impaired or handicapped in any way we have so
much. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the
Father of the heavenly lights." (James 1:17)
S stands for supplication. Pray for yourself, and your needs. I keep a
list of personal needs that I review with the Lord every morning. It needs
to be continually revised as prayers are answered and new needs arise.
Remember your family and friends, and others who have asked for your
prayers. Their names also need to be noted so that you don't forget them.
Pray for our nation, for the work of your church, your pastor, and other
missionary work. Pray for your fellow-members in the Body of Christ.
Sometimes it is a help to use books of prayers, the prayers of others, or
hymns and songs. There are many books on the practice of prayer, including
contemplative and centering prayer. Some people find it helpful to write
out their prayers each day. It serves to keep their minds from wandering
and focuses them. Use the method that suits your personality and need.
I have always been impressed by the words of Samuel to the people of
Israel: "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord
by failing to pray for you." (1 Sam.12:23)
Intercessory prayer is a ministry in itself. "Since the day we heard about
you, we have not stopped praying for you." (Colossians 1:9) Intercession
is a test of our unselfishness in prayer. You don't have to know someone
personally to pray for them. What we do affects the lives of others. As I
pray for others I ask God to put it in their hearts to
seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and that they may be guided
in his Way. Praying in these ways for others is a form of loving your
neighbor as yourself. It is a means of proclaiming the Gospel. It is a
form of serving.