We’ve spent the last nine weeks looking at the famous Armor of God passage in Ephesians. There are six pieces of armor named there: the Girdle of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Footwear of the Gospel, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit. Those six character traits and spiritual items are where most lists stop, since they’re the ones compared to physical pieces of armor. But there’s a seventh item on the list.
with all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the Spirit, and to this end being alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Eph. 6:18, LEB)
All the armor must be put on and used with prayer. In this context, we can see prayer either as the connective tissue buckling the other armor on us or as a necessity before and when using the armor (or both). Whether you count prayer as a piece of armor or not, it’s clear that praying is essential when going into a battle we want God to fight for and with us.
Prayer Before Battle
As with the six pieces of armor listed earlier, we have examples of prayer being used in physical battles as well as spiritual ones. People of God have always recognized that even when facing physical enemies there’s a more important spiritual side to the battle. And it’s the Lord of Hosts who determines the outcome.
Three righteous kings left us records of their prayers before battle. Asa prayed when facing “an army of a thousand thousands” (2 Chr. 14:9-12), Jehoshaphat when facing “a great multitude” of Moabites and Ammonites (2 Chr. 20:1-29), and Hezekiah when threatened by a powerful Assyrian army (Is. 37:8-38).
In all three cases, God answered with a powerful victory. “Yahweh defeated the Cushites before Asa” and his army (2 Chr. 14:12, LEB). The Lord sent Jehoshaphat and his men armored into battle, but did all the fighting Himself (2 Chr. 20:16-29). And Hezekiah woke up one morning to find his enemy struck dead outside (Is. 37:36-37). Clearly, prayer is an effective battle strategy for those following God and fighting against His enemies.
Elements of a Battle Prayer
What sort of war-time prayers get God’s attention? I don’t think He expects us to be marvelously eloquent, but He is looking at the heart behind our prayers. And we can get a look at the type of heart-felt prayer He’ll answer by taking a closer look at the prayers of these three kings.
And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee. (2 Chr. 14:11, KJV)
In this succinct prayer, we see a few key elements that all three of these kings’ prayers share. First, they acknowledge God’s power to help (see also 2 Chr. 20:6; Is. 37:16). Then they all make a request for help (2 Chr. 20:12; Is 37:17, 20). And in each prayer, they claim the Lord as their God (2 Chr. 20:7; Is. 37:20).
When we’re praying for help in a spiritual battle, these three elements are vital. Claiming the Lord as our God (and backing-up that claim by living a Godly life) puts us in the position of claiming God’s promises to His people. Acknowledging His power to help honors Him and gives us hope. And the clear, honest request for help obeys the injunction to “approach with confidence to the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16, LEB).
Praying In The Spirit
We’ve seen that prayer before going into battle works. And we’ve looked at key elements of prayers asking for God’s help in a fight. But in Ephesians, Paul doesn’t tell us only to pray before facing a battle we know is coming. He says to pray “at all times” and be “alert with all perseverance and supplication” for your brethren as well as yourself. Being in a prayerful state helps keep us ready to face unexpected battles and aid our fellow Christians.
What does it mean to “pray without ceasing”? (1 Thes. 5:17, KJV). The sense in Greek for the word used in Thessalonians is “without interruption” or “without omission.” It doesn’t mean you have to pray every moment, 24/7. But it does mean not forgetting or neglecting prayer. Matthew Henry writes, “Nothing else we do should hinder prayer in its proper time.” And Adam Clarke’s commentary adds that if we feel our dependence on God at all times, as we should, we “will always be in the spirit of prayer.”
We must never give up on prayer nor see it as a burden. It’s a life-line connecting us with God through the Spirit. There’s something about praying “in the spirit” that creates a unique connection with God. Indeed, in another letter, Paul tells us that when we don’t know what to pray the Spirit actually fills in the gaps (Rom. 8:26). Even if we don’t yet know how to pray “at all times,” He’ll help us learn as we grow our relationship with Him.
We can look to model prayers for an example of how to word our conversations with God. Beyond those more formal types of prayers, though, is an ongoing connection between our spirits and God’s Spirit. Prayer involves keeping a faith-based dialogue open with God. This connection is important to our entire Christian walk, and one of the specific ways we use it is to keep our armor on and to pray that our brethren get through their battles as well.