“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. … 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 Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:12, 18)
One of the reasons prayer is hard (and it is, in case you missed the memo on that) is that’s it’s part of an unseen but all-too-real spiritual battle. We’re not just battling our own busyness and tiredness, our own sinfulness and self-sufficiency when we try to pray. We’re battling Satan, the great adversary of God. And he delights in prayerless Christians.
That’s why the perspective of Ephesians 6 is so vital for people like me, who find it so easy to walk by sight, not by faith (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). This famous passage on ‘spiritual warfare’ and ‘the armour of God’ lifts our eyes and reminds us of the reality that is really being played out when we pray (or don’t).
Without wanting to be minimise Satan’s power, this is not a fair fight. The poor fool has shown up to a nuclear weapon fight with a water pistol, because he’s not fighting against me. He’s fighting against the Holy Spirit. God arms his people with ‘the strength of his might’ (Eph 6:10) and tells us to take up ‘the whole armour of God’ (v. 13) – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace for our shoes, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. We wield the greatest weapon imaginable – the sword of the Spirit, the word of God – a weapon that wards off the lies and deceptions of the evil one.
And through it all, the Spirit enables us to pray – to pray for ourselves, for God’s people, and for the spread of the gospel.
Many Christians, guys in particular, love the image of spiritual warfare, of getting kitted up for battle and charging the gates of hell. But this is a battle we fight on our knees – wearing only the armour that God provides, and relying totally on God as we pray. We can’t fight the battle on our own, and why would we want to? God’s call to arms is a call to pray – to ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’ (6:18).
When the alarm clock goes off tomorrow morning, you may find yourself wondering, ‘Do I do it? Can I be bothered? Do I drag myself out of bed and spend time praying for God’s kingdom? Or do I hit snooze and go back to sleep?’ If you think those thoughts, remember the scene being played out well beyond your cosy bed. In the heavenly realms, the fight is on. It’s not a fair fight – Jesus’ victory is completely guaranteed, secured in his death and resurrection – but he still calls us to join the fight. Will you suit up for battle? Will you pray? “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to the spread of the gospel today is the people of God trying to do the work of God apart from the power and presence of God.” (David Platt)
Heavenly Father, thank you for the decisive victory that the Lord Jesus has won over Satan. Thank you for the might and the armour you offer me while we’re living in this age and waiting for Satan’s final overthrow. Please help me to remember that the battle is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, and strengthen me to pray in the Spirit at all times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.