Prayer and the Christian Soldier

Last month I wrote an article about putting on the armor of God. I briefly covered the items mentioned by Paul – truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17). Some include prayer in this list as well, as it is mentioned in the next verse (Ephesians 6:18) and may wonder why I did not mention it when discussing the other items.

I do not believe that prayer is part of the armor that Christians are told to put on. The items described as armor in Ephesians 6:14-17 all refer to the word of God – truth (John 17:17), the gospel (Romans 1:1), the word of God – or that which comes as a result of the word of God – righteousness (Romans 1:16-17), faith (Romans 10:17), salvation (Ephesians 1:13). Prayer is different. We should not ignore it though (and it was not my intention in the previous article to do so). While it is different, it is related. Prayer helps us carry out the spiritual fight in which we are engaged.

Prayer helps us keep our focus. When teaching His disciples about prayer, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). This was not to deter them from praying. He went on in the following verses to show them how to pray. God knows what we need before we ask, yet He wants us to ask anyway. By having to pray we are forced to recognize our reliance upon God and to also consider what is truly important – spiritual things. Prayer helps us focus on the things we need to be watching. The disciples were told, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46). The devil is looking for an opportunity when we let our guard down (1 Peter 5:8). Through habitual prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we can more easily focus on serving God, avoiding temptation, and following the path to eternal life.

Through prayer we can also gain strength to help us in carrying out what God has called us to do. In speaking of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). The Hebrew writer warned, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9). We can find strength in the grace of God. Earlier, the writer said, “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Paul told the Ephesians, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-11). We gain strength to meet the challenges we face, in part, through prayer.

As Christians, prayer is also our avenue to forgiveness. In this spiritual war in which we are engaged, the outcome is certain. “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). As long as we are on the Lord’s side, we will be victorious. But what if we sin? Sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). By sinning we jeopardize the victory we have in Christ. John wrote, “That you may not sin” (1 John 2:1). We are not to sin; but if we do, we have an avenue of forgiveness. We have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). Christians who fall into sin must repent and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22). If we stumble, God gives us a chance to come back to Him through prayer and once again be on the side that will be victorious in the end.

But the benefits of prayer are not limited to the individual. We can and should pray for our brethren – our fellow soldiers in Christ. Paul requested prayers for himself after discussing the armor of God: “Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). In the verse before, he mentioned praying for other Christians: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times…with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). When we sin, we are to “pray for one another” (James 5:16); just as Simon asked Peter, “Pray to the Lord for me” (Acts 8:24).

Prayer may not be part of the armor that we are to put on, but it is still an important part of our lives in service to God. So let us “put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) and remain constant in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), both for ourselves and our brethren, so that we may all serve God faithfully and be victorious with Christ in the end.

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