A nuclear war is not fought with 12-gauge shotguns nor is a F-18 dogfight waged with M-16 rifles. Appropriate weaponry must be used for the context of the battle at hand.
The war we face as Christians is an intense, spiritual conflict that is not fought with typical, human-designed weapons. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives us detailed intel on Satan’s mafia-like forces:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
So what are we to do? How can you and I “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (6:10) when we’re up against the “schemes of the devil” (6:11b)? Here are God’s clear instructions: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day…” (6:13a). Following this imperative is a short handbook on the combat armor God provides for His people, set to the analogy of a Roman soldier’s gear — what Paul would have been seeing everyday as he remained under house-arrest (cf. 6:20). Truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God all function together as the necessary equipment you and I need every hour of every day as followers of Jesus.
But if you’re anything like most Christians I know, you’re still kind of wondering, “So how do I ‘put on’ and ‘take up’? Does this mean I stand in front of a mirror and imaginarily put on this armor each morning?” No… God’s guidance here is straight to the point and intensely practical:
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and 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, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18-20)
When the apostle Paul exhorted the believers in Ephesus to pray, he wasn’t outlining an optional tool for Christians. In fact, persevering prayer is one of the most central tools by which Christians are equipped with God’s weapons for war. Our real, ultimate fight is not against persons, people groups, or political parties but against Satan, sin, and his system. And when the bullets of Satan’s lies and the assaults of doubt and discouragement rip into our lives we must pray and keep praying because this is the way we fight and keep fighting the right fight… God’s way.
The syntactical connection between verses 18-20 and the preceding verses (14-17) is vitally important – even tactical. Don’t miss it. Two participles “pray/praying” and “be on the alert/being alert” are embedded in verse 18 and both carry the force of instrument or manner. Now catch this: the instrument God has sovereignly ordained for the utilization of His armor is prayer. Persevering prayer — praying against all odds with unrelenting intensity, commitment, and faith is the way we “put on” and “take up” the armor God has provided.
We stand strong in the strength God provides, that which is not sourced in ourselves but sourced in God, when we pray. For a full exposition of the reasons why we should pray and how we should pray, scroll down to the audio player where you can listen to my message from this past Sunday, entitled “Battle Ready: Persevering Prayer” (Eph. 6:18-20).
Our Call to Prayer
We here at North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids are calling one another to 12 days of focused prayer. If you’re part of our church family, I invite you to join with me in praying the 12 requests below over the next 12 days. You might take just one per day, following the sequence below. If you have additional time, you could pray through the list several times over the next 12 days. But most of all, let’s pray and keep praying because this is the way we fight and keep fighting the right fight… God’s way.
12 Days of Prayer for North Park
As an expression of our desire to be a church committed to personal and collective prayer, we encourage you to pray for the following items:
- Ask God to give our people boldness and depth in our commitments to personal and communal prayers.
- Ask God to richly bless our church with an experience of His presence and power, transforming us and empowering us to love and to serve in extraordinary ways.
- Ask God to raise up and develop new leaders and volunteers who would leverage their lives for God’s purposes for our church and the greater Grand Rapids area.
- Pray for God to give guidance, understanding, and encouragement to those who preach and teach the Word of God.
- Ask God to open all our hearts to the convicting work of God’s truth and the healing balm of God’s grace as we receive the food of the Holy Scriptures.
- Pray for God to move in the hearts of our men to take spiritual initiative in their homes, in our church, and in our city.
- Pray for God’s deepening influence in the lives of our people through our ABFs and other groups. Pray that these groups might be a catalyst for spiritual formation among our church family and for missional initiatives within our neighborhoods. Ask God to encourage and equip new and existing teachers and leaders.
- Pray for those living in our city who do not know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ask God to lead people to a place of considering Christ and entrusting their lives to Him. Pray that they might be brought into the fellowship and ministry of our church or another like-minded assembly.
- Ask God to make our church a benevolent and beneficial presence, positively contributing to the well-being of the people in Grand Rapids.
- Pray for God to cultivate a spirit of radical generosity among our people, as they give of their time, energy, talents, gifts, and offerings to the work of the ministry. Ask God to provide the resources our church needs to minister efficiently and effectively in our city.
- Pray for wisdom about the future facility needs we may require, as classroom and parking space becomes increasingly limited. Ask God to provide additional space we can use for our worship gatherings and other ministries.
- Pray for God to continually strengthen our unity in mind, spirit, and mission as we serve together for the glory of Jesus Christ.
Other Helpful Resources on Prayer:
- Praying for a Breakthrough by Jon Bloom at www.DesiringGod.org
- 20 Quotes from Tim Keller’s Book on Prayer at www.TheGospelCoalition.org
- 10 Questions on Prayer with Tim Keller at www.DesiringGod.org
This article was adapted, in part, from my message entitled, “Battle Ready: Persevering Prayer” (Eph. 6:18-20) delivered at North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI on Oct. 25th 2015, as a part of the series “WAR: Fighting the Right Fight… God’s Way.” You can listen to the entire message by clicking the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast.