First in our consideration of Christian warfare we saw the call to be strong, be strengthened with His power, in His glorious might (v10). Second, to be sure that we are not exposed as we go aggressively in the power of God, we have God’s armour that works exclusively for believers (vs11-17).
‘Putting on each part with care …’ We could say ‘putting on each part with prayer …’
Paul ends his subject of warfare with ‘Finally, praying…’ The verb used is in present continuous form. Paul takes more time referring to prayer, more time looking at this than any one of the pieces of armour. ‘Praying,’ he says, ‘at all times.’
Moses and Joshua
The Battle of Amalek is an outstanding example of the power of prayer in warfare. Joshua was enlisted by Moses to fight against Amalek. Whilst Joshua went out to fight, Moses climbed a mountain that overlooked the battlefield and raised before God not only his hands but also the rod of God. The rod represented God’s covenant relationship of commitment to him and the people of Israel. Down in the valley Joshua began to fight. As the battle waged on, Moses began to grow weary and his arms began to come down. Joshua continued fighting, but hey what’s going on? Joshua began to go backwards. Then in the mountain Moses received help to keep his hands raised and Joshua began to prevail again. The direct relationship is quite plain. When Moses’ hands are raised in intercession and prayer, Joshua wins the battle.
At the end of this, Moses reminds Joshua to take seriously that the battle is won in prayer’ (Exod. 17:8-16).
Taught by a pastor to pray
It’s hard for me to talk about this story without thinking about my old pastor, E.G. Rudman. He was the first pastor I knew when I joined the local Baptist church in Brighton. He was a wonderful man of prayer. The story of the Battle of Amalek was one of his favourite stories. For him, Saturday night was the beginning of what he would have called the ‘Sabbath which continued into Sunday’. The church gathered on Saturday nights to pray. In a season when people were walking away from church, this dear man of God who believed in prayer would say, ‘Let’s pray. We are going to pray into Sunday.’ Whenever we had baptisms and made an appeal, he would raise his hands at the front of the meeting. As he did that all those who had been at the Saturday prayer meeting would remember him saying ‘Let’s pray, let’s pray!’ They’d join his prayers and people would start pouring forward.
He taught me something so fundamental. I was a young Christian who knew nothing, but he taught me about prayer. Pastors, are you teaching people about prayer?
Samuel and Elijah
Samuel had a similar relationship with the people. When he prayed it was as though one man stood before God for a nation. As Moses had, so Samuel did. Samuel testified, ‘I won’t sin by ceasing to pray for you’ (1 Sam. 12:23).
As Elijah was being taken up into heaven, Elisha cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen.’ What exactly was he saying? He was saying that Elijah’s praying was like Israel having an army. Elijah’s relationship with God, his praying, had become the defence of Israel. The same chariot defences are referred to later at the end of Elisha’s life when he was dying.
Throughout the Old Testament you see men like Daniel and Nehemiah who laid hold of God on behalf of the nation. It’s a huge part of our being soldiers.
Jesus and the early Church
Jesus modelled prayer. He taught it. He insisted on it. Why should I pray? Jesus said, ‘Men should always pray and not give up.’ It’s all we need really. The insistence of Jesus underlines that reality. So when the early church burst upon the scene, we see that one of the pillars on which they built the church was prayer (Acts 2:42). Prayer was a key to their life together. They had watched Jesus and now continued his emphasis. They lived it out. They demonstrated it. They clearly believed in it. The early church was a praying force for God.
This post was adapted from the 3rd of three sermons on the Armour of God preached at Together on a Mission 2010