The verse following Paul’s exposition of the Armor of God …“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…” (Eph 6:18, NASB, emphasis added)
Although Paul’s description of God’s Armor weaponry ends with his exhortation to, “Take the helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph 6:17), he clearly has more on his mind. After clarifying each component of the believer’s armor, Paul calls on believers “to pray”. Actually, he repeats his call four times in the same sentence! Paul writes, “With ALL prayer… pray at ALL times in the Spirit … alert with ALL perseverance … petition for ALL the saints.” (Eph 6:18)
What does he have in mind? Paul is adding “prayer” as the final component of the believer’s armor… with a twist. Rather than dressing himself with “prayer” as the final step, Paul’s emphasis suggests that the soldier layers prayer six times in the process. Pray for the belt, for the breastplate, for the shoes, for the shield, for the helmet and for the sword as you dress! Prayer is so essential that it binds individual pieces in unity to serve God’s will through the Holy Spirit!
God’s warrior prays “in the Spirit”. Samuel Zwemer, an American scholar and Islamic missionary, wrote, “True prayer is God the Holy Spirit talking to God the Father in the name of God the Son, and the believer’s heart is the prayer room.” Praying “in the Spirit” means that we allow God’s Spirit to intercede for us with the Father. The Spirit keeps our will in-sync with God’s will. The spiritual soldier prays for himself and for fellow combatants suffering persecution. As with his own combat, Paul instructs the believer to keep alert and up-to-date with the plight of fellow soldiers. Then, he should make (persistent) petitions on their behalf also.
God’s warrior prays continuously. He has a continuous relationship with God through prayer. The believer is always alert. He thanks God, constantly and repeatedly, for the giftedness and partnership of his brothers. Likewise, he makes persistent and continuous prayers for their needs and challenges. In short, Paul’s military lesson on the Armor of God culminates with the unveiling of his spiritual soldier as prayer warrior. “With ALL prayer… pray at ALL times in the Spirit … alert with ALL perseverance … petition for ALL the saints,” the prayer warrior is engaged in an ongoing, perpetual conversation with God to combat the Satanic threat.
We should pray, always and over everything! We pray “under the influence” of the God’s Spirit, always. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with the Father “with groanings too deep for words”. (Rom 8:26) He guides our outlook so that God’s will becomes our petition. The Holy Spirit understands our self-centered weakness and broadens us to become God-centered. God understands that I pray for me, but His Spirit reminds me to pray for my family of believers at-large. We should be alert and engaged for believers being persecuted and for our own challenges ahead. Prayer, from Paul’s perspective, is not about sporadic dialogue. Instead, Paul calls for constant, conversational communion with our Father.
I am challenged by the words of Brother Lawrence. He is best known for his lowly life as cook and sandal maker at the Carmelite Monastery in Paris in the late 1600s. In a series of sixteen letters, published post-mortem as The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence wrote of simple communion with God every hour of every day. Brother Lawrence wrote, “Our biggest mistake is to think that a time of prayer is different from any other time. It is all one… We need only to realize that God is close to us and to turn to Him at every moment.”