I have been blessed to see how the Lord has emphasized the importance of prayer to our church family during the last several weeks. There are a couple of pictures which have helped me grow in my belief that "prayer is the most powerful weapon available to me as a child of God."
Picture One: The Armor of God
I think we all cherish the passage which describes the "Armor of God." It's one of the strongest visuals in the entire Bible.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Ephesians 6:10-17 NASB
The Bible goes in great detail about the armor of God. Lots of emphasis on each piece. We have our children memorize the passage, and sings songs about it. But do we see what the purpose of the armor of God is? Why do we put all of it on? Yes, to fight, but how? The passage continues in a way that was unexpected to me. I didn't have this picture in my mind when I thought of the armor of God. The passage isn't over; the next verse says:
“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 NASB
We put on the armor of God in order to fight... IN PRAYER. What a powerful picture, of a warrior decked out in full battle gear, on his knees, waging war in prayer.
This makes perfect sense to me. Jesus said His house will be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). He also said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). Combining these two verses (inspired by the picture of the praying warrior in the full armor of God), we see that the "house of prayer" is the church that will prevail upon the enemy's gates.
Prayer is how we prevail.
Picture Two: Moses on the Mountain Side, Hands Raised Over the Battle
The second picture comes from a familiar story, and illustrates the relative power of prayer:
“So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.”
Exodus 17:11 NASB
Again, this is a familiar story, of Joshua defeating the Amalekites through the intercession of Moses's prayer. Certainly, "the prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16). But what spoke to my heart in this picture is the relative importance of one praying man (in unity with other wholehearted brothers) vs thousands of soldiers. We would think that thousands of soldiers are a thousand times more important than just three men united in prayer. But what this picture clearly shows is that the authority of a few righteous men (Moses, holding the staff of God, supported by Aaron and Hur) is as necessary as the army of thousands!
When we consider how we "wage war" as Christians, it's easy to be caught up with lots of activity. And sometimes, because prayer can seem "passive," we neglect prayer and get caught up with more physically intensive efforts. Using our bodies physically can feel like we are accomplishing something. But we must never mistake activity for progress; not all spiritual activity advances the kingdom of God. We need to have spiritual vision to see the spiritual value of all action in the Lord's service, and I have been much blessed to see the true value of prayer. It is the most "active" thing we can do, spiritually!
The pictures of the armor of God and of the righteous men on the mountain over the battle both make it clear:
Praying is prevailing!