Ephesians 6 admonishes us to put on the armor of God and stand against the schemes of the devil, warning us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. I have been more and more convicted that I do not take this warning as seriously as I ought. There is an enemy whose existence is devoted to destroying God’s people, and every Christian is engaged in a battle against him. It is about time we pay attention.
By God’s grace, we have been given armor to equip us in this battle. We are to fasten on the belt of truth; we are to know the truth of the Word of God and to live by it if we are to recognize Satan’s lies. We are to put on the breastplate of righteousness, knowing that we are no longer slaves to sin, but have been made righteous because of Christ. We go to battle emboldened and instructed by the gospel and calling unbelievers to share in the good news of Christ. Faith is our shield; we trust in God’s promises and his character. The helmet of salvation is an understanding that death has no claim to us; we are in Christ and a part of his body. And we are given an offensive weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Eph 6:17).
By the spirit of prayer, we are to wrestle against the principalities and powers of darkness. I need to study the bible, and I need to remain in a posture of prayer – but I don’t. I fall into complacency. Why do I struggle to pray? I think a major reason is that pursue prayer as an end to itself rather than as a means to a relationship with God. How quickly will I abdicate the gift of prayer? How quickly will I allow Satan the opportunity to erode the love I have for others? My will is far too weak to confront the evil in the world without prayer, and my heart is far too off center to love others as I should without prayer.
In The Hidden Life of Prayer, David M’Intyre writes of the arduousness of prayer.
Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the “heavenly footman.” The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill. Prayer is the uplift of the earth-bound soul into the heaven, the entrance of the purified spirit into the holiest; the rending of the luminous veil that shuts in, as behind curtains, the glory of God. It is the vision of things unseen; the recognition of the mind of the Spirit; the effort to frame words which man may not utter.
Sometimes we are conscious of a satanic impulse directed immediately against the life of prayer in our souls; sometimes we are led into “dry” and wilderness-experiences, and the face of God grows dark above us; sometimes, when we strive most earnestly to bring every thought and imagination under obedience to Christ, we seem to be given over to disorder and unrest; sometimes the inbred slothfulness of our nature lends itself to the evil one as an instrument by which he may turn our minds back from the exercise of prayer. Because of all these things, therefore, we must be diligent and resolved, watching as a sentry who remembers that the lives of men are lying at the hazard of his wakefulness, resourcefulness, and courage. “And what I say unto you,” said the Lord to His disciples, “I say unto all, Watch!”
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, but Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10). We must be vigilant. And we must remember that we, as followers of Christ, fight in victory – for the victory has already been won on the cross. “Oh that God would make us dangerous.”