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Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland

The Armor of God
Prayer

Ephesians 6:10-20 [NIV]

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Today we conclude our study  of the armor of God.

We began our study by examining who is our enemy and what is his objective.  As much as we detest war, there are times when pacifism is not an option.  Either we fight, or we surrender.  And in the battle over our eternal souls, and the souls of those whom we love, surrender does not bring relief, but eternal misery.

So we studied in depth each piece of equipment that God has provided every Christian so that we may be able to withstand the enemy's assaults.  These tools are:

  1. Truth - both the absolute objective truth which has its source in God, and our own personal integrity.
  2. The holy life of Christ ascribed to each of us through His suffering and death on the cross, and personal purity which reflects Christ's holiness in us.
  3. The proclamation of the Gospel - the Good News that God forgives sinners because of what Christ has done for them.
  4. Eternal salvation.
  5. Faith.
  6. The revealed Word of God, which we call the Bible.
And today we look at the final piece of armor:  Prayer.

Throughout this study, the Apostle Paul has used the analogy of a soldier's battle gear to identify and describe the basic equipment we utilize in our spiritual conflict with Satan.  However, for this last resource, prayer, Paul chooses not to give us a physical metaphor, as he had for the other six pieces.

If we were writing the text, what would we use as the battle analogy for prayer?  Knee pads?  I don't think soldiers in ancient times had 'em.  Perhaps if this lesson were written with today's battle technology in mind, we might see a reference to a field radio, where soldiers on the front line can call for support and directions from central command headquarters.

It is just as well that we don't have a single piece of protective battle armor, or a weapon, associated with prayer.  Associating warfare with prayer gives us insights and applications which go much deeper than a single item of equipment.

First -  In battles between nations, there is no room for Lone Rangers.  Every soldier works within his unit, and the unit works together as a team under the command of their officer.

The same is true for us Christians in our battle against Satan.  We do not work independently, but we execute a carefully crafted battle strategy, working as a team with every other Christian in the world, with God Himself as our commanding officer.  Our fellow soldiers are not only other believers around the world, but also God's angels who are fighting the Enemy and his demons in the unseen spirit world.

And one means of our participation in this great cosmic army is prayer.

A powerful illustration of this truth occurred in the life of the familiar Old Testament character named Daniel.   There are a few notable experiences in Daniel's life which are favorite Sunday School stories, chief of which was his venture into the lion's den.   However, there are many more events in Daniel's life, which don't usually include in our children's Sunday School lessons, but are, nonetheless, worthy of our study.

Daniel was a Jew living in the country that today we call Iraq.  In his younger days, the city where Daniel lived was the capital of the Babylonian Empire.  In his later years, the same area was enveloped into the Persian empire.  Daniel served in government under several different despotic dictators.

The people of Israel were in exile, far from their home in Palestine.  Their conquest, captivity, and exile came as a consequence of their persistent rejection of God's authority, in favor of the more interesting and much more gratifying religions of Israel's neighbors.  The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah explicitly predicted Israel's national history, which Daniel lived through.

So it was in his personal study of the writings of Jeremiah that Daniel made a startling discovery, which motivated him to pray:

In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.  So I turned to the LORD God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:

"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.  We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:1-6)


Daniel continues his prayer of confession for the sins of the nation, and then he concludes his prayer:
 

"Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O  Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.  Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.  O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."  (Daniel 9:17-19)


Incidentally, this prayer has a strange similarity to the prayer that King Solomon had prayed 430 years earlier at the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 6:14-42), a magnificent structure which, now in Daniel's day, was nothing more than a heap of rubble.

This prayer of Daniel remained his passion for the next three years, when again he set aside a time for personal prayer and fasting, with a group of his closest friends.

"In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia... I, Daniel mourned for three weeks.  I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over...  I looked up and there before me was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of the finest gold around his waist.  His body was like chrysolite, his face like lighting, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude."  (Daniel 10:1-6)
This "man", of course, was no man at all, but an angel, permitted by God to appear to Daniel in physical form.  The angel told Daniel:
"Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.  But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.  Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come."  (Daniel 10:12-14)
During the three week period when Daniel prayed in earnest for the Jewish people in Persia, a battle was waging in the spirit world - a battle between the holy angels of God, and demonic spirits, fallen angels who had given allegiance to Satan.  Daniel could not see that battle; he could not have known about that battle.  But by his prayers, Daniel was himself joining in that battle.

And it appears that the real estate over which the angels were battling was the heart and mind of the King Cyrus of Persia.  For 70 years Israel had been held in bondage in Babylon.  When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he issued an "emancipation proclamation."

"This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: " 'The LORD , the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.  Anyone of his people among you -- may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD , the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:2,3)
Daniel did not summon any angels by his prayer.  He had only prayed for Israel.
Daniel did not pray to angels. He prayed only to God.

God sent an angel, but an evil spirit identified as "the prince of Persia" blocked his way.  We may safely infer that this "prince of Persia" was one of the demonic spirits who claimed authority in Persia as one who was worshipped by the people of Persia.  As one of the rebels in Satan's legion, this evil spirit was bound to destroy God's good intentions for Israel, and to keep God's people in bondage.

God can destroy Satan with a word.  And one day, He will.  But for now, God chooses to work through His people.  And He gives us everything we need for His work...

The angel in Daniel's story was engaged in battle.  And he didn't fight alone.  While this messenger from God is unidentified, his comrade in arms is identified as the Archangel Michael.  Similarly, Daniel, who participated in this battle by his prayer, did not pray alone.  And we, in our battle against Satan, also do not fight alone.  We are soldiers in a spiritual military force that includes all our brothers and sisters in Christ, and includes all of God's mighty angels.

The subject of Daniel's prayer was the people of Israel.  Similarly, our Scripture lesson on the Armor commands us to pray for other people...

Why should we pray?  What good can prayer really do?

Martin Luther, in his instruction about the Lord's Prayer, reminds us that our prayers don't help God.  Rather, Biblically modeled prayer reminds us that we are totally dependent on God.  And when Satan assaults us in spiritual warfare, we stand, not in our power, but in God's.

Disciplined soldiers in military service do not give orders to their commanding officers.  Similarly, Christians who understand the purpose of prayer, do not use prayer to give orders to God.  "Name it and claim it" appeals more to the pride of man than it does to heart of God.  Rather, in Biblically modeled prayer, we join the unseen angelic battle in ways beyond our comprehension.
 

Our lesson Ephesians 6 urges us to "pray in the Spirit."

For many today, praying "in the Spirit" means that our prayers should express intense emotion, in the belief that emotion somehow adds potency to prayer.

Notice that the Apostle did not say, "pray with heightened emotion," he said, "pray in the Spirit" -- and our English translations correctly capitalize the word "Spirit," meaning the Holy Spirit.  That's God's Spirit, not ours.

In Romans chapter 8, Paul explained:

"The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will."  (Romans 8:26,27)
That is the secret for praying in the power of the Holy Spirit --  not praying for the things we want, but praying for the things that God wants.

The Bible says:

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have what we asked of him.  (1 John 5:14,15)
Again: the secret for praying in the power of the Holy Spirit -- pray for the things that God wants.  And what is it that God wants?
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."  (John 17:3)

[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men--the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

When we pray for God to save people from eternity in hell, we join the battle against Satan and his angels.

When we pray that people will learn about Jesus, His suffering, death, and resurrection, we become active soldiers in God's army.

When we pray that people will honestly confess their sins to God and accept His mercy and forgiveness, we work in union with other Christians and God's Holy Angels in ways we can't really understand.
 

Ephesians 6 urges us to pray "with all kinds of prayer."   We are all too familiar with prayer that asks for things - we are accustomed to requesting favors from God.  Yet, if we look at Daniel's prayer, his was chiefly a prayer of confession, begging God's forgiveness.  It was a prayer acknowledging God's holiness and justice.  It was a prayer appealing to God's mercy.  It was a prayer on behalf of the needs of others.  It was a prayer that expressed the very character of God Himself.

Absent from Daniel's prayer, but an important element in Biblically modeled prayer is praise and thanksgiving.
 

Ephesians 6 urges us to pray "on all occasions... always keep praying for all the saints."   God wants us to stay connected with Him every minute of every day.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Join the Battle!  Put on all of God's armor:

[1] With the belt of truth,
      Know that God's Word is True, and let your words be truthful.

[2] Wear the chest protector of Christ's holy life covering you,
      and let Christ live in and through you.

[3] On your feet wear the shoes that will prepare you
      to run and tell the good news of peace in Jesus Christ,
      and march into the enemy's camp to liberate people he still holds captive.

[4] Take up the shield of faith, with which
      you can extinguish all the devil's flaming arrows
            of temptation, anger, fear, and doubt.

[5] Put on the helmet of salvation in Jesus Christ.

[6] Take the Word of God as the sword of the Holy Spirit.

[7]  And always pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.
         Pray for all the lost people whom God loves.
         Pray for all those who are still deceived by Satan's lies.
         Pray for all those for whom Christ died.
         Pray for all the people you know, who still need to know Jesus.

Amen.
 
 

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