Thursday: Practicing Battlefield Prayer

In concluding his battle exhortation, Paul urges believers as soldiers to participate in crucial, continuing prayer “for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18, NKJV) and for himself as imprisoned ambassador (Ephesians 6:19-20). This call to prayer can be seen as an extension of the military imagery, since calling out to God (or to the gods) in prayer was a common practice on the ancient battlefield. To cite a biblical example: following the battle exhortation of Jahaziel, Jehoshaphat leads “all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem” in falling down “before the LORD, worshiping the LORD” (2 Chronicles 20:18, ESV). While prayer is not a seventh piece of armor, it is an integral part of Paul’s battle exhortation and military metaphor.

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In the first of two prayer requests, Paul asks the addressees to participate in fervent, urgent, and perseverant prayer “for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18, NKJV). If the church is to be successful in its battle against the powers of evil, it will need to practice dependence on God through Spirit-inspired prayer.

Paul’s second prayer request is for himself: “and also for me” (Ephesians 6:19, ESV). He asks for prayer that God might grant him the right message (“that words may be given to me”), at the right time (“in opening my mouth”), delivered in the right way (“boldly to proclaim”), and addressing a most important theme, “the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19, ESV). This last phrase refers to what we might call the “open secret” of God’s intervention in Christ to redeem Gentiles along with Jews (see Ephesians 3:1-13), creating “one new humanity” (Ephesians 2:15, NIV; see also Ephesians 2:11-22) as a signal of the overarching plan “to unite all things” in Christ (Ephesians 1:10, ESV).

Review the following “calls to prayer” in the New Testament. Which one inspires you most? Why? Luke 18:1-8Philippians 4:6Colossians 4:21 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Why are believers so often urged to participate in earnest, persevering prayer? Paul’s military metaphor suggests two answers: (1) the threat of spiritual battle against an array of supernatural enemies is dire and real; (2) God’s promises of spiritual strength and victory are illustrated through Paul’s military imagery (Ephesians 6:10-17). Earnest, persevering prayer provides opportunity for us to listen carefully to these promises, to celebrate them, and to thank God for the resources of His grace.

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