Friday, 16 December 2011

Armour on for Prayer

Eph 6:12-19 ‘For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench 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. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.’

Jesus paid the price for us to come into the presence of God in prayer by His work and obedience in Gethsemane and on the Cross. The cost was great for Jesus. It is easier for us because of what He did for us. I Cor 6:20 ‘For you were bought with a price’. He made the way for us.

Paul here in Ephesians teaches us our need to put the whole armour on for prayer. Why? Because the enemy wants to stop prayer. He recognises it as his battleground. The devil’s strategy is firstly to stop us becoming Christians, then to stop us receiving the Holy Spirit, and then to stop us functioning. He can make prayer seen hard of difficult; he prays on our human weaknesses. We have to overcome our laziness in prayer. With our armour on we are more aware of the realm of the spirit. However, if we are not in a right relationship with our Father or each other, the armour can feel heavy. If we sit down or relax, it can be hard to get back up. Therefore not only do we put the armour on, but we never take it off!

James 4:7 ‘ resist the devil and he will flee from you’ tells us to stand and resist him, which implies that he attacks us. Indeed, the weapons of our warfare in Ephesians 6 are all defensive weapons. We are not told to attack the enemy unless He shows himself.

Rom 8:37 ‘we are more that conquerors through him who loved us’.
A conqueror is one who fights (wrestles) and wins.
More than a conqueror is one who wins with hardly a battle.

Most of our prayer life is fought within the realm of the spirit. This is not motivated by intelligence or power or organisation etc but by God’s Spirit.

We must take up the armour in prayer. It is not automatically given. We have to choose to receive it and to keep it. It is always on if we are always in an attitude of prayer and in righteousness.

Once we have claimed ground by faith and prayer, it has to be held by faith. This is a relationship issue between us and the Father which is one of the main targets of the enemy. There will be an attack of doubt upon any move of faith. We must learn to doubt our doubts! If we believe and do not doubt, we will receive.

In Gethsemane Jesus did not go and do, but watched and prayed. We must be guarding our spirit. Obedience brings the blessing of strong armour with no vulnerable chinks.

Do you have your own armour on?
Is your relationship right?
Do you have the right motives?

If you can say ‘YES’ then prayer has no snares; you have the answer.

As we say ‘Yes’ to God in all things, so he does to us. Matt 7:2 ‘the measure you give will be the measure you get back’ .

Armour of God

This is a spiritual armour, but we must never allow ourselves to belittle it. It is not something that we should put on each morning, for there is no need to ever take it off. But we do. A little lie or unforgiveness, for example, will mean we need to come before God in repentance in order to restore our breastplate of righteousness. No doubt we would not think twice about ensuring our armour is intact when we are going into a pre-determined prayer battle. But we must beware complacency. Especially in these moments we may drop our guard. This is beautifully illustrated in the history of Sardis (Revelation 3). Sardis was built with an Acropolis on the summit of a hill. The path up to it was known only to the locals. The people were confident that they were safe from the enemy when they retreated to this protective place. Twice in history it is recorded that the watchmen were complacent and off guard, possibly even sleeping on duty. Twice they dropped a piece of their armour. Twice they went down the path to retrieve it, so giving away the route by which they were to be defeated. A moment of lapse can be the downfall for many. The lesson of the Persian victory of 549 BC was not learnt, and repeated by the Greeks in 218 BC.

Let us heed this warning. The spiritual battle is real.

Eph 6:16-17. With the helmet and shield of faith we guard our minds from the fowls of the air that seek to take away the thoughts given to us by the Holy Spirit. The shield of faith deflects the blows the enemy attempts to inflict upon us.

The Lord searches our hearts to see what our desire is. We have the mind of Christ. The Holy Spirit searches into all things, to bring the will of God into our minds and spirits.
1 Cor 2:10-13 ‘For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God…’
Our spiritual thoughts give rise to spiritual deeds. Only that which is born of God can please God. If the root is holy, the fruit will be holy. Conversely, worldly thoughts provide a doorway for the enemy to enter in by. Worldly thoughts of sin need to be taken captive. We must train and discipline ourselves to have Godly thoughts so God and His word can dwell richly in us.

Eph 6:14. We need the belt of 100% truth firmly in place, for everything else hangs on it. Truthfulness will always defeat the lies of the evil one. Real truth is knowing who we are in Christ.

Eph 6:14. As our breastplate of righteousness is seen by others, so it will cause them to stand back and take stock – what do we have that they desire? We will become the light on the hill to show the way to Jesus, moreover, ‘the righteous are as bold as a lion’ Proverbs 28.1. We must sit upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, for on our own ‘We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away’. Isaiah 64.6. The gospels serve to show us that of all men, only Jesus Christ was righteous. Not one of his 12 disciples were righteous. Righteousness is beyond the reach of natural man, but is ours in Christ.

Eph 6:15. The shoes of peace are a tremendous weapon in an argument in a crucial situation. They also lead us into victory.

Eph 6:17. The helmet protects the head and ears. It is to protect that which the Spirit has placed within us – speech, songs of praise, assurance, the Spirit in our minds. It protects us from anti-biblical words and thoughts.

Eph 6:17. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God; the word He speaks to us in any given situation. This particular Roman sword Paul envisaged was used not to stab to kill, but to deflect blows from the enemy. As we speak the word of God, so doubts are defeated, fears overcome and the enemy flees.

Rom 13:12 calls us to ‘lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.’ Not only does God hear our commands and prayers, but so does the demonic world. We must therefore have the armour that God has given to us in place as our defence.

Isaiah 58:8 ‘the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.’ The armour of Ephesians 6 does not cover our back. The Lord does.

Members of The Church and the demonic forces are already at war.
Paul fought against :

• Satan inspired Jews
• Vice and violence - Judaism.
• Divination
• Fanaticism (in the Galatians over circumcision).
• Contentions.
• Agnosticism (among the Ephesians).
• Fightings without / fears within.
• Law of sin and death working in his own flesh.

Eph 6:18 encourages us to be constantly alert in prayer. Most prayer strategies are – armour on – pray in the Spirit (with the mind of Christ) – use the armour to deflect the blows of the enemy (stand firm).

Eph 6:19 ‘Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel’. Speaking the gospel and speaking prayer are both acts of faith ‘so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places’ Eph 3:10.

We can trust Father God to always do abundantly, according to His power that works within us.