And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17–18, ESV)
There is a cosmic battle that is raging. There are evil forces at work that stand opposed to the kingdom of God. The Apostle Paul describes it as nothing less than spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-20.
We are called to take up the full armor of God and to stand firm against the devil and his schemes. We are to take the belt of truth, the gospel of peace as shoes for our feet, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation (see Ephesians 6:14-17). These are given to us for defense. This armor helps us to guard our hearts and minds against worldly and demonic influences.
But Paul does not stop there. He says to take the sword of the Spirit and to pray at all times in the Spirit. There is a subtle shift that takes place. Paul transitions away from describing our protective covering. He moves to describe weapons given for offense. He portrays the Word of God as the sword of the Spirit. And then he says to pray at all times.
What I want you to notice is that prayer is something more than asking God for protection. Many people go to God in prayer when bad things happen. They ask God to heal their illness or provide for them in a financial crisis. They seek help with anxiety or aid in fighting addiction. What I am trying to point out is that we often reserve prayer for defense against crises. But the sense I get from Ephesians 6 is that while prayer can be used for defense, it is also a powerful weapon for offense.
Often, the best defense is a great offense. It is easier to push back someone who is standing still than someone who is moving forward. It is all about momentum. And there are few things that God gives us that create forward momentum better than prayer.
Indeed, there will be times when we are knocked back on our heels and will need to use prayer as a defense. But what if we were more intentional about using prayer as a weapon to advance God’s kingdom in this world. Consider some subtle shifts in how you pray:
- Instead of praying for healing, pray for more excellent health that enables you to serve God in a more significant way.
- Instead of praying for God to help you make ends meet, pray that God would give you the wisdom to prosper while living generously to help meet the needs of others.
- Instead of praying for God to take away anxiety or fear, pray that there would be such an abundance of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:25) produced in your life that there would be more than enough to share with others.
- Instead of praying for God to remove
an addiction, pray for an earnest longing to seek first the kingdom and that your ultimate desire would be to serve the highest good.
In summary, instead of praying against the bad, let’s pray even bolder for the great things God wants to accomplish in us and through us. Instead of praying against falling back, let’s pray to move forward courageously. Instead of praying to survive, let’s pray to thrive!