[u][b]The Call For Wrestlers In Prayer[/b][/u]
By Ruth Paxson
Ephesians begins with the Christian in Christ in the heavenlies abounding in his exhaustless wealth as an heir of God and joint-heir with Christ. It continues with the Christian walking worthily of the Lord in loving and joyous fellowship with fellow-Christians, and in the strength and peace of a harmonious home. This would seem to be a suitable place to end the epistle.
But what a change of scene and of atmosphere when we come to 6:10! We are suddenly transplanted from the restful shelter of the home to the rigorous warfare of a battlefield, where we see vast hosts mobilized for conflict; we hear the call to arms, and we smell the smoke of battle. In Ephesians 6:10-18 is pictured the Christian facing a foe, forced into warfare with Satan. This is the inevitable consequence of a life lived in Christ in the heavenlies, filled with the Holy Spirit, and walking as a foreigner through a world "that lieth in the evil one" (1 John 5:19) and is under his domination. So here we have a clarion call to arms to which every Christian should respond courageously.
for we wrestle
praying always" (Eph. 6:10,12, 14,18).
The spirit of the prayer warrior is a strange paradox. Christward it is one of conscious weakness seeking strength: Satanward it is one of conscious strength expressed in victory. This dual attitude is both the cause and the effect of prayer.
The Christian warrior has absolutely nothing in himself with which to meet such a foe or to win out in such a conflict. Standing alone before Satan and his hosts, he would tremble in fear and flee in defeat. He gladly acknowledges the truth of His royal Commanders words: "Apart from Me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). But the wrestler has everything in Christ. His one necessity then is to keep in constant communication with his Lord. Unbroken communion through prayer with our Captain-Conqueror-Christ is the only ground of assurance of habitual victory over Satan.
"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints" (Eph. 6:18).
"Praying always" is to have such unbroken communion with the Lord that all things, at all times, in all places, may be carried to Him in the upward look and inward attitude, even if no words are spoken. It implies also the outstretched hand of complete dependence both on ordinary days and in sudden crises. But preparedness against Satans wiles requires the wisdom and strength that only comes through definitely-stated times set apart for prayer.
Satan fears nothing as he fears a saint who knows how to prevail with God in prayer and release the omnipotent power of God against him. So he will use every devise to keep us from praying. He will cause physical fatigue and lethargy; unfit us mentally for prayer through the cares and burdens of the home and of business; and destroy our power in prayer through doubt, discouragement and depression. So when we least feel like praying is the time we most need to pray, for Satan already has gained a foothold in us.
"With All Prayer and Supplication..."
"With all prayer." Might not "all prayer" have several meanings? Praying on all occasions, in a prayer group, in prayer meeting, in public worship, even where Gods people are gathered together socially, prayer is befitting. Praying in all places; in ones own closet with the shut door, at the family altar each morning, in the Bible class, or devotional meeting. Praying at all times; in prosperity as well as adversity; in sickness or health; morning, noon and night, as the Psalmist prayed. Praying for all things in our personal life, home, business, work, that no loophole may be left for Satan to enter and to work. Everything needs to be covered by prayer. How often we could say what one friend recently wrote me: "For the enemy has attacked in such a surprising way and we were so unprepared to meet the onslaught."
"And supplication" Going beyond our own needs and withstanding Satans attacks on others by specific petition. Prayer should be focused on some special need or danger of one of Gods saints, as the prayer for the Church for Peter when he was in prison.
"In the Spirit." As carnal weapons do not prevail in spiritual warfare, neither will prayer that is in the flesh have any power. There may be a form of prayer without reality; even a use of all the accepted terms of prayer warfare, but without point or power. Prayer to be effectual in warfare needs to start with God who sees the whole battlefield, who knows the devils plan of campaign, who decides the place and part of every wrestler, and who directs the movement of the entire army with the definite objective of carrying out His eternal purpose. God Himself must give us the prayer to pray. It must come straight from His heart to ours with a deep sense of conviction, urgency and assurance. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
We do not see Satans hidden ambush, his ingeniously concealed snare. But the all-wise, ever-watchful Spirit sees every danger and pitfall, and will so inspire prayer within us that we are forewarned and forearmed. How can we ever remember all the things for which we know we should pray? We cannot, but the Holy Spirit will bring them to our remembrance, and we should never disregard any impulse of the Spirit to pray. The Holy Spirit praying in us will determine both the character and the content of our prayer. Prayer in the Spirit must be Spirit-inspired, Spirit-inwrought, Spirit-taught, Spirit-directed and Spirit-energized.
Watching and Persevering
"And watching thereunto." The prayer warrior must be vigilant; permitting no laziness or self-indulgence that unfits for prayer; guarding his time so that even odd moments may be used for prayer, and definitely planning his daily schedule so that suitable time may be given to prayer. He must be watchful for everything that feeds and fosters the prayer life, and on guard against anything that enfeebles or hinders it. "Thereunto." Through the Word know Gods purpose both for the Church and the world. Then watch the trend of events and praise as you see Gods eternal purpose being fulfilled, and pray as you observe Satans efforts to thwart it.
"With all perseverance." Hold on and hold out, not fainting through fatigue, not yielding to discouragement because of delayed answer, not being deflected by pressure of other things. But persevere in faith until victory comes.
"For All Saints"
"For all saints." We are members one of another, bound together in Christ in a union so real that if one member suffers, all the members suffer, therefore the members should have the same care one for another (1 Cor. 12:25-26). The whole body of Christ suffers defeat to the degree that the individual members are defeated and the victory of the Church over the Satanic foe is dependent upon the victory of every Christian. Herein lies the responsibility of each saint for all saints. Not all Christians are appropriating their wealth in Christ, or walking worthily of their high calling, or standing victoriously against Satan. Many are grieving the Spirit by still walking according to the world and the flesh, thereby giving place to the devil. So few are enlightened by the Spirit (Eph. 1:17); praying in the Spirit (6:18); strengthened by the Spirit (3:16); and filled with the Spirit (5:18). Wherein does the blame lie for the weakness of the Church? Does not each saint share the blame in so far as he has failed to pray for all saints?
So much of narrowness, selfishness and exclusiveness characterizes our prayer. We pray for our own local church and for our own denominational home and foreign mission work, but what of the many other hundreds of battalions of Christian soldiers under a different name and leadership, but all part of the Lords host? Battles may be won here and there, but the war will be lost unless there is advance along all sectors of the fighting line. There are new recruits to be found; wounded comrades to be cared for; thinned-out ranks to be filled; officers to be trained; funds for carrying on the warfare to be provided, and only as each prays for all can all this be done. One wonders what measure of new life and power would come into the Church if every saint faithfully offered for all saints the two inspired prayers of Ephesians (1:15-19; 3:14-20).
"And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the Gospel
for which I am an ambassador in bonds, that therein I may speak boldly as I ought to speak" (Eph. 6:19-20).
Paul was Christs chief-of-staff of the human forces of that early Church. Therefore he was the mark for Satans most vicious attacks. Satan had succeeded in putting him in prison, and thought he had put him out of the conflict, but the dauntless old warrior binds the enemy with prayer, who had bound him only with chains, and in that very prison wins new spoils for his Lord.
Though undaunted, he was not self-confident. He needed strength and courage to preach the Gospel boldly and to faithfully fulfill his duties as an ambassador of Christ. To this end he craves the help through prayer of other saints. Oh, what need there is today for this very petition for ambassadors of Christ, both on the mission field and at home! It is becoming increasingly hard for loyal messengers of Christ to proclaim boldly the Gospel of a perfect salvation through the Savior. Many are persecuted and imprisoned for the Gospels sake, even as Paul was, and they are saying to us, "Pray for me."
No Retiring in Gods Army!
There is no retiring list in Gods army. He may shift the position of some of his old wrestlers and, because of their rich experience, gained in years of active service on the front firing line, place them with His prayer reserves. He needs prayer warriors today almost more than anything else, so if He has given you the honor to be one, let it give you unbounded joy.
A tremendous responsibility rests upon the prayer warrior, Christward, Churchward and Satanward. Christward, it involves fullest co-operation with the Lord in the carrying out of the Fathers eternal purpose in and through Him. This requires a knowledge of the Fathers will in regard to the Church and the world as revealed in His Word, that we may know what within the work of the Church today is under the direction of the Lord Himself through the Spirits guidance, and what is the worldly wisdom and policy of human leadership, largely misguided through false prophets and teachers. Only so can we intelligently work, pray and give for the Lords work. By co-operation with our Lord in prayer we can fight in all parts of the battlefield, and penetrate to the furthest reaches of the enemys territory.
Our responsibility Churchward is great and manifold. From Gods Word we need to know the teaching regarding the Church as the Body of Christ; to recognize not merely doctrinally but practically our oneness with all saints of whatever color, race, country or status, and to so live, work and pray that the whole Body of Christ is lifted to life on the highest plane, "far above all" and maintained in that position in victory over Satan.
Satanward our responsibility is tremendously great, very far beyond what the vast majority of Christians have ever known or been willing to accept. Let Christ tell us what it is:
Matthew 12:29: "Or else how can one enter into a strong mans house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house."
Luke 10:19: "Behold, I have given you authority
over all the power of the enemy."
Have not most of us tried to spoil Satan of his goods before binding him? Have we not been ignorant of the authority given us and, when we did know of it, shrunk from fear to exercise it? Consequently, Satan has bound us (Luke 13:16), instead of our binding him, and hindered us instead of our hindering him. The Lord would have His warrior know and experience this binding power of prayer in His name and use it in the defeat of Satan.
God needs today prayer warriors who have learned the secret of exercising their God-given authority in prayer, and who will direct it against the most strategic efforts of the evil one, so that he has no power to close doors to the Gospel; to compel Christians to worship at his shrines; to expel missionaries from the mission fields; to stop funds and other supplies for Gods work; to send out his own ministers and false teachers to the mission field or into the pulpits of evangelical churches at home; to forestall the work of revival and the giving of the message of full salvation; to stir up trouble and strife in the Church and the mission station; to wear out the saints in spirit, soul or body; to blind Christians to the truth of our Lords return and so hinder the work of the completion and the purifying of Christs Body and the hastening of the ultimate triumph of Christ and the fulfillment of Gods eternal purpose.
Dear fellow Christian, are you a prayer warrior? If not, will you offer yourself to Christ today to become one as His Spirit teaches and trains you?
The Apostle Paul, himself a tried and trusted warrior, by two crisp commands warns of two vulnerable spots which open to Satan the way of victory through crippling the Christian in spiritual warfare. Then by a third he exhorts every Christian to perfect his preparedness for warfare.
Giving Place to the Devil
"Neither give place to the devil" (Eph. 4:27). Giving place to the devil gives Satan headquarters in Christs camp. It provides him a base from which to conduct his campaign. Giving place to the devil makes a part of Christs army an ally of His archenemy. Giving place to the devil lessens the manpower of the Lords host and surrenders to Satan spiritual resources which belong only to the Captain of our salvation. It compels Christ to go out to war shorthanded. It diminishes the working force of the supernatural. Giving place to the devil divides allegiance and puts traitors and deserters into the army of the Lord.
So the devil is ceaselessly busy seeking to gain some place in the life of every Christian wrestler. He will start with a very small place, anything so long as he gains a foothold. He knows our weak spot. He comes up on our blind side. He breaks through where the crust is thinnest. He bides his time until he can take us unawares. He tempts at our most susceptible points. He works in a sly way, archdeceiver that he is, to beguile us into making a league with him. To the truly spiritual warrior he comes most often as a veritable angel of light, even ensnaring some by claiming to be an envoy from God. He uses any method, however clever or cruel, to gain access, and does his best to disguise his approach. What he seeks to gain is a "place" to begin his activities, that he may undermine the Christian warriors morale and render him incapable of fighting, that he may ultimately gain control and use him as his own accomplice.
Grieving the Holy Spirit
"Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30). One who might shrink with horror and fear from giving place to the devil may, nevertheless, be making the devils victory possible by grieving the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit dwells within us to reproduce within us the victorious life of the glorified Christ that we may be enabled "to stand" and to release through us His supernatural power that we may be empowered "to withstand." Whatever restrains or restricts the Holy Spirit from carrying out His work to His utmost capacity, plays into Satans hands to defeat Christ.
What is it in us that grieves the Holy Spirit? Naturally anything unholy. Whatever in us that is contrary to what He is, grieves Him. He is the Spirit of truth, faith, grace, wisdom, power, love, discipline, holiness, so anything that is untruthful, unbelieving, ungracious, unwise, unfruitful, unloving, uncontrolled, unholy, grieves the Spirit of God. Therefore sin of any nature or degree, whether open or secret, whether in flesh or spirit, whether gross or refined, grieves the Holy Spirit.
Being Filled with the Spirit
"Be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). This is the slogan of the victorious wrestler. It is the Spirit-filled warrior, and only he, who overcomes and overthrows the satanic hosts.
"Filled" with the Spirits wisdom (1:17), he discerns the wiles of the devil (6:11). "Filled" with the Spirits power (3:16), he stands against them. "Filled" with all the Spirits fullness (3:19), he is supernaturally equipped to engage in this warfare between the supernatural forces of good and evil and is supernaturally strengthened to come off victor.
"Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand your ground in the day of battle, and having fought to the end, remain victors on the field" (6:13).