"With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit." Ephesians 6:18
The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. The sword requires a strong five, fingered grip by the sword-bearer in order for this weapon to accomplish the task assigned to it in the arsenal of The Armor of God. It is the only attack weapon the Christian soldier has. Without it the warrior is dressed to kill, but is powerless to do so.
Looks can be deceiving. Pristine parade ground cadets are no substitute for seasoned battleground veterans. The major difference between gold-braided and grizzled soldiers their level of experience in the use of their weapons. Basic training provides a potential combatant with an introduction to the proper use of weapons and to the current rules of engagement. Hand to hand combat with the enemy, however, creates a whole new level of intimacy and intensity with the effective use of weapons. It is something that cannot be accomplished in the classroom of a war college or duplicated by an artificial obstacle course. After one particularly savage battle, the war weary Union Civil War General Tecumseh Sherman said, "War is hell." His most recent experience gave him a clear picture and he made an accurate evaluation of 19th century conflict. In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul warned 1st century saints they were in a, "War with hell."
Nothing has changed in 2000 years. Christian soldiers were never intended to admire themselves in the mirror of public opinion, or to march in a parade of political correctness. Their commission from The Champion was a result of His call to them to follow Him and to stand by Him in the struggle "against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12
The soldier-saint learn must learn to wrap five fingers around "the sword of the Spirit" by following the daily discipline of The Champion. Jesus is the ultimate drill instructor. His voice must be heard over the din of battle, and the distractions of the enemy, or the soldiers of His army will go AWOL in the face of the enemy. The disciple of Christ becomes a disciplined soldier by developing the character that displays immediate obedience to the marching orders of The Champion. Each finger of the fighting grip of a well-equipped soldier must close tightly around the sword of the Spirit when they...
- Hear the Word!
- Read the Word!
- Study the Word!
- Memorize the Word!
- Meditate on the Word!
The sword of The Spirit is the Word of God. It must never be loosely held, or treated like a frivolous accessory. When it is taken lightly, the sword will be easily knocked to the ground by a blow from the enemy. If it is not taken seriously or considered obsolete, the soldier risks showing up for a fight for his life without his attack weapon.
Paul calls on soldiers to "pray in the Spirit." Prayer tightens the five-fingered grip of the saint around the sword of the Spirit. The key to getting and to keeping a firm grip on "the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God" is to..."...pray at all times in the Spirit..." Ephesians 6:18
A glove takes on the life of the owner when he inserts fingers into the space designed just for them them. Any left handed ball player who has ever had to play in a game while using a glove designed for a right handed player knows exactly what this feels like. The mitt must fit each finger properly or an error is sure to follow. A ball player imposes his or her will on the ball glove by inserting fingers into it. The glove has no life on its own. It shows signs of life only because someone else has exerted a powerful influence into the glove. It is not enough for the glove to simply exist. It will never accomplish the purpose for which it was made until life is put into it.
In a similar way, the prayers of a soldier of Christ give life to the five fingers that must obediently be wrapped around the handle on the sword of The Spirit. Prayer releases life-changing power of The Spirit into the fingers of a soldier and enables each one to get their unique grip on the only offensive weapon of warfare available to them. By prayerfully hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Word of God, the soldier will get a grip on the Truth that will give him courage for the battle. The sword of The Spirit silences the lies of the enemy and cuts the chains of those imprisoned in darkness. Preachers have long understood the power of this sword, and how to use it when the lies of the enemy camp become loud enough to drown out the truth of the Gospel.
"When Satan opens his mouth, he gives me an opportunity of ramming my sword down his throat." C.H. Spurgeon
Fingers of the soldier of Christ are deadened by the lack of prayer. Prayer energizes the spiritual senses, provides the infusion of the Spirit's courage into the heart of the warrior, and the Holy Spirit pumps supernatural strength into a believer's grip on the sword of the Spirit. Prayerlessness causes fingers to atrophy from lack of use, or to be paralyzed by the ferocious face and constant threats of the enemy. Praying at all times in the Spirit is an admission of one's own need for a moment by moment, breath by breath consistent companionship and daily dependency upon the Holy Spirit to provide His Presence, power and perspective during prolonged spiritual warfare.
"We must not be content to be cleansed, but be filled with the Spirit. The word 'comforter' as applied to the Holy Spirit needs to be translated by some vigorous term. Literally it means 'with strength.' Jesus promised His followers, 'The Strengthener' would be with them. No lullaby for the faint-hearted. It is a blood transfusion for courageous living." C.P. Hovey
Praying in the Spirit is the means by which a soldier engages in spiritual warfare with the overriding confidence in the victory over the enemy. Prayer enables the prayer warrior to stand next to The Champion during the worst of the battle. Prayer transforms life-draining fear into death defying faith by making connection with the life giving power and the life-changing Presence of the Person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His followers that it was to their advantage that He go away. He knew that His absence would lead to a fresh infusion of His Presence.
Praying in the Spirit provides access to His...
- Comfort: "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever, that is, the Spirit of truth,...you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you." Jn 14:16-17
- Companionship: "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." Jn 15:7
- Communication: "If you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you...ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full." Jn 16:24
- Courage: "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." Jn 16:33
- Citizenship: "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of this world. I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." Jn 17:14
- "Completion: I in them and You in Me that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me." Jn 17:23
The First Great Awakening in America had its most visible lightning strike in Northampton, Massachusetts, during 1734-1735. A few years later, in response to a call to prayer from a pastor in Scotland, Jonathan Edwards wrote the seminal work on The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening. He entitled it,
"An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God's People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Renewal of Religion and the Advancement of God's Kingdom on Earth." Jonathan Edwards 1747
Edward's book outlined what had happened in his church in Northampton and the surrounding communities. He described what they saw God do, and called for a renewal in 1747 of the kind of prayer they had experienced 13 years earlier. It is still needed today to prepare for the next Great Awakening. The marks are: Explicit Agreement - Visible Unity - Unusual Prayer
Praying in the Spirit is a vital responsibility of the Church, but its influence is not limited to those within the walls of a church. Praying in the Spirit's power has the capacity to generate a gentle touch to turn one life around. God intends for His children to lead the way in obedience to His commands. Spiritual Awakening, sometimes called revival, is just one step of obedience away. It knows know limits. It has been described as a community totally saturated by the Presence of God. Praying in the Spirit can be released upon one person, or this kind of prayer can launch a tsunamai. The tidal wave of the Spirit's power has proven to be able to surge across an entire nation, and reverse the direction of generation that has turned its back on God.
As early as 1739, Benjamin Franklin became a personal friend and business partner of the Anglican Evangelist George Whitefield. Franklin saw the fires of the First Great Awakening transform the lives of the citizens of the city of Philadelphia. In his autobiography he recalled the impact of the open-air preaching of Whitefield on the colonial citizenry,
"...one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street."
Franklin remained friends with Whitefield until the preacher's death. He shares in his autobiography that he never gave the evangelist the satisfaction of knowing that his prayers for his salvation were ever answered, but he never forgot what he had seen God do through the life of the man.
Years later he would recall how he had seen God work in his nation's history through answered prayer. The War of Independence had been won. The nation had been struggling for years with the implementation of the inadequate Articles of Confederation. Once again delegates from the various United States met in Philadelphia to reorganize the government into a more effective union.
After five weeks of tumultuous and fractious meetings at the Constitutional Convention in Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin reminded them of answered prayers they had received in that very room during the American Revolution. Although he was not a a professing member of any denomination, he called on the members of Congress who claimed to be Christians, to remember what they believed in, and to pray to God once more for guidance. With the Congress at an impasse, members were threatening to go home, and disband the effort. Rather than the birth of a nation, the convention was about to dissolve into a complete failure. Franklin rose before the Congress in session and appealed to the presiding officer, George Washington. He said in part,
" In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and graciously answered...I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God Governs the affairs of men...I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business..."
In spite of opposition to the motion from members of Congress who did not want word to get out that the convention had come to this kind of desperate measure, prayers were offered. There was a change in the climate of the room. In short order, the fog of confusion was lifted and a constitution was completed, passed on to the States, and ratified. The rest, as they say, is history.
"The story of every great Christian achievement is the history of answered prayer." E.M. Bounds
There is always a high cost to pay for those praying their way towards Spiritual Awakening. The enemy has always known that fallen leaders weaken a movement of God. Discredited, discouraged, disoriented, defeated, or dead, it makes no difference to the enemy camp how a leader falls as long as a leader leaves the field. People left without a leader are prone to wander from the field of battle, or eventually retreat from it.
It was so in the lives of leaders of the First Great Awakening. After being used as a catalytic converter for the Awakening that began in his church in Northampton, Massachusetts, Edwards saw it spread all over New England, and throughout Colonial America. His writings and the preaching of Whitefield were instrumental in seeding the Great Awakening throughout Great Britain.
Three years after writing his monumental treatise on the role of prayer in Spiritual Awakening, Jonathan Edwards was removed from his pulpit in 1750. He had refused to retreat, and return to the way things were before the Great Awakening. He refused to accommodate the widening, secularized culture that sought acceptance and membership in his church, but did not want a relationship with God. Today he is remembered as the one of America's greatest theologians, scientists and philosophers, and the Father of the First Great Awakening. His former church is a forgotten footnote in history. Go figure.
George Whitefield, from 1839-1870 exhausted himself by 13 crossings of the Atlantic, preaching thousands of sermons in the open air, and traveling by horseback the length and breadth of colonial America. He was one of the first white men to travel non-stop by horseback from Boston to Charleston, SC. His heart gave way at the age of 55 after preaching his last sermon in Newburyport, Massachusetts in 1770. He was buried in that city beneath the pulpit of what is now the First Presbyterian Church. From 1739-1770, his preaching forged ties between the colonies, and prepared the way for the establishment of a national identity. He gave his last breath to fan the flames of Spiritual Awakening in his adopted homeland of America. His prayer journals are an inspiration, and leave potential prayer warriors with a powerful and profound reminder,
"Man's extremity is God's opportunity." George Whitefield
The cost of a getting a grip on the sword of the Lord comes with a high price. Those who accept the challenge to pray in the Spirit are are driven by the prophetic passion that the price paid for losing one's grip on the sword is even higher. Historical and theological evidence reveal the peril that comes when the Church replaces an intimate communication with God with an inexcusable connection with its culture. The unbalanced substitution results in a nation that expects God's protection and prosperity, but despises His correction and purity.
"For the nation and the kingdom that will not serve You will perish." Isaiah 60:12
The Role of the Word of God and Prayer in Spiritual Awakening are inseparable from one another. The process of breathing, inhaling and exhaling, supplies the body with life-giving oxygen, and rids the lungs of what is life-threatening. Light from the Word of God protects Spiritual Awakening from losing its way and keeps it from being consumed by secondary issues and unsound doctrine. Prayer softens hands that have become calloused and hearts that have become hardened handling the holy sword of The Spirit. Praying in the Spirit prepares people to receive the Word of God. Prayer and the Word of God are two sides of the same coin. For the citizens of The Kingdom who are willing to pray the price for Spiritual Awakening, they must invest in and expend the currency that is recognized and minted in Heaven.
One of the greatest church historians, who gave his life to the study and the documenting of the role of prayer in Spiritual Awakening, passed on this wise counsel to his students before he died.
"What is the lesson for us, Let us pray. Lord, do it again. Do it again." J. Edwin Orr
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!