The Whole Armor of God: Part 5

Ephesians 6:18  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
We now come to the last mighty weapon in this "whole armor of God," the breathing of His people's hearts to God by prayer, when they have been formed by His Word—His breath to us! It is the characteristic feature of Christian life; obedience and dependence mark its activities in this fallen world. It is very striking how frequently we find the Word of God and prayer in close connection in Scripture. When God was dealing with and testing man in the flesh in the nation of Israel, He did not name prayer as part of their relationships with Him. They accepted, in their own strength, the law as the terms of their relationship. Now, prayer expresses the weakness of man. There were two forms of address given them, one expressing blood guiltiness (Deut. 21), and the other the expression of worship in the perfection of obedience (Deut. 26). But man was put on his own strength to do
these things and so to live in them. What ruin
ensued! Yet, in the midst of such a wreck, no doubt many a faithful heart cried to God, outside all ordered and formal relationships with Him.
In the opening of the first book of Samuel, we find a Hannah—desolate and pining after her heart's desire, moving her lips as her heart expressed its cry to the Lord. Even Eli the high priest rebuked her, supposing that she was drunken with wine. But her answer seems to have touched a chord in the old priest's soul, as she replied, "No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD." Eli answered her, "Go in peace: and the God of Israel [He who had wrestled of old with Jacob in another way] grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him." 1 Sam. 1:99So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:9), etc. The child Samuel, whose name signifies "asked of God," was the answer to this cry.
We find too in the early chapters of this book how complete was the wreck of things in Israel. The priesthood was defiled and corrupted, and at last the ark of God passed into the hands of the Philistines; and "Ichabod" was written on the ruined people whose aged high priest broke his neck in falling backward from his seat by the side of the gate, when he heard that the ark had been taken by the uncircumcised.
All ordered relationships were now gone. The people had no priest to draw nigh to Jehovah; the priest (if he desired it) had no ark, where to consult by "Urim and Thummim"—no mercy seat on which to sprinkle the blood before the Lord. What will now be His resource, who is never frustrated by the evil and failure of man? Samuel, the man who was asked of God, will now be the "prophet of the Lord" by whom God will reveal Himself again by the "word of the Lord" to the consciences of those who had an ear to hear. If God thus maintained His relationship through the consciences of His people by Samuel, the cry of need, the prayer of His people also went up to Him by Samuel (chaps. 1:8, 9; 12:18, 19, 23). In this we find the two great principles or characteristics of spiritual life, so frequently found together in Scripture; namely, the Word of God and prayer. Mary at the feet of Jesus, hearing His voice, and the disciples saying to Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 10 and 11), illustrate this thought. See also Peter in Acts 6: "We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly"; then, "Continuing instant in prayer" (Col. 3:16; 4:216Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
2Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2)
). Even the very food we eat is sanctified to us by the Word of God and prayer. God's Word sanctions certain things for the use of the body, as meat and drink for His people; they receive it from Him with prayer, refusing nothing that has thus been set apart by His Word; "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer." 1 Tim. 4:4, 54For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:4‑5).
Prayer is the first expression of the newly born soul to God. They led Saul of Tarsus, blinded by the light of the glory in the face of Jesus Christ, to Damascus; and in the "house of Judas," in the street called "Straight," behold this persecutor on his knees. A little time before he was breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord Jesus; now the earnest cry ascends to and enters His ear; and "Behold he prayeth," shows how the Lord's ear and heart were attentive to these strong cryings of this chief of sinners.
Prayer takes very varied characteristics in the Word of God. If we turn to the 11th chapter of Luke we find the Lord instructing the hearts of His disciples in the earnest prayer of importunity. He says, "Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth." How practical is the scene He here portrays! The deep sense of need, and dependence on One who has discovered Himself to our souls as One who alone can supply the need we feel. The sense of confidence is displayed too in the earnestness which turns not aside from Him to any other source. He knows the heart, and knows well whether there is this unmingled confidingness in Him. Yet it is not His goodness and readiness to hear and answer which are here unfolded, but the importunity, the pertinacity of the heart that clings to and cries to God until the need is supplied—that which abates not in earnestness in asking Him who has said, "Ask, and it shall be given you."
But this is not the highest character of prayer by any means; still it is needed for His people while they are here. A still more blessed provision—for making known our requests—is
found in Phil. 4:66Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (Philippians 4:6). In this place we do not find that He promises to supply the need we express to Him, but He answers in another and much more blessed way. Ten thousand cares may press upon the heart; what is to be our resource? "Be careful for nothing"! is the reply. "Nothing," you answer; how can this be? Then He proceeds, "But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." And how blessed is the answer. Perhaps not one request has been granted, but the answer comes in another manner. "The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus"! God puts His peace into the heart which has put its cares on God! How frequently we are disposed to allow our cares to eat away at the heart, and bow down the soul. Care for the Church, the saints of God; the deep anxieties of service for the Lord; for the conversion of those we love; for the recovery of those who have wandered from the way. Circumstances too may try the heart; the love of those whose love we valued has grown cold; the bitterness of being misunderstood and misjudged—all press upon the soul. How blessed those strong, bright words, "Be careful for nothing"! How blessed to go to God in the strong cryings and secret bitter tears which His eye has marked and noted, and hand over the cares to Him! Mark, it is not to our Father, but to God. It is not here the confidingness of relationship, but to a holy Being whose nature is known—whose throne is never touched by cares. The heart learns there to pour out its earnest cry, deepening in intensity from "prayer" to "supplication," until the heart has risen, as it were, above the cloud, above the cares which pressed upon the soul, until it bursts out in the pure light of heaven, in "thanksgiving" into the ever opened ear of One who gives His peace to the relieved heart, with the sweet sense that His hand is under the care, has taken it into His own merciful hands, and we have in exchange God's own peace.
But in Ephesians we are outside the things which distress the heart, in another way. The range of vision takes in the things which occupy the mind of Christ. The great interests of the Lord on earth are before us„ more than our own cares. Not that He does not interest Himself with our little cares and trials—that He does; but here the prayer and supplication in the Spirit, with its watching and perseverance, is for "all saints." In the true dependence of one who is fully armed with this armor of God, prayer keeps the heart in confidingness in Him. Self is broken, and He is trusted; and the more knowledge the more prayer. Satan cannot seduce the heart which is ever in this attitude before God. "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not."
The Lord's people have thus been prepared to meet the foe and to "withstand in the evil day"; that is, the whole period through which we now pass. The soul is formed by the truth; the conscience good, maintained in the light; the heart peaceful, in the confidingness and piety which walks with God and trusts Him amid the storms and waves which beat around us. Thus Satan's fiery darts are of no avail, and with the helmet of a known salvation covering the head, and the Word of God as the Spirit's sword, we are ready to meet the wiles of the devil, and the heart is kept in a right condition before God in this evil world. He has His true place of authority which orders all; the saint too is found in his true attitude of dependence and confidence before Him, as expressed in prayer, but prayer which embraces His great interests here on earth—"all saints" in their labors and conflicts, toils and joys.
A difficulty may be a real one, but it is only for the unbelief of hearts that it is an obstacle, if on the path of God's will; for faith reckons upon God, and performs that which He wills, and difficulties are as nothing before Him. Unbelief can always find excuses, and excuses too that are apparently well founded; they have only this capital defect, that they leave God out.
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