Prayer Teaching Series: In My Name
Why do we need to pray if God knows what we are going to say already? How can one prayer make any difference? Does prayer really change what happens? God loves me and understands me, so how will praying make our relationship any better?
Prayer is vital and God invites us to talk to him through prayer. Through this Series, In My Name, I will be sharing my thoughts and biblical teaching on these questions and more.
Prayer is a privilege that we often don't make the most of. God invites us to enjoy a close relationship with Him. As with any relationship, the communication is vital to it's ongoing closeness and success. A direct line of contact between ourselves and the Creator of the universe is an incredible gift and so often that link is pushed down our daily priorities or even left to last.
We often attempt to face each day equipped in our own strength. If we want to be healthy we start with a good nutritious breakfast and fuel up for what lays ahead. We take ourselves in to our work/study/home life with the necessary information and skills we think we will need that day. Yet, we do not know for certain what each day will contain.
We don't know for sure what challenges will come along, what conversations we will have or which people we will interact with. We may have a fair idea but, actually every 'Monday morning' has the potential to throw anything our way.
When we set off on a journey, we may plan more carefully, dress appropriately, wear comfy footwear, take a drink, pack a book and carry our mobile phone. We equip ourselves for what we expect to face.
God provides us with armour, Ephesians 6:10, with which to face life. If we leave the armour at home and go out to meet the unknown day ahead, we go out unprepared and vulnerable.
Let's look at the pieces of armour that we have been given.
The Belt of Truth
Firstly, we have the Belt of Truth. Historically, the belt was worn around all the garments and held everything together especially in combat, so that nothing hindered movement. We are likewise instructed to wear truth and it is the FIRST thing we put on.
When Roman Soliders went into battle they tucked their long garments into their belt to prevent them being hindered or tripping up. They could then stand firm ( 1 Corinthians 16:13). We must use the Belt of Truth so that we can stand firm on the word of God and not trip.
Our enemy is the father of lies, we can defeat him only with the truth that we have in Scripture. We are children of the truth, Proverbs 12:22 and Ephesians 4:15. We need to be able to stand firmly on God's truth and hold on to it when all around us may challenge that truth. We are to speak truth and be trustworthy.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Breastplate of Righteousness is the righteousness that comes from our faith in Jesus, Hebrews 10:10. We have been made holy through His sacrifice. The breastplate covers the front of our torso to protect our vital organs, in particular our heart. It only covers the front, so we must face our enemy to use its protection. If we turn our back we are exposed, James 4:7.
We are to wear righteousness, Job 29:14. We are clothed or covered with the righteousness of Christ when we accept Him as our Saviour. Our heart needs protection. We can be led away and deceived if we allow our hearts to embrace anything that is not from God. Again, we are to seek the truth that is in the Scriptures and to allow those truths guide our behaviour and our speech.
The Shoes of Readiness of the Gospel
The Shoes of Readiness of the Gospel are the next items that we put on. It is vital that we wear the correct footwear for the terrain we walk on. For example, hiking boots for hiking otherwise anything else will result in agony, blisters, cuts and slow our pace.
Likewise, we are to stand firm on the gospel of Christ, Isaiah 52:7. We need a firm footing to be able to stand firm in battle. Could you fight a battle wearing roller-skates? If we allow God to lead us, He will keep us properly shod, (Deuteronomy 29:5), and walking where He leads us, Colossians 2:6.
The Shield of Faith
The Shield of Faith is a piece of equipment big enough to take shelter behind. Our faith is what will deflect the arrows of doubt, confusion or temptation. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 we are told that no temptation will come that we cannot be assisted in resisting.
We must have our shield at the ready and always in place because once the arrow is hurtling our way it is too late to raise our shield and deflect it. Faith in God and trust in His perfect plan is our shield against the challenges and attacks we may face. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, without faith it is impossible to please Him.
The Helmet of Salvation
The Helmet of Salvation is vital. Protection for the head obviously. We have been saved from the power of darkness but, we must protect our heads (in other words our minds). We should remember that we have been freed from sin and given salvation, so we must not expose our minds to the forces of evil, to the occult or to mind control.
We are vulnerable when we let down our guard and that can be through drugs or intoxication, through material we read or watch and the company we keep. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us to be on our guard, sober and vigilant. Our minds can be open to suggestion and we can unwittingly give the control over to a force that will cause havoc with our faith.
Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:8 tells us that we belong to the day, to the light, we are children of light. Those who practice dark deeds belong to the night. We are to be ready for the coming of the Lord and keep our minds protected in readiness.
The Sword Of The Spirit
Finally the Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God, our Bible. Having just considered the threat to our minds this part of our armour is equally vital. This is our weapon, the other pieces of armour have all been defensive. We can use the sword to attack as well as defend.
The word of God is described as being sharper than a two edged sword in Hebrews 4:12. The weapon that Jesus used against the devil while He was 40 days in the wilderness was verses of scripture. Every attack against Him, He countered with directly quoting scripture. If we are to use Scripture as a sword we must keep it sharp and we must keep it within reach. Peter, too, urges us to always be ready to give an answer for the faith that we have 1 Peter 3:15.
The sword was also used as a practical tool. It could be used to slice and cut. A knowledge of the Bible is also a practical tool for us to use and live by every day.
We need to wear the armour daily to be equipped for the battles we face. We are in a spiritual battle where our enemy is very well equipped to attack us where we are most vulnerable. We battle with the forces of darkness.
While we have armour to wear, we must also be alert at all times. Watch and pray is the injunction of Matthew 26:41, to prevent ourselves from giving in to temptation. In Ephesians 6:18, after the armour is explained, we are told that we must pray at all times. The armour is effective in offering protection but, to win the battle we must pray. We must use the power resource of prayer.
In Ephesians 3:16 Paul prays for the strength of the Holy Spirit for empowerment.
The Bible is full of examples of people who were equipped with the armour of God. Let's look at some.
The prophet Elijah was a man who was used mightily of God. When he spoke concerning the drought that God was sending, he faced great opposition from all who were around him. He had faith that what God had told him would happen, would in fact happen.
Having given the message that God would withhold rain he obediently fled into hiding. He went were God told him to go and God provided for his needs. Water from the brook and food brought by the ravens, an example of provision through natural (the brook) and supernatural (the ravens) means.
Elijah demonstrates to us how the armour is effective and necessary. Shielded by faith that God would protect him, he obeyed and spoke up. He was correctly shod and went where God told him to, eventually to the widow in Zarephath. There, he again demonstrated faith in God's provision which led to the widow's faith growing as she witnessed that provision and the resurrection of her son, 1 Kings 17:17-24.
Elijah was proclaiming God to a nation who worshipped Baal. He was sent to stay in the land of Phoenicia right in the centre of Baal worship territory. He had his heart and mind protected, not allowing those deviant practices to enter his mind or behaviour.
The helmet of salvation will likewise protect us from all that is around us in the media, internet and through the influence of other deviant faiths if we guard what we see and hear and feast upon the truths in the Bible.
Elijah heard when God spoke and directed him. He prayed earnestly. God answered. He prayed, then acted, risking his credibility, his life, his reputation and the lives of those close to him. This prayerful prophet who performed prominent miracles for the glory of God also suffered and was tested.
When he obediently went to Zarephath, he and the widow that he was led to stay with, were blessed by the miracle of the never emptying jars of flour and oil. But, the flour and oil were never in abundance, there was only enough for one meal each time. While there, he faced further testing when the son of the widow died. His prayers, obedience and reliance on God to lead, brought about His purposes.
The way Daniel lived and conducted himself in the court of Nebuchadnezzar demonstrates his faith in God and obedience to what God told him.
He lived in Babylon, remaining faithful to God while in the middle of enemy territory. Being equipped by God to keep himself from being tainted with the customs of Babylonia, he didn't partake of the rich food. He didn't worship the image of gold and was bold in explaining why, Daniel 3:16-18. He was a man of immense prayer, Daniel 6:10, even when prayer to anyone other than King Darius was forbidden by law. His faith in God kept him safe in the face of great opposition and threats to his life.
Faithfulness And Usefulness
If we are to remain faithful, useful and obedient, we need to keep our armour on at all times. Each piece of it is important.
Prayer is the vital activity that, along with wearing the armour, will enable us to draw close to God, to listen and obey.