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08.23.09 Our First and Last Resort, Ephesians 6.10-20, Sermon Summary

by on August 25, 2009

Winning battles depends on many factors: superior weapons, better position, better training, and a comprehensive plan. Some people factor in prayer. But prayer often follows other preparations for battle. This is backwards.

Praying for God’s blessing after plans have been made makes a mockery of prayer. I remember the prayer Lt. Col. Hal Moore offers with one of his soldiers just before going to battle in the movie “We Were Soldiers”: Dear Lord, about our enemies, ignore their heathen prayers and help us blow those little bastards straight to Hell. Amen.

In the theater some cheered, some laughed. As a Christian theologian, I winced. How often do we pray in this same spirit if not in these same words? “God, I’ve made these plans. They’re going to make me wealthy, successful, and happy. Now bless them, I pray. Amen.”

Prayer isn’t for blessing plans we’ve already made. Prayer is for making plans. Then prayer is for perseverance while working the plan. And prayer is for wisdom to know when to change the plan. And prayer is for thanking God once the plan has been complete. God wants our entire lives to be characterized by prayer, not just seeking God’s blessing after plans are made. Not just for seeking God’s help when we find ourselves in trouble. And not just for thanking God as an afterthought during our celebrations. Prayer is our calling from beginning to end. And this is especially evident in the passage from Ephesians.

Ephesians uses the image of a battle to call us to prayer. But the battle described in Ephesians 6 is a spiritual battle. This battle, for which Ephesians offers us God’s armor, is a spiritual battle, being waged above and beyond and within us. It is God’s battle, and God will win the battle.

This doesn’t mean we don’t suffer some injuries on the battle field. We are all wounded in the battle. The spiritual battle manifests itself in our lives when we feel jealous, angry, insecure, threatened, greedy, lustful, or unworthy. There are spiritual origins for these negative emotions, and when we feel them, we take them out on others. They become the victims of the spiritual battle manifest in our lives.

In my own life, I have a lot of stress right now. Church transformation, increased responsibilities in the house, preparing for a new baby. Stress is good and necessary. Kites rise against the wind. But stressing out is a spiritual problem. And recently I took it out on my four-year old daughter. I victimized an innocent person because of the spiritual battle raging within me. A battle I felt I was losing.

Had I been wearing the full armor of God, I might not have done this. God’s armor is entirely defensive. Shields, helmets, breastplates, shoes. Even the sword is defensive. Remember how Jesus used it. Jesus quoted scripture, the word of God, the sword of the Spirit according to Ephesians, when he was attacked by the enemy of God.

God’s armor is defensive, because God wants us not to engage the battle first, but to withstand the battle as God wages and wins it. God wants us to trust him. You find this kind of trust throughout the book of Psalms. An example: Psalm 18:2-3.

Putting on the armor of God is an image of trusting God in the battle. Prayer is the active way we trust God. It is the first thing we are called to do in every situation, especially battles.

We look again to Jesus. In the battle between good and evil, Jesus prayed. As evil was preparing to win, and Jesus was on his way to execution, he said he could have called down angels to defend him. But instead he prayed. He prayed that God’s will, not his own, would be done. He prayed for forgiveness for those victims of the spiritual battle who were now victimizing him. He prayed for strength for his followers who would be victimized after him.

And finally he prayed for himself, using the words of Psalm 31:5, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” His first and last resort was prayer, because throughout his life, he trusted God. May we who proclaim the Prince of Peace our Lord follow his example. Let us put on the full armor of God, and pray.

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One Comment
  1. Jennifer Wilson permalink

    I grew up in a family where prayer was very structured and specific. We prayed the same prayer before every meal and we prayed the same prayer every night before bed. As a parent, I (of course 😉 have to be different from this, but I’m really just trying to teach my kids that prayer doesn’t have to be so “perfect”, that prayer should be something we do anywhere at any time.

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