For eight minutes there was a major attack called “shock and awe” on the city of Baghdad by the American military and her allies. This war strategy was specifically intended to completely destroy Saddam Hussein’s strongholds and any and every support base that he might have had, especially in the capital city. This attack was made possible because weeks before, previous assaults were made on significant points of defense which ultimately demolished them all, leaving Mr. Saddam Hussein and the people of Iraq totally vulnerable to the assaults of America and her allies. In order to seriously weaken or cripple an enemy in war, one of the first, if not the first thing that the attacking army seeks to destroy, is the enemy’s communication systems and units. By so doing the adversary knows that the enemy is significantly weakened and is therefore at his mercies; it’s only a matter of time and victory will be realized.
In like manner also as it is in the physical realm, so it is in the spiritual realm. Satan is waging war on the Christian daily and the first point of defense he goes after is the Christian’s line of communication known as prayer. We are told by God’s messenger that, “Satan well knows that all whom he can lead to neglect prayer and the searching of the Scriptures, will be overcome by his attacks. Therefore he invents every possible device to engross the mind.” The Great Controversy, 519.
The South African missionary, Andrew Murray, wrote concerning the value of prayer. He said, “When I meet with God in prayer, His presence is my strength for service.” In the book The Acts of the Apostles, 564, we are given a wonderful definition of prayer: “Prayer is heaven’s ordained means of success in the conflict with sin and the development of Christian character. The divine influences that come in answer to the prayer of faith will accomplish in the soul of the suppliant all for which he pleads. For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit, for a Christlike temper, for wisdom and strength to do His work, for any gift He has promised, we may ask; and the promise is, ‘Ye shall receive’ (Matthew 21:22).”
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus states: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Ephesians 6:10–18.
Interestingly, Paul uses the phrase “praying always” which is similar to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) which he admonished the Thessalonian believers to do. In the literal sense, these two phrases mean, praying in every season or on every occasion. The Apostle having to identify to the Ephesian Christians the war, the nature of the war, as well as the kind of enemy they are up against, goes on further to instruct them as to the weapons needed in this battle. He hastens to tell them of the need to put on the whole armour of God, which involves:
- the girdle of truth,
- the breastplate of righteousness,
- sandals of the gospel of peace,
- the shield of faith,
- the helmet of salvation, and
- the sword of the Spirit.
For Paul, prayer is not another weapon; rather, it is the spirit and the manner in which the whole armour is to be worn and the battle fought. The apostle is here urging it as a perpetual state of mind, a continuous attitude of communion with God. This was what Jesus contemplated as recorded by Doctor Luke, “And He spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Luke 18:1. And in his epistle to the Philippian church the apostle Paul encourages them, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4:6.
So what we are here made to understand is that “the armour of God” and prayer work together. The armour of God is calculated to defend against cunning attacks that would otherwise destroy the Christian warrior. On the other hand, prayer is the attitude that is maintained by the Christian as he wears the armour and which enables him to continue to wear it. Therefore, it is needful that every Christian keep in mind this fact: “The life of a true Christian is a life of constant prayer. He knows that the light and strength of one day is not sufficient for the trials and conflicts of the next. Satan is continually changing his temptations. Every day we shall be placed in different circumstances; and in the untried scenes that await us we shall be surrounded by fresh dangers, and constantly assailed by new and unexpected temptations. It is only through the strength and grace gained from heaven that we can hope to meet the temptations and perform the duties before us.” Gospel Workers, 257.
Again I need to remind us that Satan’s studied effort is to destroy this means of defense in the experience of the Christian, for he knows far more than we do of the power and value of prayer. This we are told by the Servant of the Lord: “The prayer of faith is the great strength of the Christian and will assuredly prevail against Satan. This is why he insinuates that we have no need of prayer. The name of Jesus, our Advocate, he detests; and when we earnestly come to Him for help, Satan’s host is alarmed. It serves his purpose well if we neglect the exercise of prayer, for then his lying wonders are more readily received. That which he failed to accomplish in tempting Christ he accomplishes by setting his deceitful temptations before man.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 296.
This is how Jesus lived a sinless life; this is how He defeated the Devil every step of the way while He sojourned here on earth. The gospel writer Mark tells us concerning Christ’s prayer life, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35.
Jesus started each day by communicating with His Father because He knew that prayer is the life of the soul and without it He would surely be defeated by the enemy-Satan. Christ, our great example, also knew that the Devil dreads prayer for he has no power over the one who maintains a consistent prayer life. We are reminded that, “There is a mighty power in prayer. Our great adversary is constantly seeking to keep the troubled soul away from God. An appeal to heaven by the humblest saint is more to be dreaded by Satan than the decrees of cabinets or the mandates of kings.” The Signs of the Times, October 27, 1881.
We are also told that, “Prayer unites us with one another and with God. Prayer brings Jesus to our side, and gives to the fainting, perplexed soul new strength to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. Prayer turns aside the attacks of Satan.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 250.
My question to you is, when was the last time you truly prayed? When was the last time you gained victory over Satan? How important is prayer to you? Are you being constantly defeated by the Devil? Please remember this: “Satan leads many to believe that prayer to God is useless and but a form. He well knows how needful are meditation and prayer to keep Christ’s followers aroused to resist his cunning and deception. By his devices he would divert the mind from these important exercises, that the soul may not lean for help upon the Mighty One and obtain strength from Him to resist his attacks.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 295.
So what is our only safety? “Praying always”; “Pray without ceasing”; “… enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:6.
In the book Prophets and Kings, 82, we are told, “When Solomon should have been in character as a sturdy oak, he fell from his steadfastness under the power of temptation. When his strength should have been the firmest, he was found to be the weakest.
“From such examples we should learn that in watchfulness and prayer is the only safety for both young and old. Security does not lie in exalted position and great privileges. One may for many years have enjoyed a genuine Christian experience, but he is still exposed to Satan’s attacks. In the battle with inward sin and outward temptation, even the wise and powerful Solomon was vanquished. His failure teaches us that, whatever a man’s intellectual qualities may be, and however faithfully he may have served God in the past, he can never with safety trust in his own wisdom and integrity.”
One of the great values of prayer is to help us to identify and know for certain who really is our enemy, whom are we fighting against! For sure it is not a human being for Paul tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.” Ephesians 6:12. Therefore the enemy we are fighting against is not any of our brethren or sisters, thus we should be mindful as to how we treat each other. In counseling some leaders and members about the great need to watch and pray, Ellen White made the following remarks: “Men undertake the job of tinkering up the defective character of others, and only succeed in making the defects much worse. They would better leave God to do His own work, for He does not regard them as capable of reshaping character.
“What they need is to be imbued with the spirit of Christ. … The less of the meekness and lowliness of Christ the human agent has in his spirit and character, the more he sees perfection in his own methods and imperfection in the methods of others. Our only safety is to watch unto prayer, and to counsel together.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 191.
The Christian’s enemy is the devil, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) and we can only overcome him as we watch unto prayer and pray without ceasing!
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Ephesians 6:10. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” James 4:7, 8.
Remember dearly beloved, “Secret prayer is the strength of the Christian. He cannot live and flourish in the Lord without constant watchfulness and earnest prayer.” In Heavenly Places, 218. Amen!!!
Pastor Ivan Plummer ministers through the Emmanuel Seventh Day Church Ministries in Bronx, New York. He may be contacted by telephone at: 718-882-3900.