Let’s Set The Record Straight
I need to get something off my chest that I’ve learned the hard way and I think every Christian needs to rethink.
Prayer is not a spiritual gift. It’s not for those Christians. It’s a call all Christians should come to eagerly. We don’t have exhortations like those in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 for just some believers:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Are only some Christians supposed to rejoice always? Are only some Christians called to be thankful?
No! That’s hogwash and we all can see it. Therefore, I postulate that praying without ceasing is something that all believers are called to. I’m actually not postulating it as I think about it. Rather, I’m telling you that God’s word tells you that all Christians are called to pray without ceasing!
If you’re like I was, this thought causes a bead of sweat to start dripping down our brow as we contemplate what this means. Unfortunately, God’s word is not even remotely close to done with us and it will have us realize some other truths.
Why Not Prayer Warriors?
Calling someone a “prayer warrior” is a compliment to be sure, but often is used by people as a subconscious attempt to differentiate someone who just has some unique ability that we don’t possess. We speak of it like it is a spiritual gift, even though you won’t find it written about that way in passages like Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, or Ephesians 4. Search the Bible. It’s just not a unique gift.
When we call someone a “prayer warrior” we usually are saying that we respect that person while simultaneously implying that we’re just not built for that kind of work.
Or are we? Let’s actually look at a critical lesson that Jesus teaches us about prayer.
In the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 Jesus actually tells us the exact point of this parable. It is:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
So the point of this parable is to teach us something about what it means to pray and how we are to pray. Without dissecting the entire parable, although you should definitely read it and contemplate it, Jesus says something entirely remarkable but that we can easily miss at the end. He says:
I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
Jesus tells us that those who pray will, ultimately, receive justice and their prayers will not go unanswered. But then Jesus flips the script back onto the disciples and asks,
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Whoa! Stop right there! Jesus just tied prayer to faith in perhaps one of the most meaningful connections found in the Bible. He is saying that prayer is at least as important to being faithful as any other discipline mentioned in the Bible. Personally, I think the Bible is putting forth the idea that to pray is to be faithful.
So if I want to gauge how faithful someone may be towards Christ, one of the easiest ways to determine how that person is doing is to see how they pray. How often do they pray? What do they pray for? Is their prayer expectant? Is it hopeful? Does it proclaim the One whom they’re praying to?
So next time you’re tempted to say, “Oh, that person is just a prayer warrior” stop yourself. What you are about to really say is just “Oh, that person is just a very faithful person.”
And if you say it like that, I hope it bugs you if they pray in a way you don’t. Because we all want to be faithful!
So when you see a “prayer warrior” walking by, you’re watching a saint walk by you. You’re watching a living vessel full of the grace and knowledge of the Lord do what the Lord’s faithful do best. Praying.
Prayer. This is how the faithful live. It’s not a spiritual gift. It’s faithfulness, a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 that the Holy Spirit works out in the life of all believers!
We have to stop acting like our church has that select group of believers that meet on Wednesday nights to pray for things and they’re the part of the body that sees to that! Praise God if you have those men and women who are faithful. But why aren’t you part of them? Why aren’t you on your knees with your brothers and sisters?
Does this bug you? It killed me inside when I realized that I’d spent most my life thinking I wasn’t equipped to pray and that it just wasn’t how the Lord built me to operate. But it’s important to realize that prayer is exactly what I’m built for.
Why Is It Important?
It’s important to pray because if you’re not praying, I can pretty confidently diagnose that you have areas of your life that really bug you. What are they? Anger? Sexual immorality? Lying? Pride? Apathy?
What is it? I’m quite confident that if you’re not one of those “prayer warriors” something about your life bugs you way more than anyone would guess. It drives you nuts, doesn’t it? You wonder, why can’t I just figure it out? Why can’t I get rid of this sin? Why don’t I have joy in the Lord? Why do I feel like I have zero energy?
I actually think I can help you begin to answer these questions! Let’s look at Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Okay, so remember what we’ve established. Prayer and faithfulness are inextricably linked. If that’s true, then you have a piece of God’s armor that has a very specific function.
It is the shield of faith. Prayer is the mechanism that yields faithfulness in the believer’s life. So if you aren’t praying vigorously, that means your shield is lowered or strapped to your back.
This has two implications.
One, it means you’re taking arrows from the enemy in the gut and the chest. I know. I’ve been there. I’ve fearfully cowered in a corner while the enemy sits gleefully crouched upon his perch and shoots flaming darts at you.
It seems hopeless, doesn’t it? You can’t imagine victory, can you? I couldn’t. I was addicted to pornography because of deeper rooted sins that finally claimed a hold on me and manifested themselves sexually. I was a duplicitous wretch. I could hardly stand up some days because of all the arrows that pierced through my chest and gut.
I don’t know what your pain is, but I know what it feels like. And I’m here to offer you hope.
Get your shield up! You have one! Christian, I beg you to use it!
You may wearily look at me and ask, “How?” I can only reply, “Pray.”
Pray your guts out. Drop to your knees. Pray without ceasing. Pray persistently and never lose heart. I promise you that, in time, something will start to happen.
Those arrows. They’ll stop finding their mark. Your weary head will finally gain an ounce of courage to look up and wonder what happened.
There, in a beautiful moment, your great High Priest will be there. He will be holding a shield up on your behalf and he knows how to use that shield to catch every dart that wants to kill you. He will look at you with love and pride. He will mouth, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and he’ll lovingly encourage you to start getting up again. This will finally give you just enough strength to start rising again.
Don’t stop praying at this moment. Pray your guts out. Pray with thankfulness that you have this High Priest. Gaze on him with beauty and awe and love him desperately.
And then, when you’ve learned to pray faithfully and use your shield well, join your brothers and sisters in Christ and pray with them.
Because the second implication of prayer is that I don’t believe that this image of a Legionnaire in Ephesians 6 is an idle one on Paul’s part. Legionnaires are famous for the formation they fought in, the legion. It was groups of soldiers all closely arrayed and ready to maneuver into complex and adaptive groupings. But one thing you could bet on with a legion was that they covered each other. Not only in their small units, but they would rush to the aid of other units and plug gaps as needed.
What was the most important discipline that allowed these Roman legions to be so successful? It was the knowledge that you could count on the shield of the man next to you. You didn’t need to cover your own self so much because you knew that your fellow soldier next to you had you covered and was disciplined to stay there until injury or death removed them.
And if your fellow soldier went down and suddenly you were panicking and left undone as the enemy rushed that gap, what happened? Another unit would step forward, enfold you, and cover the enemy rush while you reorganized.
Doesn’t this sound amazing? I think it sounds delightful to be part of something like that!
This is how we Christians should pray. So if you’re not praying, it’s not just the flaming darts of the enemy aimed at yourself that you’re failing to cover. It’s actually the flaming darts being shot at the entire church that you’re failing to cover!
You’re letting him shoot through a gap at the person next to you in a completely unexpected way! That person may have not even known they needed your shield up, but they’re counting on you to cover their weak spots!
Christian. Get. Your. Shield. Up. I’m going to reverse course on my original statement. Those Christians who are praying, they are prayer warriors. They’re fierce. They’re amazing! They’re full of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring dedication and strength.
And you were born again to be one.
Christian, where is your shield today? Is it down by your side? Are you watching the battle from the distance? Will you join the fray and call in that great High Priest to help you get up and into the battle? And will you then take up your shield yourself and get into line and cover your brothers ands sisters as we take on the enemy?
Christian, when the Son of Man comes will he find you faithful? I pray he does.