To quote Paul, we are to be “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” [Eph 6:18]. As Christians in the world, we are engaged in a constant battle against evil. We are fighting daily to hold territory claimed for Christ, and to push a little further into Satan’s strongholds.
As the capstone to his analogy between the “whole armor of God” and the physical donning of “real” armor, Paul orders us to “pray at all times..for all the saints”. Any army needs logistics personnel, and God’s army is no different. To quote Andrew Fuller encouraging William Carey, “It is clear that there is a rich mine of gold in India; if you will go down I will hold the ropes.” Fuller knew he couldn’t go with Carey to the front lines to harvest souls for Christ with Carey, but he could stay behind and support him. Fuller helped organize prayer services, raised funds, and shared news of Carey’s work with congregations in England. Carey may have been fighting at Satan’s doorstep, but Fuller was right behind him, calling on God to protect and favor him.
Returning to the primary example from the Bible, Acts 12 records for us Peter’s imprisonment, and the church’s prayers for him. Peter was in the prominent front of leading the church in Jerusalem, and Herod had imprisoned him expressly to kill him to please the Jews. While we admire Peter’s quiet sleep the night before his scheduled execution – his confidence in God to protect him, or take him home – we can’t ignore what the earnest prayers of the church accomplished: “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.'” [Acts 12:7-8]
There is no way the church could have expected Peter to be free in such a tremendous way. I imagine they were probably praying for Herod to have a change of mind, or even for Herod’s death. Maybe they were praying for Peter to know God’s peace even to the moment of his beheading the next morning. I am convinced, though, they didn’t pray, “God, send an angel, have him slap Peter to wake him up, and then lead him out without the guards knowing”. But God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to.
Peter was certainly happy to be out of the prison, and Carey was happy Fuller was organizing prayer for his efforts. Are we contributing to the war in a similar way? Not all of us are called to be missionaries, or even pastors. But we can all pray: in the car on the way to work, before a meal, during a break between classes – we can pray anywhere, at any time. God is always ready to hear us, and is eager to encourage our faith with His amazing response.
God is in the business of saving sinners; I know because He saved me. It’s often a struggle to remember to pray for others, but it’s such a simple thing we can all do to supply those on the front lines of the battle with God’s grace, peace, and strength.
“The fervent prayer of a righteous an accomplishes much.” [Jam 5:16b]
Have you tried to accomplish anything with prayer?