“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the
schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic
powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil
in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that
you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to
stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and
having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your
feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all
circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish
all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of
salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all
the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening
my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an
ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to
Martin Lloyd-Jones makes this wonderful statement about prayer,
“Prayer is the greatest and the highest activity of the Christian.”
Think about that. “Prayer is the greatest and the highest activity of
the Christian.” When you think about kingdom greatness and what God
will reward and who will be great in the kingdom of God, I do believe
that in some measure, how much I don’t know, it will be brethren who
were committed to private and corporate prayer. There are certain
things that none of us will never be able to do as Christians. Most of
us will never go to a mission field, plant a church, never preach a sermon,
maybe not even teach a Sunday School class. But we can still be
fruitful, useful Christians even if we don’t do any of those things.
Here is why: you can pray. I think Martyn Lloyd-Jones is right, it is
“the highest activity and the greatest privilege.”
That is why I think prayer is so difficult. I think most of us would
say that is the case. To be constant, faithful, committed men and
women of prayer is not an easy thing. It is a hard labor. I think most
of us would admit we suffer from fits and starts. To maintain a prayer
life, keep on praying, staying faithful, requires labor and also
requires that we fight against our enemies.
What are our enemies? Three great enemies! We have to fight against
our own remaining sin. Paul could say, “When I would do good, there is
that sin within me that doesn’t want me to do good” (Romans 7:19). We
have a seducing world, a world always trying to conform us, a world that
doesn’t want us to pray. It doesn’t believe that prayer is important.
It would regard prayer as a useless and futile activity. And then
there is the devil. Obviously, he scorns and despises the Christian on
his knees. He doesn’t want us praying. Do you know why? Because he
knows how good and profitable and beneficial prayer is to us and that it
is one of God’s greatest weapons in terms of establishing and building
You can count on this, brethren. The devil will do anything he
possibly can to keep us from praying. It is interesting to note, there
are three passages in the New Testament where prayer is mentioned but so
is the devil. Matthew 6, the Lord’s Prayer, “our Father in heaven…lead
us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” (v. 9-13).
Jesus has in mind there the Tempter, the Devil. He is always seeking to
tempt us to sin. He doesn’t want us worshipping God. He doesn’t want
us praying. One of his biggest stratagems is to keep us from going to
the throne of grace.
Another place where you see prayer mentioned alongside the Devil is
in I Peter 5:6-8, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of
God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your
anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” So there is a clarion call
to prayer! Notice what Peter says next. He brings the devil into
focus. No sooner does he give us a call to prayer, he warns us about
the Evil One, “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
The third place where we see the Devil put alongside prayer is in
Ephesians 6. Ephesians 6:18, “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.” So there is a
stress upon prayer in Ephesians 6. But the Devil is there too. See v.
11, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand
against the schemes of the devil.”
When you think of praying, think of a battlefield. Think of the
Devil. He doesn’t want us praying. He never has and he never will.
The Devil has a quiver full of fiery darts, using the very image Paul
uses in Ephesians 6, to keep us from praying. What are they? Well,
lots of them. He can unload massive doses of guilt, despair and shame
from our past to keep us from prayer. He likes to remind us of our sin,
even the sin that we have been forgiven of. Sometimes he comes
whispering that we are unworthy to come into God’s presence. Sometimes
he whispers this, “You’re nothing but a hypocrite. You shouldn’t be
praying.” Sometimes he will say, “You don’t have the gift to pray, so
don’t even try.” The Devil sometimes postpones or tries to keep us from
praying by simply whispering in our ear, “Not now, not now. Maybe
later. Maybe tomorrow.” The Devil’s calendar is always tomorrow. He
never wants us to do what we have to do today. And the Devil will try
to convince us that prayer is a waste of time. That it accomplishes
nothing. So he is constantly firing darts. He has a quiver full of
arrows to keep us from praying, to discourage us, to distract us in the
midst of praying.
This is a battle we wage, brethren, and we need to make good use of
the armor of God. When the Devil whispers, “This is a waste of time,” what
do you say? You fight back. You pick up the sword. Say, “No, it is
not a waste of time. God says the prayers of a righteous man avail much
(James 5:16). It’s not a waste of time. This is the best use of my
time.” When the devil tries to fill our hearts with a sense of our
shame, our unworthiness, what do you tell him? Tell him you are “in
Christ.” You are no longer dressed in the filthy rags of your former
sinfulness, but you come clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.
You use the sword! When he says you don’t have the gift to prayer,
use the sword of Romans 8 which tells us that we have the Holy Spirit
Who indwells us, to help us to prayer (v. 26,27). You have the gift of
gifts, the Spirit Himself, to enable you to prayer.
I’m reminding you, brethren: praying is stepping on a battle field.
It will never be easy this side of glory to pray. The devil will be
active. He always is. We keep on fighting. We fight the fight of