December 8, 2021

December 8, 2021

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
December 08, 2021

“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.
To 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 speak.”

Ephesians 6:10-20

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 His kingdom.

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 faith.