Israel has an extensive history documented in the Old Testament. After being taken into captivity, Nehemiah (who was working as the cupbearer to the king) was given permission to take some of the Hebrew people back to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. Other people in the land were not happy to see this work taking place, and they conspired to fight against the Hebrew people, but Nehemiah had a plan:
“From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me.”
– Neh 4.16-18
Half of his work force stood guard. They stood opposite those who were building the walls with their weapons drawn, watching. Waiting. On the alert and on the defense. Everyone who was working had either a weapon in hand or a sword bound to his side. Everyone was ready for battle.
Paul tells us that now, being Spiritually bound together as the people and body of Christ rather than a geopolitical nation, our primary battle is not against a physical enemy but Spiritual:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
– Eph 6.12-13
Paul goes on to explain the elements of the armor of God, girding of Truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of the Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit (the Bible). The armor is how we protect ourselves and “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Eph 6.16). But the one who fights for us is God. The war has already been won. Jesus went behind enemy lines and defeated the capital. But there are still a few battles being forged until the king takes complete control and forces the enemy into submission. And we are on those front lines, in the power of the Spirit. Once we are clothed for battle through salvation, with Truth and faith guarding our hearts and righteousness as our defense, how do we fight? Paul tells us in the very next verse:
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
– Eph 6.18
Prayer. John Piper uses the analogy that prayer is our war-time walkie talkie. He says that if we try to use it as a peace time intercom to call the butler for a fresh pillow, it will malfunction. It was created for us to have immediate access to the commander in chief. We are in a Spiritual battle, not for the outcome of the war, but for our holiness and for the salvation of souls (as God sees fit to allow us to be a part of His work in saving others). Prayer. Paul was on the front lines. He was building the wall. He had the walkie talkie in his hand and was praying continually while He preached the Gospel and got caught and put in prison, so he radioed back for reinforcements: “Pray at all times!” “Be on the alert” “With perseverance and petition for the saints!”
God is the sovereign one who has won the battle, who is in control of all things, and who defeats our Spiritual enemies in and through us. We need to petition Him and to be alert to see the schemes of the enemy. We do that through prayer. Without prayer all of our wall building efforts will be futile.
Nehemiah knew that everyone must be prepared. Those building the walls had their swords on their hips. Those bringing supplies carried stones in one hand and a sword in the other. But half of the people were designated simply to stand guard. How many people stand on the alert in prayer for our Churches and missionary efforts today? No one is excused from the responsibility to pray. But there should be a substantial portion of our congregations who invest and spend the bulk of their energy on intercession for the Church, for the battle, for the work!
Prayer is not a transition in a church service. Prayer is not an opportunity for you to bring your wish list to Santa Clause. Prayer is your walkie talkie to communicate with the commander in chief while you and your army lay it all down and fight.
So what does this look like? How many people on your Church staff are employed simply to pray? How much time does your church staff spend in prayer? Is your prayer meeting at church the least attended meeting? How much time do you spend in personal prayer, interceding for the saints, the missionaries, the church, the efforts to reach the lost and to fight for holiness in your own life? Without prayer everything else will fail because we will be rogue units functioning apart from the master battle plan. We will not receive battle instructions without radioing back to headquarters. If we do not pray, we will not conquer. Let’s unite in prayer. Let’s establish the line of support, understanding the battle plan, alert and attentive to the enemy’s advances, and under the clear instruction of God.