Hunting Lions with a Squirt Gun

This is a continuation of yesterday's blog.

And realists that we are, we do something else. We pray. Paul urges us to remember this when he tells us to put on the full armor of God, to wear such things as truth for a belt, righteousness for a breastplate, the gospel of peace for shoes, faith for a shield, and salvation for a helmet. The sword is also of the Spirit—the Word of God. Prayer plays a pivotal and unique role in all of this. For how does one put on the armor or wield the sword? By praying "in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests" (Eph. 6:18).

The command to pray is one of the few truly central and radical things God has called us to do in this spiritual warfare. It is central because it stands at the hub, the heart of our struggle. It’s not all we are to be about, for there are many other wonderful and critical things to do in this spiritual warfare, such as preach the gospel, cast out demons, feed the hungry, care for the poor. But these great things are to prayer what the spokes of a wheel are to the hub. When the hub weakens, the rest of the wheel collapses. "You can do more than pray, after you have prayed," wrote A. J. Gordon, "but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed."1 It is a divinely ordered sequence. When Jesus called the Twelve, he called them so that they might do three things. The first was simply to "be with him." With that in place, and from that place, he sent them out to do the rest: "to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" (Mark 3:14–15). All the work of the kingdom of God begins with simply being with Jesus. If it doesn’t start there, it doesn’t start at all.

The elders of the first church in Jerusalem understood this when they got so busy feeding widows and orphans that they weren’t praying as they should (Acts 6:1–7). So they reorganized the church and delegated the feeding program to others, not because it was beneath them, but because it was so important. If prayer was crowded out of its central place in the church, so too would be the widows one day.