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 17202_Sweet_Hour_of_Prayer

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:18).

A dust cloud thundering with hooves approaches from the horizon. Screams erupt as the grey shadow roars through the towns just ahead of us. The war razes our land. And we stand in its path.

Helmets glimmer with our Kingdom crest, announcing our identity and preserving our minds. Shoulder to shoulder, our formation aligns reliable breastplates to guard our line against infiltration. We dig our heels into the position set for us. Magnificent swords ring out as soldiers draw and flash them into the sun’s brilliance. Shields high, we hold onto hope as the first legion arrives.

One shield quivers–mine. I feel the oncoming stampede rattling through my boots and into my knees. The beastly snorts fall within earshot, and I imagine the heat of their breath on my neck. There must be something more I can do than watch them pillage the countryside. Something more than waiting in fear like this.

I have a weapon to fend off the evils near enough to grab my throat. I tighten my sweaty grip on the hilt. The Word gleams, ready for hand-to-hand combat. Yet, like any other moment on this battlefront, this is no time to worry. I must engage my long range weapon. My armor-piercing javelin of prayer whooshes through impossible miles of darkness. In the village alley, a howl ends with a whimper as prayer strikes the enemy’s heart.

Ephesians lists all other elements of Roman armor by name, but leaves the obvious last piece of the analogy to assumption. Readers could easily follow the list and draw the final correlation. Soldiers wore one set of protective gear, carried one shield, and brought one sword to the battle. The final element stood out in memory as their exclusive long range weapon. Most soldiers carried at least two javelins. The armor-piercing spearhead broke through enemy formations and set up a victorious momentum before the onset of battle.

Like the ancient warrior, repeated use of long range artillery grants me an advantage. My arsenal carries as many javelins as I choose to throw. The limitations of prayer’s impact lie within my field of awareness. Focus, Tina, and remember to keep hurling those spears. I must identify areas of potential attack and pray for other victims of war.

I also need to resist distractions which hijack my focus. Lifting up  concerns that enter my mind while praying can add to my conversation with God. The risky mental detours occur when I’m not praying and serve to prevent or shorten my intimate moments with the Lord. These can include things like hurry, anxiety, or selfish attitudes. Complacency ranks high among focus-derailers, as do those less obvious forms of idolatry we modern folks fail to recognize.

As Paul warned the early Christians, we share the same need to “be alert.” A self-check habit can help identify distractions curtailing prayer. Once a week, reflect on prayer habits and note any trends. Keep track of attitudes or priorities encroaching upon quiet time with Jesus.

War rages, both in our personal space and beyond us. The world stands in desperate need of armor-piercing prayers. I need yours, you need mine, and the shrill cries of victims roil in the dark clouds across the earth. Let’s not neglect our greatest advantage. We can take up these final weapons together, encouraging one another to remain focused and engaged.

 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel . . . came to me in swift flight” (Daniel 19:21).

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Matthew 21:22).

“Jesus . . .  rebuked the impure spirit . . . He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer’” (Mark 9:25-29).

“The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God'” (Acts 10:4).

“prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:15-16).

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12).

“The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand” (Revelation 8:4).

“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

I hit the snooze. Again. Before I know it, those red digits glare alarming numbers. I have fifteen minutes to get out of the house. After a quick prayer, I hack my frizzy locks into submission. Mascara rebels against the hurry with an eye-gouge. Ten minutes left to spackle my prize-fighter appearance, jump into a pant suit, and choke down some vitamins. As I back out of the garage, a breakfast bar dangles from my teeth. It crumbles into my lap by the first stoplight.

In my hurry, I’m at risk of facing battles ill-equipped. It isn’t the first time. And the neediness isn’t related to the two-hundred calories littering my seat. I left more significant nourishment behind. Without it, stressors and needs will overtake me. Thankfully, there’s backup. I keep a Bible in my car so I’ll never go a day without my sword.

Unlike wearable armor components like belts and breastplates, a sword must be taken up and used. My mind, heart, and soul hunger for a daily meal of living scripture. Whether I memorize or study the verses, their power comes from intimate relationship with the Spirit while I ingest and apply scripture. Satan knows the Bible, but it remains a mere recitation for him. Because I know the Word Himself, scripture becomes my sword of the Spirit and pierces the enemy. The Word of God stands out as a short-range weapon to cut down spiritual opposition.

Jesus modeled successful fencing skills when He wielded Scripture to vanquish temptation (Luke 4:1-13). As the Incarnate Word, Christ could have said anything and made it so. He quoted verses to teach us how to pierce the heart of darkness with His Word. He spoke from scripture at certain times to highlight his example, but at all times He lived out God’s perfect truth.

The power of the Word surpasses human imagination, but John’s gospel offers us a glimpse. “The Word was God . . . Through him all things were made . . . In him was life,and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:1-5). Christ is the logos, the creative force through which all things came into existence. In God’s perfect symmetry, Christ is also the power through which all things are redeemed and renewed. Jesus spoke to exorcise demons, heal, and exhibit miraculous provision, but that remains the tip of the iceberg. By definition, there is nothing the Word cannot do or undo.

Not something I want to leave behind for the day, let me tell you.

Many herald breakfast as the day’s most important meal, but nothing rivals the significance of nourishing my soul. No discipline proves more vital than making time to take up the Word. I must learn it and make it a part of who I am. Wielding the sword requires putting Christ’s truth into practice. In following Jesus’ example, I must speak the Word at times and live it out at all times.

Come join me on the battle front. Let’s make sure we have left no sword behind.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me” (Isaiah 49:2).

“In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance” (Revelation 1:16).

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

As we visited Busch Gardens’ one day, I observed a toddler patting the glass of a wildlife enclosure. A lioness sprang toward him from the other side. Massive canines flashing, she pounced again and again. Huge paws engulfed the outline of the child’s hand. He grinned over his shoulder into the camera’s flash, as if playing pat-a-cake with the alpha predator.

If not for the glass shield, the lion would have devoured him like a cupcake.

With the exception of sunscreen, we tend to give little thought to shields these days. Few of us encounter large predators outside the zoo. Battles rage in distant lands, where armored vehicles and fortified bases matter far more to others than to us.

First century military officials knew the importance of defense equipment all too well. An effective shield could win or lose the war. If a soldier lost his scutum, as they were called, he became a walking target. Warriors often chained or strapped their ultimate means of protection onto their forearm, lest they lose their grip.

Roman shields remain legendary icons in military equipment design. Curved to deflect arrows and layered for strength, the scutum was large enough to cover a man and overlap the next shield in reptilian shell formation. Centurions also used shields as an offensive weapon to charge enemy lines.

With faith, we can break through enemy strongholds. Matthew 8 records examples of faith breaking through to the disenfranchised and excluded. The next chapter reveals how the faith of our friends can bring us out of hopelessness into the presence of Christ.

Faith deflects enemy arrows hurtling toward our souls each day. Lies, toxic attitudes, and insecurities glance off the surface when we hold up our faith against them. The King advises us to huddle together in formation so the enemy cannot find any spaces open for attack. Christ’s victory seals our triumph in the protection of our unified and mutually fortified trust in Him.

We must not let our guards slip and get caught playing pat-a-cake with this lion. So let’s strap on our trusty shields and snuggle in close, fellow soldiers. We’ll keep our faith out front and charge onward.

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