…I have been impressed more than ever before that God has given us prayer not as an intercom for increased convenience in our secluded cottages, but as a walkie-talkie connecting the general’s headquarters with the transportation line and the field hospital and the front line artillery. Prayer is not a bell to call the servants to satisfy some desire we happen to feel, it is a battlefield transmitter for staying in touch with the general.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray 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 utterance may be given 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.
I think that is obvious in the text. Paul says (in verse 12) that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces. Then he calls us to take up arms (in verses 13-17). Then he says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance….” That is clearly combat talk. Keep alert! Persevere!
But then I started seeing evidence for this everywhere I looked. For example, in John 15:16 Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Notice: Why is the Father going to give the disciples what they ask in Jesus’ name? Answer: Because they have been sent to bear fruit. The reason the Father gives the disciples the gift of prayer is because Jesus has given them a mission. In fact the grammar of John 15:16 implies that the reason Jesus gives them their mission is so that they will be able to enjoy the power of prayer. “I send you to bear fruit…so that whatever you ask the Father…he may give it.”
Is it not plain then that the purpose of prayer is to accomplish a mission? It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission (go bear fruit), handed each one of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general’s headquarters, and said, “Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you need it.”
What has become clearer to me in recent days is that many of our problems with prayer and much of our weakness in prayer comes from the fact that we are not all on active duty, and yet we still try to use the transmitter. We have taken a wartime walkie-talkie and tried to turn it into a civilian intercom.
Take another example from Scripture. In Luke 21:34-36 Jesus warns his disciples that times of great distress and opposition were coming. Then he said, “But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.” In other words, following Jesus will inevitably lead us into severe conflict with evil. It will surround us and attack us and threaten to destroy our faith. But God has given us a transmitter. If we go to sleep it will do us no good. But if we are alert and call for help in the conflict, the reinforcements will come and the general will not let his faithful soldiers be denied their crown of victory before the Son of man.