Warfare Prayer and Our Need of “All-Prayer”

SpiritualWarfare-Borgman&VenturaTonight we gathered again for fruitful fellowship and discussion with our Sunday night discussion group. We are coming to the end of our study of spiritual warfare using the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman & Rob Ventura (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). This valuable book is basically an exposition of Ephesians 6:10-18, the classic NT passage on the Christian’s spiritual battles against his spiritual enemies.

This evening we focused on the final verses of this section, covering the apostle’s appeal to prayer as a fitting conclusion to our calling to stand while putting on the whole armor of God. Chapter 11 is titled “Warfare Prayer” and the authors give a detailed and profitable explanation of v.18 where Paul writes, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.”

The following is part of that exposition:

…Why does Paul focus on prayer so much in this letter?

Clinton Arnold provides a simple, straightforward reason: ‘Prayer is the essence of spiritual warfare and the most important means by which believers are strengthened by God.’ There is a grammatical connection between verses 14 and 18: ‘stand…praying.’ The command in verse 14 is to stand. Putting on each piece of the armor explains how we stand in warfare. That is, we are to stand by putting on the armor. However, when we get to verse 18, we learn that we stand by putting on the armor, and we stand by praying.

Prayer is not a seventh piece of the armor but the means by which each piece is effectively employed. No doubt, Paul mentions prayer last for the sake of emphasis. The passage that begins with ‘be strong in the Lord’ (v.10) ends with ‘praying always with all prayer and supplication’ (v.18). Prayer is the critical component of our warfare, saturating each piece of our armor.

…We can only appropriate the armor through prayer. The armor of God does not consist of literal pieces we can put on; rather, it consists of spiritual truths that the Christian appropriates through prayer. Prayer imparts effectiveness to the armor and employs God’s strength, enabling us to stand [Kindle ed., location 1435-1453].

And the authors end with these fine words:

As trembling pilgrims know, the weapon ‘all-prayer’ is most needful. [The chapter began by referring to Christian’s need of “all-prayer” as he walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress.] The soldier of Christ employs prayer in applying the armor. Once we put the armor on with prayer, it continues to be a fundamental weapon in our warfare, as we, in reliance on the Spirit, constantly call to our heavenly headquarters for help, both for ourselves and our fellow soldiers [location 1541].

A Plea to Read – Reformed Perspective

…or, the story of a boy, a repairman, and the Truth This recent article (posted Feb.1, 2018) on the Reformed Perspective website follows well on the heels of my previous post about the importance of “doing theology.”

In it, Rev. William den Hollander makes a “plea to read” based on the point that we are all theologians. But our theology, he correctly points, is dependent on the sources we use. And that’s where reading comes in. Here’s the point he wants to get across:

So, if we’re all theologians then the important question is what kind of theologians are we going to be? You see, the problem with the atheist isn’t that he’s a theologian, it’s that his theology is coming from the wrong source. If we don’t study theology from the right sources – if we don’t allow our thoughts and words about God to be shaped by the right sources – then our theology is going to be shaped by the wrong sources. If we don’t consciously do theology – that is, if we don’t consciously train our minds in the knowledge of God – we’re going to end up basing our theology either on our own experiences and our own feelings or on whatever else we happen to be taking in.

Because we are reading. Maybe some of us – and I’m talking especially about my generation and younger – are reading more than ever. I’m thinking of social media. Don’t tell me you’re not a reader if you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Maybe those who only use Instagram, which focuses on pictures, can have a legitimate claim not to be readers, but the other social media users can’t. [1]

But the problem with only reading online, and not engaging in books, is that by its very nature the online world tends towards the superficial. Let’s think specifically of theology – of the study of God. If your thoughts are shaped by your reading of little quotes that someone decided to share, taken out of context, written by who knows who, or if all you read are the musings of someone who is just “feeling philosophical” (as the Facebook status often says) then you can’t expect anything but superficial knowledge.

That, I think, is the biggest danger with losing our interest in reading deeply and studying deeply the doctrines of God found in his Word. We end up with an overall superficiality in terms of our theology, what we know about God. Worse, we can rely more on our subjective experiences than the objective truth we find in God’s Word.

Important point, is it not? It applies to reading blogs like mine too, with its short quotations and references to what others say on a given subject. But I hope you know by now that the point of my blog is precisely to accomplish what den Hollander is pleading for – more and better (deeper) reading, especially when it comes to our theology – our study of (learning about) God!

So don’t just read; read longer and deeper, as well as wider. In the Word. And in the words of men who have studied the Word and reflected on it and want to teach us something more about our God. Be a theologian grounded in God’s own self-revelation.

To read the rest of den Hollander’s article, visit the RP link below.

Source: A PLEA TO READ – Reformed Perspective

“The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.” ~ D. Bonhoeffer

If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and then we shall be able to pray them. It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. If we were dependent entirely on ourselves, we would probably pray only the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. [That is, “Give us this day our daily bread.”] But God wants it otherwise. The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the second section, “Learning to Pray in Jesus’ Name.”

Theology That Manifests God’s “Compassionate Presence” – K. Kapic

Faithful worship must embrace not only God’s highness but also his compassionate presence. It must celebrate not only God’s might but also his mercy in the midst of human sin and misery. …Simply put, a faithful theologian is someone who – like the psalmist – knows that God’s glory is gracious and that his grace is glorious.

…Since it speaks about God, faithful theology must reflect God’s compassion and care for us and our neighbors. If we are to pursue theology faithfully, we must contemplate the value God places on those who are the most vulnerable and in need. We must be, in a word, anthroposensitive. Knowing and loving God leads us to love those he loves and to think and write theology accordingly.

…Knowing God gives the knower a concern for the vulnerable. To know God is to love God, which results in the transference of his interests and concerns to us (1 Jn). When God’s people lose this concern, God declares their theological talk and religious services empty, even offensive. This observation should sober all theologians, professional or lay: God judges our theology faithful or false by our attitudes and responses to those in need. Theology that lacks compassion and action is no theology at all.

God’s love has a particular bent toward those most in need: by extending ourselves toward those who are vulnerable we reflect and replicate the love that met us standing empty-handed before God. We are the poor, the wounded, the needy. When others look more poor, wounded and needy than we, we may perceive them as an inconvenience of threat. But if we neglect them in our talk about God – well, what more emphatic way is there to condemn ourselves? We are prone to lose sight of this in our theologizing, even with how much we talk about ourselves as sinner.

little-book-theologians-kapicTaken from chapter 8, “Suffering, Justice, and Knowing God” in Kelly Kapic’s A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology (IVP Academic, 2012), pp.80-92.

What Are We Afraid Of? – M.Smethurst

TT-Jan-2018Today before our worship services I did some more reading in the new issue of Tabletalk (January 2018), which is built around the theme of “Fearing God.”

The first main feature article is by Matt Smethurst and is titled “What Are We Afraid Of?” The author does an excellent job of analyzing our human fears and pointing us to the one whom we ought truly to fear.

Tonight we pull a few choice sections from this article to give us some good, spiritually healthy food for thought, both negative and positive.

First, the negative:

The achievements of modern life—medicinal, technological, and otherwise—have given us an ever-increasing sense of control. Actually, more than a sense. We really do enjoy more control over more aspects of life than ever before in history. We’re so accustomed to a convenient, custom-designed, there’s-an-app-for-that quality of life that we’re more shocked when things are hard than when they’re easy.

Without realizing it, this increasing sense of control can begin to feel natural, intuitive, right. Not a gift, mind you—a right. And we start to believe that if we can simply manage our fears, they will never master us.

We are wrong, and we are miserable.

But it’s even worse. Addicted to what we can control, we extend the borders of our kingdom into realms we can’t control. We try to control circumstances, but trials rudely show up uninvited. We try to control people, but they don’t stick to our wonderful plan for their lives. We try to control our future, but He who sits in the heavens always seems to laugh (Ps. 2:4).

And now consider this positive instruction:

So what is the answer to our dilemma? How can we disentangle ourselves from the fears that won’t leave us alone? One answer is the doctrine of inerrancy. Yes, inerrancy. Simply put, if your Bible is not wholly true, then you should be terrified. Why? Because if your Bible is not wholly true, then you have no reason to trust that the One in charge of your life is both great and good.

I’m so grateful that my college campus minister, Dan Flynn, loved to emphasize these twin truths from Scripture. “God can and God cares,” he would say. I didn’t quite realize it at the time, but in those simple words he was distinguishing biblical Christianity from every religion on the market. Protestant liberalism, for example, offers a God who is good but not great. He cares, but He can’t. He’s a nice buddy, an experienced life coach, even a world-class psychotherapist, but ultimately He’s just “the man upstairs.” Meanwhile, other religions such as Islam offer the opposite: a God who is great but not entirely good. A God who can, but perhaps doesn’t care.

But when we open our Bibles, something unprecedented happens. It’s stunning, really. We encounter a living Lord who is both great and good, sovereign and kind, who can and who cares.

If God were only good, I would go to bed frightened. How could I worship someone who, bless His heart, means well and is doing His best? But I would likewise go to bed frightened if He were only sovereign. What assurance is there in knowing He’s mighty if He’s not merciful? What comfort is there in a deity who doesn’t care about us?

Strikes home, doesn’t it? What are you and what am I afraid of? What we cannot control. And who has it all under control? Our sovereign, loving Lord. Isn’t it time to stop being afraid and to start fearing the Lord?

Learning to Pray Our Father’s Prayer Book

And so we must learn to pray. The child learns to speak because his father speaks to him. He learns the speech of his father. So we learn to speak to God because God has spoken to us and speaks to us. By means of the speech of the Father in heaven his children learn to speak with him. Repeating God’s own words after him, we begin to pray to him. We ought to speak to God and he wants to hear us, not in the false and confused speech of our heart, but in the clear and pure speech which God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ.

God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted from Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the opening section, “Lord. Teach Us to Pray.”

This fine little volume I picked up in a local thrift store this week, and after reading a bit in it I decided it would make some good posts on prayer and on the book of Psalms. Look for these in the weeks and months ahead.

But before we leave it for now, we include this quotation of the author found on the back cover: “Wherever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church. With its recovery will come unsuspected power.”

Wielding the Sword for Our Fellow Soldiers

Tonight our monthly discussion groups from Faith PRC met, and our group gathered at our home to discuss Chapter 10 of the book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective by Rob Ventura and Brian Borgman (Reformation Heritage, 2014). This chapter treats Eph.6:17, where we Christian soldiers are charged, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” It is that “Sword of the Spirit” which is the subject of the chapter that we discussed.

In the course of explaining this defensive and offensive weapon, the authors lay down six (6) principles for “wielding the sword” properly. Among those principles is this important one, one we admitted that we often neglect:​

“3. Wield the sword of the Spirit to strengthen our fellow soldiers.

We do not fight this battle in some kind of individual, Rambo-style combat. As we mentioned in chapter 4, we are in this war alongside our fellow believers. We need to strengthen and encourage each other (1 Thess. 5:11). The powers of darkness are not only assaulting me, they are assaulting my brothers and sisters. Satan is working hard to tear down God’s people, drawing them away from the faith, weakening them through his lies. How we need to speak truth to each other in love (Eph. 4:15)! We not only wield the sword of Spirit against the enemy, but we also wield it as we help each other, especially in the context of the community of believers in the local church. Paul reminds the Roman Christians, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14). A timely word from the Word may be exactly what our brothers or sisters need to help them stand firm in their evil day.”

So, what can you and I do this week to “strengthen and encourage” one another in our spiritual battles? What Word of God do you have for your fellow saint?

Living orderly and peacefully in “the great sea of Christian communion” – M.Horton

Increasingly, we prefer to lynch fellow shepherds via social media than to submit to each other and address concerns face to face in private or in church courts – doing everything ‘decently and in good order’ (1 Cor 14:40). Our soul is too noble, our insight too keen, and our vision too soaring to be confined within the boundaries of a communion. Some will not bend their opinions to the common consent of the church; others will not limit what they think everyone should believe to that common confession. Some abandon the church altogether, while others make their own little corner in it for a private club.

When we leave the great sea of Christian communion to colonize our own rivers and shorelines, the party we lead becomes captive to our own narrow interpretations, view, and plans. Timothy was accountable to a council of elders to help keep him on track. Yet accountability is something that people, especially in my generation and younger, find difficult to accept in concrete terms.

Jesus did not establish a movement, tribe, or a school, but a church. Whether our divisive ambition is determined by extraordinary ministers, scholars, or movements, it is completely out of step with ‘the pattern of the sound words’ that is help humbly and guarded as a ‘good deposit’ (see 2 Tim 1:13-14) that we all embrace because it is taught explicitly by the prophets and apostles as the ambassadors of Jesus Christ.

ordinary-MHorton-2014Taken from the next chapter I recently read in Michael Horton’s Or-di-nary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). This was chapter 6 – “Practicing what we preach: no more super-apostles” and the quotation is found on p.113.

Though addressed primarily to pastors and church leaders, the principle driven home here is for all of us in the office of believer too. We are truly safe and at peace when we submit ourselves to Christ’s proper rule and order in the church. All of us as believers live best when we abide in the “great sea of Christian communion” and refuse to “colonize our own rivers and shorelines.”

Living in the Fear of our God and Father – January “Tabletalk”

TT-Jan-2018In the past week I began to use the new issue of Tabletalk (January 2018), the daily devotionals (going through the gospel of John this year), and today I started reading the articles. This issue is built around the theme of “Fearing God.”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with his article “The Fear of the Lord,” including these closing thoughts:

If we know the Lord, we fear the Lord, because He has put the fear of Himself into our hearts (Jer. 32:40). As Christians, we don’t have a servile, cowering, slave-like fear of the Lord. Rather, we have a filial, reverential, humble fear of the Lord. The gospel is the difference between being afraid of God and fearing God. It’s only when we come to fear the Lord that the Lord tells us to fear not. For when we know the love of God in Christ, the Spirit casts out all fear and instills in us love and adoration, that we might work out our salvation with fear and trembling and worship the Lord, coram Deo, before His face, with reverence and awe.

One of the featured articles I read today was for the “Pastor’s Perspective” column, one by Rev. John Sartelle, titled “Worship and the Fear of God.” He ended his fine piece with these words, fitting as we end the Lord’s Day and strive to walk as children of our heavenly Father in the week ahead:

The Apostle John had been as close as anyone to Jesus. He walked the roads and hills of Galilee with Him. They had spent long hours together conversing over meals. John was at the cross at Calvary, where Jesus committed to him the care of His mother. Yet, after His return to glory, when He revealed Himself to this faithful Apostle on the island of Patmos, what did John do? John says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev. 1:17).

There is a tension here. God the Father is our Father through the rebirth. He has told us to address Him as “Father,” a close intimate family title. Jesus is our elder brother. Therefore, there is a genuine closeness to God, a relationship. However, God is also God—glorious, majestic, holy, just, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, transcendent. We never experience Him apart from those attributes. We have the privilege of addressing Him as Father, and there is the reality of a family relationship, but that relationship does not change the truth that we are creatures and He is the Creator. To be in His throne room with the great seraphim and romp around the throne as loving children is not a familial privilege—it is insolence to the Almighty. You never see that picture in Scripture. In that throne room, love must always be joined with reverence.

We must continually ask ourselves as ministers, officers, and members of His church, what does our worship say about our God to those who observe? Maybe the world’s lack of any fear of God has rubbed off on us more than our fear of God has rubbed off on them.

Word Wednesday: “Annus, year”

Anno Domini

I have already told you about my late 2017 word-book find – Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classical Origins of English Words (Barnes & Noble, 2000 –  co-authored by Bob Moore and Maxine Moore).

For our first “Word Wednesday” feature of 2018, we return to this dictionary, where we find this appropriate Latin root for the word “year” – annus, along with its common base forms – anni, annu, enni.

This is how the Dictionary lays it out:

An ANNUal event happens once a year, a semiANNUal report is published twice a year; a biENNIal plant such as parsley lives for two years, and a biennial meeting is scheduled to be held every second year. Anything that is perENNIal is supposed to be everlasting, continuous, ongoing, and enduring.

A biANNUal event occurs twice a year (or semiANNUally) or every two years is biENNially), depending on who makes up the schedule.

An ANNIversary is the annual return of the date of an event. A cent is a 100th part of a dollar; hence a centENNIal is a 100th anniversary.

Although a semicentENNIal is a 50th anniversary, a bicentENNIal occurs every two hundred years. The combining form sesqui means one and a half; therefore, a sesquicentENNIal is a 150th anniversary. The Columbus quincentENNIal was celebrated in 1992: 500 years had passed.

As a mill is a 1,000th part of a dollar, so a millENNIum is a period of one thousand years, although the word is often used to mean any lengthy period of time. “Your long absence has seemed like a millennium to me.”

An ANNUity is an annual payment, often made following one’s retirement. Annals are yearly records kept by an annalist or historian. A.D. stands for [you’d better know this one!] ANNO DOMINI, meaning ‘in the year of our Lord,’ and referring to all the years since the birth of Jesus Christ.

And so we have entered A.D. 2018. May our thought and talk, desires and decisions, plans and purposes, actions and anticipations show that we live consciously “in the year of our Lord.”

Published in: on January 3, 2018 at 10:06 PM  Leave a Comment