Offense and Defense

Pray continually. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

When was the last time you considered the power of prayer? I want to encourage you today with prayer’s power from two perspectives: both offense and defense.

The idea of prayer as both an offensive and defensive weapon is not my own. When the apostle Paul described “the full armor of God” that allows us to take our stand against all Satan’s onslaughts, the final piece of the believer’s armor he described was prayer. Paul wrote: “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 saints” (Ephesians 6:18). We can and should use prayer both to go on the attack against the devil and to defend against the insistent, insidious attacks of the evil one.

The ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel tells us that while Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, a man brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples, who were unable to heal the boy. When Jesus returned from the mountain, the man came to Him, and Jesus promptly cast out the demon. Later, when the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked Him why they could not cast the demon out; Jesus responded, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29).

Jesus was telling the disciples that they were not doing enough “offensive” praying – that is, praying in advance to be used by God. I believe it’s likely the disciples had prayed over the boy, but Jesus was warning them that their prayer life was insufficient. Without persistent prayer, we will not mount the necessary offense against the spiritual battles which will inevitably be part of life on this earth.

As for using the power of prayer to maintain an effective defense, recall what Jesus said to his disciples as He entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal: “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).

The apostle Paul gave a very similar exhortation to Christian believers in Colossians 4:2, saying, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” The editors of the outstanding ESV Study Bible offer this commentary on that command: “Thanksgiving leavens prayer, so that it does not become merely a selfish pleading to have one’s desires fulfilled.” Defensive prayer prepares us to stand firm the ongoing assualts launched against us by the world, flesh, and the devil.

When you put both of these postures together — praying on offense and on defense –they show us how we are to fulfill the mandate of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray continually.” The Christian life is to be marked by prayer and continual communion with our God.

Let’s close out today’s mesage by returning Mark’s account of the healing the demon-possessed boy. Mark 9:25 tells us that Jesus commanded the demon to come out of the boy, and the demon immediately obeyed. There was no prayer involved. Why? Because Jesus was in constant communion and prayer with His Father in heaven. There were times He spent all night in prayer. Our Lord lived in the posture of prayer, and this is how we are to live as His disciples: praying on offense and on defense, which gives us strength to stand firm in the power of the Spirit of God.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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