The final collect in our Morning Prayer is for Grace – a prayer for protection from sin and danger, with an intention that we may live Godly lives:
O Lord and heavenly Father, almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for bringing us safely to the beginning of this new day: defend us by your mighty power that we may be kept free from all sin and safe from every danger; and enable us in everything to do only what is right in your eyes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We have already considered the spiritual battle that we face when we return to the world, and we can ask for God’s defence and enabling. However, there are specific things that we can do to help make sure that this happens. This week, I will focus on one key passage in Paul’s teaching which seeks to equip us with both the protection we need and confidence to tackle the challenges of the day ahead:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Eph. 6, 10-12
What are the components of our spiritual armour? Paul, as a prisoner at the time, was probably very aware of the armour worn by the soldiers on guard duty. It was an inspired choice of illustration to instruct the members of the Ephesian church on the relevance of each of the items of equipment and their significance, applicable also for us as foot soldiers in God’s army.
“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (v.14)
Christians should act with personal integrity in all their dealings. The belt around the soldier’s tunic provided him freedom of movement, without fear of being found out. Those who live upstanding lives have a breastplate, which forms protection from all forms of accusation.
“and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” (v. 15)
The sandals that the soldier wore were flexible and allowed for easy movement. A Christian wearing these sandals will be ready and mobile enough to bring a message of peace and hope to a distressed world.
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (v. 16)
The shield referred to here was a large oblong wooden shield; part of the soldier’s heavy armour. It was well-designed to withstand the fiery darts which were one of the most dangerous weapons in ancient warfare. The dart would sink into the wood and the flame was put out naturally. The shields of several soldiers could be linked to provide mutual protection – reminding us of the support we can offer each other when under attack. Our faith should stand us in good stead to cope with the daily pressures we encounter as Christians.
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17)
The Christian’s salvation is the protection and defence provided by God for our heads – whatever other damage is inflicted on us our minds will be protected if we keep our helmets in place. Salvation has put to rights all the things that haunt us from the past, and will protect us from the effects of sin in future attacks. The helmet also provides a striking symbol of victory, already achieved by means of the cross. The sword is the spiritual application of God’s Word, both in order to provide defence, but predominantly in attack. We can follow the example Jesus gave us when tempted in the wilderness by directly responding to diverse forms of temptation by applying our knowledge and experience in using God’s Word.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (v. 18)
We are reminded of the power of prayer at all times – not just in the morning or in church on Sunday. Christians should be able to pray in different ways appropriate to the needs, both on their own and with others. If we pray “in the Spirit” our prayers will be for the greater good and not just for meeting our own needs.
I know that some Christians read this passage and mentally put on this armour as they face each new day – maybe that is something we could try for ourselves? In Romans, Paul reminds us that:
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.Rom. 13.12
We too should be able to go out with confidence, taking our stand, and equipped with everything we need to face all the challenges in life that may come our way.