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 saints. (Ephesians 6:18)
Napoleon once said, “An army marches on its stomach.” He didn’t mean that soldiers always crawl on their bellies. He meant that troops need good meals in their stomachs in order to march to victory. No matter how brilliant the generals, no matter how brave the soldiers, they can’t win battles if they are starving or freezing. Troops need food and other supplies.
Napoleon knew this, but a shortage of supplies still turned out to be his downfall. In 1812, he invaded Russia with a huge army, larger than anyone had ever seen. As Napoleon advanced, the Russians did little to stop him. Rather than fight a head-on battle, the Russians kept retreating. As they retreated, they left nothing behind for the invading army to use as supplies. The farther Napoleon advanced into Russia, the longer the supply lines became. Small groups of Russians kept attacking the supply lines at various points.
Eventually the supply lines were so long and so unreliable that Napoleon’s army faced devastating shortages. There was a shortage of food, and many of the soldiers suffered from lack of nourishment. There was a shortage of medical supplies and bandages, and many perished from lack of proper treatment. There was a shortage of clothing and fuel for fires and heating, and when the terrible Russian winter struck, many of Napoleon’s men shivered and died of hypothermia and cold-related diseases. For every man who died in battle, five died of other causes, mostly due to shortages of supplies. Napoleon had to leave Russia, his army in tatters.
In 1941, another dictator decided to invade Russia. Adolph Hitler had easily conquered most of Europe already, and his army seemed unbeatable. Hitler invaded Russia with an army even larger than Napoleon’s had been—more than three million soldiers, with thousands of tanks, artillery, and aircraft. Hitler’s forces advanced swiftly, and the Russians retreated, leaving little the Germans could use for food and supplies. The farther the German army moved into Russia, the longer the supply lines became. Winter came. Russian snipers kept attacking the German lines of supply and communication. Hitler’s troops lacked food, fuel, and winter clothing. Finally, after terrible losses on both sides, the Russian forces defeated the weakened German troops and drove them back.
“An army marches on its stomach.” Military campaigns depend on supplies. That’s true in spiritual warfare as well: you need a constant flow of supplies. When you’re fighting Satan, you need to be strong, brave, and well equipped with God’s armor and weapons, but you also need nourishment to keep up your energy. You need good supply lines.
What’s your spiritual supply line? What connects you with headquarters? Prayer. Prayer is the line between you and God. It is through prayer that God supplies your daily needs. It is through prayer that you get refreshed and reenergized for serving Jesus and battling Satan.
In Ephesians 6, the Bible calls God’s people to combat and presents various pieces of spiritual armor and weaponry. But it doesn’t stop there. Ephesians 6:18 goes on to say, “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 saints.” Prayer is the way to get fresh supplies, inner nourishment, and everything necessary for a soldier of Jesus to stay healthy and strong in spirit.
When we pray, we are getting supplies from divine headquarters. God has no shortage of resources to draw from. Earlier in Ephesians, the apostle Paul says that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). There is no need too great for God to meet, no prayer too big for God to answer. God never runs out of resources. The Bible says, “God is able to make all grace to abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). If I suffer a spiritual shortage, the problem is not that headquarters has no more supplies to send me. The problem is that the supply lines are interrupted by failure of prayer.
Satan will do all he can to hinder your prayers. He doesn’t have to defeat you in direct combat if he can manage to starve your soul by cutting off any prayer connection with God. Satan can use a method similar to what the Russians did against Napoleon. Russian fighters were often busier interrupting the supply lines than trying to take on the main army. Likewise, Satan may find it more effective not to confront you directly with a huge temptation or a terrible tragedy. He may simply attack your supply line and keep you from prayer. If he succeeds in doing that, your defeat will be only a matter of time.
Maybe you have no interest in prayer. In that case, you have no relationship with God, and you’re not in his army at all. You’re not a soldier for Christ; you’re in the realm controlled by Satan. The devil already has you where he wants you, and if you never start praying, you’ll remain far from God and under Satan’s domination. One of the first signs of salvation, one of the first marks of spiritual life, is prayer, real communication with God. The apostle Paul was once a murderer and an enemy of Jesus. When Jesus transformed Paul, the Lord sent another Christian to help Paul. What did Jesus tell this person to indicate that Paul was a new person, no longer enslaved by Satan? Jesus said, “Behold, he is praying” (Acts 9:11).
Spiritual life begins in prayer, and it is sustained through prayer. To be a Christian is to have God’s life in your inner being. The more the Holy Spirit fills you with life and power, the more energy you have to defend yourself against Satan, march forward against him, and rescue others from his wicked reign. Prayer nourishes and strengthens the Spirit-life within you. This inner nourishment, this filling by the Holy Spirit, is not automatic. It comes in answer to prayer. God is a loving Father, willing and able to keep filling your inner being with more and more of his life, but this won’t happen without prayer. To those who are suffering from spiritual shortages, the Bible says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). Jesus says, “Your Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). Prayer is your supply line. It’s the way to receive God’s resources. You can’t battle Satan if your inner self is empty and starving. Wherever you go, whatever you do, maintain the supply lines. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Prayer is the way spiritual warriors get supplies from heavenly headquarters. Racing into new situations without prayer is like launching a military invasion without any supply lines. You can try lots of things, pour your effort and energy into them, and end up feeling weak and empty inside. This is true of any warrior who fails to pray, and it’s especially true for leaders. If you’re a pastor, an elder, or a teacher, you may be very skilled and have some excellent ideas. You may be like an elite soldier with superb training, the finest protection, the latest weaponry, and the most brilliant strategy. But how many victories can you win if you’re starving?
Without prayer, your inner being becomes emptier, weaker and more famished, and you end up in defeat. Some church leaders fall into scandal. Others don’t do anything awful; they just quit the ministry in discouragement and despair. When do leaders become most vulnerable to scandalous behavior? Often it’s after they’ve poured their energy into all sorts of people and projects without taking the time to renew their own souls through prayer and communion with God. What causes some leaders to burn out, give up, and quit their calling? Often it’s not a lack of talent or training or accomplishment but because they neglect their own spirit for too long and don’t maintain their supply line with God’s Holy Spirit. Long before Satan attacks with a particular scandalous temptation or an overwhelming feeling of despair, he may first be busy attacking supply lines, keeping you from connecting with God through prayer.
Keep the supply line open. “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” Stay in touch with God. Let his Spirit nourish your spirit. Then you will be able to resist temptation and discouragement, and you can help those around you. As the Bible says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me… And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NASB). When you have that kind of supply line, you can feast on God’s goodness and rejoice in him. This is the nourishment you need to stay strong against Satan.
Line of Communication
Prayer is our supply line. It’s also our line of communication. Communication is vital to any relationship, and especially for our relationship with God. In prayer we converse with God as our Father and Friend, but here I want to emphasize warrior prayer: communicating with the Lord as our supreme commander.
A military force needs excellent communication and coordination in order to win battles. Soldiers must know what their commanders want. Generals must know where attacks are coming from, where reinforcements are needed, and how each unit is progressing. In spiritual warfare, prayer is the way we stay in touch with headquarters and coordinate our own efforts with the Lord’s battle plan.
If you are a soldier for Jesus, he doesn’t want you racing around, fighting here and there, without knowing your orders. You need your commander’s direction so that you serve his strategy. In other words, you need his wisdom. How can you get it? The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). To get God’s wisdom and guidance, just ask! Pray! Your commander won’t scold you for asking. He’ll guide you and direct you where he wants you to be. He provides basic training and overall guidance through the Bible, and when you need special guidance for a particular situation, his Spirit will impress on your spirit the wisest course of action. But this isn’t automatic. You must ask. You must “pray in the Spirit on all occasions.” The more you communicate with God, the more he will communicate with you and let you know what he wants you to do next.
You can communicate with headquarters to find out what God wants, and you can also pray to tell God what you need. This gives you a huge advantage in spiritual warfare. Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by Satan’s forces. You feel surrounded with no way out. But you can still pray. You can call headquarters for an air strike. Soldiers who are backed by superior air power aren’t necessarily defeated just because their unit is outgunned and outmaneuvered on the ground. They can radio for extra help, and within minutes, fighter jets or attack helicopters swoop in to deal with the enemy. Even if you’re a lowly foot soldier in God’s army, air support is only a prayer away. God can send extra angels to your defense, and he can direct his own vast power against the evil forces that have you pinned down.
In Exodus 17, the Bible describes a battle between God’s people, the Israelites, and their mortal enemies, the Amalekites. The Israelite soldiers under Joshua marched against the enemy, while Moses went to the top of a hill to pray. “As long as Moses held up his hands [in prayer], the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Exodus 17:12). The soldiers on the ground could win only with air support from heaven. When Moses got too tired to hold up his hands, two other men supported him. “Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset” (17:13). That enabled God’s people to defeat their enemies.
Victory depends on prayer. Why? Because victory depends on God. Jesus tells us, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The apostle Paul, who wrote Ephesians 6 and knew so much about spiritual warfare, knew that on his own, he didn’t have what it took to carry out his mission. Paul said, “Our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5 KJV).
A man once asked Jesus’ disciples to drive a demon out of his son. The disciples had already succeeded in driving out some other demons, but they were not able to drive this one out. Then Jesus came on the scene, and he succeeded in making the demon leave. Later, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:28-29).
That’s true of many enemies we face and of many problems we have: this kind can be dealt with only by prayer. There may be some things we can deal with simply by using strength God has already given us, but some enemies are so strong that we need more power than we’ve received thus far. The way to get that power is prayer. When the enemy is too much for you, use your line of communication to call headquarters for more air support.
Praying for All the Saints
Prayer is the line of supply and communication for each individual soldier of Christ, and remember: you’re not the only soldier in the struggle. If you’re a Christian, you’re part of an army. You should care not just about yourself but about your fellow warriors in the struggle against Satan. What happens to any part of the church affects the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:26). If you succeed against Satan, it helps your fellow soldiers; if they succeed, it helps you. If you fail, it hurts their position; if they fail, it hurts you. The apostle Paul says, “Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (2 Corinthians 11:29). In the Lord’s army, it’s all for one, and one for all. So when you pray, don’t just pray for yourself. Pray for all who are fighting for the Lord along with you. “Always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18) Don’t just pray for your own congregation or denomination. Pray for the church of Jesus all around the world.
Sometimes, when someone is going through a time of terrible stress or suffering, they find it hard to pray. Their mind is spinning, their spirit is exhausted, and they’ve already prayed so much they feel prayed out. But even if they’re so overwhelmed they can hardly pray, you can pray for them. A number of Christians who have gone through hard times have told me what a comfort it was to know that even when they couldn’t pray, others were praying for them, and God was hearing those prayers. Part of spiritual warfare is being alert not only to Satan’s attacks on you but his attacks on others, and praying not only for yourself but for those who are facing the fiercest attacks.
When you pray for others, it’s good for them, and it’s good for you. One of the worst problems for many of us today is just plain self-centeredness. It’s possible to be so focused on my health, my success, my looks, my reputation, my spiritual standing that it makes me sick in spirit. If all I think about is me, me, me, and if all I pray about is me, me, me, it makes me spiritually unhealthy. Many individuals and churches could get beyond petty problems if only they would recognize the huge threat of Satan, trust the power of God, and pray for each other and for all the saints and for the advance of God’s kingdom, rather than centering on themselves.
Pray for all the saints. Pray for young Christians who are surrounded by more temptations than any generation of youth in history. Pray for Christian parents who aren’t sure they’re up to the challenge of bringing up children. Pray for single Christians who struggle with loneliness. Pray for middle-aged Christians who wonder if their life counts for much. Pray for elderly Christians who are in failing health and may face cruel demonic attacks of doubt and fear as death comes closer.
Pray for all the saints. Pray for Christian teachers who mentor children. Pray for Christians in business who struggle to be honest. Pray for Christian farmers and factory workers, Christian lawyers, doctors, and other professionals, who struggle to apply their faith to their profession. Pray for all Christians everywhere who must shine for Christ while fighting off Satan’s attacks.
Pray for all the saints, especially for those who are persecuted or in prison. The Bible says, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). Many persecuted Christians say that this is what they want most: to be remembered, to be prayed for, to know that they are not abandoned by God or forgotten by fellow believers.
Praying for Church Leaders
Please pray also for pastors and missionaries. When Paul told the Ephesians to pray for all the saints, he added, “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me that I may fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (6:19-20). If this mighty man of God asked people to pray for him, then surely your pastor needs your prayers. Other Christian leaders need your prayers. A preacher’s effectiveness doesn’t depend just on his talent or even on his own prayers but on the prayers of his people. Someone once asked British preacher Charles Spurgeon the secret of his success in winning so many thousands to Christ. Spurgeon replied, “My people pray for me.”
What should you pray for? What should you ask God to do for preachers and leaders? Pray that God will give them a message and the boldness to speak that message clearly. That’s what Paul wanted. He was in prison, but he didn’t ask the Ephesians to pray for his freedom. He was in poor health, but he didn’t ask them to pray that he would thrive and prosper. Paul asked them to pray that he would be able to proclaim Christ fearlessly.
I always feel encouraged when someone says, “I pray for you.” Like Paul, I especially appreciate prayers that God will give me words and make me fearless. Do you know how hard it can be for a preacher to prepare a message and to come up with the right words? Do you know how hard it is to be bold? I’m timid by nature. Boldness doesn’t come naturally to me. I like to get along with people. I don’t like to offend anyone. And yet if I speak God’s message, some will be offended. I need prayers that I will be free from worry about human opinion and simply speak God’s message boldly, whatever the reaction might be.
For some pastors, it’s more dangerous to be bold than it is for me. Some may have their freedom and life endangered if government officials oppose their message. Others may have their income and position endangered if a wealthy member of their congregation is offended and wants the pastor out and withholds money. Other pastors may just get so worn down in spirit that they run out of lively words and have no energy left to be bold. When they get up and preach, it’s because they have to say something, not because they have something to say. They need words from God and boldness from God. Their own prayer life may get dangerously weak, but if fellow believers stand with them and pray for them, the Lord can make them strong and bold again.
The church desperately needs pastors and leaders who preach God’s Word plainly and send his battle signal loud and clear. “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8). So pray for preachers. Pray that they will have boldness to sound God’s trumpet! Pray that they will speak the truth as they should: fearlessly, truthfully, lovingly, and effectively.
We’re in a war. Satan and his evil forces are trying to destroy us. So be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the full armor of God. Use the ultimate weapon against Satan, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. And don’t neglect your lines of supply and communication. Pray in the Spirit on all occasions.