Encouraging the Ephesian believers concerning their walk of faith, Paul wrote: …we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Paul described Satan as the wily enemy and believers as God’s soldiers who must fight to protect their position.
Paul taught that victory in this spiritual warfare requires believers to counter the spiritual weapons of the enemy with spiritual defenses—the whole armor of God. Added to the defensive armor was the sword of God’s Word, both a defensive and an offensive weapon.
In Ephesians 6:14-18 Paul continued, “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;…praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.…”
Ancient Weaponry and Its Spiritual Parallels
A brief understanding of ancient weaponry enhances the interpretation of this passage: The breastplate and waist girdle protected a warrior’s heart and other vital organs, the helmet protected the head, and the shoes protected the feet from falling arrows. Yet other parts of the body remained exposed and vulnerable. To protect them the warrior also needed a shield.
In ancient combat flaming arrows could totally destroy a target by burning it. Scripture likens Satan’s attacks to barrages of fiery darts or arrows. In our Christian warfare we need the shield of faith to protect us from the fiery darts of the wicked one so they will not destroy us. Inept or erratic use of our faith shields against the fiery darts can result in our being “wounded”—rendered weak and temporarily ineffective.
Some believers protect themselves with a good set of defensive armor so that they are seldom seriously injured by Satan’s arrows. Yet because they fail to use offensive weapons, they gain no substantial victories. According to Ephesians 6:18, along with all our defensive weapons and God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit, which is both a defense and an attack weapon, we have yet another effective tool for our Christian warfare. We have our own darts and arrows—prayer in Jesus’ name. With these we can go on the offense for God, attacking and destroying spiritual strongholds and winning victories for His Kingdom. As a swift arrow shot from an archer’s bow, a prayer arrow released from the catapult of faith reaches far, to the heights of God. But, as with literal arrows, the apex of the path is not the final goal.
Though the archer releases an arrow from his bow with great force, the arrow loses momentum in flight. To maintain impact energy that arrow must regain speed from the downward pull of gravity as it arches toward its target. The farther the target, the higher the archer must angle his arrow.
The path of our prayer arrows is much like the trajectory of the archer’s arrow. They ascend with as much energy as the bows of our hearts can muster. However, their descent to the target depends on God’s “gravity power.” As our prayer arrows find their heavenly mark, God takes over. He directs them to the target, to accomplish His purpose.
Well-Focused Arrows of Prayer
The best kind of prayer is specific. Too often God’s people pray in generalities. To be most efficient, we need sharply pointed, focused, definite and specific prayer arrows. One sharpshooter hitting a bull’s eye has more effect on a target than a barrage of arrows. One well-aimed shot, as one archer stretches his arm span to the limit, taxes his total energy to hold that position, takes careful aim and releases at just the right moment, can accomplish more than a wide rain of hasty, generally aimed arrows. So it is with prayer. Of course, God can and does work at times despite vain repetitions and without specific petitions. But He delights to teach us truths about Himself through answering our specific prayers. Then, as we stand back in awe, our thankful worship and praise glorify Him.
If you want to be a prayer warrior, you need to make your prayers as specific as possible, like carefully aimed arrows. A well-aimed prayer arrow entails more than “Lord, please save Susie.” Learn Susie’s circumstances well enough to understand at least partially what may be keeping her from making a commitment to Christ. If you want to see Susie come to Jesus, deal with particulars you feel may be necessary for her salvation. Make requests like, “Lord, open Susie’s heart; surround her with people who can show her Your love. Lord, don’t let material things distract Susie. Lord, help Susie to understand. Illumine her mind with Your truth.”
In praying for someone’s salvation you should not only know and pray for specific needs in that person’s life, you should also be willing to take an active part in the process if and however God wills it. Acknowledge this willingness to Him as you pray. When you fulfill these two criteria, your petitions become more focused. You pray more intelligently and more effectively.
For an unbelieving sick friend you might pray, “Father, please use this illness as a door to John’s considering more deeply who You are. Grant him spiritual healing in Christ and physical healing as well, if that is Your will.”
For someone who is having difficulty in personal relationships, you might pray, “Father, may Jim find enough faith to be able to trust You even though people have failed him.”
If the person to whom you are witnessing seems smug and content, with no apparent need for God, your specific prayer might include the request that the person will discover the inadequacy of his or her self-sufficiency to meet all the vicissitudes of life.
Let Go and Trust
Realize that, like the archer’s arrow, our prayer arrows are weapons of commitment. We aim, let go and trust they will find their target. Sometimes when we send up those prayer arrows we may lack the sense of having hit the target. Once we let go, we can no longer sense an arrow as we might perceive the weight or path of a hand-held sword. Having aimed our arrows of prayer at Satan’s strongholds, we may not recognize their potency and power to inflict damage. We may not hear the enemy howl with the pain of defeat. We may not see him slink from the battlefield rather than face those piercing prayer arrows. Yet it does happen. As we prevail in prayer, Satan retreats and we win the battle.
Trust is intrinsic to prayer. When we send a prayer arrow upward, we entrust it into God’s hand. He adjusts our aim and sends the gravity weight of His will behind our petition so that it strikes the intended target. As we commit our prayer arrows upward, taking the best aim we can, God takes over. He adjusts our aim, changes the trajectory downward and adds the necessary force.
God uses the prayers of His people to accomplish His purposes. In focused prayer we become allies with Him. In focused prayer together we fight against His and our common enemy. In focused prayer we gain the victory.