The Weapon of Prayer
Text: Acts 6:1-7
Rev. Garry E. McCaffery
One of the activities I enjoy doing, in the nicer weather, is hiking. I enjoy it because it gives me the opportunity to be outdoors, have a sense of adventure, and enjoy experiencing nature in a more intimate way. I also enjoy it because it gives me physical exercise without feeling like I’m “working out.” Not only that, you get to see some amazing scenery while walking among many of God’s other creatures.
Several years ago, when my daughter was 8 or 9, we went to a campground in St. Augustine, Florida. Mind you, I didn’t do any hiking on that trip, however, we did go to a shopping center and spent much of the day walking around window shopping. An item that caught my eye as we wandered around, was a rather large assortment of walking sticks that one vendor had for sale. As we walked over and I began looking at some of the different walking sticks, Rachel asked me what they were for. And I told her they were used when walking on uneven ground or while hiking, to be used for balance when going up a steep hill. She then suggested I get one so I could be a better hiker. How much more justification does one need than for your daughter to suggest you purchase something? $15.00 later I had a new hiking stick, which upon reflection, I could have taken off a tree at home for free. Nevertheless, we were on vacation, you do weird things.
Once we came back home from our camping trip we found times to go to different places to hike and I
would bring my new walking stick with me. It came in useful from time to time as an aid in climbing up steep inclines and even, at times, when going down steep inclines as something to lean on and keep me from tumbling down the hillside. It was a great help in keeping me steady in different situations.
I also discovered that the hiking staff was good for a weapon. Admittedly, this could be a guy thing. Anything we touch could automatically be a weapon. But hear me out; when one is out hiking one could find themselves in a situation where one needs to be able to brush something aside. What danger, might you ask, could there be in the woods? Bears? Well, the walking stick may not help you too much there but, to brush aside a snake, it can be helpful. To protect or defend yourself from other creatures, it could be a useful tool.
As I was reflecting on this memory I started to make a connection between that hiking staff and prayer. It occurred to me we are walking through life and the path we are on is not often very smooth. There are many rough places that we travel over, many rugged hillsides to climb as we travel towards a peak and then equally difficult descents as we head toward a valley. As we travel this path, we also encounter dangers wherein we must protect ourselves, and times where we need to move things aside in order to keep moving forward. The tool we have, which is better than any hiking staff, is prayer. Prayer is good as a help and support. Prayer helps us stay connected in our relationship with God and it helps to steady us in our faith and keep us balanced. Prayer, like the hiking staff, helps us to stay steady, and prayer, like the hiking staff, can also be used as a weapon. Say what? I know, the idea of prayer being a weapon sounds odd to our ears. It sounds odd to our ears, but if we bring in the realization and the understanding that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare, it makes sense. We don’t talk about it an awful lot, but everything that is going on around us today, has an element of spiritual warfare behind it. Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words in reference to this from Ephesians 6:10-13, “Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For 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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
As Christians we are in a fight! We are in a battle. Every day we have to decide to stand firm and hold fast to our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. One of the greatest weapons in our arsenal to be able to do that is prayer. Prayer is a defensive weapon in that we pray for help, encouragement, healing, and strength. Prayer is also an offensive weapon in that we pray for God to remove obstacles in our path, to strengthen us to boldly proclaim the gospel, and to win souls for Christ.
Throughout scripture we see the weapon of prayer used to protect and defend the faithful as well as to bolster and advance the move of God. The prayers of the Hebrews that were in bondage in the
land of Egypt for more than 400 years kept the people connected to God and to their heritage and prepared the way for God to raise up the one he would use to lead them out of bondage. All through the years, from the Exodus to the Promised Land, the people prayed. Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, the people prayed. We find throughout the gospels that Jesus prayed. Jesus prayed and he took time to teach His disciples to pray. Through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we continue to be taught to pray and encouraged to pray and to use the weapon of prayer with the hope of seeing God move in a mighty way in us, through us, and around us!
The weapon of prayer being used defensively and offensively, kept the early church together and helped them resolve an issue that threatened the unity
of body. We see this in Acts chapter 6. In this passage the young church ran into its first large problem in terms of operations. The church had been growing rapidly with many new converts. Part of the ministry being offered was in feeding the widows, both Jewish and Greek. As it turns out there arose a problem in how things were being done and how food was being distributed. One group felt they were being treated unfairly by the other. Sounds similar to situations that arise today.
When the twelve, the apostles, heard about this they called together a meeting to address the problem. First, they pointed out that it was important that they not leave the ministry of the word to take care of overseeing the distribution of the food. It’s not that that ministry of service wasn’t important or less significant than the ministry of the Word, it’s that the twelve knew their calling was to pray, preach, and teach. In order to continue to bring new people to Christ they couldn’t divert their attention to something else and remain effective.
Secondly, they encouraged the group to seek out those who had the qualifications of servanthood to take on this task. The qualifications included being a person of good reputation, who was full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, to be set aside to head up overseeing this ministry. The people liked this approach and decided this was the best way to resolve this issue. Through a time of prayer and discernment people were chosen and brought before the apostles. The apostles then prayed and then laid hands on them, thereby setting them apart for this work. Instead of being torn apart or infused with the spirit of division, the early church became strengthened as it worked out its issues through prayer and conversation. Prayer helped to steady the church and to defend it from the harm that could have been caused by hurt feelings and mistrust.
This is the very reason we need to make use of the weapon of prayer today. There are many things that could divide us and cause damage and break us into factions. Knowing these things, the best choice we have is to pray. Pray for protection from divisiveness, from hardness of heart, and from pettiness. Pray for wisdom and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we may take hold of our giftedness and use it to build up the body of Christ and demonstrate the spirit of love to those we meet. Pray for opportunities to spread the good news to others so they may come to know Christ as Lord and Savior.
When we use the weapon of prayer effectively, we will find the same result the early church found. Yes, we will find unity in the body because the focus of our attention will be Jesus Christ. We will also find more people coming to Jesus and beginning a relationship with Him. Listen again to these words in Acts 6:7, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly…”
This is the legacy we are a part of. This is the result of prayer. When we pray, we connect with God and God connects with us. God strengthens us, guides us, encourages us, and empowers us to pray and to pray boldly! Prayer is prayed to protect us and defend us, and prayer is prayed to claim victory in leading the lost to Christ.
Prayer is that walking stick we need to help us on this journey of life because the ground is uneven. May you grab hold of your walking stick of prayer each day and find the steady, guiding, protecting power that prayer offers you. Amen.