“…pray…on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…be alert and always keep on praying…” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)
There’s a fierce spiritual battle raging around us in our deteriorating culture, a battle that isn’t evident to the natural eye (see Galatians 6:12). There’s a willingness to deny that there are actions which are always and everywhere wrong. There’s an eagerness to do away with every traditional ethical standard, yet pounce mercilessly on violations of the latest “virtues” of tolerance and permissiveness. Many embrace the idea that the individual is the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong, and that to point out the flaws of this point of view is “hate speech”.
This battle is raging within us as well, in our temptations to minimize our own sin and make excuses for ourselves; to explain away our moral failures as simply “bad habits”, or by comparing ourselves with others instead of measuring ourselves against the standards set for us by Jesus himself in Scripture. We might even justify our cowardice in publicly defending this faith by telling ourselves that we “didn’t want to offend anyone”. We’re very much like the disciples asleep in Gethsemane while Jesus – utterly alone – wages the cosmic battle of the ages. Meanwhile, we are so drowsy that we can’t keep our eyes open. “Can you not keep watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) says our Savior. His words to me sting mightily, for I have surely failed him, over and over. I have failed to “watch and pray” and so I have fallen into temptation.
Persistent prayer is hard. It requires commitment and it requires sacrifice – not only of time, but also of ease or comfort when I must forego a favorite activity in favor of devoting myself to prayer. We all have only so much time each day, and when most of that time is already spoken for by the demands of everyday life, I often end up praying “on the fly” because I’ve failed to plan; to build prayer time into my schedule. Face it, we’ve all been guilty of that, for it’s easy to do.
Perhaps if we all realized the that there’s actually a battle raging – a crucial, eternally important battle – whose Divine Captain and King asks us for our participation, might then we choose differently? Might we choose to turn off the TV or the movie we wanted to watch and instead make room for that quiet which is necessary for us to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us? Might we shut down the cell phone earlier in the day, and get to bed on time so that we can rise earlier and spend the “first fruits” of our day reading and meditating on Scripture, and then turning that meditation into prayer? Or perhaps might we choose to commune with God in prayer as we do our exercise walk instead of listening to our favorite music?
“… pray…on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…be alert and always keep on praying…” (Ephesians 6:18 NIV). Pray to stand firm; to not be swayed by the corrupt culture around us; and to not be lured off the narrow way by the frailties within. This is truly a battle, a battle that can only be won on our knees.