Several years ago, our church was embarking on a capital campaign, and I vividly recall the kickoff where one of the team members was sharing key learnings from the last campaign. As she closed her remarks, she paused, and made one last bold statement about what was to come. “Team,” she stated, “we need to prepare for these next several months as though we are heading into battle, because the enemy wants nothing more than to see this campaign fail and to keep more people from knowing God.” She pointed out that we needed to constantly be in prayer for protection around our work. Well, quite candidly, that took the air right out of my sails! I didn’t sign up to ‘go into battle’. I just wanted to help facilitate a successful campaign! To do God’s work! With joy! Up to that point in my faith journey, I had never given the enemy much credit at all when things didn’t go my way or when things blocked what I thought was God’s will. I just prayed for strength through issues and moved on. The thought of an ‘enemy’ or ‘evil lurking’ was off-putting, and even somewhat scary to me. So, I simply avoided the uncomfortable topic.
But the stories about what happened when our ‘guard was down’ during the previous campaign lit a fire under me. The enemy is real, and I needed to come to grips with that spiritual reality. It was from that point on that a heavy focus of my daily prayer life included praying protection against an enemy who is constantly working against us.
Cut to a few years later, as part of a large women’s community group, we leaders found ourselves in a crossfire of concerns over an author of one of the studies we were going to facilitate. It was easy for us to get discouraged, as these studies were thoughtfully and prayerfully planned. Many of us on the team were convinced that the enemy was keeping us from studying what God had in store for all these wonderful women. We were discouraged. Our well laid plans were not panning out. On the way to a gathering to discuss and pray about the issue, I went straight to the Lord. I asked Him for guidance as we figured out how we were going to tackle the issue. I asked Him for discernment to reveal His protection over this work. It was one of the few times in my life that I had very clear, distinct answers immediately from God. The Lord pointed out something simple yet so profound to me. We were simply giving the enemy too much credit. We needed to consider that perhaps God was protecting us, versus the enemy keeping something away from us. (After all, aren’t His plans much better than ours?) We needed to fix our eyes on Him and move forward.
God was reminding me that He is in control. He also equips us. After all, He has given us the playbook for arming ourselves and harnessing His protection here on earth. The best defense against the enemy is to take an offensive posture. It is not a simple passive prayer, rather active engagement in His workings. So when the time comes, and it will come, when the enemy is actively pursuing us and wants nothing more than for us to lose trust, hope, and faith in the Lord, we actively pray; but we also armor up. As instructed in Ephesians 6:10-20:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor 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. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 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 Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will 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.”
There are countless books and Bible studies that have been written on the Armor of God, but Priscilla Shirer’s “Armor of God” Bible study was a game changer for me. I never really placed weight on, nor understood what it truly meant to ‘put on the armor of God’ until I walked through that study. Ephesians 6:10-20 were just directives of which I truly didn’t have a deep understanding. I read it as a prayer more than a playbook. Now, with deeper understanding in hand, I know that being on guard against the enemy means not only are we are focused on praying against the enemy and asking God for His protection (which I got really good at doing!), but also suiting up each day!
So while I still very regularly pray for the Lord‘s protection over our children, our marriage, school, and church, I know that there is an enemy who is lurking and who wants nothing more than to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). But if I am spending all my time worried about that – worried about the enemy instead of focusing on becoming closer to God – then woe is me. I’m grateful for how the Lord opened my eyes when I was praying about discernment for the women’s Bible study. We actually did take a different path and do a different study, unlocking an opportunity to grow closer to God in ways that would not have been possible had we done the original study. It’s very easy to get lost in a pool of discouragement when we think the enemy has won. However, when we stand firm in the fact that God is victorious over everything, and we fix our eyes on Him (and not the enemy!), it’s amazing how much more clearly we see HIM at work!
Lord, I’m so grateful that You are victorious over all, and that You are our Great Protector. Thank You for Your word that reminds us how we can be equipped and armored up against the enemy’s schemes. Please help me to keep my eyes fixed on You and You alone. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.