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An Excerpt from "Prayer: The Work of Missions"

    Aug 12, 2022 | by John Piper

    The following passage is an excerpt from "Prayer: The Work of Missions," preached by John Piper in 1988.

    Life Is War

    When Paul came to the end of his life, he said in 2 Timothy 4:7, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." And in I Timothy 6:12, he tells Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith; lay hold on eternal life to which you were called."

    Life is war because the maintenance of our faith and the laying hold on eternal life is a constant fight. Paul makes clear in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 that the number one target of Satan is faith. If we endure to the end we will be saved, Jesus said (Mark 13:13), and Satan is fighting always to bring us to ruin by destroying our faith.

    Concerning his own life of warfare, Paul said earlier, "I do not run aimlessly, I do-not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:26-7).

    Concerning his ministry, he said, "Though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). Ministry is war. (See also Revelation 6:212:1717:14.)

    Probably the most familiar passage on the warfare we live in daily is Ephesians 6:12-13.

    We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God.

    In other words, life is war.

    But most people do not believe this in their heart. Most people show by their priorities and their casual approach to spiritual things that they believe we are in peacetime, not wartime.

    In wartime, the newspapers carry headlines about how the troops are doing. In wartime, families talk about the sons and daughters on the front lines, and write to them, and pray for them with heart-wrenching concern for their safety. In wartime, we are on the alert. We are armed. We are vigilant. In wartime, we spend money differently - there is austerity, not for its own sake, but because there are more strategic ways to spend money than on new tires at home. The war effort touches everybody. We all cut back. The luxury liner becomes the troop carrier.

    Very few people think that we are now in a war greater than World War II, and greater than any imaginable nuclear World War III. Or that Satan is a much worse enemy than Communism or militant Islam. Or that the conflict is not restricted to any one global theater, but is in every town and city in the world. Or that the casualties do not merely lose an arm or an eye or an earthly life, but lose everything, even their own soul and enter a hell of everlasting torment (Revelation 14:9-11).

    Until people believe this, they will not pray as they ought. They will not even know what prayer is.

    In Ephesians 6:17-18 Paul-makes the connection for us:

    Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, with all prayer and supplication, Praying on every occasion in the Spirit, and keeping awake for this with all perseverance.

    Prayer is the communication by which the weapons of warfare are deployed according to the will of God. Prayer is for war.

    Let me show you this more specifically from John 15:16-17.

    "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you."

    The logic is crucial. Why is the Father going to give the disciples what they ask in Jesus' name? Answer: Because they have been sent to bear fruit. The reason the Father gives the disciples the gift of prayer is because Jesus has given them a mission. In fact, the grammar of John 15:16 implies that the reason Jesus gives them their mission is so that they will be able to enjoy the power of prayer. "I send you to bear fruit so that whatever you ask the Father . . . he may give you."

    So I do not tire of saying to our church, The number one reason why prayer malfunctions in the hands of a believers is that they try to turn a wartime walkie-talkie into a domestic intercom.

    Until you believe that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for. Prayer is for the accomplishment of a wartime mission. It is as though the field commander (Jesus) called in the troops, gave them a crucial mission ("Go and bear fruit"), handed each of them a personal transmitter coded to the frequency of the general's headquarters, and said, "Comrades, the general has a mission for you. He aims to see it accomplished. And to that end he has authorized me to give each of you personal access to him through these transmitters. If you stay true to his mission and seek his victory first, he will always be as close as your transmitter, to give tactical advice and to send in air cover when you or your comrades need it."

    But what have millions of Christians done? They have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance, no strategic planning. Just easy peacetime and prosperity. And what did they do with the walkie-talkie? They tried to rig it up as an intercom in their cushy houses and cabins and boats and cars - not to call in fire power for conflict with a mortal enemy, but to ask the maid to bring another pillow to the den.

    So my first point is that, if we are going to mobilize a powerful prayer movement for missions or even sustain the will to pray in our own hearts, we must talk about something else first, namely, war. We have so domesticated prayer that it is no longer, in many of our lives and churches, what it was created to be - a wartime walkie-talkie for the accomplishment of mission commands.

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