“God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long.” (Eph. 6:17-18, MSG)
As believers, we are engaged in a spiritual battle—whether we want to be or not—which makes it critical that we put on the whole armor of God. The enemy wants to stop the fulfillment of God’s promises. Passivity on our part does not bring peace; essentially it means we’ve surrendered without a fight.
It’s hardly a coincidence that the weapons of God’s Word and prayer are listed concurrently in Ephesians 6. While the Word itself is powerful and prayer is absolutely essential, combining the two is even more powerful still. As we abide in Him (the Living Word) and His words abide in us, we can more confidently pray His will, enabling us to become a force to be reckoned with!1
The Key Role of the Holy Spirit
“… The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
The Greek for “word” in Ephesians 6:17 (and John 6:63) is not logos, which is associated with God’s written, revealed will, or the Bible, as we might expect. Instead, the Greek is rhema, which is associated with God’s spoken will—or a prophetic word. Yet both passages refer to the life-giving force inherent in God’s will as revealed through scripture.
The key lies in understanding how the Holy Spirit reminds us of the written words of God as we need them. Jesus tells His disciples that the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in His name will “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).
In a similar way, believers today can trust the Holy Spirit to bring to mind individual scriptures pertinent to the circumstance they find themselves in. Therefore, the reference to the Word (or words) in these two instances is not alluding so much to a prophetic word, or even the entire Bible—but specific scripture passages highlighted by the Holy Spirit to enable the believer to experience victory in their situation.
Familiarity with scripture is a prerequisite in this process. We must regularly read, meditate on, and even memorize scripture in order to pray the Word effectively.
Storing up the Word
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Ps. 119:11)
The above verse is one of many I memorized at a young age. Several of my Sunday school teachers and summer camp leaders encouraged scripture memorization, and I rose to the challenge. Even today, much of the scripture the Holy Spirit brings to my mind is in the old King James—although I have not used that version for decades!
If you’re like me, it’s much harder to memorize scripture as an adult, but I did recently memorize Psalm 91, after trying several years ago without success.
But when my youngest son joined the Army as an infantryman, I struggled with anxiety. In bringing my concerns before the Lord, I again felt prompted to memorize this chapter. Freshly determined, I asked the Lord to help me hide His word in my heart according to His will (using Ps. 119:11)—and He did!
Although it took some time, I can now recite the entire chapter at will. I pray this psalm at night before falling asleep, when I have down time like waiting for an appointment, or whenever I feel anxious for my kids. In fact, this chapter has become so familiar to me that my day feels incomplete without reciting it.
And that’s not all. Not only does the Holy Spirit quicken scripture to me for personal prayer—but also for intercession, writing assignments, and for ministering to others. Even when people ask for a prophetic word, it’s common to get a scripture verse for them as I seek the Lord. These scriptures become even more powerful in prayer because the Lord has revealed His will through them! (See 1 John 5:14-15.)
Putting Precepts Into Practice
- It’s not enough just to have knowledge of the Word. Even Satan knew and used scripture—interestingly, he twisted Psalm 91! (Matt. 4:6) What Satan didn’t have was an intimate relationship with the author—the Living Word. To accurately discern and pray the Word, we must abide in Him (John 15:7).
- Challenge yourself to spend more time reading, meditating on, or memorizing His Word. The Israelites were exhorted to “Lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul… write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut. 11:18-20) Smartphone Bible apps make it easy to carry the Word with you anywhere, or you can always go old school by writing out verses on notecards to aid in meditation/memorization. Ask the Lord to help you more thoroughly absorb His Word!
- The context when Jesus said His words were spirit and life was that many of His disciples were about to turn away. When Jesus then asked the twelve if they wanted to go away also, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” When we store His words in our heart and soul, we will be able to stand firm when things get tough. Those who can’t handle the pressure will turn away. (See John 6:60-69.)
- Praying the Word of God back to Him increases our faith. For example, when praying for healing, I might pray, “Lord, thank You for being the God who heals me.” Or in intercession, I might ask the Lord to grant someone a new heart and spirit, and exchange their heart of stone for a heart of flesh. And when praying for someone’s salvation, I ask the Father to draw them. (See Ex. 15:26; Ezek. 36:26; John 6:44.)
As you absorb the Word, ask the Holy Spirit to quicken it to you, and see how He might direct you to pray!
For additional study:
See Heb. 4:12; 1 Thess. 5:17; John 1:14, 15:7; 1 John 5:14-15.
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