Prayer Warriors?

Prayer warriors. What exactly is a prayer warrior? I hear it all the time and often think it is one of those catch phrases people use without thinking much about what they mean. Years ago, some well-meaning person donated a very large mural to the primary meeting room in our cathedral. The smiling prayer warriors, all dressed in medieval crusader armor (the Errol Flynn Robin Hood version) are on the hilltop just outside Jerusalem ready for the charge that will free it from the infidels who most surely are the agents of the very devil himself.

Having taken a quick look at a few of the prayer warrior entries on the Internet, I find my self more confused than ever. I’m relieved, on the one hand, to discover that most introductions about how to become a prayer warrior emphasize that it’s not about trying to change God’s mind or instruct God on what to do. It’s more about being at one with God’s will and interceding on behalf of another in the context of that oneness. On the other hand, there seems to be plenty of blessed assurance about what God’s will is that is more connected to the cultural values of particular warrior groups together with their sure and certain understanding of what it means to have a biblical world view. Moreover, there appears to be an underlying current that in these desperate times of the last days we are at battle with the wiles of the devil and the cosmic powers of this present darkness along with the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, the outcome of which is by no means certain. Finally, there is a sense that we are battling for the souls of those who have not yet accepted Jesus as their personal lord and savior. Without prayer warriors God might lose.

These are precisely the issues that many of us will address on Sunday, August 23 in the reading of Ephesians 6:10-20. But we will also be coming to the conclusion of the bread of life passages in John, and in that light I wonder if Ephesians might be read differently. Fed with the bread of life one no longer need fear death, and that means that evil itself, whatever else it may do, cannot conquer. Consider that the armor we are to put on is truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith and the word (Word?) of God. To me these are words that conjure up an irenic, humble and supremely self-confident image of one who is prepared to follow where Christ has already led, not as a warrior but as a bearer of light. Whatever the present darkness may be, it is made less dark by the light of Christ brought into it by those who follow him. Earlier this week a colleague pointed out that Paul does not request that prayers be offered up for his freedom from chains, nor does he desire the defeat of his enemies, but only that he be given power to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ in the place where he is and among the people with whom he is in contact. That is the prayer of one who would rather “light a candle than curse the darkness.”

We cannot adopt warrior language without having enemies we are willing to kill, and we cannot be willing to kill until we have dehumanized and demonized them. I confess that, in a lifetime of learning how to follow where Christ has led, I remain largely ignorant of God’s will and mostly have to just “let it be” as I experience the wholly unexpected along this most amazing journey of adventure. But this I know, I am not called by God to dehumanize, demonize and kill, spiritually or otherwise. If I had my way I’d get rid of the warrior language altogether. We are not wise enough for it, and I doubt that there is enough wisdom for it. And I’d get rid of that mural in our cathedral.

9 thoughts on “Prayer Warriors?”

  1. Your remark \”Without prayer warriors, God might lose\” really hits the mark about the whole idea of prayer warriors. I thought the whole point of Christianity was that God already won in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Calvary, not that if we don't do something, the big evil socialist/atheist/communist/fascist armies of the Devil will conquer all! The cosmic battle has already been won. There's no more fighting we can do on that front.Bearing light, on the other hand, calls us back to our place as evangelists, bringing good news.

  2. Almost everyone can agree that one of the big differences between us and our ancestors of five hundred years ago is that they lived in an “enchanted” world, and we do not; at the very least, we live in a much less “enchanted” world. We might think of this as our having “lost” a number of beliefs and the practices which they made possible. But more, the enchanted world was one in which these forces could cross a porous boundary and shape our lives, psychic and physical. One of the big differences between us and them is that we live with a much firmer sense of the boundary between self and other.

  3. The above was a quote from Charles Taylor.For me, prayer worrier is left over from that enchanted world. I have had prayer worriers pray for me. I took it as a token of emotional support. Others say that they are sending \”good thoughts\” my way. It is the same idea. I dont expect miricles. Science is one way of reading the mind of Reality. I welcomed the intention of those prayers. I am sure ther was no thought philosophy of war in it.

  4. John,Perhaps we have not lost our enchantedness quite yet. One can easily speak of the \”mood of the crowd\”, the \”morale of the office\”, or even the \”spirit of our time\” whatever time that might be. The point is that these are very real and quite palpable spirits that can and do have real effects on both individuals and groups. However, I take your point, and because the spirit world is so far from most of us, God's Spirit also can seem like a very foreign idea, a mere fantasy of naive believers. It's one of the things that makes it difficult to explain the Christian faith to a skeptical public. But there is an opening. Taking Otto's \”Idea of the Holy\” one has only to point to the inexplicable popularity of Harry Potter and all his clones to recognize the lingering sense that there is more to our reality than the mere physical. As for our science, and I am a great believer in science, let's face it, it's little more than at a kindergarten level compared to what is yet to be discovered and known. CP

  5. A friend once told me about having preached a sermon on the whole armour of God. Afterwords, an elderly woman challenged him to notice what Paul tells us to do after having put on the whole armour of God.\”and having done all, to stand.\”To stand.Hmmmm

  6. CP You know that I read your Biblical Sermons with great profit. It is good to converse with you and your readers again. You are right in your response! It is good to get past my preoupation to engage in dialoge again. It is my only way of growing.Pardon the spelling!

Leave a Reply