Fighting the Battle With Prayer

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During the reign of King Saul (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:10) the valiant troops of the Transjordan tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab with 44,760 men  who were described as “experts in war.” These soldiers were specialist in handling both a shield and the sword. When it came to drawing the bow, there were no others who were as capable as these men. With their combined fighting force they drove the uncircumcised out of the land. Why were they able to conquer their enemy? What was the secret to their victory? It wasn’t their valor or bravery. Nor was it their expertise of shield, or sword, or bow. All would have been in vain if they would have relied on these. These warriors were victorious because they were mighty warriors in the weapon of… prayer. Let’s start our study by reading 1 Chronicles 5:18-22.

They Fought the Battle with Prayer:

  1. “They cried out to God in the battle…” (v. 20)
    • Deuteronomy 20.1-4 – In the Law of Moses, the twelve tribes of Israel were given principles that governed warfare. First among them was seeking God’s blessing before battle.
    • It was not an uncommon practice for the nation (Judges 20.18; 1 Samuel 7.8-10; 2 Chronicles 20.20-22). However, one at least one occasion, it could become ritualistic and lead to devastating results (1 Samuel 4.1-3).
    • In our text, the soldiers are praying during the battle. When it would have been easier to focus on the enemy at hand, they focused on God.
  2. “He granted their urgent plea…” (v. 20)
    • “Urgent” suggest a frantic prayer in a time of trouble. We don’t know the words of their plea but we can get an idea from other urgent prayers: Psalm 3.7; 2 Chronicles 14.11; 20.12.
    • We don’t know the size of the opposing army, but based on the spoils it seems the enemy army was rather larger. But the size of the other army doesn’t matter at all, big or small, powerful or weak, they urgently need God for they fight.
  3. “Because they put their trust in Him.” (v. 20)
    • Psalm 20.7 reminds us, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
    • The text clearly points out the marshaling might of the Transjordan tribes (1 Chronicles 5.18). Nevertheless they didn’t trust in themselves, they trusted in God as evidenced by their prayer. Therefore, God gave them the victory (1 Chronicles 5.21-22)

There are Four Lessons to Draw from this Story:

    • The battle the Transjordan tribes fought was the Lord’s (ref. 1 Chronicles 5:22). The fight had a deeper, richer spiritual context that a mere political or ethnic conflict.
    • Paul reminds us that our fight isn’t against “flesh and blood” but rather against the dark, evil powers of Satan (Ephesians 6.10-12).
    • God has given us spiritual armor to help us in our spiritual fight (Ephesians 6.13-17).
    • One essential component of our armor is prayer (Ephesians 6.18).
    • It’s not uncommon to hear prayer referred to as the straps that hold all of our armor in place. This is an apt comparison. It takes prayer to hold the “breastplate of righteousness” in place, and secure the “shield of faith” to one’s arm, and to keep the “helmet of salvation” securely on one’s head.
    • Certainly, a short prayer before a meal, or a quick word before an important event is well and good. But these prayers will not suffice to sustain the Christian life in the spiritual battle we are fighting.
    • Note the words used to describe prayers: “Be constant in prayer” (Romans 12.12); “strive together with me in your prayers” (Romans 15.30); “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4.2); lastly “struggling on your behalf in his prayers” (Colossians 4:12) and from our text “urgent plea” (1 Chronicles 5:20 ESV)
    • Praying quick, rote, throwaway prayers won’t bring about the victory.
    • The kind of prayers that bring victory in the battle are “constant… striving… watchful… struggling… urgent pleas.” Do these describe your prayers? They better or defeat is at hand.
    • “Pray for one another” James writes in James 5:16.
    • To encourage us to pray for one another, he reminds us that the great prophet Elijah was human just like us. And through his prayers he did mighty works (James 5.16b-17).
    • Even though we’re ordinary people, we can work mighty deeds through prayer. We must never lose sight of this important spiritual truth!

Unfortunately, the story of the children of the half-tribe of Manasseh doesn’t end well. The next scene, after their triumph through prayer, says “They were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples, whom God had destroyed before them” (1 Chronicles 5:25). It goes on to say God punished them by leading them into captivity. They in essence stopped praying. We’ve got to remember, that we can’t rest on our spiritual laurels, even though Jesus as won the war, the fight still rages. There is always an urgent need for Christians to pray. We must constantly be striving and struggling in praying for ourselves, our loved ones, our church, our country, our friends and our enemies. Because our souls and their souls depend on it. So fight the battle with prayer.


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