If Paul had based his analogy of the “armor of God” on the more fully armed infantryman, rather than the lightly armed soldier who guarded him in Rome, he would certainly have had to expand the analogy to include the spear. We cannot know for sure what Paul might have chosen as a spiritual counterpart to the spear had he incorporated one in his arms and armor imagery, but by reading Ephesians 6 carefully we can see a distinct possibility. Paul concludes this passage with a mention of the power of prayer. Had the soldier guarding him held a spear, Paul could well have ended his discussion not simply with “prayer” but with “the spear of prayer.”
There is another reason to presume that Paul might have equated prayer with the ancient soldier’s spear. In the book of Joshua we are told:
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Stretch out the spear that is in your hand toward Ai, for I will give it into your hand.” And Joshua stretched out the spear that was in his hand toward the city. So those in ambush arose quickly out of their place; they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand, and they entered the city and took it … For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai (Joshua 8:18, 26 NKJV).
This story is recorded as a direct parallel to that in Exodus in which the prophet Moses held out a staff in his hands in prayer and continued to hold them out while Israel was fighting against the Amalekites who had attacked the Israelites:
The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.” So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset (Exodus 17:8-12).
The story of the prophet Moses continuing to pray with the “staff of God” in his hands clearly shows the same lesson as that of the warrior Joshua continuing to hold his outstretched spear till the battle was won – that God helps those who seek his help as long as we continue to seek it.
How does this tie together with what Paul tells us about prayer at the close of his description of spiritual armor and arms? The message is the same. Notice what Paul’s exact words are at the end of his description of the armor 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” (Ephesians 6:18, emphasis added).
So if the legionary guarding Paul had been a little more heavily armed, we might well read today of the “spear of prayer” as well as the “sword of the spirit.” But whatever the case, we can draw the same lesson from what Paul does say at the close of his “armor of God” analogy as we can from the stories of Moses with his staff and Joshua with his spear: If we are to be victorious against the spiritual enemies and problems that we fight, we must continue in prayer as long as the problem persists.
God does not call us to pray, then hope things work out for the best, or to stop praying if things don’t get better (Luke 18:1). He calls us to continue to pray as long as we continue the fight or the work we are given to do. Prayer, like any military offensive, must not let up until victory is accomplished. It’s an attitude that we could say is aptly summarized in a comment about men with spears in the book of Nehemiah:
“So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out” (Nehemiah 4:21).
* Read our blog post on Paul's analogy of the Armor of God here.