For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
—Ephesians 6:12-18 King James Version
In this classic New Testament text, the Apostle Paul tells us that we don’t just struggle with human leaders and institutions but are engaged in spiritual warfare against principalities and powers and rulers of darkness in high places. Spiritual warfare between our “better angels,” as Lincoln contrasted against our worst demons, are easily provoked — as in a time such as this.
The longest government shutdown in U.S. history reveals the brokenness of our systems, the danger of a strong man exploiting that brokenness instead of trying to fix it, and the suffering of countless people, always beginning with the most vulnerable. It also painfully shows Washington’s current habit of blaming instead of solving problems, which has left our politics both polarized and paralyzed.
The traditional practices of petitions, lobbying, pressuring, and negotiating — while important — now seem inadequate in our current moment. So, if we are to take both our perilous situation and this text from Ephesians seriously, we need to find some new weapons for this struggle. That’s what Paul is saying here, that we must take on “the whole armor of God,” using the weapons of spiritual warfare in order to “withstand on that evil day, and having done everything else, to stand firm.” He lists those weapons as a belt of “truth” around your waist, which needs to be “buckled up” in the NIV version; the “breastplate of righteousness, ”which also means “justice”; “shoes for your feet” to “make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace,” reminding us that shoes were made for walking and to pray with our feet; “the shield of faith,” which will help us to “quench” the expected “flaming arrows of the evil one”; the “helmet of salvation”; the “sword of the Spirit”; and the “word of God,” which overturns all other words. Notice that these are not just pious, prayerful suggestions but are weapons from the whole armor of God meant to be directed at the principalities and powers in the evil day.
We are indeed in an evil day as this government shutdown drags on. It has undermined our fundamental institutions, protocols, practices, and procedures and resulted in suffering and danger to more and more people. Listen to all the stories of government workers and their families who aren’t getting their paycheck, and can’t afford their rent or medicines and doctors visits for their children. Listen to the fears of many people who are approaching hunger and homelessness in the near future.
The final weapon listed in the Ephesians passage is this: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.” We don’t normally think of prayer as a weapon or as an action to take, but it is both. Prayer is an active measure to open ourselves to God, to ask God to prepare us for further and even more courageous action, and to ask God to intervene in even dire situations, such as this.
Therefore, in the midst of this government shutdown and the political and humanitarian crisis it has created, Sojourners is calling people of faith to prayer — as an action in itself and as a preparation for future action. We are asking every one of you, our readers and partners and allies to pray — in your daily lives and in your churches. Offer your prayers below for the Senate and specifically Leader Mitch McConnell, who has the authority to call for a vote that would end the shutdown and reopen the government. Sojourners is ready and willing to collect and deliver your prayers to your senators and to McConnell in person here in Washington, D.C.
In this critical political and spiritual moment, let each of us write, say, and send a prayer right now. And let us pray without ceasing in our daily devotions and corporately in our churches until the shutdown ends.
Here’s my prayer:
I see the pain and suffering of working families that I know must be breaking your heart even more than ours.
Dear Lord, open hearts to the real stories of parents struggling to take care of their children and pay their bills. I pray that they not feel alone. Comfort them with your presence.
I pray for those who rely on government programs and will soon lose their support for food, housing, and health care and could become hungry and homeless very soon. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tells us how we treat “the least of these” is how we treat him. Lord, help us respond.
I pray for the women and children whose services at domestic violence shelters and first-response organizations are at risk as funding runs out. Watch over them.
I pray for our churches, service organizations, and people of good will who are trying to bridge the gap by serving meals and offering temporary jobs for those affected. Fill them with your Spirit.
As I am biblically instructed to pray for our political leaders, I pray for President Trump to listen to pain of the people, to listen to you, and to put love for neighbor over political goals.
I pray for our senators, who have the authority and responsibility to reopen the government. And I pray particularly for Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is the only one who can call for a vote. Help them and help him to put country over politics, party, and ideology or self-interest.
I pray for our senators to vote in sufficient numbers to override a presidential veto if the president refuses to listen to the prayers and petitions of a growing majority of people across our nation.
Oh God, we need power beyond ourselves in this painful, difficult, and dangerous moment, and we need you to lead us to deeper and more faithful and sacrificial action. I ask you to sustain us together.
Lord, hear our prayers.
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