10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. 19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.
For those of you fasting and praying, I pray that you are encouraged and doing well. Remember, it only gets ... more difficult.
Our passage is a familiar passage. It has become the go-to biblical passage for issues related to spiritual warfare. The nature of our true battle, the text reminds us, is not against flesh and blood. It's not against fellow human beings. The truer, deeper battle is spiritual, against real spiritual enemies who are set on doing us harm. We might be tempted to think the language of battle/struggle/warfare is figurative -- or, perhaps more accurate to say -- we are tempted to think in terms other than the language of spiritual battle in our day-to-day existence. We simply think as we do during the course of the day without any obvious frame of reference having anything to do with spiritual entities or their activities.
Of course, we can go overboard and think that every struggle or disagreement or conflict is a matter of spiritual warfare, when in reality the struggle/disagreement/conflict is plain old flesh and blood.
Our ability to distinguish between what is flesh-and-blood and what is spiritual grows insofar as we become more prayerful. It is true that some are Spirit-gifted in the area of discerning spirits (like the OT professor I've mentioned in my sermons). But even for folks who have the gift of spiritual discernment, prayer is never absent. Prayer for these servants of the Lord also sharpens and enhances that ability to name and identify the spirits harassing a person.
That is why the Apostle Paul concludes this section in the passage with a strong command to "pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication" (v. 18).
May the Lord increase your spiritual discernment, increase your ability to see what's flesh and blood and what's of a spiritual nature, and may these discerning gifts increase as you grow in your prayer life.
In Jesus' name, amen.