Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Putting on the armour of God

I was asked some time ago to do a session on ‘putting on the armour of God’ in prayer. It’s not a new idea, and a quick trawl of the internet will unearth several variants of this. The key idea is, of course, Paul’s injunction in Ephesians 6 to stand firm against evil, with an early church background of baptism as the place where we are, among much else, delivered from evil’s power and commanded to renounce ‘the devil and all his works.’

So it’s part of the Christian journey of discipleship. But it’s not entirely clear what a prayer of putting on God’s armour might look like in practice. So I put forward just one simple ‘spiritual exercise’ that some of you might like to use.

In preparation, here are some things that this prayer is [not]:
  • we don’t pray in this way out of fear but simply to acknowledge that we are creatures, dependent, weak;
  • this is not a magical formula, but an act of trust in God’s total ability to save, to protect and to watch over;
  • it is deeply related to the early Christian tradition of praying the name of Jesus, and so to the Jesus prayer;
  • as I said above, it is related to the baptismal seal: we are 
           o   set apart commissioned for Kingdom work;
           o   commissioned for Kingdom work;
           o   guaranteed heaven – the hope that keeps us focused.

The Exercise
1.      Pray the opening verse of St Patrick’s Breastplate:
 I bind unto myself today
 The strong Name of the Trinity,
 By invocation of the same,
 The Three in One and One in Three.

2.      Read Ephesians 6.10-20

3.      In relation to each of the items of armour in turn [the order doesn’t matter: Paul is writing poetically], engage in the following 3 ways:

a.      examine your life. How have the world [out there], the flesh [you yourself and your weaknesses] and the devil undermined this area of your life?

b.       Confess these and ask for forgiveness.

c.       dress yourself imaginatively in the item of armour. For some of you, you may be able to picture yourself in this clothing, but for many, it is an act of the will. The will is best expressed in words, so write a prayer that incorporates what you want to say to God. Alternatively, use one of the Anglican collects or verses from St Patrick’s Breastplate suggested below.

4.     At the end of the exercise, go and intentionally do something missional, which could be as simple as praying for your neighbourhood standing outside your house, or as practical as buying a Big Issue and talking to the vendor.

Exemplary prayers that you might use in dressing up

Belt of truth
I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.

Almighty and everlasting God,
you have given us your servants grace,
by the confession of a true faith,
to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity
and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity:
keep us steadfast in this faith,
that we may evermore be defended from all adversities;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Breastplate of righteousness
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile ones that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
      to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Shoes of readiness to proclaim the gospel of peace
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Shield of faith
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Heavenly Father,
whose blessed Son was revealed
      to destroy the works of the devil
and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life:
grant that we, having this hope,
may purify ourselves even as he is pure;
that when he shall appear in power and great glory
we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom;
where he is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Helmet of salvation
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Grant, Lord,
that we who are baptized into the death
      of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires
      and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits,
who died and was buried and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sword of the Spirit
Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

God our creator,
who in the beginning
commanded the light to shine out of darkness:
we pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ
may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief,
shine into the hearts of all your people,
and reveal the knowledge of your glory
    in the face of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.


  1. Adrian, I came here from a link in one of your tweets. I don't know if it's just me, but I find that the combination of font and the white-on-black makes it really difficult for me to read - which is a shame...

  2. OK, it was worth the struggle, and I especially liked point 4 - go and intentionally do something missional - a great knitting together of prayer and action. Thank you.

  3. I love this post (though also find it difficult to read - sorry).
    I had never thought before of 'putting on the armour of light' in a physical way rather than simply as a metaphor. I do remember being told about a monk's three knots to remind him of his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and, a more mundane example, people used to tie knots in their handkerchiefs to remind themselves of something they had to do.
    But I am going to try it item by item, still probably metaphorically, but prayerfully. Thank-you.

  4. Thank you Adrian. I will use this as part of a Communion Service today.