Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, August 8

Is Prayer Part of God's Armor? (Eph 6:18)

Paul encourages us to “put on (ἐνδύσασθε) the full armor of God” (v 11), and again to take up (ἀναλάβετε) the full armor of God (v 13). The third imperative στῆτε tells us to “stand,” and then he follows with a series of participles telling us how to do this.

  • girding your waist with truth (περιζωσάμενοι)
  • putting on the breastplate of righteousness (ἐνδυσάμενοι)
  • fitting your feet with the readiness of the gospel (ὑποδησάμενοι)
  • taking up the shield of faith (ἀναλαβόντες), as well as the helmet and the sword

V 18 follows with an admonition to pray (προσευχόμενοι) and to keep alert (ἀγρυπνοῦντες). So are these two final participles additional elements of our armor?

Most translations obscure the relationship of v 18 with the preceding. All but the ESV start a new sentence, including NA28. The NIV and NRSV most unfortunately start a new paragraph with v 18, separating the verse even further from its context. This requires the two participles to be translated as imperatival, which is certainly possible, but given the fact that there has been a series of participles, I doubt these should have a totally different meaning.

On the other hand, “keeping alert” hardly sounds like a part of our armor parallel with our shield, helmet, and sword, suggesting there is something different with these last two participles.

Most likely they are instrumental participles, loosely connected with the preceding parts of our armor (see the NET note) or even as far back as the command to “stand” in v 14. Every part of our armor must be donned with prayer and alertness — all prayers and petitions, uttered at all times, with all perseverance and petition, for all the saints. The four-fold repetition of πᾶς is powerful.

Prayer wraps itself around all of our spiritual armor and enables us to stand against satan and his evil forces. As the world around us continues to explode into chaos, can there be any doubt that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood” (v 12)?

Comments

You've hit on something I never noticed before. Surely all translators are traitors, as the saying goes. The key to me, which you did not point out, is that verse 18 begins with a preposition, δια, "through," and then, as you pointed out, this is followed by participles, not imperative verbs. So, even in English, that makes for a subordinate (dependent) clause, not an independent clause. How can translators committed to proper grammatical English miss this? You can't just change a dependent clause into an independent clause to suit! We need to accept the fact that Greek is full of long sentences with seemingly (to the English mind) endless conjunctions and participial phrases, so that we see what is connected to what. So, now we have (in not-so-proper English), "...and the sword of the spirit, which is being the declaration of God through all prayer and petition praying in all occasions in spirit and, into same, being alert in all perseverance and petition about all the saints, and over me, in order that word may be given me in opening of the mouth of me in boldness to make known the mystery of the gospel over which I am being..."