Paul’s final gift for us this Advent is the gift of prayer. Ephesians 6:18 says, “pray at all times in the Spirit,” and Verse 19 asks the reader to “pray for me.”

Pray at all times. Sounds remarkably like 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray without ceasing,” doesn’t it?

Pray in the Spirit. That sounds a lot like Romans 8:26, which says that when we don’t know how to pray or what to pray,

“… the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.” (Romans 8:26, NCV).

Is there any greater gift to open on this Christmas Day than the ability to connect in prayer with God the Father? He shows His love for us and His desire to communicate with us by sending Jesus to us.

What a sweet gift it is to be able to offer prayers on behalf of others.

There are countless stories of answered prayer. One of my favorites is from George Muller, who served the Lord over 150 years ago. He was a man who took seriously the charge of God to take care of widows and orphans. Throughout his life, he reportedly cared for over 10,000 orphans. He was characterized as a man of prayer. It is said he prayed about everything and expected each prayer to be answered. He never asked anyone, other than God, for funds to operate over 100 different homes for children in England and throughout Europe.

From his journal:

“During the summer and autumn of 1866 we had also the measles at all the three Orphan-Houses. After they had made their appearance, our special prayer was:

1. That there might not be too many children ill at one time in this disease, so that our accommodation in the Infirmary rooms or otherwise might be sufficient. This prayer was answered to the full… yet God so graciously was pleased to listen to our supplications, as that when our spare rooms were filled with the invalids, He so long stayed the spreading of the measles till a sufficient number were restored, so as to make room for others, who were taken ill.

2. Further we prayed, that the children, who were taken ill in the measles, might be safely brought through and not die. Thus it was. We had the full answer to our prayers; for though 262 children altogether had the measles, not one of them died.

3. Lastly we prayed, that no evil physical consequences might follow this disease, as is so often the case; this was also granted. All 262 children not only recovered but did well afterward. I gratefully record this signal mercy and blessing of God, and this full and precious answer to prayer, to the honor of His name.”

Two-hundred sixty-two children with measles in an orphanage. In the 1860s. None of them died. That’s unheard of! A true answer to prayer.

It is a gift to be able to pray, and it is a joy to see how God answers our prayers! May I encourage you to keep praying and to keep looking for Him when you feel like you have prayed and prayed and prayed and you have not seen God’s answer? He will answer you. In His time and by His will. He will answer with what is best for you and the situation. You may not be able to see that His answer is best but trust it. In time, you will see our Father God’s mighty and loving hand. What a gift! God so loves it when we pray. I heard a man once paint a beautiful word picture that went something like this: Maybe one day, when we get to heaven, God will welcome us with a gleam in his eyes and a smile and say, “You kept me busy with your prayers!”

So, gear up when you feel like a cloud is over you and when you feel attacked by the enemy. Pray up. God is here for you. He gave us His son, through whom we connect with Him. When you are thankful for answered prayer, be sure to let God know you are overwhelmed with His love and grace!


Father God, thank you for the gift of prayer … to be able to talk with you and seek your face. Thank you. Help me trust that you are answering my prayers in your timing and by your will. May I be able to see that you only want what is best for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

WAS THIS PLAN HELPFUL? It was adapted from the book “The Greatest Gifts – a 25-day Christmas devotional.” You can find more info and other resources at



There is an interesting story of the great evangelist and reformer Martin Luther, who founded the Lutheran and Protestant faiths. Reportedly, a stain was on the floor in his study at Wartburg Castle. When giving tours, the docent would remark that the stain occurred when Luther threw his ink bottle at the devil. In his later years, the enemy hounded Luther, and he had seasons of depression and mood swings, which he called ‘evil spirits.’

In The Seal and Pledge of the Holy Spirit, Brian Allison writes:

The devil sought to discourage Luther, by making him feel guilty, through rehearsing a list of his sins. When the devil had finished, Luther purportedly said, “Think harder: you must have forgotten some.” And the devil did think, and he listed more sins. When he was done enumerating the sins, Luther said, “Now, with a red pen write over that list, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.’ The devil had nothing to say.

Luther threw ink at the enemy. It was his way of tangibly saying the Word of God is stronger!

Perhaps it is easy to suggest that in Luther’s defense against the enemy, he was strongly influenced by Jesus. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4, when the enemy tempted Jesus, our Savior was victorious because He threw words of scripture, the words of truth, back at the devil.

Today’s gift is the only offensive weapon in the full armor. Please see the significance of that.

“… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17, NIV).

Look at how Jesus used this weapon. He is tired. He is hungry. He has been fasting for 40 days.

“The devil came to Jesus to tempt him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these rocks to become bread.” Jesus answered: “It is written in the Scriptures, ‘A person lives not on bread alone, but by everything God says.’” (Matthew 4:3-4, NCV).

Jesus is actually quoting Moses here:

“Remember how the Lord your God has led you in the desert for these forty years, taking away your pride and testing you, because he wanted to know what was in your heart. He wanted to know if you would obey his commands. He took away your pride when he let you get hungry, and then he fed you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had ever seen. This was to teach you that a person does not live on bread alone, but by everything the Lord says.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, NCV).

Two additional times when the enemy tempts Jesus, the Master uses the Word of God as an offensive weapon to defeat the devil. So, if the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, worked for Jesus, it would certainly work for you and me! Did Jesus have his Torah handy or the YouVersion Bible app in his pocket? No, it was written on His heart. He had memorized scripture. This should give us all great motivation to learn scripture so that we can be judiciously on the offense when attacked by the enemy.

Do you know that even today, most Jewish boys and girls have memorized the Torah — the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy — by the time they are 12 years old?! Twelve! Maybe scripture memory would be a great new goal for next year. You don’t have to memorize the Torah, but some key scriptures would be ideal. What if you tried to memorize one each month or one each week? There are many great online tools and traditional type cards that can help.

So pick up your sword, your Bible. Don’t just memorize it, but meditate on the Word. Make it a part of who you are. Write it on your heart. Be ready to use this gift and be on the offensive. In that way, you’ll defeat the father of lies and encourage others with the love of God at its core.


Father God, thank you for this gift, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. May I write your Word on my heart. Help me use this gift to defeat the enemy and to build up and encourage my friends and family. May I find the Bible a delightful source of personal strength, love, wisdom, grace, and joy! In Jesus’ name. Amen.


This advent devotional can be found on the YouVersion Bible App here.



The next piece of armor covers your head. We’ve surrounded our waist with truth, covered our feet with peace, and protected our hearts with the grace of Jesus. We have lifted the shield of faith and been reminded that God is always closer to us than the enemy.

Next: Ephesians 6:17 — the helmet of salvation. You are saved from your head to your toes. Be wise; wear a helmet! Protect your mind.

In the past 25 years or so, helmets have become a standard part of our daily routine. When I learned to ride a bicycle, I never wore a helmet. I had an accident or two and banged my head from time to time, but these days, you wouldn’t think of teaching your child to ride a bike without first strapping on a helmet. Small babies wear helmets. Even cowboys and bull riders are wearing helmets instead of cowboy hats. Why? Because they work! They protect your head. They keep you safe. Have you read recently about all the research and technology put into the new NFL football helmets? There are molded shells and something called TPU padding. There is a lot of science going into protecting players’ heads. They’ve come a long way from the leather-heads of the early days of football. Construction workers, athletes of all types, soldiers, firefighters … all wear helmets. Whether they look cool or not, they protect your head.

Paul says to make sure you know every day that your salvation saves you, protects you, keeps you in the game, and keeps you mentally alert. How do you get your salvation? That’s the same question the Roman jailer asked Paul and Silas. Their answer?

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31, NCV).

And think about Paul’s words in Romans as it relates to transforming our mind, which is the key central point in all of our decision-making. How do you know what God’s will is?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

How do you renew your mind? By transforming your thinking. How do you transform your thinking? By meditating on God and His word and His promises for you. Transform your mind. Grab every thought that rings with fear or sin. Defeat the enemy. Keep your head protected. Be safe. Wear a helmet! Enjoy this gift, His helmet of salvation.


Father God, thank you for the Gift of protection for my mind. Thank you for your Word, which renews my thinking. May I dwell on you and your thoughts today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


This advent devotional can be found on the YouVersion Bible App here.

Advent Day 19, The Gift of Weaponry, the Belt of Truth

December 19, 2011

The Gift of weaponry, the Belt of Truth 

This Advent Daily Devotional is focusing on the gifts God gives us, as uncovered in the book of Ephesians. 

There are many great kernels of wisdom parents can pass along to their children.  One of my favorites: “A half truth is a whole lie.”  It’s important that children learn to tell the truth, right?   Truth is at the core of the judicial system.  Think about the vow that someone takes when testifying in a court of law.  They agree to “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

So, how significant is it then that the first piece of weaponry, of armor, that Paul writes about in Ephesians Chapter 6 is the encouragement to put on “the belt of truth.”?  The truth is the leading weapon used to defeat the enemy!

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. (Ephesians 6:14, NIV).

Circle yourself with truth. Don’t mess with the half-truths of the world. Don’t buy the lies of Hollywood and Madison Avenue. 

I’m reminded of another piece of advice from Paul.  Philippians 4:6 says: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  

A good start to defeating the enemy is to not fool around with the father of lies!  

The belt… it wraps around your center of gravity… it is the physical center of who you are.  Let your life be balanced with the truth.  Let it be your spiritual center, too. Surround yourself with the truth and people who are people of truth and who will be ones who speak truth into your life.  Let every part of you be enveloped with truth.

The truth is weapon Number One to defeat the attacks of the enemy.  When you may be confused or unsure, get the facts.  Get to the truth.  Who is the truth? Jesus is the truth.  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

Open your eyes, open your hands and receive the Gift of Truth this Advent.

Father God, thank you for the Gift of Truth.  May I circle every area of my life with it.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.