In the Greco-Roman era, warfare was up-close, sanguinary, and lethal. The Greeks and Romans, who were the masters of warfare, often employed the phalanx—a military formation consisting of rows of heavily armored soldiers with full-body shield and spear. A single soldier who was not in this formation was very vulnerable in battle; the chances of him deserting the battlefield were very high. The phalanx, therefore, was a reassuring source of protection and courage. It was a very simple formation–one simply lined up, with comrades to the left and right–but it proved to be overwhelmingly effective, as this formation allowed Alexander the Great to defeat armies that were over twice their size, taking over the known world.
Life is likewise filled with battles, many of which we may want to surrender when facing them by ourselves. At these times, a phalanx of spiritual support makes all problems easier to overcome. Take, for example, Daniel. When met with a tyrannical king graciously offering him mouth-watering delicacies, free education, and boarding, peer pressure hounded him from every direction: “Just eat, man. You’re so ungrateful.” Many situations and problems we face are not as dry-cut as we imagine them to be. Perhaps it seems like everyone else is cheating their way to an A while you slave away for a C. Perhaps the dreaded 8:30 AM class becomes a test of resolve, a tug-o-war between sleep (something sorely missed) and morning prayer (something you know you need). In the face of these kinds of situations, morality seems to become greyer, but it does not have to stay that way. Daniel called his battle buddies, relied on God in prayer, and overcame the seemingly impossible.
Likewise, a good spiritual friend is willing to pray for his “battle buddies” at all times, as he never knows when a crisis may arise. The full-body shields were faced with bronze and extremely heavy, but holding up the full-body shields at all times was paramount to the efficacy of the phalanx. Just as each soldier in the formation protected both himself and partially his neighbor with his shield, we, too, must not pray only for ourselves, but for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesian church, he concluded with an encouragement for each of the members to put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11). While we still can, take advantage of all opportunities to gird ourselves with the belt of truth, with the breastplate of righteousness, and with the shoes of the gospel of peace. Above all, says Paul, take the shield of faith, with which we can quench the fiery darts of the wicked one! 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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). May we be vigilant in prayer not only for ourselves, but also for all the saints, that we may be able to stand firm as one in the evil days to come.