How to Pray in the Trenches: Introduction

By Mark D. Roberts

January 30, 2020

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Ephesians 6:18-20 (NIV)


This devotion begins a short series I’m calling “How to Pray in the Trenches.” Today, I’d like to introduce the series by pointing back to previous verses in Ephesians and by explaining what I mean when I say “in the trenches.”

Footsteps in dried and cracked mudEphesians 6:10-17 reveals that we are in a spiritual battle. Though we live in this material world and take seriously its people, needs, opportunities, and conflicts, our struggle is not merely “against flesh and blood” (6:12). Rather, we who serve God have joined him in his battle against supernatural evil. If we’re going to stand in the midst of such spiritual warfare, we need God’s strength. According to Ephesians, we have access to this strength when we put on God’s “armor” (truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God).

Once we have been fully decked out with divine equipment, we are ready to fight. But how do we do this? What exactly are we supposed to do? Simply stated, we pray. Ephesians 6 shows us that, having put on God’s armor, we are to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (6:18).

I realize it may feel strange to think of prayer as a way of fighting. Prayer can seem pretty restrained, whereas fighting is vigorously active. Prayer is calming; fighting is upsetting. Yet, the more we come to understand what prayer really is, the more we’ll grasp its power to defeat our truest enemies as we share in God’s victory through Jesus Christ.

I believe we need to learn to pray “in the trenches.” As you may know, this phrase comes from World War I. Opposing armies in this conflict dug literal trenches in the ground from which they fought each other for many years. Based on this experience, the phrase “in the trenches” has come to refer to “experience of or exposure to a stressful and taxing situation” (Oxford English Dictionary). Many of us live “in the trenches,” including our daily work, our neighborhoods and cities, our churches, and our families. In all of these “trenches” we need God’s help.

Next Monday we’ll begin looking closely at Ephesians 6:18-20 so that we might learn how to pray “in the trenches.” For now, let me encourage you to consider the following questions.

Something to Think About:

What do you think about the association of prayer and spiritual warfare?

Do you ever experience prayer as a way of doing battle? If so, when and why? If not, why not?

How common is it for you to pray “in the trenches” of your life?

Something to Do:

Talk with your small group or with a Christian friend about how you prayer: when, where, what, why? Consider whether God might want to help you grow in your prayerful communication with him.


Gracious God, thank you for the incredible privilege of prayer. Though we can easily take it for granted, when we stop and think we are amazed by the fact that we can talk to you and you listen to us. Plus, we are grateful for the fact that you communicate to us as we pray, perhaps not in an audible voice, but through the “still, small voice” of your Spirit. Thank you!

As we consider how we might pray “in the trenches” of life, may I be open to learning, to experimenting, to growing in my relationship with you. Teach me to pray, Lord. Teach me to pray! Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Best of Daily Reflections: Mountaintop Experiences Don’t Last

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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