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Wesley on prayer in "Soldiers of Christ, Arise"

This month, our pastor preached through the Ephesians 6 passage on spiritual warfare.  We used Wesley’s “Soldiers of Christ, Arise” (to the usual tune DIADEMATA), but over the course of the series, I introduced a number of the lesser-known stanzas (out of the 12 original ones).  I was pleased beyond measure to find a number of excellent stanzas on prayer to go with the sermon on Ephesians 6:19.  I used the standard introductory stanza, and followed it with three of Wesley’s four stanzas on prayer, as given below.  In preparation for Sunday, I sent an email out to our church with the four stanzas we would be singing, and included a few comments, which I have reproduced after the hymntext.

Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.

Pray without ceasing, pray, your captain gives the word;
His summons cheerfully obey and call upon the Lord;
To God your every want in instant prayer display,
Pray always; pray and never faint; pray, without ceasing, pray!

In fellowship alone, to God with faith draw near;
Approach His courts, besiege His throne with all the powers of prayer:
Go to His temple, go, nor from His altar move;
Let every house His worship know, and every heart His love.

Pour out your souls to God, and bow them with your knees,
And spread your hearts and hands abroad, and pray for Zion’s peace;
Your guides and brethren bear for ever on your mind;
Extend the arms of mighty prayer, ingrasping all mankind.

Several things I particularly enjoyed about Wesley’s work here:

Notice the powerful imagery of “besiege his throne” (stanza 3) — reminds me of Luke 18:1-7.  George Herbert, a British minister and poet of days gone by, called prayer the “engine against the Almighty,” and he was using “engine” in the older sense of “a machine or instrument used in warfare.”

“Your guides and brethren bear” (stanza 4) — pray for both your spiritual leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:25) and other brothers and sisters in Christ (James 5:16).

“Extend the arms of mighty prayer, ingrasping all mankind.”  This resonates with (and moves beyond!) “making supplication for all the saints” in Eph 6:18, and what a striking picture!  As well, note how Wesley moves in increasingly larger circles, from “guides” to “brethren” to “all mankind”.

About Chuck Bumgardner

I seek to be a student of the Scriptures — New Testament in particular — and also have a deep love for the praise of God through music in the church. I have at the present time the privilege of overseeing the music and leading the singing in my local church, a ministry which brings me great joy and provides a God-ordained outlet for my musical energies. I've enjoyed serving in music-related areas in the church since high school — some 25 years now — as a vocalist, choir member, choir director, and congregational songleader. In addition to serving as a member — and for a time as an assistant pastor — in various local churches, I've also had the privilege of traveling during my college years to many churches throughout the United States and Canada as part of a vocal ensemble. I hunger to see, both in my own church and beyond, an increased appreciation for the great historic music of the church in which theologically rich texts are wedded to music which provides an appropriate setting for those texts, and through which our affections are turned toward God. I'm also eager to see new contributions to the rich heritage of Christian music which share in the same characteristics.