How to Put On the
Whole Armor of God:
The Essential Guide
Everything You Need to Know!
As Christians, we know we are to put on the whole armor of God, but the Bible tells us little about how to do it. So, we do our best to pray it on and often get inconsistent results. But we don't have to settle for inconsistent results if we rethink our common ideas about God's armor and how it works.
This article and the posts linked below provide a comprehensive guide to help you put on the whole armor of God. They will help you discover what the armor of God is, why we need it, how many pieces there are (this may surprise you), why it's essential to go beyond sincere prayer in putting on the armor, why Paul called it "the armor of light," and why it works differently than Roman armor.
The armor of God protects you from seven kinds of spiritual attacks. Find out what they are and how each piece of the armor uniquely defends you!
Paul called the armor the "armor of light" for a reason. Find out what he meant and how each piece of the armor dispels a different aspect of darkness.
Wearing the armor of God frees you to fulfill your God-given ministry. It helps you overcome the hindrances that try to stop you as you serve the Lord.
What Is Spiritual Warfare and the Armor of God?
In Ephesians 6:11-12, the apostle Paul told the church:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:11-12 (NKJV)
Paul acknowledged three facts in these two verses. (1) There is an invisible realm containing invisible powers. (2) All people experience conflict (wrestle) with this realm. (3) Jesus made spiritual armor available to protect His people.
Spiritual warfare is an invisible reality affecting everyone on the planet, whether they admit it or not. By putting on the whole armor, believers are empowered to defend themselves successfully.
So, assuming you don't want an invisible, evil force controlling you in some way, such as an addiction or thought pattern, the relevant questions become: What is the armor of God? How do I put on the whole armor of God? How do I use the armor of God?
In the same passage, Paul goes on to describe the pieces that make up the armor of God.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation [readiness] of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And 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.
Ephesians 6:14–18 (NKJV)
Paul used a Roman soldier’s armor to illustrate the armor of God. His readers lived during the Roman Empire and saw soldiers frequently. However, there is a difference between Roman armor, which is external and physical, and the armor of God, which is internal and spiritual.
When I first heard of the armor of God, I imagined, quite naturally, that spiritual armor looked similar to Roman armor and must work in the same way. The sermons I heard on the subject mainly described Roman armor and its parallels to spiritual warfare.
So, I assumed spiritual armor had to be applied externally, like physical armor. However, Paul declared that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [or fleshly] but mighty in God…" (2 Corinthians 10:4) Roman armor, being fleshly, is only a metaphor for the real. So, we must not automatically conclude spiritual armor works in the same way. Let me explain what I mean.
My Story of Putting On the Whole Armor of God: Must Read
My journey of putting on the armor of God has been fascinating. When I first heard of the armor, I rejoiced. I needed help with spiritual warfare, and the armor sounded exactly like what I needed.
I had listened via Christian radio to a recording of a live service where a preacher taught on this subject. He vividly described each piece of the armor. He had everyone in the audience stand up. Then, he coached them through the motions of putting on each part of the armor while they confessed it aloud. This was a militant, boisterous, and electric service.
I immediately adopted this routine and practiced it every morning. I assumed God placed on me pieces of spiritual armor that resembled Roman armor while I prayed, visualized, and confessed them. I supposed I would never have another bad day.
Here is the prayer I prayed aloud:
Then I would add:
I quoted any other Scriptures I could think of. Every day that I prayed this way was a better day. God honors confessing Scripture like Jesus did when He was tempted. (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) He loves to answer militant prayers of protection!
But after years of praying this way, I assumed the armor was by now permanently fastened to me. So, I changed my prayer routine and was quite shocked when I noticed my level of protection beginning to drop.
This troubled me! I was puzzled that the armor had not become a part of me, even after years of praying. My protection seemed dependent on daily prayer to put on the armor, among other prayers. So, I continued “praying on” the armor whenever I remembered.
A Fresh Approach to Putting On the Armor
Years later, I attended a conference. One of the speakers mentioned a different method of putting on the armor in passing. He said that we put it on when we receive the revelation of each piece. He got my attention but didn’t explain what he meant in his message.
Afterward, I asked him, “You said that we put on the armor by receiving the revelation of each piece. What does that mean?”
He confessed that he wasn't sure but was quoting a well-known man of God. He had read the statement in one of his books but couldn’t remember which one. So, I left the meeting intrigued by a new idea but did not know how it worked.
The following week, I read Ephesians 6:10-18 repeatedly, praying and meditating in the Word. I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what was meant by the revelation of each piece. And He did!
What I Learned about the Armor of God
First, I noticed that each piece of the armor, as defined by Scripture, was a biblical concept, not an object. The elements of the armor are truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer. Roman armor is merely an illustration for the real. However, I had been so caught up with Roman armor that I never saw past it.
For example, we should be fastening truth around our life and not imagining a spiritual object that looks like a belt. We are putting on righteousness—the righteousness of faith Paul preached—and not some kind of invisible breastplate. We take up faith in God’s Word to extinguish the flaming thought arrows the enemy shoots into our minds, and not a shield-shaped spiritual object.
Previously, in my natural thinking, I had jumped to the conclusion that God dropped external, spiritual objects on me from heaven as I prayed. (I assumed such things existed in the spiritual realm.) But now I began to understand that the armor was not invisible things that looked like Roman armor.
To be clear, God always honored the intention of my prayers for protection and powerfully answered them, no matter how I understood the armor. But prayer and confession alone were not the complete answer. I was to take things a step further.
Putting On the Armor in a Fresh New Way
As the Holy Spirit continued to coach me, my mind slowly adjusted to this new way of looking at the armor. But it was challenging. I had to unlearn my previous assumptions to appreciate a new perspective.
Assumptions are as misleading as misunderstandings and harder to detect. In the natural world, if someone throws a ball at me, I put up my hands and catch it. I use an external object to block incoming objects. That’s the law of this natural world. But we can't automatically assume the spiritual realm works the same way.
The laws governing the spiritual world are different. No "object" can block an incoming flaming “thought arrow” of fear, worry, anger, etc. Only my internal faith in God’s Words of promise can extinguish the inward fire kindled by such troubling thoughts.
So, to put on the authentic armor of God I needed to find the protective lesson in each of the seven biblical concepts Paul listed. They are truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, the hope of salvation, the Word of God, and prayer. I needed to receive the revelation of each piece. (I don't mean by "revelation" a private interpretation of Scripture, but the Holy Spirit-given understanding that makes us say, "I see it," or "I get it now.") Nor did I need an academic treatise on these subjects but applied theology that was easy to understand and practice.
What the man of God said was true. We fasten on the armor when we receive the revelation or the practical lesson embedded in these seven Bible concepts. Below is a paraphrase of the Ephesians passage that makes clear how I was understanding the passage.
Stand therefore, having fastened truth around your life like a belt, putting on righteousness like a breastplate, and putting on for shoes the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, take up faith like a shield, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one; and take the (hope of) salvation as a helmet, wield the Word of God like a sword, and hurl prayer (like a spear), praying at all times in the Spirit with all kinds of prayer and supplication.
A New Set of Questions
Looking at the armor in a new way triggered a new set of questions:
- What is the practical lesson in each concept?
- How does each piece of the armor protect me and from what?
- What are the seven threats or kinds of attack?
- Do these seven pieces of armor give me a well-rounded and complete protection?
- How does learning about each piece step me forward in discipleship as a servant and soldier of the Lord?
I discovered that Paul did not leave us without confirmation in this different approach to the armor.
Why Did Paul Call Spiritual Armor the Armor of Light?
Paul gave an important clue to the true nature of the armor of God in the verse below. Understanding what he meant teaches us how we are to put the armor on.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness,
and let us put on the armor of light.
Paul called the armor of God “the armor of light.”
Spiritual warfare primarily affects the mind, and every piece of armor protects the mind in some way. Truth defends us from deception. Knowing our righteousness in Christ protects us from false thoughts of unworthiness, guilt, and shame. Faith extinguishes troubling thoughts. Etc.
God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) The enemy comes against our minds with dark, discouraging, and untrue thoughts. But when we wear the armor, we fight back with the light-filled thoughts of the Word of God. Light is always greater than darkness, and the darkness can never triumph against the light which dispels it. Though the enemy operates in darkness, God’s light exposes, illuminates, and drives the darkness away. (Ephesians 5:11)
We, however, have a role to play in our protection. Paul wrote, “…and let us put on the armor of light.” God gives us the armor, but we are the ones who must put it on. So, how do we put on the armor of light?
We get the armor of light when we put the light of truth into our minds. The light we receive from Scripture becomes our spiritual armor. The armor of light is the armor of a renewed mind. We receive God's light into our minds when we renew them in God's Word. See the Scriptures below:
Psalm 119:130: “The entrance of Your Words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.”
Psalm 119:105: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Psalm 18:28: For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
Isaiah 8:20: To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.
John 1:4–5 In Him [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
John 8:12: Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I [the Word] am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light! (See vv. 9-14)
We put on the armor of light as we make the truths of God’s Word our own. The seven-fold armor protects us from the deceptions of darkness because God’s light always dispels the world's lies and half-truths.
Meditating on the Seven Concepts
As I began to meditate on the seven concepts that made up the armor, I looked for the revelation or lesson that would protect me.
As I thought about fastening truth around me like a belt, I could easily see that truth referred to the Word of God. Pilate famously asked, "What is truth?" But Jesus declared to His disciples, "God's Word is truth." (John 17:17) But I could see that I might have several attitudes toward God's truth, the Bible. I could say, "My, isn't that interesting?" and ignore what the Bible said. I could say, "I believe it except for the part about ______ ." Or I could embrace it as the inspired, infallible Word of God.
A belt wraps completely around our waist, not just part of the way. We must allow truth to speak to every area of our lives, not just some of them. Also, belts have clasps that fasten securely. That's a good thing. We don't want our pants to fall off and embarrass us. Wrapping truth around us like a belt means making a clasp-like commitment to believing and obeying it despite resistance or contradiction. Jesus said to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. But if we quit holding tight to the truth and our belt falls off, we probably will embarrass ourselves in sin.
The lesson regarding truth was to believe the Bible in its entirety and hold fast to it, no matter who or what contradicts it. Fastening truth around our entire lives defends us from all deception.
So on my journey, I looked at all the concepts seeking to discover the revelation or lesson it contained. As I did, I not only found the protection I needed but realized Paul's list contained a logical order. It was a discipleship plan that put soldiers on the field capable of standing in victory.
The Seven Light-filled Lessons (Revelations) of the Armor of God
As I look at the armor of God, I see a spiritual "boot camp" capable of training good soldiers for the battlefield. There are seven lessons to be learned and applied. Each produces a huge step forward in one's journey of discipleship.
- The first is a commitment to truth, what it is, and where to find it. God’s Word is truth.
- The second revelation comes as we understand and embrace the righteousness of faith that Paul preached, which is the grace of God.
- The third revelation comes as we surrender our feet to walk in God’s path. Our feet are not shod with readiness until we can pray with Jesus, “Father…not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)
- The fourth teaches us to believe more in God’s promises than in troubling thoughts and circumstances.
- The fifth inspires us to put on a victorious attitude of confident expectation in God’s salvation, both in this temporal life and eternally.
- The sixth revelation is the discovery that we can unleash the Spirit’s power by speaking the Word of God aloud.
- The seventh teaches us to use the weapon of prayer to disable the enemy at a distance instead of fighting him hand-to-hand.
The enlightenment that comes from these seven concepts trains us to be victorious in spiritual conflict as we overcome the enemy’s lies, trickery, and evil schemes. But not all Christians have put on the armor of light. Some, though born again, have yet to fasten on the first piece of the armor. They have not yet learned to trust the Bible above everything else.
Putting on the Armor of God Is a Process
Renewing the mind in each of these seven areas takes time. It's not an open and shut event. My trust in the Bible increases the more I learn about it. The more I learn, the more I believe it's true. The more I trust it, the more I am defended from deception. It's the same with putting on the breastplate. We hear about the wonderful grace of God, but it takes a while to believe it, especially on the day we have just messed up. While the devil tells us to expect God's condemnation and judgment, He says, Come to me and find mercy and grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
It takes time and practice to use our faith in the Word to quench the flaming arrows of the enemy. It is a process to lay aside a negative, defeated attitude and believe God for victory every time. Don't be discouraged as we explain and discuss the armor of God. This is an advanced teaching, but as you make the lesson in each piece your own, your level of protection will increase, and you will stand victoriously at the end of the day on the field of battle.
How Many Pieces Are in the Armor of God
- The belt of truth
- The breastplate of righteousness
- The shoes of readiness
- The shield of faith
- The helmet of salvation
- The sword of the Spirit
Like many, I did not know there was a seventh piece. Ephesians 6:18 continues the armor passage, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…”
The Seventh Piece of the Armor of God
Rick Renner describes the seventh piece of armor in his excellent book, Dressed to Kill. (Teach All Nations, Tulsa, OK, p. 435) It was the spear or lance. Paul told us to put on the whole armor of God. Roman soldiers went everywhere carrying a spear called the pilum. Likewise, we are to carry prayer with us at all times.
The Roman spear was a wooden-shafted throwing spear with a long iron shaft terminated by a pyramidal tip. When a soldier threw or jabbed with it, the point stuck in the enemy’s shield or armor and was hard to remove.
Roman commanders often began battles with a mass spear throw, designed to disable the enemy’s shield wall. The enemy had a hard time removing a spear once it penetrated his shield. He could not deploy his shield effectively with a long spear stuck in it.
In Ephesians 6:18, Paul told us to pray always with all kinds of prayer and supplication in the Spirit. Prayer works at a distance, much like throwing a spear. Your prayers have a long reach; they can be hurled anywhere worldwide. Prayer, in addition to the sword, is an offensive weapon.
The Parallels Between Prayer and the Spear
You can see the parallels between prayer and the spear:
- Your prayers can reach anywhere worldwide, like throwing a spear a long distance. They knock out the enemy’s defenses.
- A soldier with a spear can disable an enemy before he comes into sword range. Likewise, preemptive prayer takes care of problems before they get to you. It’s better to resolve an issue at a distance without engaging in hand-to-hand combat.
- Roman soldiers carried various types of spears depending on their battle. Likewise, depending on the need, we are to pray with all kinds of prayer and supplication in the Spirit. Prayer is an offensive weapon.
The Seven Pieces of the Armor of Light
Paul named six pieces of the armor of God and implied the seventh. The whole armor includes these seven pieces:
- The belt of truth
- The breastplate of righteousness
- The shoes of readiness
- The shield of faith
- The helmet of salvation
- The sword of the Spirit
- The spear of prayer
So, now you know how many pieces there are in the whole armor of God. There are five defensive pieces and two offensive weapons.
From What Attacks Does the Armor of God Protect Us?
Once I realized what the armor of light was, I had to ask one more question: Does renewing our minds in the armor’s seven areas give us complete and well-rounded protection? Yes, it does. Each piece of armor protects us from a different kind of attack.
I gained a new respect for the the armor when I realized all the things from which it protects us.
- Truth protects you from the deception of worldly philosophies, demonic lies, and half-truths that abound in the culture and contradict the Bible. It protects you from every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and His Word. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
- Your righteousness (right standing before God) that comes through faith in Jesus gives you confidence in God. It protects you from feelings of unworthiness and shame caused by the enemy's voice of accusation and condemnation. Such feelings often keep you from praying when you need God's help the most, such as after a failure.
- The shoes of readiness guide your feet from the path of self-will into the path of God’s will.
- Faith in God’s promises protects your mind and emotions from the obsessive fire of disruptive thoughts, such as fear, worry, discouragement, depression, despair, anger, etc. Faith quenches these concerns so you can move forward with your life and ministry.
- The hope of salvation (see 1 Thess. 5:8) gives you a confident expectation of victory in every circumstance. It replaces the defeated “victim mentality” of discouragement and depression with confidence and courage.
- Speaking the Word of God aloud is an offensive weapon that empowers you to push back the enemy. It takes you from not knowing how to fight and gives you a weapon to defend yourself and take new ground for Jesus.
- Praying always with various kinds of prayer is your proactive method of gaining victory without waiting for the enemy to blindside you first.
If you struggle with the following, you have not put on the whole armor of God: deception and worldly opinions; frequent feelings of condemnation, shame, or unworthiness before God; living for your own will; being bombarded with troubling thoughts; having a skeptical, negative, defeated attitude; not knowing how to fight spiritually; and wasting too much energy wrestling with the enemy.
Paul’s Introduction to the Armor of God
Before Paul penned the famous armor of God passage, He gave several vital instructions. He packed them with wisdom and insights that are worth exploring!
Before discussing spiritual warfare, he wisely advised strengthening all your relationships. Once in spiritual warfare, the enemy looks for any weak link to attack you, including your closest relationships.
Only then did he give the following sage advice.
You can’t fight God’s battles in your strength and might. You need His! The battle is the Lord’s. (2 Chronicles 20:15)
Ephesians 6:11: Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles (evil trickery) of the devil.
You need the whole armor, not a part of it. The devil fights dirty, so prepare yourself with the full armor of God.
Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Our fight is not against human beings but against the spiritual forces that influence people to antichrist behavior. Paul said we wrestle against invisible “principalities and powers” in the spiritual realm. These are the spirits that cause persecution against the church. They are the “thorns in the flesh,” “the messengers of Satan,” with which Paul wrestled. We contend with them today. ("Thorn in the flesh" was a metaphor for persecution first used in the Old Testament. Numbers 33:55, Joshua 23:13, Judges 2:3, 2 Corinthians 12:7, Matthew 16:18)
(Many people wonder what are principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. I define each of them in my book, The Armor of Light, on pages 57–58. My chapter, "Standing Taller than Fallen Angels," explains how angels fell from heaven and lost most of their power. See page 50.)
Fortunately, Jesus, our Champion, won the ultimate battle over the evil one by His cross and resurrection. As believers, His indwelling Spirit empowers us to overcome the challenges of spiritual resistance.
God bestowed all authority on Christ and shared His authority with us. (Matthew 28:18, Ephesians 2:6, 1:20-23) In His grace, He makes the whole armor of God available to believers. Regardless of our circumstances, the riches of God’s grace are sufficient for us, giving us overcoming power! (2 Corinthians 12:9) In Christ, we are always triumphant. (2 Corinthians 2:14, 1 John 5:4-5)
Ephesians 6:13: Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Coming Soon! How to Put On Each Piece of the Armor
In the posts below, find out how to put on each piece of the armor of God. You will understand how each piece defends you from specific attacks.