Prayer warriors are those stalwart believers who continually “wage war on their knees.”
I know some prayer warriors who measure their daily prayer time not in minutes and seconds but in hours. That’s a lot of “knee-mail,” as they say.
The image of a “warrior who wields prayer as his weapon” is from Ephesians 6 (see the definition below for full details), but surprisingly the term prayer warrior itself is only about 100 years old.
prayer warrior n. A Christian who prays a lot or who has a spiritual gift of prayer. A prayer warrior may also be called an *intercessor (see citations for 1986, 2004).
The term prayer warrior doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the origin of the image is most likely Ephesians 6:10-18, in which Christian believers are exhorted to metaphorically don the trappings of a warrior—armor, belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet, and sword—and then to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (v. 18 KJV). Hence the image of a warrior who employs prayer.
For much of the 20th century, prayer warriors were mentioned primarily in the context of missions, as either being missionaries themselves (see citations for 1920, 1922, 1955, 1957) or being those who prayed particularly for missionaries (see citations for 1922, 1934, 1948, 1951, 1961, 1973, 1974). By the last third of the 20th century, this special association of prayer warriors with missions had faded away.
Since the turn of the millennium, there has been a new minor association of the term prayer warrior with the activities of *spiritual warfare and *deliverance ministry (see citations for 1997b, 2001, 2009).
See also *stand in the gap; *watchman.
• 1907 “Kingdom Notes” The Christian Work and the Evangelist vol. 82 (27 Apr.) 543 : The Week of Prayer at Brighton, England, has produced, we believe, a mighty spirit of intercession, which will increase in volume and power for many a day to come! Storm and snow and tempest frightened not his prayer-warriors. 1910 Murray Aids to Devotion: Thoughts on the Holy Spirit in the Epistle to the Ephesians 108 : [Ephesians 6:12.] The sealed ones know to obey the call to a life of continual prayer, watching thereunto with all perseverance for all saints, and for all ministers of the Word. The Spirit makes it possible for them to be true soldiers and prayer warriors. 1920 Leonard Evangelism in the Remaking of the World 37 : That great soul-winner George Macgregor stated that there was probably not an hour of any day the last years of his life when a passion for souls did not present itself consciously and consumingly to his heart. When we think of these prayer-warriors, and how intercessory prayer bulked so large in their lives, we discover the more readily the weakness of our efforts to bring men and women to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. 1922 Rader ’Round the Round World: Some Impressions of a World Tour 153 : Remember, these men and women who are prayer warriors come to the field only through the work of prayer warriors at home. 1934 Roseberry The Niger Vision 250 : News comes continually from a prayer warrior in the heart of Brazil who visits the Sudan daily in intercession. This warrior, with her husband, went out to Brazil years ago when they were far past the regular missionary age. Her husband has fallen asleep in Jesus, and she is confined to her bed by bodily weakness; nevertheless, by prayer she wages an unrelenting warfare. 1951 Stull Sand and stars: missionary adventure on the jungle trail 149 : God must have … prayer warriors at home, as well as missionaries who will risk whirlpools and other dangers. 1955 Lindsell Missionary Principles and Practice 322 : The history of Christian missions is filled with examples of God’s great prayer warriors. Not one of them was great simply because he knew how to pray. Each also was a co-laborer with God who knew hard work. Carey, Judson, Morison, Taylor, and Nevius were all great men of prayer, but they were men of hard work who used every human gift to accomplish the ends to which God had called them. 1957 Harper I Walk the Glory Road 23 : Leonard—“the Preachin’ Cowboy”—I had met only casually. Many moons later I learned he was the real “prayer warrior” behind all the cowboys who have been converted to Christ in Hollywood. 1961 The Defender vol. 36 25 : But He also needs prayer warriors—believing ones who “stand in the gap”—in their daily intercessions at the Throne of Grace; praying for those who do preach, teach, evangelize and carry the gospel to all the ends of the earth. 1973 Kane Winds of Change in the Christian Mission 20 : The old-timers, the prayer warriors, the missionary-minded folks, are still staunch supporters of the enterprise; but the younger generation, especially college students, are disenchanted with the whole business. 1974 Collins Who Cares About the Missionary? 19 : Finances are necessary. Equipment is important. Travel expenses must be met. But without adequate prayer backing, a missionary will be a failure. Perhaps you are not a full-time prayer warrior. We need those who are committed to the ministry of prayer in this capacity. But all of us can give some prayer support. 1981 Malz Prayers That Are Answered 131 : In the sixth chapter of Ephesians Paul describes this “armor” in detail (Ephesians 6:11–20), urging Christians to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit.” In effect, we are urged to become “prayer warriors” in order to cope with the forces of evil. 1986 Duewel Touch the World Through Prayer 205 : Effective intercessors who are greatly used by God in prayer are at times referred to as “prayer warriors.” It is correct to use the term in this way, for great prayer demands doing battle with the forces of evil. 1997 Sides “Faith Is an Experiment” New York Times (7 Dec.) 92 : A mild-mannered Catholic who has spent the past 30 years devising an intensive healing technique he calls “soaking prayer,” [Francis] MacNutt, 72, claims that his ecumenical Christian staff of “prayer warriors” has helped bring about cures for hundreds of people, of everything from depression to cancer, using prayer sessions that can last for hours or even days. 1997 Arnold 3 Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare 48 : As I have spoken on the topic of spiritual warfare over the past few years, I have become convinced that God places a special burden of engaging in fervent prayer for others on the hearts of certain individuals within the church. It seems that there are many women who have especially heard this call. The Spirit has impressed on their hearts people that he wants these dear prayer warriors to intercede for. 2001 Hunt Christian Millenarianism: From the Early Church to Waco 60 : The “prayer warrior” has developed into a specialised ministry as a result of the influence of Dominion Theology—particularly those inspired by the teachings of Peter Wagner. As part of spiritual warfare, “prayer warriors” can fight against satanic forces, pray for the sins of nations, or for the repercussions of ancestral sins. There are those intercessors who pray from the top rooms of skyscrapers in order to be closer to the spiritual realm…. In Korea hundreds of intercessors pray twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, to break “spiritual bondages’’ across the globe. 2002 Dravecky Do Not Lose Heart: Meditations of Encouragement and Comfort 159 : [The Outreach of Hope ministry provides] prayer support for patients and their families through phone prayer, daily staff prayer, and the Prayer Warrior Ministry, which connects those who have ongoing prayer needs with an individual “prayer warrior” who commits to pray regularly for them. 2004 Copeland The Prayer Watchman ix : I have been privileged to come to know some true prayer warriors whom I consider among the top intercessors and spiritual watchmen in America. I have seen the impact of their intercession on this nation, and I have experienced the fruit of their prayers in my own life. 2006 Walker Reconstructing Natalie 160 : I’m pretty sure Constance is a praying woman like Jane—or “prayer warrior,” as we say in Christianese. 2008 Reese, Weaks Unbinding Your Church: Pastor’s Guide 64 : Who should be part of the prayer team? Think of the people who pray seriously. Some churches talk about “intercessors.” Others speak of “prayer warriors.” 2009 Banks Drunk for 27 Years: A Story of Victory 83 : Johnson was one of the intercessor prayer warriors at the church. The prayer warriors prayed for souls to be delivered, saints to be healed and demons to be banished. 2011 Tarango F.A.D.E: Fighting Against Demonic Entities 43 : When I told my sister Sharon about my experiences I was having she said I was a prayer warrior…. I later learned that prayer warriors were the same as intercessors. Intercessors stand in the gap for others and pray for them to God.