Simone Weil was a French philosopher in the early part of the twentieth century. Despite being raised a secular Jew, she developed an interest in the beliefs and practices of Christianity as she got older. While she never formally joined a church, she wrote in stirring terms about her personal relationship with Christ.
Weil’s book Waiting for God includes an essay called “Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.” She argues that academic studies cultivate our capacities for loving God. She writes, “School children and students who love God should never say: ‘For my part I like mathematics’; ‘I like French’; ‘I like Greek.’ They should learn to like all these subjects, because all of them develop that faculty of attention which, directed toward God, is the very substance of prayer.” For Weil, prayer was meant giving one’s full attention to God.
Paying attention is an urgent concern in today’s Scripture passage. Four times in the seven verses describing the armor of God, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to be alert and stand up—to be vigilant—in the face of the spiritual threats. And then he immediately follows his appeal to don this armor by writing “be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (v. 18).
It’s clear that prayer is essential to our ability to face looming spiritual threats. Paul’s admonitions to stand alert filled his description of the armor of God with opportunities to develop our capacity for the work that animates every part of the Christian life—prayer. In other words, to pay attention to the spiritual realities around us—to don the armor of God and prepare ourselves to face “the powers of this dark world”—develops and strengthens our capacity to pay attention to God (v. 12).