Last week was part 2 of our examination of the theology of prayer and we discussed prayer by faith alone. This week we will conclude our exploration of the orthodoxy of prayer with a look at prayer and spiritual warfare.
You cannot be a student of Scripture for very long without recognizing that we have a very real enemy that wages war against our souls and who desires to destroy our faith. He is called satan, or the devil and he is not a metaphor, or a symbol, or a figment of our imagination, but a real being with a real desire to exalt himself over God and to destroy everything that God loves and that brings God glory.
- He steals the word from people’s hearts so that they do not believe. (Luke 8:12)
- He is a murderer and a liar. (John 8:44)
- He seeks to bring disgrace upon leaders in the church (1 Tim. 3:7)
- He tries to sow discord and disruption in God’s plan for His church. (2 Tim. 2:25-26)
- He sows bitter envy and selfish ambition among God’s people. (James 3:14-16)
- He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
- He leads the whole world astray. (Rev. 12:9)
The good news is that Jesus Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). In fact the Bible tells us Jesus made a spectacle of all powers and authorities by triumphing over them through the cross (Col. 2:15). So while we should take the devil seriously, we should fear God alone because ultimately the devil is already defeated.
When it comes to spiritual warfare in prayer, there are several truths that we need to keep in mind.
The devil is more powerful than we are
This truth should not frighten us, but should drive us to God.
We are far too weak against the devil and all his might and forces arrayed against us, trying to trample us underfoot. Therefore, there is nothing for us to do on earth but to pray without ceasing against this archenemy. For if God did not support us, we would not be safe from him for a single hour. (Martin Luther)
We can take courage in the fact that the devil cannot touch our lives at all without God’s permission (see the story of Job) and that any attack from the devil that comes into our lives, God will give us the grace to withstand. This should mean that we are constantly seeking God in prayer.
It is God who rebukes the devil, not us
There is a popular practice in pentecostal circles of rebuking the devil in the name of Jesus. When the devil attacks a person’s life Christians are told to say; “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.” The devil is then supposedly defeated.
I don’t see this in Scripture. As a matter of fact, Jude tells us that when Michael the archangel was doing battle against the devil he “did not dare bring a slanderous accusation against him but said; ‘the Lord rebuke you!'”
Even Michael understood that God is doing the work. If that was the attitude of an archangel and leader of God’s armies, should ours be any different? When the devil attacks, we should go to our knees before the One who created all things, including the devil, and who has ultimate authority over him.
The devil will try to keep us from prayer
The devil understands prayer better than we do and he wants us to stay away from the practice of prayer in our lives. There are three primary ways he tries to accomplish this:
- He suggests that it is not a good time to pray. He will then do his best to distract you with other things that need to be done and will keep you distracted until you have missed praying altogether.
- He reminds you of your sinfulness. The devil is called “the accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). He delights in reminding us of our sins so that we will be discouraged from approaching God in prayer.
- He causes you to doubt that God actually hears or wants to answer. If we entertain these doubts, we will give up on praying.
The good news is that when any of these things happen in our lives we know that they are an attack from the devil and should be resisted! If we don’t feel like praying we should pray anyway. If we think God is not hearing us, we need to pray anyway. If we feel like we are unworthy to pray because of sin, then we should confess our sins to God and pray anyway!
May we never allow that defeated snake to keep us from prayer!