Day 17 – Spiritual Warfare (Part 1)
Effective Prayer Podcast, by Colin Dye
Now we’re going to come to a very exciting and important part of the Effective Prayer program, and that is warfare—spiritual warfare, and warfare praying.
Now spiritual warfare involves the whole of your Christian life. It’s not something that you just leave in the prayer closet. The whole of your life is to be lived as a soldier of Jesus Christ. That includes holy living, preaching the gospel, living for Christ, and of course praying.
And when it comes to praying spiritual warfare prayers, some leaders disagree very, very strongly with praying, as it were, specifically against spiritual forces. They say this is outside of the bounds of scriptural teaching; however, we find that if every prayer is an act of spiritual warfare, and we stand in opposition to the enemy whenever we pray, then the development of spiritual warfare and praying in that direction cannot be wrong. There must be limits to it, and we’ll see what the Bible has to say, but we can expect to enter a battle ground when we pray and, therefore, we can also expect to enter the battle ground because we pray. And that’s why we pray—so that we can deal with the enemy.
Now the great foundation passage for this, for us, in the New Testament is Ephesians 6:10-18,
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 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.
Now here we have a picture of combat, but it is combat in the ancient world. Hand-to-hand combat. Eyeball-to-eyeball combat. It’s not like we have today, people pressing a button and some intercontinental ballistic missile that nobody sees flies through the air and crashes and explodes devastatingly, somewhere else on the other side of the world. it’s not like that. Ancient warfare was far more personal, far more hand-to-hand, arm-to-arm and cheek-by-jowl, and that’s the picture that Paul gives us of spiritual warfare here in Ephesians chapter 6.
In other words, you will have personally to confront demonic forces when you pray, and when you pray, demonic forces will confront you and you’re going to have to know how to take your stand in the things of God. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. And we have a stand in Jesus’ name.
And so here the Apostle Paul shows how we can be ready for this spiritual warfare. We shall see that Ephesians chapter 6 is all about prayer. It’s not just dressing up in some fancy clothes, some ornamental, ceremonial uniform like the soldiers who change and guard Buckingham Palace. I’m quite sure they would fight if they had to—they are trained soldiers—but their armor is for ceremonial purposes. Our spiritual armor is not for ceremonial purposes. It’s not that we just take it out each day, polish it, and then put it away. No. Our armor is there for the battle, and the battle is fought on your knees. That’s the whole point of this passage and the whole purpose of the armor.
So we need to wear the armor of God to be ready to engage the enemy at any time. First John 3:8 says, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” That is God’s will
So we begin with the reality of spiritual warfare. We can’t escape it. It’s not a question of whether you are a soldier or not; the question is what kind of soldier are you? The question is not whether you are at war or not; the question is what kind of person are you in the war that has been declared?
In Daniel chapter 10, there are a couple of verses here that give us some unusual glimpses into the operation of the spiritual realm, and this is how our prayers are influenced, and we influence the spiritual realm through our praying. Let me read for you. Here we have Daniel, who has been seeking the face of God, and then an angel comes and stands before him, Daniel 10:12-13, “Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.”
Verse 13, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days.” That’s how long Daniel had been praying. Isn’t it possible that when we are called to persevere in prayer that there is a reason for it, a spiritual reason, that somehow there is a spiritual battle going on which is directly related to the outcome of our praying and to the answer that we are waiting for? So he said, “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.”
Who are these kings and princes, and what is happening here? Well, let me suggest to you that it’s either got to be totally physical, in other words, this wasn’t an angel from God at all, it was just a human being, and the princes and the kings are the rulers—in which case it doesn’t make sense. Was he held up at the customs post? Was there some kind of governmental pressure? He couldn’t get a visa and the king of Persia refused him? Is this what was happening?
No. This was an angel of the Lord. This was a great, powerful angel of the Lord, not some human agent. And can you imagine if this was supposed to be some king or other of Persia stopping an angel? You can just imagine a king or an official stopping the angel at the customs post, “Excuse me, who are you?”
“Well, I’m Gabriel.”
“I’m Michael the angel, the archangel.”
“You are? Well, we’re not letting you through here.”
You think that angel has to comply with that or don’t you think the angel could just walk straight on through there? If the angel revealed himself and the glory…look what happened to Daniel. He was terrified. I tell you, nobody’s going to argue with an angel.
No, this was not spiritual battles against flesh and blood. This was a spiritual battle in the heavenlies between the angels of God and the forces of darkness, and as Daniel continued to pray, Gabriel needed the archangel Michael to help get God’s message through. And so this passage shows us many things about spiritual warfare.
First of all, that demonic beings—here called “princes”—do exist, and they oppose the work of God. We also see that these demonic princes can be associated with particular kingdoms, and a kingdom has both territorial and temporal connotations. We have a territorial prince, and that kingdom only lasts for a time (these kingdoms don’t go on forever), so we are talking about princes, wicked princes, demonic spirits that are controlling particular territorial areas and temporal periods of time.
We also see that there is a link between heavenly and earthly activity. Whatever happened in the heavens affected the situation on the earth, and Daniel, through his prayers, affected what was happening in the heavens. And we also see that by his persistent praying, Daniel could see a spiritual breakthrough, although he personally saw nothing of the spiritual battle. He was not necessarily aware—or he wasn’t aware—and we are not necessarily aware of the spiritual battle that is waging. We are just praying and seeking the face of God. I believe one day we will see it. We will have action replays in heaven—whether it’s on video tape or God has something better up there—He will show us how when we prayed what was happening, what angelic powers we released as we prayed, and what demonic forces were destroyed as we prayed.
Now certainly no one can deny that Daniel’s praying was some kind of spiritual warfare, but leaders…some leaders are very keen to point out the fact that Daniel himself, not only wasn’t he aware of the demonic realm or wasn’t aware of the spiritual battle that was taking place—he could see it, he wasn’t conscious of it—but also he himself did not personally engage with demonic spirits. In other words, he didn’t stand there and bind the prince of Persia. He didn’t wrestle with the prince of Persia himself. That was the job of the angels. And indeed some people point out, quite rightly, that in Zechariah 3:1-5, where we have the passage that deals in another sense of spiritual warfare, it says, let me read it for you,
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
Okay, this was an angel speaking, and the angel said, “The Lord rebuke you.” He didn’t say, “I rebuke you.” And we have the same in Jude verse 9, “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”
So we have the angels and the angelic beings, and Michael surely must be the chief angel, the archangel, even Michael the archangel did not say to Satan, “I rebuke you,” but “the Lord rebuke you.”
Now those are facts, but it is how you use those facts and interpret those facts that count. Some people say that you can never address a demonic spirit and say, “I rebuke you.” However, when Jesus was confronted by the devil, he didn’t converse with the devil, He didn’t reason with the devil, He commanded the devil. And in Matthew chapter 12 we find that Jesus teaches that spiritual warfare is characteristic of the coming of the kingdom. In other words, the kingdom comes by spiritual warfare.
Now you note in the passage, Matthew 12, that Jesus was casting out demons and some of the scribes and the Pharisees were saying, “Oh, he’s doing this by the prince of demons,” and Jesus says, “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Every kingdom divided against itself cannot stand, so Satan will not case out Satan. How then, can His kingdom stand?”
But then in verse 28 of Matthew 12 Jesus said, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you, or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods unless he first binds the strong man and then he will plunder his house?”
And so here in the coming of the kingdom Jesus says it’s going to be characterized by confrontation with demons. Now we need to point out that the specific examples of this in the Gospels are when Jesus is confronting demons in people. There is no doubt about that. That is demonic expulsion, when people are delivered from demons, delivered from demonization, set free, and that ministry still happens today.
So we need to ask ourselves some questions: What about warfare praying? Let me say straightaway, I think the Bible is very clear on this. You and I will probably never, ever be called upon to confront Satan himself directly and personally. Jesus did that. We probably never will. Frankly speaking, we are too insignificant for that. Hello? Hello? And anyway, Jesus has already confronted the devil, and these people who say, “Satan came and I wrestled with Satan, I think they don’t really know what they are talking about.
One man said, I heard in a meeting, “Oh, I had a terrible night last night. Satan came to my house.”
And the pastor said, “Praise the Lord, hallelujah.”
The brother said, “What do you mean?”
“Well, I can praise the Lord that if he was at your house, he sure wasn’t at mine.”
Well, our struggle is not necessarily personally against Satan. Of course in a representative fashion our struggle is against him. We may speak about the Prime Minister of Great Britain at present—his name is Tony Blair—and we could talk about what Tony Blair has done, and everything that his government does represents him, and if you’re going to meet with the government you probably won’t get to meet with Tony Blair. You might meet with some official down the line, but you’re still dealing with Tony Blair. So whatever demon we deal with, it’s still against the devil, and when we strike a victory against a demon, we strike a victory against the devil. When a demon gets bound, Satan’s kingdom comes tumbling down.
I want to say there is a very real sense in which we understand our battle against Satan, but I’m not suggesting that we personally confront Satan as such. That happens very, very rarely, and that will help you balance in this whole thing.
Now I want to point out that in Daniel and Zechariah, those two passages are before the cross, and those people, Daniel and Zechariah do not share the benefits of the victory of Calvary. You see, there on the cross Jesus disarmed, defeated, destroyed, and drove out Satan. And as a result of that, we have been raised to sit with Christ in heavenly places, and we carry delegated power.
Jesus Christ has been made the head of the body for the church. That’s what it says in Ephesians chapter 1. We have been raised together with Christ—Ephesians chapter 2. We are seated together with Christ in heavenly places. That’s where Daniel never was. We have a spiritual position, and the truth is this: Not even the angels have the position that we now have in Christ. Nowhere does it say the angels are in Christ, and in fact, in the future kingdom we, Paul says, will judge angels. We will be given positions of authority.
Yes, we were made for a little while lower than the angels, but then in Christ we have been lifted up and we have been placed on the throne with Jesus Christ in submission to His authority, and His headship is expressed through His body. Everything that Jesus does is expressed through His body, and if Jesus has authority, where does He express that authority? Through His body. If Jesus has power, where does He express and how does He express that power? Through His body. And who are His body? The church. You are His body. We are His body.
Now we, therefore, I can think of a very good reason why at times we may be able to confront demonic forces very clearly and personally, in the name of Jesus Christ, “I rebuke you,” and it’s not even wrong, as I understand it, to say, “I rebuke you, Satan,” even though it is not Satan personally there—one of his lesser demons, but we know where he came from, amen? You understand that.
I explain that to liberate you from some of the teaching that is very binding and constrictive in this area, because some people are really very silly about spiritual warfare. They don’t reason biblically, and they put people into bondage. As the Holy Spirit leads us into levels of spiritual warfare like this, they say, “Show me that in the Bible, and they are ignorant of these principles that I’m sharing with you.”
But on the other hand there are others who take spiritual warfare to such extremes that I think they need to be locked up somewhere until they calm down. I think they need to be bound, really, quite frankly, because they are ridiculous in the way they go about it, flying around in airplanes, muttering a few words in the stratosphere as if that’s going to change things on the earth. Come down to earth, my friend. Come down to earth. We need to be sensible in this area.
But nevertheless, there is a reality about spiritual warfare, a very clear reality. First Peter 5:8, Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
This is a description of the enemy. He walks about, prowling around, like a roaring lion, waiting to see who he can have for breakfast. That is a reality. So what is our response? Fear? Panic? Terror? No. Be sober, which means to have the right mental approach to it, which is Jesus has dominion. But be vigilant because we know he still is our adversary and we need to be careful and to walk circumspectly.
And now, when we come to see how the Bible develops spiritual warfare, we find that there are a number of key people that teach us about our own personal spiritual struggle against forces. I’m going to touch these very quickly so that you will see them. They will encourage your, because in each of these cases, God had a solution.
There are, I think, four Old Testament characters that are recorded as being personally confronted by Satan. With each of these Satan uses a different weapon; he doesn’t come in the same way to different people, because he knows the weaknesses of people and he wants to exploit those weaknesses. He uses a different weapon, he comes in a different form, and with a different objective. And as we study these four spiritual battles—I’ll touch them briefly now and you can check them out later for yourself—it gives us an overall picture of how the enemy wants to attack you in your life.
Eve, first of all, Genesis 3. Satan appeared to Eve as the deceiver. Mark that. As the deceiver. Satan came as the deceiver, deceiving her as to the true nature of human happiness. Now we know the serpent figure in Genesis 3 is really Satan, whether it is representative of Satan or Satan himself as I believe it is, Satan coming in the form of a serpent, well, you can argue that. Certainly Revelation 12:9 calls him “that great dragon, that serpent of old.” Who is he? That is Satan. And so the serpent is identified as Satan.
And there again it says in Revelation 12 the characteristic of him was that he was the deceiver who deceives the whole world. He was cast to the earth and his angels were cast out with him. And so what do we have? We have Satan the serpent as the deceiver, and he attacked Eve’s mind—that’s where deception works—and Satan is still active today bringing deception.
He uses the weapons of lies with the aim of making us ignorant of God’s will just as he brought the similar confusion to Eve by suggesting that she could doubt God’s goodness, “Did God really say you could not eat of any of the trees of the garden?” That was a lie. God didn’t say, “You can’t eat of any of these trees. God only prohibited one tree. Deception coming in.
Also, the deception is there, characteristically to attack God’s Word. “Did God really say?” Putting some doubt in her mind. Of course it seems that Eve falls into this, and she says, “No, we can’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We can’t even touch it.” And somehow she falls into the trap and Satan goes on to deceive her and say, “God doesn’t want you to enjoy this because He wants to keep it for himself.” And then Eve sees that it is good to eat and then she takes it and far from making her wise, she has bought into the deception.
That deception is current today, right across the world, in different forms and different religions, and especially infiltrating Western society with the New Age movement. “Eat this and you’ll become like God. You are all like gods,” and this is the wisdom of the day. That is poison. It’s deception.
Now the second person we see meeting Satan is Job. Now in Job 1, the devil came in the disguise of the guise of a destroyer. Now Job may not have personally met him, but he certainly felt the effects. We find that he appears in the story. He uses the weapon of suffering to attack Job’s body with the aim of making him question God’s will and pitying himself instead of glorifying God, and Satan will use this weapon of suffering. He will come as the adversary; he will come as the destroyer; but Job had the ultimate deliverance and God saw him through to victory.
David, here is another person who encountered Satan in 1 Chronicles 21. Here Satan comes in the guise of a despotic ruler. Eve, he came as the deceiver; Job, the destroyer; David, the despotic ruler; and he wielded the weapon of pride with the aim of causing King David to exercise authority independent of God’s will. He incited David to number the children of Israel, to take a census without any word from God. This was to boast of his position, to see his fleshly strength, and then great suffering and tragedy came, but God got the victory in the end.
And then we have number #4, Joshua, the high priest. We read about this in Zechariah 3. Here he is, facing Satan as the defamer. Eve met him as the deceiver. Job met him as the destroyer. After that, we have David who met him as the despotic ruler, and now we have Joshua meeting him as the defamer. The defamer. He attacked Joshua’s conscience with self-condemnation.
In fact, it seems to me that the enemy’s favorite weapon is accusation, along with deception. He loves destroying as well and he loves lording it over people, but here Joshua was guilt-ridden with the accusation of the devil and it is possible, you see, that Joshua was born in the time of exile, because he was then appointed to be the high priest for the restoration period, and his grandfather was killed in the captivity of Jerusalem, the capture of Jerusalem, his father Jehoshaphat had been taken captive to Babylon, and Joshua was possibly himself born in exile.
And it is possible that what was happening was that the devil was saying, “You are a child of bondage. You are a product of the exile. You are not worthy to take this office,” and so we read of those dirty, defiled clothes that were upon him, and God says, “He is a brand plucked out of the fire and he was given beautiful new clothes to wear.”
And you and I will feel at times the condemnation of the enemy, but there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. We wear the robes of righteousness. We are given robes of royal dignity and we can lift our head high in the presence of God—not out of arrogance, but out of joy knowing that our sins are forgiven. Don’t let the devil grind you to the dirt with guilt. And here is a terrible trick of the devil. He will tempt you to sin, and if you give in, he will accuse you for having done so—and it was his idea all the while. He is bad. He is nasty. But we have Jesus, our heavenly intercessor, one who doesn’t accuse us, but who intercedes for us that our faith and our strength will not fail.