Spiritual warfare involves the whole of our Christian lives. It includes living a holy life, preaching the gospel and praying. Some leaders reject the view that spiritual warfare brings us into conflict with demonic powers. They say that addressing spirits directly is not a form of prayer and that this is outside the bounds of scriptural teaching.
However, every form of prayer is an act of spiritual warfare. Whenever we pray and seek God’s will on earth, we find ourselves in opposition to the enemy.
Ephesians 6:10–18 is the foundation passage for spiritual warfare. It describes the Church at war. It is about ‘us’, not ‘me’, and offers a picture of an army standing and fighting in hand-to-hand combat. Therefore, we should expect to confront spiritual forces and to engage them directly. This is surely what Paul meant by ‘wrestling against principalities and powers’.
The image is of a company of soldiers in one-to-one confrontation in prayer against demonic forces. Prayer is the point of this passage. We need to wear the armour of God so that we can be ready to engage the enemy when we pray. 1 John 3:8 shows this is God’s will.
The reality of spiritual warfare
Daniel 10:12–13 contains some unusual glimpses of the operation of the spiritual realm and how it is influenced by our prayers. Daniel, through prayer and fasting, sought understanding concerning a vision. God sent a powerful angel to meet with him and explain the vision, yet this angel met opposition from the ‘prince’ of Persia. As Daniel continued to pray, the archangel Michael was sent to help and God’s message got through.
The passage shows that:
- Demonic beings (here called princes) do exist, and try to oppose the work of God
- These demonic princes are associated with
- particular territorial and temporal areas
- There is a link between heavenly and earthly activity. What happened in the heavens affected the situation on earth, and Daniel – through his prayers – affected what was happening in the heavens
- By his persistent prayers, Daniel achieved a spiritual breakthrough – even though he personally saw nothing of the battle.
Although it cannot be denied that Daniel’s praying was spiritual warfare, some leaders use the fact that Daniel did not himself address the demonic powers and principalities to deny the need for conscious, active and aggressive spiritual warfare. They say there is not need for personal, direct confrontation of demonic forces in prayer. Those who argue like this point out that, in Zechariah 3:1–5, the angel of the Lord said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’, not ‘I rebuke you’. It is the same in Jude 9. However, when Jesus was confronted by the devil in Luke 4:1–13 & Matthew 16:22–23 he did not converse and reason with Satan – he commanded him. And, in Matthew 12:22–29, he taught that spiritual warfare characterised the coming of the kingdom of God. Of course, we will probably never be called to confront Satan himself, personally, as Jesus did. Our struggle is with his representatives: principalities and powers and other demonic forces.
The Daniel and Zechariah passages are before the cross. They did not share our benefits of the victory at Calvary. There, Jesus disarmed every power and principality and was raised far above them in the heavenly places. We have been raised with Christ and carry his delegated power and authority. Ephesians 1:15–2:7 makes this plain.
We do not have power to rebuke spiritual beings. But Jesus does – and we receive that same authority from him. As his representatives on earth we can say, ‘In the name of Jesus, I rebuke you.’
There is a need for balance. Satan may tempt us to ‘prove it’ and to step out of the will of God to confront the devil’s forces in our own strength. If we ‘go it alone’ we will quickly discover the reality of warfare which is written about in 1 Peter 5:8.