People talk about ‘battling in prayer’ – but who are they fighting? I’m not saying they’re wrong; but it helps if we get our images clear. There is a battle. Paul made that clear when he wrote to the Ephesians (chapter 6). He talked about fighting with enemies who are “not flesh and blood”. Of course, he meant evil spiritual powers (demons etc.) – we’re definitely not fighting God! We don’t have to twist his arm, worry the life out of him, or bargain fiercely to get him to answer us. God wants to grant our prayers.
We’re fighting evil powers. That’s a daunting prospect. In fact, it’s an impossible challenge. Human versus devil is an uneven match. Psalm 8 says humans were made a little lower than the angels (and that includes demons). Hand to hand, we’re bound to lose – unless we have help.
When God told him to rescue his people from invaders, Gideon faced this dilemma. He moaned, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” Judges 6:15 (NLT). But the Lord replied, “I will be with you”.
There’s something familiar about that answer. Jesus said much the same when he told the disciples to preach the Gospel throughout the world:
“…be sure of this: I am with you always…” Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
No, we’re not fighting God when we pray, or when we face temptation. Nor are we fighting human beings. We’re fighting evil spiritual powers. But we’re not doing it single-handed. God fights beside us. But why doesn’t God fight on his own? What possible role can you or I have in this heavenly conflict? The Old Testament book of Job offers an interesting clue, when Satan tries to prove that no human would serve God for nothing. God has a case to prove and we’re part of that campaign. Jesus proved in himself that at least one human would serve God perfectly, even at the cost of his life. Now the challenge has moved on to us – to demonstrate the moral triumph of the ‘children of God’: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19 (NIV)
How about it then?
Since God calls us to fight with him, are we up for it? It’s a challenge, that needs to be followed through in our prayer life and in the way we live in this mucky world. But the challenge is also a privilege. We’re not just being asked to fight for God, but alongside him. He’s calling us to be his comrades in arms. When we pray, we’re on his side, joining with him in the desire to improve things or, as the Lord’s Prayer puts it, to see that his will is done “in earth as in heaven”. When we pray for God’s will to be done, or when we resist temptation, we are forcing Satan to run away from the battle or, as James puts it, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NIV). [By the way, I like the way the Message Bible translates this: “Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper”]
The way we live, and the way we pray is not just a personal matter. It affects the universe. We are comrades in a campaign that between good and evil, between God and Satan. Take it seriously. Take it as a privilege. And make sure you’re using the armour God provides.
“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet.
Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon.
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message Bible)