Spiritual Warfare and Prayer

Missions Prayer Meeting Devotional


The following is a lightly edited transcript.

One of the things that constantly astonishes me is that God, who could with one blink of an eye or flick of a little finger, dispatch all of Satan and all of his hordes out of the world and out of the way — instead of doing that — employs human agents to do war with them and fight them in order to get victories. And all I know to say about that is, in his inscrutable wisdom, more glory will come to him and more joy will come to you in participating in this triumph.

I don’t know what else to say because he could do it so easily without us. He could just get rid of the devil so that all we had to deal with was human flesh. But he hasn’t chosen to get rid of the devil. He will throw the devil into the lake of fire someday. But now God lets him run on a leash, let’s him do great damage in the world.

Strong in the Lord

But God does gives us texts like Ephesians 6. So, let’s read this to see what the point is for us of letting the devil in the world and then calling us in to engage with this enemy. Ephesians 6:10:

Finally, be strong in the Lord.

This issue of strength is so important. You see it over and over again, especially here in Ephesians. Paul talks about strengthening the inner man in Ephesians 3:16. We must be strong. And notice what kind of strength it is:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.

So, it isn’t our strength. He’s not saying, “Come on, let’s recruit big, strong men and women. That’s not the kind of strength it’s talking about. It’s in the Lord. It’s the Lord’s strength in you. His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, he’s calling for you to experience a strength that is not your own in this whole issue of prayer and spiritual warfare.

Don the Armor

But ironically or strangely, you get the strength by putting on armor. Now that may seem strange. A soldier doesn’t ordinarily get strength from putting on armor. But when you think about the nature of this armor, it’s all internal stuff.

So, when you look at the content of the armor here, like truth and faith and righteousness and salvation — that’s all strengthening stuff. It’s not just kind of out there. When it comes near and you get it on you, it goes into you. So, we’re struggling with a metaphor here that I think that is a little bit inadequate, as all metaphors are. There’s a strength to be had by the armor.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

The word stand is repeated a few times because that’s Paul’s goal. He wants us to stand and not be on the ground. When you’re in a battle and you’re standing, you’ve still got a chance to win. And if you’re on the ground, a horse is going to step on you or you’re getting stuck with a spear. You’re doing nobody any good on the ground. So, standing is all-important in a fight. In boxing, you go down, you lose. If you stand, you might win. And so here, standing is of utmost importance.

“Jesus’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.”

The devil has schemes in Guinea, he’s got schemes in Minneapolis. He tailors his schemes. The Greek word is methodeias, the same word from which we get method. He’s got methods. The devil has methods. He’s got a book. I’m sure he’s got a book. And he’s got an American book, a Guinea book, he’s got a white middle-class book, and he’s got a wealthy book, and a poor book. He has a book for every class of people, so that his methods are tailor-made for your situation, to mess you up and to make you weak, to make you fall down, to ruin your life.

So, you can’t ever say, “Oh, if I could just get enough money, I’d be free from the methods. Or if I could just live in the right place, I’d be free from the methods. Or if I could become a missionary, I’d be free from the methods. Or if I could not have a computer, I’d be free from the methods or whatever.” Satan always has a new method for your new situation. He’s got methods and schemes and we have to have armor so that we can discern and figure out how to be protected against it.

Not Against Flesh and Blood

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Remember what Jesus said in John 18:36 when Pilate asked him if he’s king. He said, “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

The kingdom of Jesus does not advance with swords, contrary to terrible aspects in the history of Christendom. It doesn’t advance with the sword. It’s not a flesh and blood issue. It’s a spiritual issue, the way the kingdom advances and what our foes are in essence.

It’s a demonic, angelic, evil power that is to be fought here with this armor. I want you to be really tuned in to this because this will be a sobering, settling issue. If you’re wondering, *How do you fight the devil? Mainly, there’s a lot of people who do devil warfare in the weirdest ways. Exorcism has a place. I’ve been involved in one or two — major, clear, horrible moments of deliverance.

If you wonder, How can I protect my children from the devil? How can I keep myself free from the devil? How can I get free from the claws of the devil? just watch now as we go through here. It’s very truth-oriented.

Stay True

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth . . . So, the soldiers in those days, they pulled up their long thing between their legs probably bound it around themselves here so they can move around.

I wonder what kind of truth that is. I wonder if that’s objective truth outside of you like the Bible. I wonder if Paul means the sword of the Spirit, which he says is God’s word. But there’s another possible meaning for this word and that would be truthfulness, namely, the kind of truthfulness that you are. Are you a true person? The opposite of one truth is falsehood. The opposite of the other truth is hypocrisy. True like an arrow is true. If the arrow has a little curve, it’s going to go all over the place. If it’s a true arrow, it goes straight to the mark.

Are you a true person? Do you put on the quality of trueness in your life? Are you not a hypocrite? Are you real? Are you through and through a truth-driven person? Something like that may be the meaning rather than just saying what he’s going to say in a minute when he says, “Take up the sword of Spirit.” Gird yourself with sincerity, and authenticity, and loyalty, and faithfulness, and trueness to God so that you are a straight arrow with God.

Put on Righteousness

Put on the breastplate of righteousness.

I’m inclined to think that that is probably not the imputed righteousness of Christ here as he talks to Christians, though it might be saying: appropriate and live in the joy and the deliverance of the righteousness that has been made over to your account.

“The devil is in the business of causing you to do wrong things.”

But I’m inclined to think it’s something like Romans 6:13, which says, “Do not present your members [of your body] to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” “Give yourselves as instruments of righteousness to God” might be the same as “put on righteousness,” that is, become a righteous person.

So, in your spiritual warfare when you think about how Satan’s going after you today, and you want to know how to defeat him, the answer is: do right things. The devil is in the business of causing you to do wrong things. When you do right things, in the power of the Holy Spirit, which we’ll see in a minute, the devil is frustrated, he’s defeated, he’s put back.

Ready with the Message

As shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.

Shoes are important, of course, in war. If your feet are hurting, you’re going probably not going to do the kind of nimble stepping you need to do in a boxing match or whatever. The devil and his hordes are pushed back and defeated and kept off of you as you maintain a spirit of readiness with the gospel. The gospel is always brewing and simmering in your life. You are always ready to give an answer, ready to speak the gospel. If that’s the way you conduct your life through the day, the devil has less of a chance of tripping you up and messing you up.

And so I think this idea of readiness or preparation with the gospel is a protective armor device, even though it’s just shoes to get you from one place to the next or makes you able to step where you need to step and say what you need to say.

Shield Yourself

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.

Faith shields darts coming at you. You see them coming at you and they stick in this shield. And they burn out because they can’t catch the shield on fire. Now, here’s the question: Faith in what?

Well, my father’s in the hospital right now and he is much sicker than I thought he was going to be. He had a hip replacement, and now he’s got some terrible gallbladder problem, and he’s full of infection. He’s got a fever and they can’t do surgery. I hope they’ll do it tomorrow morning. And I think my father may die in the next few days. It’s that serious.

Darts Will Come

Now, fiery darts can come at you at that moment of disappointment, or regret, or anger, or fear, or loneliness, or incapacitating grief. When you put up the shield of faith, practically, what do you really do? What do you do? What do you believe? What does faith believe at that moment? And the answer is faith moves through the memory bank of the Bible, laying hold on particularly suited promises for that crisis.

So, for example, my father and I had some wonderful times in the word while we were there in the hospital room together. And I didn’t know how serious it was when I left on Thursday morning. But now, I’ve been going back over and over again to Romans 14:7–9 where it says,

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

To establish myself in the confidence that my dad was a wonderful believer, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. Then I’ve thought about, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). That’s true for my dad.

No Reproach on the Gospel

I pray often prayers like this for myself and now for Daddy, “Lord, only let me live so long as I will not bring reproach upon you, and take me the moment I have ended my capacity to bring you glory because I don’t want to outlive my faith. I don’t want to outlive my honoring of you. And you know where that is and I don’t. I don’t know where it is for my dad.”

It is possible for an eighty-year-old man to become a mean-spirited, bitter person. And that would be a horrible way for a man who’s been an evangelist, led thousands of people to Jesus, and has been a godly person to live. That would be terrible for him to bring reproach upon the gospel.

So, I found myself praying, as I stood outside the x-ray room at ten o’clock on Wednesday night, “Lord, I don’t know what’s going on here, but I know this: give my dad life if it can be Christ, and take my dad if it would spare any reproach upon the gospel.” And I pray that for myself very regularly. So, we quench the fiery darts with particular promises, tailor-made for the crises of our lives.

Stab with Your Sword

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God . . .

Love your salvation, and it will protect your mind and your whole self. And do like Jesus in the wilderness. How did he fight the devil? He just quoted Scripture to him in Matthew 4:1–11. Jesus had a little dagger in his hand, and every time the devil said, “Turn this stone into bread and show that you really are something.” And he Jesus responded, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” quoting from Deuteronomy.

Just quote the Bible back to the devil. Do this with every kind of temptation and test that rises in your heart.

Pray in the Spirit

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

It probably means all kinds of prayer — all kinds of praying and all kinds of petition. At all times, every occasion, in the Spirit, ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray. Don’t just pray human prayers. Use the Spirit’s inspired word and ask the Spirit to anoint you to have energy and guidance in your prayer when you pray.

“Don’t just pray human prayers. Use the Spirit’s inspired word.”

Be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. So pray big sweeping prayers for Guinea. All the saints in Guinea — there are many. Pray for all of them, just big sweeping prayers.

I have my big list of all the missionaries. I just flip through those pages, praying for each of those missionaries, and then I close it and I just read some portion of Scripture, and pray that for the Muslims, and pray that for the cause of Christ, and whatever comes to my mind. And those fifteen minutes go by pretty quickly.

Pray for Boldness

And also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel . . .

What did Paul want to be prayed for? He’s a missionary here and he says, “Just pray that I can open my mouth. Pray that I would have a word when I need a word to make known the mystery of the gospel with boldness.” Paul asked for prayer for boldness. There’s not a more bold person in the universe than the apostle Paul, except Jesus. And he knew he was dependent on prayer for it. Isn’t that amazing that Paul would ask the church for this? And he doesn’t stop with one, he says it again.

Open Your Mouth

For which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

There it is again: boldness, openness — just confident, open speaking. There’s not a person in this room and there’s not a person who’s ever lived who doesn’t struggle with timidity, fear, anxiety, and hesitancy to say what ought to be said. Everybody has, including the Apostle Paul, and we need to pray for each other and pray for the missionaries who are there.

We need to open our mouths tonight in prayer and say, “Whoever’s there, O God, may the indigenous believers, and may the missionaries who are there have boldness to speak the word, to say and to teach the gospel so that they hear the whole counsel of God.

So, let’s be earnest in our being strong and fighting against the devil and in our praying for the nations.