How does prayer work in spiritual warfare?

By Denise Baum

God does respond to the prayers of his people as they pray through spiritual battles against Satan, the world, and the flesh. However, answering this question in-depth would take pages and pages, whole books. One could spend a lifetime studying the topic of spiritual warfare through prayer. The following is a mere beginning on this important subject. Study these passages further and ask God for wisdom to personally understand and apply the principles of prayer and spiritual warfare.

First Thessalonians 5:17 is a little verse with a big message. "Pray without ceasing." That means to pray consciously and subconsciously all day and all night. Believers in Jesus who are saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13) live in constant communication with the invisible God. It becomes an automatic unconscious function like breathing and the beating of the heart. We thank God when we feel a rush of joy, we complain to him when things are difficult, we weep before during times of suffering and loss. Then, we listen as He speaks through the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.

As we fight with the powers of darkness, the function of praying is a continuation of a perpetual habit. We see this in the life of Daniel. He lived in a land of idolatry and spiritual oppression. He knew the source of his strength came through communion with God, and he developed a very public habit of praying on his knees before an open window from the upper chambers of his house. This discipline in worship supported an already magnificent reputation which earned him a high position in the king's service. His enemies designed a petition to the king which would enact a law which would force the king to punish Daniel for this devotion to God. Daniel certainly waged war on Satan and the forces of evil as he spent the night in a pit with hungry lions (Daniel 6). Daniel's testimony to the king from down in the den was irrefutable — "My God sent his angel and shut the lion's mouths, and they have not harmed me… " (v 21). Daniel conquered because of intimate communion with his God.

Paul, the great missionary of the early church, was not immediately released from his imprisonment by the Romans and restored to service as Daniel was under the Babylonians. Nevertheless, his testimony was a powerful encouragement to believers who faced death for their belief. He wrote a letter, from prison, to a body of believers in Ephesus. Near the end of his letter he exhorts the Ephesian believers to be strong in the Lord and to put on the invisible armor of God (6:10ff). To be victorious in spiritual warfare, the Christian must protect himself with truth, righteousness, readiness with the gospel, faith, salvation, and a working knowledge of the Scriptures. Then Paul wraps these up with the instruction to pray "at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication," (Ephesians 6:18). This is the posture of the victorious warrior.

We are told that "the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, [and] he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you,'" (Jude 9). This would be audible prayer, speaking in the name of the Lord to acknowledge His superior and uncontested authority. This is also a caution to humbly recognize our inability to fight Satan in our own strength.

The stormiest battles with Satan are described in the book of Revelation and are yet to be enacted. We must study and apply the truths of this amazing book with the awareness that they hold important training. "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near," (Revelation 1:3). In chapter 12, we are told that a great war will take place in heaven between God's powerful angels and Satan and his demons. With glorious victory over the devil comes this announcement: "Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death," (Revelation 12:10-11). The source of victory is in the powerful shed blood of our Savior, a clear testimony of the gospel at work in our lives.

In a study which needs far more investigation, let us close with one final testimony of the power of God which goes beyond any human participation. Elisha, the Old Testament prophet whose miraculous powers are described in the early chapters of 2 Kings, is caught in a dangerous situation. He is trapped in a walled city with a hostile army surrounding the city. His servant saw the horses and chariots of the enemy and was terrified. What was Elisha's response to his servant, knowing full well that the enemy was planning to seize him? "He said, 'Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.' So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha," (2 Kings 6:16-17). The real battle is with the unseen, and that battle has already been won through the blood sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.

The role of prayer in battling the invisible forces of wickedness is simply one of a spirit of alertness and constant humble communion with God the Father. "To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints," (Ephesians 6:18b). In addition, recognize the enemy. "For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ," (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Scripture is full of testimonies of God's power over our invisible enemies, Satan and all his hosts. For additional study, read 1 Kings 18 and see the awesome power of God at work yet again.

Image source: United States Forces - Iraq; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  |  Hardships  |  Satan-Demons  |  Sin-Evil

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Published on 3-17-14