Prayer: The Most Effective Spiritual Warfare And Deliverance Weapon And Tactic
Posted by Job on July 3, 2010
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a [certain] man, kneeling down to him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:14-21
Much has been written in the area of spiritual warfare and deliverance. Some of it is based on scripture, some on experience, some on things taught and handed down, some on what purports to be revelation, some on conjecture, and usually the final product is some combination of these things. I do not deny that these techniques cannot yield results, because that would be denying what I have seen with my own eyes and borne witness to with my own testimony. However, “whatever works” cannot be the basis of sound Christian belief and practice. A good reason for this is simple: “results may vary!” In the scientific community, one of the major tests used to establish and verify a theory using experiments or observation is repeatable results. Since the results of the various spiritual warfare techniques, strategies and methods do in fact vary – a fact that the teachers and proponents of these methods freely admit – we cannot rely on unreliable experientialism for our Christian doctrine and practice. Instead, we must rely on the Bible. The Bible is God’s unique, Holy Spirit inspired revelation that is inerrant, infallible and the final authority in all things. So, even though the varying results is enough to justify being suspect of a lot of the spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings, the truth is that the doctrine of scripture means that Christians should not rely on practices and beliefs not supported in scripture even if they did work every time. So even if it does work, then what profit is it if the “work” is not of God and does not glorify God? The purpose of Christian living is to serve and glorify God, not to do the things that we want to do and believe that should be done ourselves. As the Bible is the final authority and is 100% infallible, then the Bible gives us perfect instructions on how to live to serve and glorify God in all areas. The Bible is what teaches us, and the Bible is what we must use to teach others.
So, based on the revelation of Jesus Christ as given to us in the Bible – and the purpose of the entirety of scripture is to reveal Jesus Christ – the best, surest way and the starting point for all spiritual warfare and deliverance is prayer. Prayer is the first and best weapon against the evil one and his forces. Consider, for instance, the Lord’s prayer.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 and also Luke 11:2-4
How many of you knew that this was a spiritual warfare and deliverance prayer? It is. For one thing, it deals with forgiveness of sin, as it asks that our own sins be forgiven by God AND that we forgive the sins of others. Failure to forgive the sins of others, especially against us, leads to anger and resentment that Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us “gives a place to the devil.” For another, it asks that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and it is certainly God’s will for evil spirits and their influence to be bound, hindered, cast out and defeated (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). But there is also a more direct reference. “Deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s prayer not only means “keep us from sin” (with all the spiritual warfare things that go along with sinning) but many expert theologians and Bible scholars follow Martin Luther in asserting that “deliver us from evil” should read “deliver us from the evil one”, which is Satan.
Now Martin Luther was not one to deny that Christians in our time need to directly confront unclean spirits. Quite the contrary, Luther claimed to have seen Satan and thrown a bottle of ink at him! (Small wonder that a current popular trend – or evil spirit – of deception moving through modern Christianity is to attack Martin Luther and claim that the Reformation, the exodus from the darkness of Roman Catholicism, was a mistake!) So, the Lord’s Prayer is quite literally and unquestionably a direct, powerful spiritual warfare and deliverance prayer. It petitions that God would overcome the presence and effects of sin and evil spirits in our lives. It even addresses the area most often neglected by spiritual warfare teachers, which is the flesh or the old man which still exerts a negative influence on born again Christians as described in Romans 5-7 when asking God to help us to forgive others, and in particular not to view the transgressions of others against us personally more prominently than we view our own transgressions against God. What stronger impulses of the flesh are there than hypocrisy and self-centeredness? And this prayer also explicitly directly asks for protection from all evil spirits through a reference to their leader, Satan. And as Jesus Christ explained in Matthew 12:24-30, being protected from Satan means being protected from all evil spirits.
However, the importance and primacy of prayer in spiritual warfare is often overlooked. Instead, the commonly advised and emulated strategy is to imitate the actions of Jesus Christ and His apostles during their spectacular encounters with evil spirits, and also to mix in things learned from other teachings and our own experiences. In doing so, we ignore that the most repeated and striking thing concerning the ministry of Jesus Christ was His prayer life. His ministry began with 40 days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness, and the gospels make it clear that seeking the will of God the Father in prayer was far more prominent in the ministry of Jesus Christ than all the sermons, exorcisms and miracles put together. To put it better, Jesus Christ came not so much to preach and perform miracles and exorcisms as He did to do the will of God the Father, and so Jesus Christ only preached, performed miracles and did exorcisms when it was the will of God the Father that He do so. When it was not the will of God the Father for Him to do so, Jesus Christ did no sermons, miracles or exorcisms, because even being God in the flesh with power and being deserving of praise and glory Himself, had Jesus Christ done those things of His own accord or on His own initiative, God the Father would not have been glorified, and Jesus Christ would have thereby sinned. (Of course, we know that Jesus Christ, being God, cannot sin.) And this was how Satan tempted Jesus Christ during His time of fast … by attempting to get Jesus Christ to take an action apart from the will and direction of God. It was the same temptation that Satan gave to Adam. Where Adam failed, Jesus Christ succeeded. And Christians are to follow Jesus Christ’s success and not Adam’s failure. Follow Adam, and man is glorified. Follow Jesus Christ and God is glorified. To God alone be the glory!
That is why spiritual warfare and deliverance must begin with and be dominated by prayer. We cannot take initiative or authority upon ourselves. We cannot presume to know, for instance, if the issue that we are addressing is motivated by evil spirits in the first place. We also cannot presume the manner and time in which God desires the evil spirit to be cast out. Further, we cannot even presume that God wants the evil spirit to be driven off in the first place! A powerful example of this is the thorn in the flesh described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Now there has been a lot of needless conjecture as to what exactly the “thorn in the flesh” was, but this is only because people have such difficulty believing what the text plainly says, often for doctrinal reasons. But it is clear: “the messenger of Satan” is clearly in the Greek “the angel of Satan”, and we all know that angels of Satan are evil, unclean spirits, or demons. Now for some people, the idea that a born again Christian, an apostle no less, would be tormented by a demon is doctrinally troublesome. For others, the wording of the passage makes it appear as “there was given to me” means that God gave the demon to Paul, which would seem to charge God with being responsible for temptation or evil where scripture tells us that God cannot be the author of evil. However, this stunning passage does recall how God allowed and used Satan in His dealings with Job in the Old Testament. Just as God allowed Satan to attack Job in the Old Testament for purposes that glorified God and ultimately were a blessing to Job, God allowed one of Satan’s demons to do the same regarding the apostle of Jesus Christ Paul. So then, it would not have been to the will of God or glory of God to drive this evil spirit from oppressing or tormenting Paul. Please recall: the evil spirit could not possess Paul because Christians are possessed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. So, the demon could only afflict Paul.
And please note that Paul first sought the Lord in prayer concerning the evil spirit. Scripture does not record failed attempts at spiritual warfare and deliverance by Paul concerning the demon, and we cannot presume that these failed attempts existed because the Bible does not record them. Instead, it records Paul’s asking God three times for permission to drive the demon away, and God denying this permission for His own sovereign, God-glorifying purposes which were in service to God’s plan to conform Paul into the image of Jesus Christ! So let us not be deceived. These are not matters to be trifled with. Christians in the spiritual warfare and deliverance ministries must not act according to presumption, self-will and self-initiative. Instead, we must be guided and directed by God’s Holy Spirit. Being Holy Spirit-led and Holy Spirit-filled requires much preparation in ways that include prayer, Bible study, fellowship and good works which are conducive to spiritual maturity in advance (Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting) and also seeking God’s will during the necessary time. Note that I did not say during the time of spiritual confrontation with the forces of evil, for God must permit and instruct us when and whether He wants us to participate in such spiritual confrontations to begin with. Again, it is God’s will that is being done, not ours. It is God that is being glorified, not us. And we are acting in accordance to God’s sovereign will and not our own desires or feelings. This is why we must rely on prayer. We must humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God’s design, God’s plan, and God’s actions through prayer. Otherwise, we take rash actions of self-interest and self-will as did King Saul, who failed to wait on the Lord and found his kingdom and life – and those of his sons – taken from him.
Returning to apostle Paul, spiritual warfare and deliverance ministers have centered on the Ephesians 6:10-17 as one of their favorites for study and practice.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Regrettably, one of the reasons for this is that this passage, when taken incautiously, can invite the flesh to imagine oneself in the manner of this strong, mighty righteous and powerful HUMAN warrior image against the forces of evil, an image that we have seen reinforced time and time again in secular Hollywood movies and TV shows. Incautious and out of contexts readings and applications of this passage may cause us to think that in the Name of Jesus Christ WE have the power, WE have the authority, WE have the dominion, WE can challenge and take over strongholds and defeat the enemy, and that in doing so God’s will shall be done and He shall be glorified. This is indeed the doctrines of many popular spiritual warfare and deliverance teachers. However, such self-seeking presumption is not coming in the Name of Jesus Christ at all, but instead coming in our own name. It is so tempting to reject the counsel of those who actually do come in the Name of Jesus Christ and instead come in their own names (see John 5:43), but reject it we must. For Jesus Christ said that all who call on His Name, even all who cast out devils and do great works using His Name are not truly His. People who use the Name of Jesus Christ in accordance with self-seeking are not Jesus Christ’s sheep, because though they call on the Name of God, like Adam they are following after their own hearts. Instead, Jesus Christ’s sheep will be people who are after God’s heart, so they will seek direction from God and patiently wait on God before they act. The identifying fruit of the spiritual warfare and deliverance minister who is God’s sheep is one who exhibits patience, humility and submission in seeking the will of God lest he sin and lead others into sin, and not one who rushes in according to his own human desires and limited knowledge and misuses and misappropriates the Name of Jesus Christ carelessly, recklessly, proudly and selfishly. Instead of seeking to take authority and power after the manner of human rulers, we should be seeking to submit ourselves to, rely upon and glorify God after the manner of God’s humble servants, including the one Jesus Christ who emptied Himself, came to earth as a man, suffered humiliation and rejection, and was slain for our sins in our place on the cross, and was raised for our justification. It is the manner of the humble Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead and is blessed forever that we should emulate and identify with, and not the manner of proud, presumptive, arrogant and self-willed humanity, or for that manner of the tempter and deceiver of humanity Satan, who in his presumption decided that he would be like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14). Make no mistake, but in doing anything, including spiritual warfare, without first making certain that we are doing God’s will and not man’s, we are emulating not Jesus Christ in His submission and sacrifice to the glory of God, but Satan in his mad and failed attempt at being a usurper of God’s glory. From such, spiritual warfare and deliverance minister, turn away!
Instead, turn your attention to the oft-neglected end of the “put on the whole armor of God” passage, which is verse 18, which reads “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” It clearly shows that the primary and main ingredient to spiritual warfare, to putting on the whole armor of God for confrontations against the enemy, is “praying always in asking to the Holy Spirit.” We are to always pray so that we can ask of the Holy Spirit that indwells all Christians concerning the Will of God. Without receiving and submitting to the will of God in spiritual warfare (or anything else) we aren’t performing spiritual warfare at all, but instead proud, self-seeking and harmful bombast that resists the Holy Spirit, misuses the Name of Jesus Christ, dishonors His sacrifice on the cross and refuses to glorify God the Father. Thus, so-called spiritual warfare that rejects prayer in supplication to the Holy Spirit before, during and after is nothing more than an abomination against the Holy Trinity in clear, explicit ways.
One should note that the primacy of prayer in spiritual warfare is given at the end of both Matthew 17:14-21 and of Ephesians 6:10-18. One also notes that no explicit references to prayer seem to be made in many of the New Testament exorcism narrative accounts and references. That is indeed curious, as one would think that in Matthew 17:14-21 and Ephesians 6:10-18 that the most important thing would come first as a lead instead of coming last, and also that there would be a stronger correlation depicted between prayer and spiritual warfare. This is still more evidence of how spiritual things often do not conform to our human expectations. It is a test of our faith, of our faithfulness, of our humility and submission to see if we will study the whole counsel of God as revealed in scripture. To see if we will seek God in spirit and in truth as He commanded us to so. To answer the door of our hearts when He stands and knocks so that He will come in, sup with us, and teach us the truth. Those of us truly interested in knowing and serving God will search, notice and find these things so that we can go about performing spiritual warfare and deliverance ministry – and please recall that ministry means service, and that it is service to God first and then to man – God’s way. Those who are not will cut corners, interpret passages out of context and selectively, and do whatever we can in order to claim to be serving God in God’s way when they will really be serving themselves in their own way.
So I ask and challenge you spiritual deliverance and warfare minister. In what way have you been serving in your ministry before now? And in what way will you serve in your ministry in the future?