Ephesians 6:18–20 NIV
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
About thirty years ago someone put a book in my hand that opened my eyes to a reality I had no idea of. The book, by Frank Peretti, was titled This Present Darkness. The novel told the story of a sensational yet unseen battle in the heavenly realms between angels and demons playing out behind the scenes of the visible world. The success of the angels rose and fell on the fervency of the prayers of people. The book profoundly changed my understanding of prayer and my motivation to pray.
I remain grateful for the book and its wake-up call in my life and faith; however, I do see its flaws. In my remembrance, the book put far too much stock in human agency, as though our failure to pray could put the overall outcome in jeopardy. The book also made it seem like the battle between God and Satan was somehow an even match or a fair fight.
In matters of spiritual warfare, I want to make two points very clear. First, we are no match for Satan. Second, Satan is no match for Jesus. On both counts the match is not even close. I do love the great fight song of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Martin Luther’s prophetic verse offers a veritable primer on spiritual warfare. My favorite turns of phrase come in the second half of the third stanza.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
What we need is not more armor but more Jesus. The technical term is Christus Victor. The apostle John captured it with these words, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NASB).
Given this assurance, we can take up the great strategy Paul offers us in our present text.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
What does this mean, to pray in the Spirit? I suspect it means at least several things. For starters, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you in prayer over particular situations and people. Ask the Spirit to give you words, Scripture texts, images, and pictures to inform and guide your prayers. Ask the Spirit to give you words of prophecy, knowledge, and wisdom to embolden your prayers and to be shared with others.
As I wrote this entry, I sensed the Spirit calling me to pray for a dear friend of mine who is in early recovery from a complex surgery. I asked the Lord to help me pray in the Spirit for him. As I began to pray, the words, “He needs water,” came into my mind. I began to lift those words in prayer, that my friend would be flooded with living water. From there I sensed the breaking of a dam and the rushing forward of a powerful river of life. I was led to pray into the visionary text from Ezekiel 47, “River of God, bring life to dead places.” I gave myself to several minutes of this kind of praying. I had no idea how it might connect (or not) to my friend and his circumstance. I did not need to know. I simply went with the impulse of it. Here’s the interesting part. After being released from the hospital, my friend came across today’s entry as he was catching up on the Daily Text writings he missed while in the hospital. He sent me the following text message:
We are catching up on the Daily Text, read Friday, April 13 this morn. You said you felt led to pray Ezekiel Living Waters to a friend who had surgery. If that was me, you were right in your discernment. My saline level had dropped on Thursday, causing the doctor to ration fluids so my saline % would rise. The deprivation of water caused my pulse to drop to zero on Friday afternoon, causing my relocation to the Primary Care Unit. The prayers of faithful friends availeth much!! Thank you.
Though I am still in the shallow end of the pool, I have a deep sense of knowing that this kind of praying plays a very important role in the way God works in the everyday world. The key to praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests is being available to the Spirit and ready to roll on a moment’s notice. The best way to learn is by praying with others who pray in these kinds of ways. We must learn to trust the instincts of our imagination, be experimental in our willingness to go with leadings and promptings, and stop trying to censor whether we are “in our head” or “in the Spirit.”
The Greek word for the English word “disciple” is mathetes. It means “a learner.” There is significant foundational knowledge we need to thrive as followers of Jesus, but discipleship means taking learning to the next level and putting it into practice. We can read books about spiritual warfare. Discipleship requires putting it into play. Discipleship requires we learn about the full armor of God by putting it on every day. It requires we learn to pray by growing in our practice of praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
As we close this three-part series on spiritual warfare, I offer five brief takeaways.
And never forget! One little word shall fell him!
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who embodies and exemplifies what it looks like to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. By your Spirit would you teach me to pray in his way? In Jesus’ name, amen.
On a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is the highest, where do you place your present practice of prayer? What would it look like to move one number up the scale?
What is your main takeaway on prayer and spiritual warfare? How will that takeaway find implementation in your life?
How are you learning to trust the instincts of your imagi-
nation in prayer rather than constantly questioning yourself? What might it look like to make yourself more available to the Spirit for prayer?
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