The Interceders Encourager No. 45
Overcoming Opposition In Prayer
(with acknowledgments to F. J. Perryman and Wesley Duewel)
Whenever people give themselves to real prayer, they never find it easy. All kinds of problems may be encountered through lack of information, smallness of outlook, absence of vision, self-centeredness in petition, even slavishness to method; and all the temptations of the world and the flesh.
But, apart from all these, there are passages of Scripture which make it abundantly clear that in the unseen world there is a battle taking place for supremacy. This is the greatest reason why prayer may be difficult. The devil opposes it.
We read of Epaphras, who was "always struggling on your behalf in prayer," (Col. 4:12). We are told to "pray at all times in the Spirit, by means of all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." (Eph. 6:18). Paul asked the Christians in Rome to "strive with me in your prayers to God on my behalf." (Rom. 15:30). We are told that "the fervent prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects." (Jas. 5:16) The Son of God promises, "Will not God vindicate His elect, who cry to Him day and night?" (Lk.8:7), while the example of Jesus is given to us as one who, "in the days of His flesh, made prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to save Him from death. And He was heard because of His godly fear, (Heb. 5:7).
Notice the words: keep alert, pray at all times, cry to Him day and night, perseverance, supplication, strive in prayer, being fervent in prayer, praying with loud cries and tears. These are expressions that indicate a situation of dire necessity. They suggest deep urgency, sustained effort, undaunted courage and a persistence and faith that must predominate.
Why? Because the man or woman of prayer operates in a world where every inch of ground has to be taken in the teeth of hell. Make no mistake about it, the devil knows when a person is really praying effectually, and he does his best to stop him or her. In some parts of the Scripture the language employed is of a distinctly military character and unmistakably descriptive of the existence of a tense battle for dominion. What else can be meant by such words as "put on the whole armour of God…so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…our conflict is against…the spiritual host of evil.…take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to resist …" (Eph. 6:11-183). "Though we live in the world, we do not wage war in a fleshly (or worldly) way…The weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God to destroy strongholds…" (2 Cor. 10:3-4). Here is the word war, plain and simple, and let us take it in that the foe is so obstinate that he will only do what he is compelled to. He is so powerful that none but God-endued saints can overcome him, and even then only on the basis that he was conquered by Christ at Calvary.
Are You Watchful in Prayer?
Prayer is, of course, one of the most effective ways of administering the victory of Calvary, and it is placed first in the two things to which the apostles gave themselves (Acts 6:4). So it will be hindered and assailed from all quarters. Who has not gone apart to pray and found their mind go a perfect blank, or be flooded with unholy and distracting thoughts if, on the other hand, they have not fallen asleep? It is amazing what a lot of things you remember you have to do when you decide to get away to pray.
Do you ever associate these things with the existence of the power of evil? Do you realize they can interfere? Always associate the devil with that dark night the disciples spent near our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane, when reprovingly He said, "Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray…" (Mark 14:38). I think the devil must have made them extra tired when they should have been vigilant and watching and praying with Him. Even the Son of God knew the value of people supporting Him in prayer. It can only be done by deliberately resisting the devil.
Just talking and writing about prayer is not praying. The devil does not care how much we discuss and applaud the subject, so long as we do not pray. Place yourself at God's disposal in prayer. Be ready to co-operate with Him for the deliverance of captive souls in the world and see what happens. You will no longer wonder if there are forces to contend with other than flesh and blood. You will know, and knowing, you will understand that unless these satanic powers are reckoned with, you are not going to get through, and get the victory.
Satan Hinders Praying
People who have discovered the value of prayer know they will be assailed from every quarter and in every quarter, and they know it to be worthwhile to guard their power to pray more than anything else. How easy it is to lose the spirit of prayer. The Holy Spirit of God is so easily checked and grieved that sometimes, without knowing it, our ability to pray has gone. We may not know it until we kneel to pray, or are faced with some situation demanding immediate dealing with God.
The thing to remember is that the devil is probably more concerned with the hindering of prayer than anything else. Therefore, he schemes to get us to take just a little step "out of the Spirit." A long look, a feeling of resentment, a hasty word, some apparently trifling thing, can rob us of our power to pray and our ability to believe all things are possible.
Real power in prayer to deal effectually with situations as they arise is rather rare, and the reason is that the devil robs souls of the keen edge of their inner life without their knowing it. How much and how long he can do this, many people know to their sorrow, but once our eyes have been really opened to it, we should watch most carefully and see that we are not drawn out of the current of the Spirit.
The interference with praying will also be the common experience of those who are placed together in the Lord's work. Hence it is not at all an uncommon thing to find that some Christian workers often fail to meet for prayer through some trifling thing. Pray and determine that the enemy will be exposed in this matter, and that those who need to pray together will do so. Many a work of God lacks vitality and success for want of this fellowship in prayer, and while it is certain that God can work through the prayers of even one soul, yet there is always significance in two agreeing (Matt. 18:19).
No kind of effective praying is left unopposed, and thousands could testify that all sorts of unwelcome things are constantly happening to make real prayer impossible. It simply is that the devil ceaselessly conspires to "slay" the spirit and atmosphere of prayer, and until this is recognized and he is resisted, many problems in relation to praying will remain unsolved.
A godly man said, "We have family prayer every day, but try as I will to guard that time, it is very difficult to keep it free. Something is always happening to prevent us praying, to shorten the prayer time, or make it difficult to pray when we get down to it." That experience could be confirmed by many, but the degree of interference would largely be regulated by how much the prayers were directed at the devil's kingdom.
Prayer Is Foundational
We should not, however, attribute every difficulty in prayer to the devil. There is our evil human nature to contend with. We can be lazy and sluggish, or indifferent and independent, thinking that we can do this or that whether we pray or not. We can come under the dictum of the world and believe that "God helps those who help themselves." There is an element of truth in that, in so far as God will not help the lazy, but what is more true is that God helps those who trust Him. The danger is that the world can so influence us that prayer becomes supplemental instead of foundational. These and other factors are capable of acting like a brake to the praying soul.
Prayer is, of course, an attitude as much as an act; and if that is remembered, no perplexity will arise when there is a genuine absence of words as we wait before God. We must not allow the devil to whip us because we cannot find language with which to unburden ourselves. A groan of the Spirit in us (Rom. 8:26) or allowing the Spirit to pray through us may accomplish more than a volume of words. But the "groanings which cannot be uttered" must not be confused with the dumbness that can come through the devil dampening our fires. This paralysis of expression must be broken.
Satan Is a Defeated Foe
The more God's people reckon with the devil in their praying the more they will taste of the liberty of the Spirit in dealing with the issues of life. The Christian life does not reach the stage of manhood until that is done. But very many believers are limp and flabby, weak and fearful, childish and immature, simply through failing to use the life and energy that is stored up for them in Christ. No one likes to feel that this is true of himself or herself, but if it is true of anyone of us, is it not better to face it?
God has done on earth all that is necessary for us. At the cross He judged the devil and overthrew him and his hosts (John 12:31; Col. 2:15), but it is through us that that victory has to be enforced.
Keep it in mind, therefore, that the devil is always engineering to stop the faithful, victorious stream of prayer. All sorts of excuses will be invented to account for what he is doing under cover. But ask God to make you quick to detect if you are being robbed of your privileges in Christ.
The Devil Hates Prayer
If you read Daniel 10 with Ephesians 6, you should never again wonder why you do not have an easy time at prayer, or why answers are sometimes delayed. Reckon on God, but also reckon with the devil and then by vigilance and perseverance see to it that you are not hindered in pursuing a ministry, a work, a battle; the scope and issues of which cannot be measured. The devil hates prayer and hinders it, challenges it and chokes it. Prayer alone vitalizes work.
"Be sober, be watchful, for your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers around the world" (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
To resist the devil is not something to be endured, but is a healthy operation of the divine life. For just as the white blood corpuscles of the human frame "police" our veins to apprehend and slay disease germs, so the spiritual life needs the energy of the might of Christ to enable us to be spiritually healthy and victorious.
Face the devil, resist him and he will flee from you. If someone else had told you to do this, you might have hesitated, but since it is God who speaks, you have nothing to fear. He in whom you stand, by His grace, is impregnable. Do as you are commanded. Your triumph is guaranteed, because He who holds the world in the hollow of His hand is before you, behind you, above you, beneath you, and best of all, in you. "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
The Power of God
God wants you to understand more fully and to appropriate more adequately His mighty power. God is a personal Being of infinite power. Being a person, He exercises His power according to wisdom and love. As the Father of a spiritual family, He desires to use His power in behalf of His family. You, His very own child, have a spiritual inheritance that includes "His incomparably great power" (Eph. 1:18-19).
Creation manifests the infinitude of His power. Providence demonstrates how God can wisely use that power to frustrate all His enemies, help you, and work in all things for your good (Rom. 8:28). The Cross demonstrates His infinite love. Christ's resurrection demonstrates the glory of the power that is available to you. His resurrection power is God's power available to you now - available for glorious victory in your own life and for miracles by which He can be glorified through your faith and prayer.
The Bible specifically declares that"His incomparably great power [is] for us who believe" (Eph. 1:19). God's power is especially available to all man and women of faith. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power. God's will is that we be clothed with God's power, to enable us to live the supernatural life of victory to which God calls us, demonstrating His glory to an unbelieving, needy world, and so that we can pray effectively and get God-glorifying answers to our prayers.
God's Word is a word of power. It has convicting power, converting power, cleansing power. It can transform your life, your home, and the most difficult situations you may face. It has power in your personal devotions and in all forms of intercessory prayer and prayer warfare. God's Word is the sword of the Spirit in every spiritual conflict that you may engage in. Use it in faith to defeat the enemy.
The same power that spoke worlds into existence and preserves all material creation to this day (Heb. 1:3) is the word of power that we see when Christ rebuked the winds and the waves, gave sight to the blind, rebuked fevers and diseases even miles away, and raised the dead to life. How little have we appropriated and used God's powerful Word! How much God wants this powerful Word to richly indwell us!
The very name of Christ has supernatural power. This statement does not indicate superstitious belief in magic. Christ's name is all-powerful because it expresses His infinite Being and all-glorious nature. It is the name exalted high above all, the only name by which we may be saved. It is the name that grants authority to our prayer. It is the name that Satan hates, and from which demons flee. The blood of Christ has power to make anyone clean.
We need God's power in practical and God-glorifying ways in our living, in our praying, in our churches, and on the mission fields. Some of these needs, like the turning of whole nations back to God, and the opening up of the Muslim world, so that millions of Muslims believe in Christ, are so massive that mighty, prevailing prayer by all of us is called for. "The spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" have to be defeated. This is why God's power must be known daily in our lives and in our praying, so that the victory may be won. Let us pray and believe in God's grace, holiness, and infinite power, so that His resurrection power may be demonstrated in each of us, in our close walk with God, and in God-glorifying mighty answers to our prayers.