Read Ephesians 6: 10-20
I recently had the joy to meet Lydia, a 41 year old woman. I met her during the week of outreach at my church. A friend of hers had brought her to a concert in the beginning of the week, she had raised her hand to make a decision for Christ, and afterwards she had come back every night. She was thirsty for truth. During the week we befriended and had a few meaningful talks.
A week after the end of our outreach, a friend of mine and I decided to pay her a visit to see how she was doing. After just a couple minutes of talking, it was obvious to us that she wasn’t saved yet. And so we started explaining to her the Gospel message again from the beginning. And this is what she told us: “I want to believe, but I can’t. It is too difficult.” And so we went on to talk about faith and various passages in the Bible, and then the word “battle” was mentioned at one point, and she suddenly jumped on her feet and exclaimed: “Yes! A battle! That is exactly how I feel! There is a battle within me!” My friend and I looked at each other then ask her if she had dealt with the occult, and she answered yes. She told us that 22 years ago, she had done some stuff with one of her friend and that friend and told her this: “Lydia, you are going to have company.” So we took her to different passages of Scriptures again, this time dealing with occultism, and at the end, we started praying for her. (pause).
After about a minute into the prayer, we started hearing a laughter. Lydia was laughing. But it wasn’t a normal laugh. It was loud, very loud, and it sounded almost like a male’s voice. And all the sudden the room got filled with a terrible oppression and a sense of darkness surrounding us completely, just as if a murder were happening in front of us. Without thinking, I started to pray loudly with my friend in the name of Christ. The laughter continued for several minutes, as my friend and I were praying. And then it stopped. Lydia had been freed.
We live on a battlefield. And we are fighting against Satan and his legions. This is a reality. It might not always be as obvious as with Lydia, it might not be as obvious in the US as it is in other countries, but let me ask you a question: “If this is our battlefield, do you think that the US are free from demonic influence? What about The Master’s College?
This summer, about a third of the converts in our church had spiritual bondages with the occult which needed to be broken. I can tell you the stories of Lydia, Laeticia, Daniel, Véronique, Christophe. During our outreach, human sacrifices were happening in our city. Now, is it possible that there are more demons in France that there are in America? Maybe yes, maybe no.
You know, Satan is known as the father of lies, and sometimes I wonder how much influence Satan must have on a culture to make its people believe that they barely have to deal with him. The Bible is clear that we live on a battlefield where we must fight against evil spiritual forces and authorities. That is plain truth. It is our state. Now, how much influence do you think would be needed to deceive almost an entire culture in thinking that it is possible to live a Christianity of peace?
There are lies in every culture. There is no doubt about that. And when we believe in these cultural lies we are weakened. But let me tell you this: one of the worse lie we can believe in is this one: that we are not at war. Because when we believe this, we are not fighting anymore. America has been going down hill at an incredibly fast rate. And I believe it is because most people have believed that there is no war going on and have lived their Christianity as if they were in times of peace. Satan’s influence on this country is huge.
Often when we think about spiritual warfare we think about the possessed people from the times of Jesus and maybe a few remote places in Africa or Asia where stories like that are more common. But that really isn’t the main work of the demonic forces. Spiritual warfare is not mainly about exorcism. That is only a speckle on it. But it reflects the true nature of what Satan and his legions are trying to do: influence people. When people give in enough, that influence can become overpowering. But in most cases, it is very subtle.
In fact, Satan greatest technique is not so much to make us acknowledge him and worship him, but really to make us not worship God. Because the truth is that when we are not bowing down to God, that is when Satan is king, that is when he is worshiped.
Think about Jesus’ rebuke of Peter:
Mat 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, « Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. »
Sin does not come from Satan, it comes from within ourselves
Jas 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Jas 1:15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Satan and his demons have in cut out to their advantage, in that they are working with sinners that produce death from within. And so all they have to do is make us believe that indulging in the flesh is ok.
But that’s when it gets more complicated. See, after a few thousand of years, demons, who are not dumb, become pretty crafty will all of these things. In fact, they are so efficient in shaping worldviews that enable people to live in the flesh that they are called teachers:
1Ti 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
The demons are teachers. And they are pretty good at it. They know how to communicate through our own fleshly desires.
So… with that in mind….Are you fighting? If so, how do you fight?
In the passage we read, Paul was talking about the armor of the believer. The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the Gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit. Pretty neat stuff. But how do you use all of this? Being equipped for the fight doesn’t necessarily make you a fighter. How do you fight? Through prayer. This is what we see in verses 18 to20. The only way we can fight is through prayer.
And this is the topic of my sermon this morning: When Kneeling is Standing.
And this is what I want you guys to remember when you leave: “Spiritual warfare can only be won through prayer.”
Piper wrote in one of his books: “We do not pray because we do not know that we are at war.” In verse 13 Paul wrote: “Take up the whole armor of God.” This is very important to notice. It is not our own. It is God’s. And the only way to access it is through our relationship with Him which happens through prayer. God is on our side, but let me tell you this: unless we fight through prayer, nothing will happen.
Keep a finger in Ephesians and turn with me in Revelation 19:7-8: “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure »– for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”
This is the fulfillment of history, when the world created for Christ has been made ready for him and is finally given to him. But doesn’t it strike you; that the purity of the bride comes not from God making her pure but by the righteous deeds of the saints? Here is the point: God uses us. That’s how he chose to do it. God acts when we act. And it always starts with prayer.
You wonder why we are so easily convicted by God’s Spirit when we hear sermons on prayer? It is because it is a subject that is very important for God. Everyone here knows that he should be praying more. But the reason why we do not pray more is because we do not realize that if are at war and we must fight.
Now, praying for victory also means to pray in specific ways, and this is why we will see in verses 18-20 through six aspects of prayer.
I. Pray at all Times
The first of the six aspects is this one: Pray at all times. In fact, the Greek states: “pray through everything.” It does not mean that we must do nothing else but pray, but that we must be on prayer mode all the time. It means that we should do nothing without praying.
When the US entered World War II, every single aspect of the economy began to revolve around the war. Food and other resources were rationed, women started to work in factories to produce more weapons, rich people were asked to donate; time, energy and money were all redeemed to the maximum. Nothing was being wasted.
We should approach our prayer life the same way. Prayer is more than something that can be put on a schedule. Prayer is an attitude. We should always look for opportunities to pray. Before we work, before we
pray for our teachers, before chapel, pray for chapel band, for the speaker, and as he speaks, we should continue to pray for him that his words would touch people. When we walk through campus, we should be praying for the people that walk by. Before we do homework, we should pray that it would glorify God. Prayer is not only for big decisions. Our lives should be filled with prayer. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is to be in a constant relationship with God, having Him on our minds at all times, praying to him through everything.
Just picture one of the battle scenes in Brave Heart; Mel Gibson is killing all these bad Englishmen, and then all the sudden he stops, peaks a banana, eats it, then comes back to the fight. That would be a lame movie! We can’t stop fighting. It’s like putting a rope around our neck and waiting to get killed.
II. Pray in the Spirit
So first, we must pray at all times. Secondly, we must pray in the Spirit; which basically means to pray the right way. Praying in the Spirit is to pray with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. It means to pray in the right communion with God and in the right language. It means to pray according to the will of God. Now, what is the will of God? Paul write in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 “This is the will of God: your sanctification.” And this is what the Bible is about as Jesus prayed in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by the truth. Your word is the truth.”
The focus of our prayers should be our sanctification and the sanctification of others. It is the will of God for his Church, a bride that is ready and sanctified. And this is what we see in the Lord’s prayer:
« Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” How can God’s name be hollowed? By sanctified people who live for His gory.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” What will happen during God’s reign? People will be sanctified. What is his will? We just saw it, our sanctification. The prayer goes on and talks about repentance and abstinence from sin; which are also part of the process of sanctification.
It is the same with Paul’s prayers. Just look at the prayers in Colossians, Philippians and Ephesians. He is always asking God to sanctify the people, opening the eyes of their hearts, filling them with knowledge, wisdom and understanding, that they may comprehend God’s love, and the hope and the power in the calling, that they may become blameless.
The main focus of our prayers should be our sanctification and the sanctification of others. It is the most important thing on this earth; and it is so because it echoes into eternity. It is right to pray for health and provision and other similar things, but even these prayers should be tainted by pleads for sanctification. We should always be praying, and as much as possible our prayers should be aimed towards sanctification. This is what we are fighting for. We’re fighting to see more of God, and this happens when people grow in sanctification and thus reflect more of his image.
We’re fighting for truth, for righteousness, for the Gospel, for salvation, for faith, for the Word of God. We’re fighting for victory in all these areas. It happens through sanctification.
III. Pray with humility
First we must pray at all times. Secondly, we must pray in the Spirit. Thirdly, we must pray with humility. Paul mentions here that we must pray with supplication, begging God for help. And that’s the heart of prayer. Prayer is nothing more than coming to God and to say: “God! I can’t do it! You do it.” It is to acknowledge our dependence to God, our reliance on Him and Him alone. It is not about us. That’s why Paul writes in verses 10-11: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God”
When we pray with humility, we end up with God working in our place. Now, listen. When God created man he created him to be dependant. After creating the animals, he just sent them off to go make babies. But man, he gave him instructions on how to do things. And the reason why God made man dependant on him was so that man could reflect the fullness of God and not only parts of it.
We were created to be dependant on God. We need God. And we need him for everything. We’re all familiar with Psalm 23, right? Neat Psalm, isn’t? Well…have you ever tried to play chess with a sheep? Sheep are pretty much the opposite of intelligence.
I was talking to Kent Haney the other day, and he used to work on a ranch where they had sheep. He was telling me that at one point he had put an electric fence and was looking at how the sheep would react. By curiosity, some of them would go to the fence and get an electric charge. They would jump back, shake their heads and then go back to it again. And again, and again, and again, until someone would stop them. He also had a little lake where they would go drink. The danger with sheep is that because of their thick wool, when they fall in the water, they sink. But the problem was not that some of them would fall, but that they would deliberately jump into the water, sometimes just after being rescued from it.
Without a shepherd, sheep do not survive very long. If the shepherd does not take care of the pastures, they will eat poisoned plants and die. They get all sorts of illnesses that need attention. They have no way of defending themselves against the danger of predators. A couple months ago, I heard that 300 sheep jumped from a cliff because they were afraid of a dog.
David knew what sheep were about. He was a shepherd. He knew their need of a shepherd. He knew they couldn’t do it by themselves. Guys, it is the same with us. We need God. We can’t do anything without him. Not only we’re dependant, but we’re even depraved. And without God we are as depraved today as we were before our conversion. Don’t try to fight with your own strength. Humble yourself before God. We won’t go far in the battle with our sheep-like brains. We’re fighting against authorities, against powers that are nasty and evil. We need God’s power. We are sheep among wolves. We must run to God at all times.
IV. Pray with perseverance
First, we must pray at all times. Secondly, pray in the Spirit. Thirdly, pray with humility, fourthly, pray with perseverance. One of my favorite exemple of this is George Muller. If you haven’t read his biography, I highly recommend it. This man was a man of God, a man of faith. He took care of thousands of orphans in Bristol, England, year after year, never asking anyone else but God to provide. Two of his good friends were not believers. He prayed daily for their salvation for decades. One got saved shortly before his death, one shortly after.
We must persevere in prayer. We can’t give up. Whatever names are on your prayer list, don’t give up on them. If you don’t pray for them, who will?
It is never easy to win a battle. One must fight to the end. Hard times will come, but we must strive.
This summer, a group of Canadians came to help us, but before they went to two other cities. In the first one, a week before they arrived, the pastor was diagnosed with cancer with two other members. In the other city, the pastor had a heart attack while they were there. Just before they got to our city our two cars broke down and my mother almost died. It was at the beach. A wave took her away and it took 6 of us to bring her back. She were swimming against the current and almost didn’t make it back. When we got back we learned that a man had died at the exact same spot just two hours before.
Key people were attacked. My mom was one of them: she had fasted for over 10 days prior to our outreach. She had walked in all the streets of our 20 000 people neighborhood to pray for each single building, shop and business. And not only she had been praying, but she had also lead people into praying and fasting, organizing a 21 days fasting with the church and various prayer meetings.
If we persevere in the fight, we will see opposition. Satan will fight back. But we cannot give up.
V. Pray for all the saints
We must pray at all times, pray in the Spirit, pray with humility, pray with perseverance, and fifthly, pray for others; “making supplications for all the saints.” Personally, I think this is where we fail the most. We can very easily pray for ourselves, but how much do we pray for others? I’m sure all of us pray during the preparation of our sermons. But how much do we pray for each other? Too often we are like an army of soldiers who go together to war but we fight independently without caring for each other. This is sad.
Personally, I think that individualism is one of Satan’s most powerful deceptions in America. We have learned to be so self-centered that there is no army left. Just a bunch of Rambos who think they can do it by themselves. What kind of army is this? None of us present in this room would probably be saved if people hadn’t been praying for us.
It makes a huge difference when we pray for ourselves, doesn’t it? Do you realize that when we pray for others it makes the same difference in their lives too? Our prayers have a huge effect on people. They do. Be faithful to a prayer list and you will be amazed on how much change will happen in people throughout the years. And the beautiful thing with prayer is that when you pray for people, you will start to love them too; because you learn to ask for them what God wants for them, and you start to look at them the way God sees them.
One of the biggest lies that Satan has deceived us with is to make us believe that we have a selfish God. We don’t. It’s true that God does everything for his glory, but he still does it selflessly. When the Father creates the world, he does it for the Son and through the Son. When the Son comes on earth, he lives for the glory of the Father and through the power of the Father. And the Holy Spirit is always involved.
We picture ourselves in heaven serving God for eternity, but the truth is that God is always the first one to serve, to give, to share, to love and to seek our good. God is selfless. He revealed himself as a servant though Christ; and he is not different in heaven. We also must learn to be selfless, to stop focusing so much on ourselves. Love does not seek its own.
When is the last time you watched a movie thinking of others? Do you know that the only two references to entertainment in the Bible are the Golden Calf and Samson dancing for the Philistines?
We are in a fight, people are dying without Christ all the time and going to hell, our brothers and sisters throughout the world are always in need of prayer; what kind of soldiers are we, to forget about the rest of the army? I’m not saying that watching movies is wrong; as long as it is selfless.
VI. Ask for Prayer
We must pray at all times, pray in the Spirit, pray with humility, pray with perseverance, pray for all the saints, and finally we must ask for prayer on our behalf. We must ask for prayer. Paul writes:
[pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
If you want a ministry blessed with the power of God, you must ask people to pray for you as much as possible. Nothing happens without prayer. It just doesn’t. Prayer is what makes the difference in this world. Let me be honest with you. If you don’t have people praying for your ministry, your ministry is going to be very limited. If you go fight by your own away from the rest of the army, you are going to get killed. Fight with your brothers, and make sure they get your back.
We live on a spiritual battlefield, and the only way we can fight is through prayer. We must pray at all times, in the Spirit, with humility, with perseverance, for all the saints, and we must ask for prayer on our behalf.
Last time I quoted a French pastor. This pastor was a very gifted preacher, probably one of the last great preachers in France. He bore a lot of fruit. But this is what he said on his deathbed: “I wish I had prayed more.” At the end of it all, he knew that what had limited his ministry was is prayer life. If there was one thing he could have changed, it would have been to pray more. The more prayer, the greater the victory.
Spiritual warfare can only be won through prayer.
Don’t wait till the end to begin to be men of God, to be men of prayer. If you want something to happen, of you want to see victory in your life, practice these things.
Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”