“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher
Are You Under Attack
Without Realizing It?
Prayers for Spiritual Warfare
The concept of spiritual warfare makes some people uncomfortable. Some believe there’s no such thing as spiritual warfare so they don’t want to discuss it at all. Others, convinced of its reality, are obsessed with its apparent power over every aspect of our lives. They, too, are reluctant to discuss the topic for different reasons: fear of ridicule, fear of retaliation by those evil forces, fear of drawing too much attention to the topic, thereby giving it even more power.
The predominant view in our modern, western world—naturalistic, rationalistic, scientific—dismisses the concepts of spiritual warfare, Satan, demons, evil spirits, and the like. Surprisingly, that viewpoint is shared by some Christians as well.
There are those Christians who believe demons may have been active during Biblical times, but they’re no longer active in the modern world. Others say what was called demonic activity back then was really what we know now as mental illness. Some who actually allow for demonic activity insist it’s only involved in extreme cases: excessive violence and brutality or major sin. And we’ve heard it said more than once that Christians—saved and sanctified by Jesus—can’t be affected by demonic activity.
Here’s our take on the issue:
If you believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, then you must believe in the Bible. If you believe in the Bible, then you must believe in angels. And if you believe in angels, then you must believe in fallen angels—Satan and others. They are mentioned in the Bible as real, not metaphors. And as much as we dislike an either-or approach to things, as much as we dislike driving black-and-white stakes into the ground, sometimes it’s necessary. There can be no middle ground on this: it’s either all true or it’s not. You either have God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, angels, and demons…or you have none of it.
There is a danger of going overboard, to be sure. But some people, fearful of going overboard, wind up missing the boat.
It’s one thing to be aware of the spiritual warfare that is present in our lives, in the world, and in the universe. It’s quite another to give the enemy in that battle more power than he possesses. Satan is a defeated foe. Much of his power can come, ironically enough, from us. We can grant him far more power than he actually has.
And as far as Christians being immune to demonic influence, we need only go to the Bible. Here’s the progression: First, Christ’s position in the heavenly realms is at God’s right hand and he has all things in this world under his authority. (Ephesians 1:20-22) Second, we Christians are now seated with and united with Christ. (Ephesians 2:6) Third, we are given instructions for fighting evil spirits. (Ephesians 6:10-18) We’re warned to be alert and to resist the devil. (1Peter 5:8-9) These passages are written for believers, fellow Christians. The enemy has little reason to attack those who oppose the church, either actively or through unbelief. It’s God’s work in restoring us to Him that Satan opposes.
So although Satan is a defeated foe and has no ultimate power over us, he can still be active in our lives. Today. In the modern world. His strategy is straightforward and has three primary phases.
> The first phase is simply “I’m not here.” If we deny his existence, there is no need for him to do anything else. Needless to say, the vast majority of the culture around us reinforces this message and the strategy can be effective, particularly among Christians who refuse to accept the reality of spiritual warfare.
> If Satan fails to convince you he doesn’t exist, he moves to the second phase of his strategy: coercion. This is where the father of lies, the great deceiver, can be at his best. Remember, the biggest lie is that he has more power than he really does.
He will take the emotional wounds we all carry and plant the seeds of lies and distortions in the fertile soil of our wounds. In the absence of God’s truth, those seeds take root and grow, spawning more lies, more distortions, more seeds. It’s the vicious cycle of cancerous evil. Cancer cells in our body mimic healthy cells, drawing the very life out of the body. Satan’s deceptions often mimic Biblical truths, truths we’re either unaware of or don’t fully understand or accept. An example would be how wicked our hearts really are—based on a single verse from the Bible completely out of context and ignoring the redemptive work of Jesus. (Jeremiah 17:9) So the lies and distortions seem to make sense, even as they’re drawing the life out of the body.
The coercion could take the form of harassment, like a fly buzzing around your head. For instance, you suffered an emotional wound as a child for being late too often to suit your parents. Now, when people are late--or they “make” you late—Satan is whispering lies in your ear and you react far too harshly for the situation.
The coercion could be stronger, like oppression, where a fog seems to set in and you can’t see or think clearly. You find yourself on a pornographic web site, not sure how you wound up there. But you can’t seem to leave. Thoughts seem to come crashing in from all directions. Our life, or at least some aspects of our life, seem to fall apart. If the oppression is strong enough and continues, we may withdraw and isolate ourselves. Satan, of course, encourages Christians to separate from community, so he throws in sufficient quantities of shame and guilt to keep us away from the very people who could help us.
Experience enough oppression and you may become afflicted. Emotional and physical issues grow worse until they begin to affect the way we live. Conventional medicine and/or therapy often have little effect or the relief from symptoms is not permanent. Migraine headaches, depression and dizzy spells are often signs of affliction, for example.
The strongest and most intense level of Satan’s coercion is bondage. In most cases, bondage is only present in one area of a person’s life, but in that one area they are truly living as a slave to whatever it is that has control over them. Pornography, greed, brutality, anger, food, lying, alcohol, drugs…the list is long. Total bondage—complete “possession”—is rare. But it can occur, just as it did when the Bible was written.
> There is a third phase to Satan’s strategy, used if denial isn’t present and coercion is resisted and perhaps neutralized, but not completely overcome. Satan plants the seed of complacency.
This strategy may make more sense if we borrow a word picture from Neil Anderson. He likens our lives to houses where spills have not been cleaned up and the garbage hasn’t been taken out for weeks. The natural tendency would be to clear out the flies. But even if you’re successful at getting rid of the flies, all that garbage will attract more flies. Perhaps even more than before. The solution is to get rid of the garbage. Allow Jesus to clear out the garbage—heal your wounds—and the flies—evil spirits—will have nothing to feed on and leave.
In his strategy of complacency, Satan watches as you clear your house of garbage and flies…except for one room. It’s more than likely a hidden room, one your family and friends know nothing about. Perhaps you’ve even tried to pretend it doesn’t exist. Satan allows you your little game, not standing in the way of blessings flowing into your life: financial security, a loving family, a rewarding career. But you have this hidden room. And you know you can’t hide it from God. So you take a page out of Adam’s book. You stop seeking God. Stop communing with God. Stop depending on God. Then, out of nowhere, the door of the hidden room flings open, freeing thousands upon thousands of flies who have been breeding and waiting for just this moment.
Think it doesn’t happen? Consider prominent Christian leaders, corporate executives, or politicians whose lives and careers have been ruined when they fell in disgrace from one sin or another. Rest assured, that fall wasn’t part of the plan when they began their career. They believed the lie that they could “get away with it,” and when they seemed to be doing just that, they grew complacent. There’s nothing like a high profile example to help with denial and coercion of the rest of us.
Complacency doesn’t have to be the headline-making fall of a prominent person. The rest of us can be vulnerable to similar promptings. ‘I’ve done enough around the church or in my ministry; let others pick up the slack.’ Or ‘I’ve already read so many books about God, I sure don’t need to read another one.’ Or ‘The Bible? Read it. Twice all the way through. Thanks.’ Or one of our favorites, ‘I’ve managed to do a pretty good job with my life and I thank God I was able to.’
Rest assured, behind every act of greed and avarice, injustice and oppression, destruction and brutality, behind every evil you can imagine are evil spiritual forces. Dark spiritual forces we must face and battle. None of us are immune.
That doesn’t mean we live in fear. Remember, Satan is a defeated foe. Jesus was granted all power and authority and as his followers, we can ask him to exercise that authority and power on our behalf. But even though Satan’s defeated, that doesn’t mean he’s inactive. We must put on the “armor” (Ephesians 6:13-18) and fight on behalf of the kingdom of God. As Neil Anderson so aptly puts it, it’s not our job to defeat the devil. Jesus has already done that. Nor are we to dispel the darkness. We are called to turn on the light. That’s what prayer for spiritual warfare is all about.
Let’s make one thing clear right from the start. Prayers for spiritual warfare are not said just once, then we wipe our hands across the brow and say “Whew! I’m glad THAT’S over with.” Yes, Satan is a defeated foe. But like those pockets of isolated Japanese soldiers on remote islands in the Pacific at the end of World War II, Satan and his demons fight on, oblivious to or in denial of God’s ultimate victory. These prayers will be a continuing part of your Christian life here on earth.
Effective prayer for spiritual warfare starts with prayer in general. You should begin from the baseline of an active prayer life. It’s especially important to draw on your close relationship with God when engaged in spiritual warfare. And a prayer life filled with regular prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, supplication, and meditation are what nurtures and grows that close relationship.
Do not pray from a position of fear. Understand and take to heart the truth that you have eternal life with Jesus. He is your strength. With him, there is nothing to fear.
Usually we address prayers for spiritual warfare to God and not to the evil spirits. We ask God for protection and deliverance. We thank Him for our lives in Jesus and for the power of His Truth. This is important because too often people will just try to rebuke the evil spirits without prayer to God. Remember Mark 9:29 where Jesus tells the disciples some spirits cannot just be cast out; prayer and fasting is required. We believe it's just prudent to pray to God for help; He'll decide if we need it. And He'll lead us to fast if necessary. Then we renounce the evil spirits and their effect on our lives, in the authority of and in the power of Jesus. Authority and power he gave us and commissioned us to use. (John 14:12)
There are people who seem especially gifted in the discernment of demons and spiritual warfare. It's almost as if they are anointed by God for direct battle with the enemy. For the rest of us, taking on evil spirits directly can be risky. We're fighting in a realm we don't know much about--the spiritual realm.
God will lead you to confront evil spirits if that's what He deems best. Before you do it on your own, check with God for guidance. Although it became very popular in the '90's to cast out this demon, bind that one, and name the other one, the practice is not scripturally sound. The apostles used direct confrontation in those rare cases of complete demonic possession. Otherwise they prayed to God for His help and deliverance. The archangel Michael, who does have the authority to speak directly to demons, deferred to God when addressing Satan: "But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, 'The LORD rebuke you!'" (Jude 1:9)
And now for some details.
There is no specific Biblical instruction, but the generally accepted practice when praying against evil spirits is to pray out loud. Neither demons nor Satan himself can read our minds like God can. Sometimes it seems as if they can, but that’s only from their experience in observing human behavior. Someone once asked if they could read what we wrote down. We don’t know for sure; we assume they can. But pray out loud so there’s no mistake about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.
Also, you have probably seen, heard, and read a lot of 'Satan this' and 'Satan that.' We even seem to ascribe a lot to Satan on this web site. Just keep in mind: Satan is not God. He's not omniscient, omnipowerful, or omnipresent. Thus, he relies on his host of demons and evil spirits to help him in his work. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but it’s probably not Satan himself taking the time to harass you. His entire hierarchy of evil spirits are organized like an army, with different ranks and powers and assigned duties. So feel free to mention Satan in your prayers, but be sure to include “any and all evil spirits” as well. You can also address the specific issue you’re battling by name: lust, fear, anger, depression.
As with other types of prayer, don’t get hung up on using exact words. Some people pray to “bind” Satan and other evil spirits. While that use of the word isn’t exactly what was meant in the Bible, we prefer to rely on God to do what He thinks best in any particular circumstance. What we don't want to do is take it upon ourselves to try to do the binding. That is the work of God and His angels.
“Binding,” usually paired with “loosing,” refers to forbidding (binding) or allowing (loosing) certain things like fasting, dietary guidelines, burial practices, worship, etc. Rabbis of the time, as well as Jesus, used bindings and loosings as precepts of their interpretation of the Bible and what was intended by God as a way for us to live—their “yoke.” (…my yoke is easy to bear…” Matthew 11:30)
Truth is our most effective weapon in prayer against Satan. Jesus stood on the Truth when he was confronted in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We should do the same. Find Bible verses that are particularly meaningful to you. The Holy Spirit can help. Either memorize them or write them on index cards. Repeat them often. And use them when praying against spiritual warfare.
Some examples of Biblical Truths and corresponding verses would be:
- Jesus is our Lord and Savior and he’s triumphed over Satan. (John 1:1,14 & Colossians 2:15)
- I am a child of God, seated with Christ in the heavenlies. (Ephesians 2:6-9 & 1John 3:1-3)
- The Truth will set me free and Jesus is the Truth. (John 8:32,36 & John 14:6)
Biblical Truths shine light into the darkness of spiritual warfare.
God has promised to help. But sometimes that help isn’t immediately forthcoming. There are two possible explanations. One can be that help was sent but delayed. Read Daniel 10. Remember, we exist in a battle zone. Another possible explanation could be that God is standing to one side, watching, allowing the fight we’re in to strengthen us. He promised to be here when we need Him, not when we think we need Him.
To summarize prayers for spiritual warfare then:
1. Acknowledge God’s sovereignty and kingdom.
2. Position yourself as being in Christ, seated in the heavenlies.
3. Ask God for help, asking for angels if He thinks its necessary.
4. With the authority of Jesus, renounce demonic influences and activities and their effects in your life.
5. Ask the Holy Spirit to seal the progress you’ve made to prevent the return of these particular evil spirits.
6. Thank God for His victory over death and for deliverance from spiritual bondage—those are gifts only God can give.
As an example, look at the Prayer for Spiritual Warfare in our section on Specific Prayers.
You may need to pray against the same sort of attack more than once. There are many demons operating at many levels. Send some away, and others may return to take their place. Remember the garbage and the flies. Be sure to pray against the flies, but also work to remove the garbage—healing wounds, renouncing sin in your life, etc.
Spiritual warfare is a fact of Christian life. Satan has been defeated, but he and his minions are not yet inactive. Two of our most powerful weapons against Satan’s attacks are the Bible—the Word of God—and prayer. Use them both, regularly, often, and with the passion of someone who’s been given the greatest gift imaginable. God defeated the enemy and sealed his doom with the work Jesus did on the cross. We share in that triumph.