It is essential that the believer understand the workings of the powers of darkness for effective prayer against them. Without knowledge they may be actively at work all around him, and he be unable to stop them by prayer BECAUSE HE IS UNCONSCIOUS OF THEIR PRESENCE, OR WHAT THEY ARE DOING. That this is true can be seen by the way the devil is working among God's people notwithstanding much prayer. They are not able to defeat him by prayer against his works, because they are unable to recognize them.
In the war upon the powers of darkness, prayer is the primary and mightiest weapon, both in (1) aggressive war upon them and their works; (2) in the deliverance of men from their power, and (3) against them as an hierarchy of powers opposed to Christ and His Church; for the believer should pray against them, not only for himself, but for the whole Church (Ephes. 6: 18), and for the whole world, which in due time will be absolutely freed from their presence and power.note 10
There is a systematic warfare of prayer possible against the kingdom of darkness, which would mean co-operation with the Spirit of God in the liberation of the Church, and hasten the ultimate binding of the great serpent, and casting him down to the pit. (Rev. 20: 1-3). A material "chain" could not bind a supernatural being, and it may be that "the great strong angel" typifies the mystical "Christ"; consisting of the Head and members--the "Man-Child" caught up to the Throne--when the members will have been liberated from the power of the enemy, and then commissioned to lay hold of the Deceiver to cast him into the abyss, and shut him up for the thousand years.
How much prayer has to do with the setting in motion the hosts of light against the hosts of evil we do not fully know. There are many passages in the Scriptures which show that the unfallen angels have a ministration of warnote 11 for the saints on earth, which the latter have but faintly realized. In the Old Testament the heavenly company is shown round about Elisha as in battle array; and in the New Testament, in Revelation 12, Michael and his angels are seen warring against the Dragon and his angels, the Church on earth sharing in this war. The united forces of the angelic hosts, and the Church on earth, are manifestly joined against the Satanic hosts: the latter "fighting" by the "word of testimony" and faith in the precious Blood, not only as single individuals, but as an united company--"They overcame him . ."- -recognizing their union against a common foe.
The angels' ministration of war against the powers of darkness on behalf of the saints on earth, is strikingly revealed in Daniel 10, where Michael, the archangel, resists the interference of the Satanic "prince of Persia" and "prince of Grecia" with God's messenger, charged with an interview with Daniel. In the same way they fight against Satan and his angels as shown in Rev. 12. The Lord referred also to the "legion of angels" which He could call to His aid, to protect and deliver Him in the hour and the power of darkness (Matt. 26: 53), but He elected to fight the battle through alone, accepting no heavenly succour but that of the angel sent to strengthen Him in Gethsemane.
If a systematic warfare of prayer against the forces of darkness is possible to the believer, whereby God could hasten the deliverance of the Church of Christ, in preparation for the Lord's appearing, and its future destiny; such a warfare by prayer needs to be learnt as much as any other subject of knowledge in the world of men.
If we liken the war by prayer, systematically carried out against the forces of darkness, to a war in the natural sphere, those who would lead must be willing to be trained, and to take the same learner's attitude as a recruit in the natural sphere. Such believers need not only to understand the intelligent use of the weapon of prayer, but to obtain knowledge of the organized hosts of darkness, and how to exercise their spiritual vision so that "by reason of use" it becomes acute in discerning the operations of the enemy in the spiritual sphere. The believer must learn to observe, and learn by observation their methods in the war against the people of God.
The Church of God now needs "leaders" trained in the knowledge of the world- campaigns of the enemy; believers able to foresee his "wiles," and to guide the rank and file of the Church into the aggressive war against him. Leaders skilled in the knowledge of the armour, and the weapons of warfare provided in the Word of God, so as to detect any weak places in their use, especially in prayer as an intelligent, systematic, aggressive COUNTER-CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE STRATEGIC METHODS OF THE HIERARCHY OF SATAN, against the Church.
The believer who makes war upon Satan, must learn both the defensive and the aggressive sides of the warfare; for to take the aggressive against such a wily foe, without fully understanding how to maintain the defensive position, means that the enemy soon ends the aggressive prayer warfare, by such attacks upon the undefended places in his life or environment, as will quickly compel him to draw back in defense of his own position. For instance, the believer makes war upon the foe and presses out into the open with a bold testimony to the way the weapon of prayer drew some stronghold to the ground, but it is not long before the testimony is challenged by some onslaught upon his inner circle, or upon himself, and the eager warrior finds he has failed to guard by prayer his own domain.
The importance of the defensive aspect of the warfare against the powers of darkness, and of the standing power of the believer being made immoveable, is shown in Ephes 6, where seven verses are given to describe the armour and the defensive position, with one verse only embodying the aggressive war by prayer.note 12
The prayer-warrior fully armed must be alert in the defensive position, ready to stand against all the wiles of the devil,note 13 or the hosts of wicked spirits, whether they come as "powers," or with darkness, or in a rush of numbers upon him. He must know how to withstand in the "evil day" (5: 13) of the Satanic onslaughts, and "having overcome all" (A.V., m.), how to stand in the hour of victory, by discerning all their new attacks upon him in a change of tactics suited to the moment of triumph.note 14
To maintain his defensive position the believer needs to know what evil spirits can cause to be done to him, and about him, and be especially on guard lest he yields to their workings, thinking he is submitting to God. He must know that lying spirits can "burden" other Christians about him; give visions to them, and misinterpret things about him; cause these "burdened" ones to write about him to others, and suggest thoughts to others to his detriment;note 15 in brief, use every possible device to move him from his position of victory over them in his own personal life and environment. The greater his position of triumph--"having overcome them all" (Ephes. 6: 13, m.)--the keener the new schemes of the wily foe to dislodge the victorious one from his armour-encased position. If by any of these means they can get him to turn from the aggressive warfare upon them, or be disturbed by the apparent misjudgments of others, or beguiled into looking upon these things as a "cross" he must bear, he will have failed to discern the tactics of the wily foe.
But when the believer knows what evil spirits can do to him, and about him, he can distinguish their workings through others, and, standing steadily in his defensed position, he protects himself by aggressive warfare upon them as they work in these special ways, and does not settle down to accept all these things as "the will of God," but sets himself to extinguish them by a systematic and persistent counter-campaign of prayer.
In the war upon the powers of darkness, prayer can be persistently and specifically directed against the works of the devil, as the believer moves about in his ordinary avocations, and sees their doings. It can be brief and ejaculatory, but it is effectual. It need only be "Lord, destroy that work of the devil!" or "May God open the eyes of that man to the deceptions of Satan around him!"
There is also prayer for others, directed specifically against evil spirits in them; but this first needs knowledge to discern the symptoms of their presence, and ability to distinguish between the man himself and the evil spirit or spirits. Any uncertainty here will weaken the force of prayer. If the prayer- warrior has a doubt about the source of certain characteristics in another, which cause the man to act as if he were two persons,note 16 one contradictory to the other, and one manifestly not his true character, he can pray that any evil spirit present may be exposed, so that the man himself will recognize it, or that the prayer-warrior may be sure of the source of certain things, that he may direct prayer upon the right cause.
One special mark of an evil spirit's presence in, or with, or operating upon, or through another, in every degree of possession, however slight, is antagonism to all truth in connection with the powers of darkness, especially that about evil spirits; the antagonism being unreasonable and unreasoning. For a man who is untouched by them, can calmly open his mind to knowledge about them, as easily as about the things of God. There is also resistance in such believers, in mind or spirit, to other aspects of truth; whether it be Scriptural truth as applied to themselves personally; or truth concerning facts in their spiritual experience, or about themselves or their actions, which the lying spirits do not wish them to know. Just as a special mark of the Presence of the Holy Spirit operating upon, or through another is an OPENNESS TO TRUTH; a desire and even a keen hunger for truth, irrespective of consequences, or feelings of pain.note 17 Believers of all degrees of spiritual life place themselves on the side of the God of Truth when they specifically declare, "I open myself to all truth," and by so doing they enable the Spirit of Truth to do His work.
It is important that the prayer-warrior should discriminate the working of evil spirits in possession of others, as IN, but not OF the person; so as not to be diverted from direct dealing with the enemy by blaming the one in whom they have obtained a footing for their manifestations.
The believer seeking to help another under the possession of evil spirits, must be prepared for the deceiving spirits misusing to the captive one the very truth he himself desires, and needs for his deliverance, as well as misrepresenting to him the one seeking to help him to freedom. Sometimes the truth which is meant to, and does deliver the deceived one in spite of all that appears to the contrary, is used as a whip to beat him, by the lying spirits in possession.note 18 The poor captive has the actual sense of being lashed with rods as real as if the stripes fell on his body, and it appears as if the words of the other giving him the light he needs, and which he himself desires to have spoken to him, are as rods beating him. But if the deceived believer refuses to be moved by the pain of the lashing, lays hold of the truth told him, and at once TURNS IT INTO PRAYER and fight against the enemy, he grasps the weapon of victory. For example, if a man is told "the enemy is now deceiving you," and he at once replies "It is against my will. May God reveal all deceptions from Satan to me, and to the whole Church!" he at once lays hold of a weapon for victory.
All truth imparted to a deceived believer should inspire antagonism to the lying spirits of Satan, instead of causing despair or resistance to the truth, or attempted laboured explanations to prove other causes for such and such a manifestation.note 19 The believer who desires freedom should thankfully receive all light that will expose the enemy, saying, "How can I get the benefit of this as a weapon against the foe?"
But in the stress, and ofttimes confusion, of the dispossessing period,note 20 the deceived and possessed person unwittingly fights against his deliverance by covering and siding with the evil spirits who have deceived him. The will may be set, and declared to be for deliverance, yet when the truth is given, evil spirits manifest their presence in the circumference of the man, or wherever they may be located, by arousing feelings of rebellion against the very truth, or messenger of truth, which the man in his will has chosen to receive. In brief, they bring into play all the resources they have at their disposal. They pour a flood of confusing thoughts into the mind, with suggestions utterly foreign to the desires of the person, and sometimes raging feelings in the body,note 21 as if it were being wrenched with pain, the spine and nerves
appear to be racked with irritation, and the head as if it would burst with pressure--none of this arising from any physical cause. For the time being the messenger with truth for the deliverance of this captive believer, appears to have done far more harm than good to the victim of Satan; but if the truth has been given, and the prayer warrior stands unmoved by the outward storm, quietly resisting by prayer the evil spirits arousing it, sooner or later the captive emerges into freedom, and a greater degree of deliverance, if not full victory.
Prayer against evil spirits in others may have to be accompanied by the inaudible commanding of them to leave the person, or else in casting out the demon, or demons, directly and audibly. There are several conditions for doing this, which need careful and prayerful consideration, ere such a course is taken. The possessed person may first need (1) truth upon his condition, and the ground wherein the evil spirit has found lodgment. This requires knowledge and discernment on the part of the worker, and sometimes very exhaustive dealing with the possessed one; (2) the ground which has been discovered must be given up definitely and specifically by the victim,note 22 or the "casting out" may fail; (3) definite prayer to God for His will to be revealed concerning the whole matter, and how the Spirit of God would have it dealt with, is primarily necessary; (4.) the authority of Christ needs to be specifically taken by the one called upon to deal with the man, and (5) wrestling prayer which reaches "fasting" may be needed if the case is a very difficult one.note 23
The fasting which is of spiritual effect in such a case, means, that the one who is dealing with the possessed person, is brought into such a hand to hand conflict of spirit with the evil spirit, or spirits, in possession, that the sense of any bodily need ceases until the victory is won.
The Lord's wilderness conflict throws light upon this, for it appears that it was not until after Satan had left Him, and the tension of the conflict was over, that His physical needs asserted themselves, and "He hungered" (Matt. 4: 2). True "fasting," therefore, appears to be not so much the result of a believer's choice and determination to fast from food, as the result of some spirit-burden, or conflict, which constrains him to fast because of the dominance of the spirit over his body, and no sense of physical need at all. But when the conflict is over and the spirit disengaged, the requirements of the body make themselves felt once more.