Prayer as Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual-Warfare I know many who read this blog are pacifists. Others are not. However, when it comes to matters of the Spirit, there is no room for pacifism. We are at war with the principalities and powers of this present darkness.

I attended a prayer gathering with a few dozen ministers in Southern California Churches of Christ yesterday. There were prayers of praise, supplication, and a plea for unity around the greater Cause of the Kingdom. For various reasons, ministers within Churches of Christ have struggled to unify and work together on an ongoing basis. This is to our detriment, and that of the Kingdom.  I was so glad to be there. Both NVC and I need all the prayers we can get. I know the same is true for my Brothers and Sisters that were there yesterday.

One of the themes of every church-planting book I have read is that intense spiritual warfare is par for the course. I believe the same applies to ministry in general as well. Unseen opposition to God and His people is often the culprit in the resistance to the advance of the Kingdom. Often, even visible resistance to the Kingdom has it’s origin in the unseen realm. Missionaries talk about it all the time and most have some rather amazing stories regarding spiritual warfare they will share with those they trust.

I know we don’t talk about this whole idea very much. We thus tend to pray rational prayers of intercession and stay focused on what we can do rather that what we can’t see. There isn’t anything wrong with this, per say. It’s just that if in fact we have the full armor of God at our disposal with which to do battle against the principalities and the powers, why don’t we use it more often? Perhaps it’s that we don’t believe in the unseen realm. Perhaps we believe “evil” is simply the outcome of bad deeds. It’s more than that. It seems to me it’s more right to say that evil produces bad deeds…not that “bad deeds” are evil (though one could argue both). To pray, “deliver us from evil,” isn’t just to say, “help me not to do anything too bad.” It’s to ask God himself for deliverance from that which causes us to act in ways displeasing to God and harmful to on another. Prayer is one context in which that deliverance begins.

Prayer is too often used as a “Prevent Defense” against the Evil One, rather than an opportunity to communicate with God or a weapon given to us as part of God’s full armor. Among many things, prayer:

  • Calls on God to act, cleanse, forgive, and provide.
  • Worships the Lord by acknowledging His Lordship and praising Him for who He is and what He has done.
  • Pushes back the darkness by calling on the Light.
  • Cultivates intimacy with God through lament and transparency.
  • Creates a sense of God’s nearness and our dependency on Him.

All of the above wage war on the enemy in their own way.

So, here’s to warfare. Let’s not just use prayer to react to things. Let’s make it a way of life. Prayer is more than spiritual warfare. However, it is certainly spiritual warfare–and I'm glad…for all who prayed at yesterday's gathering and any who would pray today.

Question: Do you believe in "spiritual warfare?" Why do you think churches don't talk about the unseen realm very much?

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Ephesians 6:12


Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Share Your Thoughts

5 thoughts on “Prayer as Spiritual Warfare

  1. I have seen this spiritual battle mostly played out in my dreams. I find that when I have resisted Satan concerning a specific sin – breaking some habit/addiction, I have terrible dreams for a few nights. When I step forward strongly for God, the same can happen.
    I’ve never personally seen the spiritual attacks as others have described … don’t want to either. But there have been “strange coincidences” of bad & good at “not so random” times.
    As I step it up this year in service to those around me, I pray for protection against Satan, his fellow demons, their ability to hinder God’s forward assault on the evil one, and God’s like favor for all those we reach … and yet, I am reminded of the Apostles and brothers in Acts who prayed for more boldness.
    Please pray for all God’s children to unite against the enemies of God, that is the world, desires, and demons.

  2. I think the aversion to what you are talking about, especially among Churches of Christ, has as much to do with our suspicion of the sometimes wild claims of many of the pentecostal churches. It only takes about ten minutes of TBN in general and Benny Hinn in particular for the red flags to go up. I hear some stories of theirs of the modern day work of Satan and my first reaction is often to think, “Yea, right.” It is sad because in most cases we fail to sort out the wild stories of the televangelist with those Christians who have been profoundly impacted by the work of the evil one. We seem to have committed a classic overreact. Speaking on a personal level I often find myself struggling with my very rationalistic upbringing in an ultra conservative church of Christ, and that has been to my detriment. If you can’t see it that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If I believe in the God of the Bible it seems impossible to not believe in the existence of evil so often discussed in the Bible. I remember a long time ago hearing someone make the point that Satan must be powerful if it takes everything (the whole armor of God) that God has to offer in order to stand his fury. By the way, I am a preacher from the Memphis area who has been blessed for some months now with your gift of writing. You have an excellent blog that is consistent in its solid material presented almost daily. Good work.

  3. These are challenging thoughts Tim. “churches don’t talk about the unseen realm” because they do not believe it exists or if it does it is of no consequence today. It is not that they are not serious Christians or students of the bible (though many are “shallow”) but they read it through the lens of Modernism – “what I believe about God is more important than believing God” or post modernism – “belief is powerful but it has nothing to do with reality.”

  4. Great queston, Tim. Yikes, do I ever believe in spiritual warfare. It’s with me all the time. . John Eldridge has a good description of what it is like in his
    book Waking the Dead. Why do I think churches don’t talk about the unseen realm
    very much? I think it is because most fellowship is very shallow among Christians &
    because of that many spend their time trying to look good because we think that
    Christians should look as good as possible. The churches that I have been in that
    are the most aware of the “battle for our souls” are the ones where we are constantly
    confessing our sins, being open, and being called to repentance. That’s where we
    can “see” clearly how much Satan and his forces are at work to destroy and we stay
    alert to fight him with the Word of God and loving accountability. Also, Christians that
    are in the lives of the lost and are striving to make disciples are especially in the
    line of fire. Satan does not like to lose that battle! That’s where it really heats up.