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About this series
What Every Believer Needs to Know About Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare
Beneath our tangible landscape lurks an invisible spiritual realm where unseen battles rage. It's real. And it's dangerous. If you're prepared to remove the blinders and gaze into the unseen world, Chip Ingram is ready to take you there. Hang on to your seat. It's going to be a journey inside the very folds of our Bibles, a journey that will teach us about our greatest foe, Satan, also known as Lucifer, the Dragon, Serpent, and Son of the Morning Star. Although this lying thief comes to "steal, kill, and destroy," God details, in Ephesians 6, the battle plan to uncover Satan's cunning deceptions and to resist his sinister schemes. The cosmic conflict exploding all around us will have eternal implications, for us and those we love. This series will prepare you to do spiritual battle with the enemy of your soul... and win! You'll learn to clothe yourself with God's spiritual armor so you can be confident of certain victory over the scheming enemy.More from this series
I want to read a story. It’s a true story. It comes out of a book that is sort of a devotional little book, but I want you to just listen.
“A missionary was serving as a medic at a small field through a hospital in Africa. Periodically had to travel by bicycle through the jungle to a nearby city for supplies. It was a two-day trip so he had to camp out overnight. He had made the trip several times without incident. One day, however, he arrived at his destination and saw that two men were fighting. One was seriously hurt so he treated him, witnessed to him, and went about his business.
“Upon arriving in the city again several weeks later, he was approached by the man that he had treated. He said, ‘I know you carry money and medicine,’ said the man to the missionary. ‘Some friends and I followed you into the jungle that night after you treated me knowing you would have to camp overnight. We waited for you to go to sleep and we planned to kill you and take your money and the drugs. Just as we started moving into the campsite, we saw that you were surrounded by twenty-six armed guards. There were only six of us and we knew we couldn’t possibly get near you, so we left.’
“Hearing this, the missionary laughed. He said, ‘Well that’s impossible. I assure you I was alone that night in the campsite.’ The young man pressed his point and he says, ‘No, sir. I was not the only one who saw the guards. My friends also saw them, and we all counted them and we were all frightened. It was because of those guards that we left you alone.’
“Several months later, the missionary attended a church and made the presentation in Michigan where he told about his experience in Africa. One of the congregants jumped to his feet, interrupted the missionary, and said something that left everyone in the church absolutely stunned. ‘We were there with you spirit,’ the man said. The missionary looked perplexed. The man continued, ‘On that night in Africa, it was morning here. I stopped by the church to gather some materials for an out-of-town trip to go to another parish, but as I put my bags into the trunk, I felt the Lord leading me to pray for you. The urging was so compelling and so strong, I called the men of the church to gather to pray for you.’ Then the man stood up and turned around and said, ‘Will all of you men who met with me that morning please stand up?’ And one by one, all twenty-six men stood up.”
I would say intercessory prayer is the pivotal and essential aspect for corporate and individual deliverance. Notice how Paul ends verses 18 to 20. “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times” – how? “in the Spirit and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints and pray on my behalf.” And what’s he pray? “That the utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. That is proclaiming it that I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.”
I want you to look at that last paragraph and circle the word all, all prayer, all times, all the saints. And then I want you to underline prayer, petition, alert, perseverance, petition, pray on my behalf, utterance given to me. Is there any doubt that this is talking about a level of prayer that isn’t sort of casually talking to God in the car and hoping some good things happen?
The summary of verses 18 to 20 is the means by which believers are to withstand and overcome the attacks of the enemy in spiritual warfare is by consistent, intense, strategic prayer for one another in conjunction with the personal application of the armor of God.
And so, what I want to do is give you in our time together an overview of: what does consistent, strategic, intentional, and intense prayer look like from this passage? And then a bit later, I want to talk about actual deliverance ministry and at least give an overview of that.
Intercessory prayer is our most powerful and strategic corporate weapon in spiritual warfare. Prayer has a direct impact on spiritual warfare. Mark chapter 9, verses 29, they come down from the Mount of Transfiguration and a man says, “Jesus, help me. Your disciples have tried to cast out this demon and it won’t.” And Jesus says, “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.” There seems to be a direct correlation between a kind of prayer, a level of prayer. Prayer provides an assist in the deliverance of others who are undergoing spiritual attack. Luke 22, “Peter, Satan has sought to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you.” Power falls where prayer prevails.
All I want you to get, I want you to get that prayer isn’t like an add-on or it’s a few words here and there. The Scripture is teaching that this is vital, pivotal, core to spiritual warfare and victory. I did a study in the book of Acts and I put it in front of you. I went through all the key passages and all the breakthroughs and you’ll notice where prayer, Acts 1, Acts 2:42, 3:1, chapter 4, chapter 6, chapter 8, chapter 9, chapter 10. Church history is replete. The Welsh revival started with a handful of people, people who met together each Saturday night and prayed. God spoke to them and there was a revival there that spread across the world. The Layman’s Prayer Revival in the 1800s, there wasn’t a pastor, there was no preaching. It moved from city to city to city where during the noon hour, a handful of businessmen said, “Let’s pray.” Three requests; pray for them. Three requests; pray for them. And then it went Chicago, New York, all across the country.
Experts say millions of people came to Christ, the Great Awakening in the United States. Our history at Living on the Edge, I was sitting around a table and we’ve almost gone out of business once or twice, didn’t have sufficient funds. We’ve had times where we were taking big steps of faith and either our family members or people on our team, we had cancer, like, five different people. It was like all hell breaking loose.
And in those times, we learned to pray with intensity, and we learned to fast.
I was with our staff recently and we have a number of new staff members. I said, “We don’t pray every day because we’re holy or noble or we think it’s a good idea.” We’ve been in crises and we’ve seen God deliver. We just want, we just decided: why don’t we realize how desperate we are all the time? So, we’re going to pray. When we give a small group to someone, we say, “How can we pray for you?” Then we check back on how it’s doing, and we pray for the people that get connected.”
And I knew what was going to happen here. And so, the Wednesday before we came, it was like, “Let’s have a day of fasting and prayer.” It’s voluntary. The great majority of all of our staff said, “We know what would be happening in your lives,” and I knew what was going to happen in my life and I knew probably what would happen up here. God hears. Where prayer prevails, power falls.
What kinds of prayer bring God’s deliverance and power? It’s not casual, trite, little prayers. Notice it’s consistent prayer. Verse 18, “With all prayer and petition.” The first word there is a general word for prayer. Notice it’s all prayers, all kinds of prayer and petition, very specific. And so, it’s not just asking, asking, asking.
I think one of the great breakthroughs that will help you in your prayer life is realize that God longs to be worshipped. That little acronym that you learn somewhere, A-C-T-S: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication. The kind of prayer where we recognize God for who He is.
We begin to thank Him for what He’s done and it builds up our faith. We come and we want to be clean and we confess our sins, and then we say, “Now, Holy Almighty, all powerful God, who you want to change the whole world, You’re not willing that any should perish, we bring these petitions before You consistently.”
And when God sees that, I think He just leans over and longs to answer our prayers. It’s not just all kinds of prayer, but he says pray at all times on all occasions. I think there’s two kinds of prayer. I think there’s ... We all need protracted, quiet, extended times to pray. And then I think we need to have these punctuated – we’re commanded in 1 Thessalonians, right? “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”
And as you study that passage, it’s like a coughing prayer. It’s like when your mind is free, you’re talking to God. You’re in the car. You’re walking from, you’re picking up your bag and you’re taking it out to the car. Someone comes to your mind and as they’re coming to your mind, you’re not in conversation. You’re constantly ... It would be Brother Lawrence when he talks about practicing the presence of God.
Over time, you’re cultivating an awareness where when you’re not thinking about something else, you are talking to the Lord. And by the way, I think one of the most important things in prayer and especially for people like me who talk a lot is to be quiet.
And especially in situations where you don’t know what to do or you need wisdom, ask and then sit quietly. Learn to recognize God’s voice and the promptings that He gives you. When He gives you a prompting that will cost you something, that might be embarrassing, that would really help other people, and that would glorify Him and you might not want to do it, there’s a good chance it’s from God because you wouldn’t do that naturally. And you’ll learn to recognize His voice. Consistent prayer and intense prayer, not halfhearted prayer.
Notice it says, “Be on alert.” Literally the word means without sleep. It means to be vigilant. It means not going through the motions. And then it says, “With all perseverance.” It’s not giving up. Unless you’re different than everyone else in the world that I know, sometimes when you’re praying and it just feels like you’re in mud galoshes and no matter how hard you try, you’re not making any progress or you begin to pray and there’s times…
Don’t we all experience the presence of God when we’re praying and it’s exciting and there’s such a sense? And isn’t there times where it’s like ... I mean this is like I’m not sure I’m even making it up to the ceiling, let alone through the ceiling, let alone to heaven, right? And it just feels dull and I’m not connected.
The old saints used to talk about praying through. You know what happens? You know the temptation when you get there is like, “Hey, I’ll check you later?” I’m ... You know? I’m…you know? Who do you think wants you to stop praying?
I don’t wake up every day. I really, really love my wife deeply, but I don’t wake up every day with my emotions overflowing every single day. But that has nothing to do with not loving her, and I think many of us, especially out of our sort of Evangelical mindset is that if we don’t feel God and have some sort of ooey-gooey experience with Him, somehow He’s not around. Faith is not based on ... God hears you as much when you feel Him as if you don’t feel Him.
In fact, it requires a lot more faith to do what’s right when you’re not motivated and you don’t want to do it. And what I find, as you pray through ... And the confession, I don’t always pray through, but I long to. And what I know, it’s these kinds of prayers when it’s a battle.
Elizabeth Elliott has a great little book on prayer, and she has this line in it and she says, “I suppose people who ski like to ski. I suppose they have the ability to ski,” and she says, “They not only have the ability to ski, but they have a place where they can ski. And they make time for skiing and it’s something they do when they have the time and when they have the money.”
And her confession was, “Sometimes that’s how I pray. I used to think prayer was a lot like skiing. When I’m in the mood to pray, I think I’ll pray and when I can make the time to pray, I think I’ll pray. And it really is a nice thing to do if you have the time.” And then she has this line, “But skiing is a sport and prayer is work. It’s not skiing. It must be taken from other things that are very important.”
I’ve shared this a lot and I guess I’ll keep sharing it. I live with a woman who prays like no one I’ve ever met. And I mean this. I think I will get to heaven and I will get to see that I ran many, many errands that God and Theresa had been talking about.
And don’t get me wrong. I pray and I’m growing in my prayer life, but it’s interesting. My kids are in a really big jam. It’s, “Is mom home?” “Why?” “I’m going to need to ask her to really pray.” I mean, we just had this track record of unbelievable, amazing answers to prayer.
We have a ... We went through a book together and one of the quotes was from Haddon Robinson. He was a professor of preaching at Dallas and then later I think was the president of Denver Seminary and then later headed up a department at Gordon-Conwell. It’s a quick quote, but now it’s on all of our screens that comes up every day at Living on the Edge. “Prayer is the battle. Ministry is the spoils.” Prayer is the battle. Ministry is the spoils.
It’s the kind of prayer, it’s consistent, it’s intense, and then it’s strategic. Notice he says, “I pray for all the saints. God’s messengers will be bold that utterance may be given.” It’s about God’s message. Warren Wiersbe said, “Prayer is the energy that allows the soldier to wear the armor and wield the sword.”
And I think when you listen to what Paul prayed, and I’m going to say something only because I think we’re missing out, we tend to unconsciously get very self-focused. What I’m about to say, especially for you, take-it-literally people, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this. What I’m saying is don’t let it get limited to this. We’ve unconsciously got this idea that we live in this silo and so, “Lord, help me and help my husband, help my kids. And we’ve got a need over here and grandma’s ankle hurts. And, Lord, would you help our church.” And you pray some specific things.
And, “Oh, gosh. The mall is so full at this time. Would You please ... Could I get a parking spot on the first or second floor?”
And by the way, I think God hears. There’s nothing too small, but when you read the prayers in Scripture, “God, I pray that You might open their eyes. They might have spiritual discernment to understand who You really are. Lord, I pray that they might know the height and depth and length and breadth and know the love of God that surpasses knowledge.”
Here he prays, “Give me utterance and boldness that Your message and Your messengers ...” When do we pray? “God, we want to reach the city. God, will You cause these churches to get unified? God, would You do something radical in our culture? Lord, would You cause the gospel to go forth through all the continents?”
In other words, Paul’s praying a missional prayer. Paul’s saying, “It’s not about: does my life work out, am I happy today, is my knee feeling a little better, do I have a parking spot?” And again, I’m glad when he answers about my knee and it is kind of neat when, “Wow. Hey, there’s a parking spot.” I think we should let ... Those are those ... As you’re driving, as you’re thinking, you’re always talking with the Lord, but there’s sometimes you need to get your armor on and you need to understand we have been given a mission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and I am His ambassador and I want to pray for the message and I want to pray for the messenger and I want Him to use me here and my family here and my kids and my grandkids and this church.
He says, “Ask of Me and I will give you the nations.” I think we’re asking really small, little prayers and we get really small, little answers. Ask Him for big things that you know for sure are on His heart, and you just might be shocked at what the Lord will do.
The summary is the missing ingredient in most Christian lives and in most churches is a commitment and regular practice of intercessory prayer. Scripture indicates it’s individual and corporate; consistent, intense, strategic responsibility that will in fact deliver one from evil.
I have a quote here that I put in your notes by S.D. Gordon. Follow along as I read it. And, by the way, it is so convicting. Then maybe that’s what we need. “The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer, nor those who say they believe in prayer, nor those who can explain about prayer. But I mean people who take time and pray. They have not the time. It must be taken from something else. This something else is very important and pressing but still less important and less pressing than prayer.”
And so, I want to pause and just say, “Okay.” We’ve talked about the reality of a war of spiritual warfare, a command to stand firm. The way to stand firm is we put on our armor. Okay. We’re going to have the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and then we’re going to sort of weave all this together with prayer.
And here’s the summary statement I really want you to get because this is not about, “Oh, I came from studying on spiritual warfare and now I’m either fearful.” The great majority of the teaching on spiritual warfare in the Bible has to do with alertness, preparation, defense, and being proactive to prevent demonic influence from breaking our fellowship with Christ and thwarting God’s program in our lives.
What are we to do, however, when the enemy gets a foothold in a life, ours or someone we know and love?
So, what I want you to get is if you walk with God, if you’re renewing your mind, if you’re listening to Him, if you’re in a community of believers, the great majority of the spiritual attack you’ll catch, you’ll walk with God. But there are times, and this is the big shift, when there’s some avenues where the enemy begins to get a foothold either in your life or someone else’s. What do you do? I mean, what are we to make of this whole thing called the ministry of deliverance?
The central text of the New Testament on spiritual warfare is Ephesians 6, “Put on the armor.” Now, I want to give you more of an overview and you’ll see I’ve given you lots of notes and lots of passages. This really is the kind of thing that you need to study and check out and discuss and become aware of, but I think this whole ministry of deliverance is one that is really ... There’s either huge extremes that you need to avoid or the thought that this never happens anyway.
So, what I’ve done is I’m going to talk about its validity. I’m going to talk about the problems of this kind of a ministry. I’m going to talk about the causes of demonic influence, evidences in the New Testament. Then I’m going to talk about what specific action steps would normal, ordinary people like us take if there’s a clear indication that someone is either oppressed or harassed or actually engaged in ways where demonic influence and you need to do something about it.
So, with that, let’s look at the validity of the ministry. Jesus regularly exercised this ministry. If you go through the gospels, about twenty-five to thirty percent of His time and energy is spent casting out demons as one of the things that He does.
The apostles regularly exercise this ministry. On their first little mission trip, you remember what He did? He gave them authority over demons and authority to heal as He was going to validate His mission. The Early Church regularly exercised this ministry. In Acts 16, we have the situation where the occult was so heavy that the people came, remember, and they brought all their satanic books and they burned them. And then Simon saw the power of God even greater and he tried to buy it and he got a sharp rebuke.
In the Early Church, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origin, Athanasius, all the way the first four hundred years of the Church, deliverance ministry from demonic influence, it’s the norm. There’s an excellent article you can google. It’s by Paul Thigpen, Discipleship Journal, Issue 81, 1994. He does a historic analysis of deliverance ministry from the first four hundred years.
In fact, in the Early Church in the early hundreds of years, they actually had an office of deliverance. So this ... For our modern ears, America, some of this may sound a little weird, but it’s historic. The other thing is this is not weird around the world. I remember ... You think as people were modern and sophisticated, of course in the back, in Papua New Guinea and maybe in Thailand or oh, when you’re in India, it is ... man, there’s just over a million gods there.
And we would think of all those things, but I remember being in South Africa and we were at a cemetery and we’d been doing some ministry there. And it was a nicer part of town, and I watched a Mercedes pull up. So, these people were wealthy, well-educated, and they all were getting out and they were taking food and flowers and different things and putting them on all these graves.
And I turned to the guy that was with us. I said, “What is this all about?” “Oh, I mean, they’re scared to death of ancestral spirits, and they had manifestations of things in their home and they’re making an offering to the spirits of their father or grandfather or people that are manifesting and they’re scared to death.” And so, can you imagine having a modern mind, a modern job, driving up in a Mercedes, and making offerings to ancestral spirits out of fear?