All of us face challenges in our lives on a regular basis. Some are bigger and tougher than others. We face challenges in the areas of health, relationships, finances, addictive habits, jobs and we could go on and on. Oftentimes, the challenges appear suddenly and are unexpected. We are tempted to respond in anger at what is happening to us. Sometimes we seem reduced to desperation. All too often, we try to escape the challenge with our own wisdom. Sometimes, we even are tempted to blame God for our life’s challenges.
Where do these challenges come from? These challenges and temptations do not come from God, so it makes no sense to blame him. He has allowed them to come into our lives, but He didn’t create or cause them. These challenges are attacks of our enemy Satan to seek to defeat us in our walk with God. The challenges that we face may seem like random events, but they are not.
Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) 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.
Our wrestling with challenges is not with other people, but we are engaged in warfare with unseen evil spiritual forces. We cannot defeat these forces in our own strength or with our own wisdom.
Today, our message is entitled “Prayer Warfare.” Our first response when we are attacked should be to look to God in prayer. He is the only one who can give us the victory and help us defeat the enemy. Prayer is both a defensive and an offensive weapon for the believer. The chapter of Ephesians 6 deals with our spiritual warfare with evil forces. At the end of a list of our defensive and offensive spiritual arsenal, we are directed to the weapon of prayer.
Ephesians 6:18 (ESV) praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Prayer is the connection to God’s power that makes all the other weapons effective.
2 Corinthians 10:4 (ESV) For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
Prayer is the spiritual weapon with divine power that enable us to destroy the strongholds of the enemy. A stronghold is a place in a person’s life that is occupied by enemy power. These strongholds may be in your life or another person’s life. The evidence of a spiritual stronghold is habitual or repetitive sin. Strongholds may be characteristic of an entire city or region where multiple people have the same type of stronghold in their lives.
Today, we’re going to look at three weapons in the prayer arsenal of believers that will help each of us, individually and corporately to destroy the enemies’ strongholds. The first weapon of prayer is …
Even though you might not think of praise as a weapon, it is a powerful weapon.
2 Chronicles 20 tells us the story of a time when the people of God in Judah were facing an attack of a huge army from Moab and Ammon. King Jehoshaphat was afraid and began to seek the Lord in prayer and fasting. All the people came together to seek the Lord. A prophet spoke and told the people to not be afraid, because the battle was not theirs, but the Lords.
2 Chronicles 20:18-19 (ESV) Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
So, we see fear being replaced by worship and praise in the heart’s of the king and the people.
2 Chronicles 20:21-22 (ESV) And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.
The army of Judah then marched out to face the enemy, but leading the army were the unarmed praise singers. As they marched toward the enemy with praise, the Lord caused the enemy armies to fight one another until they were destroyed. The victory had been won without sword or arrow, simply praise. Praise prepares you for battle.
In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were being followed by a demon-possessed slave girl who told fortunes for money. They cast the demon out of her and her owners were enraged at their loss of revenue. So, they had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten and put in prison, their feet fastened in stocks.
Acts 16:25 (ESV) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
Rather than complaining and moaning because of their circumstance of wounds, the two were praising God so loudly that all the other prisoners were listening.
Acts 16:26 (ESV) and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.
Their praise brought a miracle, as God sent an earthquake that set them free. As a result, the jailer and his entire household were saved and the men were set free. Praise brought a miraculous intervention.
So, what is it about praise that defeats the enemy? Praise runs totally contrary to our fleshly or natural response to challenges. In first case of Judah facing a much larger army, the natural response was that of fear, seeking to run or hide or surrender. To go towards the deadly enemy army with an unarmed praise team took faith. And God rewarded that faith.
If you were Paul and Silas in prison, what would be your thoughts? They had done nothing wrong, in fact, they had just set the slave girl free from and demon. The result was a severe beating and being put in prison in a very uncomfortable prison cell. Yet, rather than grumbling, rather than blaming God, the men were praising him and being a witness to the other prisoners. Their praise was an expression of faith and released God’s power into their situation.
The same can happen with the challenges that you face in your life. In the midst of trouble, in the midst of pain, you can always praise God and let Him fight your battles. The next weapon of prayer is …
Fasting, in the Bible, is going without food for a period of time while focusing on prayer. Prayer with fasting …
Daniel 9:3 (ESV) Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
The prophet Daniel understood from reading Jeremiah that the 70 years of Israel’s captivity as coming to an end. So he sought God though prayer and fasting to bring about his promise for God’s people. Daniel did not assume that the promise would be automatically fulfilled, he was serious in his prayers.
Daniel 9:20-21 (ESV) While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.
As Daniel was praying, fasting and confessing his sin, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Gabriel came in direct response to Daniel’s prayer and fasting. Gabriel then gave Daniel understanding and insight into God’s future plan for his people. Not only does prayer with fasting help in connecting with God, it …
Matthew 4:1-2 (ESV) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
This happened immediately after Jesus was water and Spirit baptized. After those spiritual highlights, he would be soon in direct conflict with Satan himself. So, Jesus prepared for the spiritual warfare by fasting for 40 days. He was physically weak, but spiritually strong.
Matthew 4:3-4 (ESV) And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
When Satan tempted him in his hungry state to turn stones into bread, Jesus was able to resist him by quoting Scripture. Physical food is secondary to the spiritual food of God’s Word. Because of Jesus’ 40 period of prayer and fasting, He was able to resist and repel every temptation of Satan with the word of God. Prayer and fasting helps in spiritual warfare.
Prayer with fasting can be practiced either individually or corporately by a group of believers. In the story of King Jehoshaphat, he called all the people of Judah to both prayer and fasting. Next month, beginning on March 3, we’ll be calling our church family to 40 days of prayer and fasting leading up to the Sunday before Easter on April 14. We will have the Seek God for the City prayer guides, with Scriptures and prayers for each day during the 40 day period. We’ll be praying for our church, our city and our nation. We’ll have more details when we get closer. But we can begin now to pray for that time of church-wide prayer and fasting. That will be the third type of prayer weaponry that we are studying this morning.
Praying with other believers is critically important both for your individual life and for your church. Jesus made it clear that where believers gathered together and prayed in unity and faith for the same things, God’s power was released in a special way. There are prayer requests that will never be answered by individual prayer, but only through corporate prayer. One aspect of corporate prayer is …
2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (ESV) When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
These famous verses were spoken by the Lord to Solomon on the occasion of the dedication of the temple. God brings judgment on nations through various kinds of natural disasters when the people of God in the land are living in sin. God designed for His people to walk in holiness and intercede for the sinners around. When that doesn’t happen, God’s judgement begins to fall increasingly on the nation. The solution is for God’s people to corporately humble themselves in prayer and repentance. As God’s people seek and find God, He will forgive and being about healing and blessing for their nation. We all know that our nation needs repentance, forgiveness and healing.
Acts 4:24 (ESV) And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,
In this chapter, Peter and John had been arrested for healing a man and preaching about Jesus. They had just been released and commanded not to preach about Jesus anymore. So, the church gathered together and began to pray as they faced opposition. Let’s read the conclusion to their prayer.
Acts 4:29-31 (ESV) And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
The prayer of the church in Jerusalem was a courageous prayer. They asked for the boldness to continue preaching about Jesus, even though it was against the law. They were determined to continue to obey God rather than man. They also asked for God’s supernatural power to be demonstrated in their witness. We see from the last verse that God heard their prayer, shaking the very building in which they were gathered and filling them all with the Spirit. The end result was that their prayer was answered. They continued to speak God’s Word boldly.
We have multiple opportunities to pray together as a church. On Sunday mornings, we can agree together on the prayers prayed. In our weekly Life Groups, the group can pray together not only for individuals, but also for the church. Finally, we have a monthly Prayer and Praise meeting on the third Wednesday. We would love to see each of you at that corporate prayer meeting.
God has given us a powerful weapon in prayer to defeat the enemy. Prayers of praises and thanksgiving builds our faith, prepares us for spiritual battle and brings miracles. When we face difficult situations, prayer with fasting helps us to connect with God and unleashes power for spiritual warfare. Finally, God is present in a special way when we pray corporately together with other believers. May we all grow in using the powerful weapon of prayer to extend God’s kingdom.