Prayer and The Bible
The Adversary of God and His Anointed
Writing to the Corinthians Paul advises them to forgive and comfort an erring brother, that overmuch sorrow should not swallow him up, adding: "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Cor.2:6‑11) The wiles of the Devil are not unknown to us who give heed to the Lord’s Word, for since the beginning our adversary has not changed his methods of attack. These devices are outlined in the account of the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve (Gen.3); and a summary of them will be of advantage to all who desire to gain the victory with Christ.
1. Satan hides himself, the better to deceive the unwary. (2 Cor.11:14) He did not appear openly when tempting Eve, but hid behind the serpent. (Gen.3:1) Very many are not aware of Satan’s existence; but thinking people know that there can be no power apart from personality. The person may be invisible, but his existence is manifested by the influence he exerts. Evil energy is everywhere prevalent; therefore sane philosophical reasoning agrees that there is somewhere an unholy, baleful being of keen mental powers, with whom this iniquity originates. (1 John 3:8) Unfortunately, because of the inherent weaknesses due to the fall, and the lack of enlightenment, the generality of men are unconscious of the predominance of sin in the world; and they are prone to turn things upside down, and call evil good, and good evil, often not knowing the difference. (Isaiah 5:20) In the present Age it is only the people of God who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.‑Heb.5:14
The Word of God speaks plainly of an evil one. Many texts directly name him; and we find passages which indicate him under cover of other names. Ezek.28:1‑19 tells us of the characteristics of the ruler of Tyrus; verses 1 to 10 speak of him as a prince, and verses 11 to 19 as a king. We perceive in this change of title a hidden reference to Satan as the real ruler, or spiritual king of Tyrus. (See also Isa.14:12‑15.) If we take the Bible as our guide we will not doubt that the arch enemy of God and His people is an individual, a powerful spirit of great malevolence.
Those who yield to their temptations are not fighting as good soldiers of Christ; and any who play with their temptations leave the way open for a fall. Satan does not flee from such; he takes them captive at his will. (2 Tim.2:26; James 4:7) Some there are who fight their temptations, and overcome them effectually with the wonderful power supplied by God in response to earnest prayer. (Rom.6:14; 1 Cor.9:27; Col.3:5‑10) These know by experience that the Bible speaks truth when it declares that our "adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."‑1 Pet.5:8,9
Though Satan will "roar" at us when, according to the will of God, we keep our body under and develop acceptable faith and love, the Scriptures assure us that "he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not." (1 John 5:18) We are now in the "city of refuge," and our life is hid with Christ in God. (Col.3:1‑3; Heb.6:18) Satan’s purpose is, if possible, to take out of our heart and mind the peace of God which we have inherited as the reward of our obedient love and faith; and the Lord permits these testings to prove that this peace is real and lasting. (1 Pet.4:12‑19) The Prophet Isaiah said: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." (Isa.26:3) It is a peace which passes all understanding; which the world can neither give, nor uproot.‑John 14:27; Phil 4:6,7
The inspired Apostle declares: "the God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly." (Rom.16:20 margin) If we did know of the existence of Satan as the "god of this world," how could we overcome him in the name of Jesus? (Rev.12:7‑11) Therefore the worldly‑minded, and the disobedient doubters, have no part or lot in this holy war which is being waged against the evil spiritual rulers in high places by the Holy Nation in Christ’s Name.‑1 Pet.2:9
2. Satan tries to corrupt our pure minds by suggesting causes for doubt as to the Lord’s love and care for us. This device was successful in Eden, and terrible are the results. The subtle enemy begat doubt in Eve’s mind regarding the love of her Creator in withholding permission to eat of the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil." If God loved her, why did he forbid what was so desirable?
Now, doubt of the love of another leads to doubt of the person himself. And when we doubt we become suspicious. Suspicion naturally gives rise to misunderstanding of motives, although these may be of the best. Because we misapprehend the motives we turn to criticize; and hatred follows criticism without fail unless checked. The sure outcome of unbridled hatred is violence, murder‑if not literal then mental. (1 John 3:15) The tried Christian is apprized of this device of the devil, the antithesis of faith and trust. Experience has taught him the bitterness of doubt; but the remembrance of how the heavenly Father restored his confidence immediately in answer to earnest prayer is a sweet and precious spiritual possession, which he will not relinquish.‑Isa.40:28‑31
3. The Devil is the "father" of lies. (John 8:44) His greatest lie is that it was unnecessary for Jesus Christ to die as the world’s Saviour. Why? Because he denied the Word of God when he said to Eve: "Ye shall not surely die!" (Contrast Gen.2:17 with Gen.3:4.) All who fail to comprehend the meaning of the Apostle when he says: "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23), are easily deceived by this lying device. To maintain that the dead are not dead, but only passed into some continued state or condition of life, is to render meaningless the Scriptural declaration that Christ came in the flesh, and as a perfect man died for all men, that all might have a resurrection from the dead. (John 1:14; Heb.2:9,14; 2 John 7) To say that the dead live is a contradiction. This is the "strong delusion" which God permits to come upon those who receive not the truth in the love of it. ‑2 Thess.2:7‑12
4. Wrong ambition and pride is another device of the adversary, evidenced at the beginning when he dazzled Eve’s senses with the reward of disobedience: "Ye shall be as gods!" (Gen.3:5) Self‑exaltation was the cause of Satan’s own overthrow; and it is instructive to note those Scriptures which trace the fall of this great being from the high position of honour he once enjoyed, to his future destruction. In Ezekiel 28:13‑17 we read that Satan, the "anointed cherub that covereth;" was perfect in his ways from the day he was created, till iniquity was found in him. His heart was lifted up when he contemplated his personal beauty; and in his pride he even sought to be like the most High. (Isa.14:13,14) Therefore God said he would be cast down; and Jesus exclaimed: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." (Luke 10:18) It appears that this fall was, first, from the freedom of the heavens beyond into the atmosphere of our earth, there to become the "prince of the power of the air." (Eph.2:2) In Rev.12:7‑9 he is said to have been "cast…into the earth," evidently symbolical of a still lower stage in his downward career. He is then bound and "cast into the bottomless pit," where he is to lie sealed up during the thousand years of Christ’s glorious reign of righteousness (Rev.20:1‑3); after which, at the termination of a "little season" of liberty, he will be finally "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone," which is the "second death," and thus be forever destroyed. (Rev.20:7‑10; 21:8) "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Pet.5:6) In this our supreme example is Jesus.‑Phil.2:3‑11
5. Disobedience to God’s commands is a common device of our enemy. At his instigation Adam and Eve ate that which Jehovah had forbidden. (Gen.3:6) Jesus has given us a commandment that we should love one another. (John 15:12) This is not a recommendation; nor does our Master entreat us; it is a command. Satan suggests very good reasons why, in special cases at all events, we should not render heart obedience.
6. The Apostle says that he knew and was persuaded "that there is nothing unclean of itself"; and that: "To the pure all things are pure." (Rom.14:14; Titus 1:15) The insinuation of impurity is undoubtedly one of the devil’s devices. He made our first parents wrongly imagine that their unclothed state was shameful. (Gen.3:7) God said: "Who told thee that thou wast naked?" There was no occasion for shame if they remained as God had created them. It was Satan’s impure suggestion, successful because the real clothing, that of the pure innocent mind, had been stripped away through the sin of disobeying the Lord’s command. The sin of disobedience had weakened the will, and resistance being now broken Satan’s suggestion gained footing.
The Apostle condemns some of the household of faith for forbidding Church members to marry. (1 Tim.4:1‑3) Marriage is honourable; but as a matter of judgment he advises the unmarried to remain so if possible, and the married to be as if unmarried. (1 Cor.7:26‑29:38) The Lord allows individual judgment; and those who take it upon themselves to forbid marriage do not have his approval, for they evidently imply that, in their opinion, such union between Christians is impure. Suggestions of impurity come from those who have not successfully overcome this device of the evil one; but we who hope to be united with the heavenly Bridegroom have power to purify ourselves as He is pure.‑1 John 3:2,3
7. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Tim.1:7) One of the adversary’s devices, and most successful of weapons against the spirit begotten child of God, is fear. The realization of their disobedience made Adam and Eve fear to meet their loving Creator; and they hid themselves.‑Gen.3:10
Fear may attack us in many ways. Fear of want prevents our hands from doing the Lord’s service. We overcome this by reposing implicit trust in the Lord’s promise that all necessaries will be provided when we seek first the Kingdom. (Luke 12:27‑32; Matt.6:33) The fear of man brings a snare; but we observe that the fearlessness of Jesus defeated this snare of the evil one. (Prov.29:25; Matt.22:16) "The righteous are bold as a lion."‑Prov.28:1; John 7:25,26; Acts 4:13
There are many Scriptures urging all to have godly fear; but we must distinguish between the fear (reverence) which has the approval of God, and the unreasoning fear (terror) which Satan seeks to instil into our hearts. We read that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and wisdom is knowledge applied with judgment. (James 3:13) The fear instigated by Satan causes panic, which but for the Lord’s grace would overthrow our judgment altogether. Satan will sometimes seize the opportunity, when we are overtaken in a fault, to strike terror into our hearts. His object is to make us imagine we need no longer go to our heavenly Father in prayer, by suggesting that we have committed an unpardonable sin. But while we sorrow greatly over our fault we should not allow it to prey upon our minds, but remember the words of the Apostle: "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of." (2 Cor.7:9‑11) Acknowledging our shortcoming we shall repent and gain the Lord’s forgiveness. We read: "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."‑Prov.28:13; 1 John 1:9
The inspired prophet Isaiah says: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isa.55:7; 2 Cor.8:9,10) To forsake our thoughts, which are naturally evil, we must substitute for them the thoughts of the Lord; and to make sure we gain the Lord’s thoughts, we must "do works meet for repentance." (Acts 26:20) We know that faith without works is dead. When God perceives our evident sincerity of heart to think and do the right things, he gives us a responsible position in his favour, with grace to hold it. On no account should we give up praying to our heavenly Father in his Son’s name, for the more we pray the stronger we become. If we break off communication we cannot get the power; and we require the power supplied by God to enable us to make headway, because the Christian’s battle is real. (2 Cor.4:7) Ours is a strange warfare; we fight not with guns but with a name–Jesus, our Leader–and by prayer to God. (Eph.6:18; Rev.12:11) We need not dread our enemies, for the Scriptures promise that: "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength"; and: "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." (Isa.30:15; Psa.34:7) "Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread."‑Isa.8:13
Should we see a fellow‑servant labour under fear of the consequences of some shortcoming which, however, we know to be pardonable, we may on request pray to our heavenly Father to relieve our erring and apprehensive brother. (1 John 5:14‑16) This privilege of praying for others, which is the right of the Lord’s special representatives, should not be disregarded. (See Gen.20:7,17; Num.21:7; 1 Sam.12:20‑25; Job 42:7‑10; Jer.42; Luke 22:32; 2 Thess.3:1) To be overtaken in a fault is quite different from the kind of sin which merits the second death, and for which, the Scriptures tell us, it is useless to pray. (Heb.6:4‑8; Heb.10:26‑31; 2 John 9‑11) For such unforgivable wickedness could not be of sudden growth, but must be the outcome of wilful persistence in an evil course which at the first would be intelligently recognized as wrong; and none in close communion with the Lord could fail to discern it.‑2 Pet.2:10‑22; Jude 11‑16
The Lord through the inspired Apostle, however, states that he is persuaded better things of us, and things that accompany salvation. (Prov.24:15,16; Heb.6:9) We are not of those who draw back into perdition, but of those that believe to the saving of the soul. (Heb.10:39) Faults are for the most part due to the weaknesses of the flesh, or lack of experience, and are not counted wilful by the heavenly Father. (Psa.103:8‑14; James 5:11) Failings are often seized upon by the adversary who, it may be through the mouths of slanderers (Isa.66:5), exaggerates their offensiveness, and thus leads the child of God into affliction. Satan’s object is to discourage us into giving up the warfare by which we overcome him, and serve the Lord; while the Lord permits these trials to come upon his children, not to destroy them, but to burn away the fleshly impediments to their healthy growth as New Creatures. They are blessings in disguise.‑Heb.12:5‑14
To gain the victory we must first put ourselves right with God by prayerful confession and repentance from the heart, after which we may call upon Him to stand by us while, in His Name, we boldly maintain our ground in the presence of our adversaries, knowing that He will put them to confusion who desire our hurt. The substance of our heavenward pleadings is expressed by David: (Psa.64) "Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my (spiritual) life from…the insurrection of the workers of iniquity: who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words: that they may shoot in secret at the perfect...They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search," to see if they can find in their victim’s life some justification for their evil and unreasonable surmisings. They are mistaken, for while the Lord’s consecrated people were formerly "children of wrath, even as others," (Eph.2:3) their sins are blotted out through faith in the atoning blood of Christ; and in accusing them these zealous enemies are really condemning God who justifies the saints. (Isa.43:25; 1 Cor.6:9‑11) Therefore David continues: "God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly they shall be wounded. So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: all that see them shall flee away."‑Psalm 64
We submit all such outward contentions to Him who judges righteously (Rom.12:19; 1 Pet.2:19‑23); for as New Creatures in Christ Jesus who hope to bless the poor straitened world in the future, we must prove ourselves worthy of this honour, and hence our present fights are chiefly inward. (1 Cor.4:12‑14; 9:26,27; 1 Tim.6:11,12; 2 Tim.4:7,8) We are instructed to pray for those who persecute us, that we may be called children of the Father in heaven. (Matt.5:43‑48) Jesus rebuked James and John because they wished for fire to descend and consume the ungracious Samaritans. They then failed to realize that the Son of man came to earth to save men’s lives, and not to destroy. (Luke 9:54‑56) But we now understand what is expected of us, and shall earnestly endeavour, with the aid of the Lord, to maintain a loving, kindly disposition of heart even in the face of the merciless imaginings of our detractors.‑1 Pet.3:8‑18
It is to be noted that the wilful transgressor is not subject to that reverential fear which, like the warning pain in the physical body, acts as a signal to the spiritually‑minded when in danger of a grave fault. (Psa.34:6‑19; 36:1‑4) The habitually unrighteous are latterly given over to dread of a different sort. (Heb.10:26‑36) It has been well remarked that "Fear is a good watch dog, but a bad master." Any form of fear taught by deluded men (such as the eternal torment doctrine, one of the "doctrines of devils"‑1 Tim.4:1; Jer.7:31), and which is in violation of Jehovah’s perfect attributes of justice, power, love and wisdom, must be repudiated by all who begin to see the beautiful character of the Almighty. (Isa 29:13) For the God to whom we pray is not fiendish like the gods of the heathen; and those who preach the "eternal torment" heresy cast dishonour on that Holy Name.
We read that there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) "He that feareth is not made perfect in love"; for effective love is aggressive. In spite of every prejudice against him owing to Satan’s misrepresentations, Jesus when in the flesh steadily pursued his way until he had planted the seeds of truth into this sin‑cursed world, and then finally permitted himself to be planted into death in order to lay the foundation (the only possible one) for the great work of winning the world back from Satan’s domination. Nothing can withstand pure love; it is more powerful, more aggressive than any other moral force, because it is fearless.
Next time—The Revelation of Contests in the Spirit Realm