Prayer and The Bible
The Revealment of Contests in the Spirit Realm
There is an influence connected with, or emanating from, prayer, which overcomes the resistance exerted by evil spirit beings. The disciples rejoiced when they perceived that the demons were subject to them through Jesus’ name. (Luke 9:1; 10:17,20) There is record of one prominent instance, however, where an evil spirit defied their authority; and it is important to consider what Jesus replied when asked to explain the cause of this failure.
We remind ourselves of the origin and history of the demons. These invisible beings are the angels, the "sons of God," who sinned in the days that were before the deluge. They kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation; and materializing co‑mingled with mankind. Therefore God, when bringing in the flood upon the old world of the ungodly, cast them into "Tartarus," that is, the earth’s super incumbent atmosphere, there delivering them into "chains of darkness" to be reserved unto judgment. (See 1 Pet.3:18‑20; 2 Pet.2:4; Jude 6; Gen.6:2) These fallen angels or demons (misnamed "devils" in the Authorized Version) are frequently referred to in the Scriptures. They "possess" men; and through spiritualistic mediums they impersonate the dead, thus bolstering up Satan’s lie that the dead live, and denying the truth of God’s Holy Word. (Psa.6:5; 115:17; 146:4; Eccl.9:5,10; Job 14:21) Under the law of Moses the act of communing with such as had "familiar spirits" (mediums) was punishable with death.–Lev.19:31; 20:6,27; Deut.18:9‑14; 1 Chron.10:13,14; Isa.8:19
As our Lord Jesus had authority to exorcise the demons, and as he delegated the like power to his disciples, it is clear that they have, and do still, hinder the establishment of God’s will among men. The host of unclean spirits must be driven forth from their illicit control, before the world can have freedom to experience the blessings of Christ’s reign. For this reason we take cognizance of Jesus’ reply to the anxious question of his disciples regarding their inability to cast out a certain demon–"He said unto them, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer.’" (Mark 9:17‑29) It was of a particularly malignant and tenacious order, defiant of those who, weak in faith, lacked the requisite authority from God. Hence the necessity for prayer, that the unseen power of the Almighty should enforce the word of command, and compel the evil spirit to obey.
Jesus had just descended from the mount of transfiguration, where he had been in communion with God by prayer, when he performed this miracle. The Scriptures inform us that it was "as he prayed" that his wonderful transfiguration came. (Luke 9:29) "The fashion of his countenance was altered," we read; and when afterwards he drew near to the multitude at the foot of the mountain the people were greatly amazed, and running up could not forbear saluting him. (Mark 9:15) The dumb and deaf spirit was powerless to resist the behest of Jesus, on whom the might and majesty of God had come in response to his fervent prayer of faith in the mount. (2 Pet.1:16‑18) The fallen angels knew Jesus, as also they know his followers; and the spiritual potency of the sacrificing spirit begotten sons of God causes them distress.–Matt.8:29; Luke 8:31; Acts 16:16‑18; 19:13‑17
The individual energies of the "firstborn," whose names are written in heaven, are not now to be directed so much against those demons in close intimacy with humanity (the "foul spirits," and "familiar spirits," are in all probability of the lower order of the adversary’s invisible minions), but against the keener, directing intelligences in Satan’s kingdom of darkness. These higher spiritual "governments, authorities, and powers" of the evil one are intent upon disarranging the orderly working of Jehovah’s Plan of Salvation, and with seeking by "crafty ways" to divert from the main purpose the unique spiritual power of God’s people. (Eph.6:10‑12) The Apostle therefore urges us to put on the whole "armour" of God, and then to pray with all prayer. (Eph.6:18) It is evident from Paul’s words that we who are new creatures in Christ Jesus, embryo spirit beings, must have that special spiritual protection likened to armour, that we may be impervious to the attacks of the enemy. Thus equipped we stand in security while, by prayer, we establish every feature of our heavenly Father’s will, and thus undermine and in due time cause the complete ruin of the stronghold of the god of this world.
The organized efforts of Satan to thwart God’s great Plan by openly destroying the Bible, counteracting its holy influence through misrepresentations, or boldly raising obstacles to its study among those who desire its direct instruction and guidance, have proved futile in face of the vigilant prayers of the faithful children of God. The Scriptures have therefore been preserved throughout the centuries; and the details of the Plan when revealed and noted have been fulfilled in answer to prayer according to the Divine arrangement. (Matt.9:36‑38) When his subtle machinations fail, the adversary often seeks by violence to prevent the effectual prayer of faith from ascending to God. He will even intercept the Divinely appointed spirit messengers, in an endeavour to disorder the Plan of the Almighty.–Jude 9
The tenth chapter of Daniel furnishes us with an indication of how our continuous petitioning to the heavenly throne may ensure the victory. If we ponder the things recorded in this portion of the Word of God, we shall perceive here the slight raising of the veil, momentarily showing the nature of those contentions for and against Jehovah which obtain in the spirit realm.
We read that Daniel, in order to acquire understanding of his important vision, prayed to God, and persisted therein three full weeks until the desired revealment was granted. The angel (Gabriel) who was sent from the heavenly courts in response to Daniel’s pleadings, explained to him that; "From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I left him there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days." (vv.12‑14 AV & RSV) See note Then, after giving Daniel the elucidation of the vision, the angel continued: "Knowest thou wherefore I am come unto thee? And now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince." (vv.20‑21) See note
Michael is our Lord Jesus Christ in his pre‑human existence, the Archangel or chief of all God’s spirit agencies, the prince whom Jehovah appointed when dealing with His covenanted people Israel. The prince of the heathen nation of Persia, who so boldly hindered the angel Gabriel for twenty‑one days until Michael intervened and engaged him in battle, can have been none other than Satan. For the evil one was aware that the explanatory message entrusted by God to Gabriel, and which was to be unfolded to the beloved Daniel in answer to his earnest prayer, was in reality a prophetic history of the outstanding features of the future Gentile dominion, wherein was revealed the uprising of the Antichrist, Satan’s masterpiece. The Devil undoubtedly "sensed" danger in this far‑reaching revelation, even if he was unable to comprehend its exact meaning, and hence his efforts to hold it back in the hope that Daniel might through faintness cease his petitioning, and thus break the necessary prayerful attitude.
Because of the steadfastness of this servant of God, we of the Gospel Age are enabled to discern in the angel’s explanation the successive steps by which Satan brought into active operation his lying counterfeit of Christ’s glorious Millennial reign of righteousness. By the carefully arranged details of this revelation, also, we can follow the appointed times and seasons, and perceive that the fall of Satan’s empire is sure, and was foreknown by the great Jehovah. For it was not so much for his own immediate benefit that Daniel was granted the answer to his prayer (he was told he must wait till the end of the days), but rather for the Lord’s spiritual children who live at the close of the long period of the Gentile lease of power, that these might intelligently cooperate with Him in the establishment of the promised fifth universal empire, or Kingdom of Christ.
We perceive the truth of the Apostle’s declaration that our fight is not truly against "flesh and blood"; for men are at present under the control of the evil spirit powers, and are not the primary enemies. (2 Cor.4:4) Our mission is to undeceive the world, and through the Divine instruction confer upon it the blessings of everlasting life and freedom. This the saints of God shall do in the power of the coming spiritual Kingdom, for the establishment of which they are now in conflict with the Satanic rulers in the heavenlies. This Holy War still proceeds, but the triumph of the "little flock" of spirit begotten "children of the Kingdom" is promised. (Luke 12:32) By God’s wonderful provision our prayers of faith can be enlisted to gain the cause of the Lord in this invisible contest.
Let not the reproach of our loving Master fall upon us: "O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" On the contrary, even when everything is dark, and the accomplishment of our heavenly Father’s gracious and beneficent purposes seems improbable to the doubting world, let us continually remember these trustful words in the beautiful prayers of the Levites, and of David and Solomon: "Blessed be thy glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. Thou, even thou, art LORD
alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee." "There is no God like thee, in heaven above, or on earth beneath, who keepest covenant and mercy with thy servants that walk before thee with all their heart." "Thine, O LORD is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name."—Neh.9:5‑6; 1 Kings 8:23; 1 Chron.29:11‑13
We all desire our prayers to be vitally effective; and if we pay heed to the instructions of God’s Holy Word we know they shall be. There is one closing instruction added by our Lord, which is of deep significance: "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." Amen.