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With so much bad teaching about spiritual warfare in the Church, we need to be careful about the terms we use. You should never be talking about your strength against demons because you don’t have any. The phrases “spiritual armor,” “spiritual warrior,” and “standing against Satan” all encourage mental images of you and demons duking it out. This is very problematic, for if you were to ever try and take on demons by yourself, you’d be instantly torn apart. You are simply no match for them. When it comes to defensive posture in spiritual warfare, you need to picture yourself hiding behind the Holy Spirit’s back or locked in His protective embrace. The Holy Spirit is the One who protects you from demons. Without Him, you have no hope at all. But here’s the thing about the Holy Spirit: He doesn’t take orders from you.
If you had it your way, demons would never come within a hundred miles of you. Yet in real life, you find that the little rats keep gaining access to you and sometimes they are quite troublesome. This is because your Protector—the mighty Holy Spirit—is intentionally giving demons access to you.
Now God always has good reasons for what He does, and everything He does to you is for your spiritual best. One of the biggest mistakes Christians make in spiritual warfare is to fly into “Make it go away!” mode instead of choosing to be teachable. Demons can’t touch you without the Holy Spirit’s assistance. If He’s giving them access to you, the first thing you should be asking is, “What positive spiritual lesson do You want me to learn from this?” There are always positive lessons to be learned. The Holy Spirit loves you and He isn’t letting demons toy with you just to amuse Himself or because He doesn’t think you’re worth protecting. If you are willing to submit to God’s will for your life and let Him direct you, then you will greatly benefit from your bouts with demons. If you always freak out and frantically start praying for God to drive your enemies away, you’re not going to learn anything that He wants to teach you. You’ll either think that He’s heartlessly abandoned you, or you’ll come to the arrogant conclusion that your persistent prayers forced God to increase His protection of you. Both of these conclusions are going to have damaging effects on your relationship with God in the long term.
You just can’t progress to a good place with God as long as you’re thinking you’re some awesome prayer warrior who the Holy Spirit lives to serve. Always with God, the keys to success are attitudes of trust and submission. Whenever something doesn’t make sense, or you find yourself in some kind of crisis, ask yourself, “Am I trying to trust in God’s goodness? Am I fully submitting to His will for me right now?” These are the questions that are going to help you stay in alignment with the Holy Spirit. God is for you, but to give you as much of Him as you want to have, He’s going to have to do some ugly things to you. The more you stay focused on trust and submission, the quicker you’ll be able to move through the miserable parts of the journey.
Now let’s talk about how prayer factors into spiritual warfare. Prayer simply refers to our soul’s communication with God. When we pray, we are focusing on God, and this is certainly going to help you stay calmer during a demonic attack. Focus is powerful. If you stare at the size of the needle that a doctor is using to give you a shot, the shot will feel more painful to you then if you turn your focus elsewhere. When you focus on demons, your fear of them will escalate, and you will be much easier for them to torment. When you focus on God, you will have an easier time ignoring demons, and without your attention, they will have a much harder time attacking you.
That last paragraph made things sound rather simple, didn’t it? Of course in real life, things get far more complicated. If I tell you not to focus on the fact that you’re getting wet while you run through some light rain, you can probably do pretty good at ignoring the drops for a short period of time. But if I start pouring buckets of water over your head, you’re no longer going to be able to ignore the fact that you’re getting wet. In the same way, once demons are given certain levels of access to you, ignoring them is no longer an option. Just as you can’t “just think of other things” when someone hits your toe with a hammer, you can’t “just focus on God” when demons are screaming in your brain, manipulating your physical body, or showing up in visible forms.
We need to be realistic in our expectations. We also need to realize that each of us is on a unique eternal journey with God, and He has created us each for a different purpose. A man who is destined to be a soldier needs to go through military boot camp if he’s going to be properly equipped to succeed in his calling. But a man who is designed to be a painter doesn’t need the boot camp experience, and he’s probably not equipped to survive it. Those of you who are getting constantly pounded by demons need to understand that you are not spiritual weaklings, nor is the constant harassment evidence that something’s wrong with your faith. On the contrary, you’re being equipped by God with experiences that you’re going to need to excel at the calling He has given you. Right now it’s easy to believe you’ve been given a pretty crummy assignment because your training is so brutal. But if God has you on the front lines, He has also equipped you with what you need to survive this experience and thrive because of it. What are our two keys to success? Trust and submission. You need to try to turn your focus onto trusting that God loves you, that He is for you, and that He is moving you towards a wonderful destination. You need to submit to His training and ask Him to help you learn everything He wants to teach you. You don’t want to be stuck here any longer than you have to, and you certainly want to get the most benefit you can out of this misery.
So then, does prayer give us the strength to stand against Satan? No, it doesn’t, and we don’t care. Nothing will ever enable us to stand against Satan on our own—we will always require the protection of our Creators. But that’s alright, because it isn’t our goal in life to stand against Satan. Instead, we are focused on pleasing our three glorious Creators, and we do that by fully submitting to Their will in our lives. Sometimes we’ll feel like we’re standing strong against demons, other times we’ll feel like we’re eating dirt while demons walk all over us. But even our apparent defeats will be counted by God as victories if we are choosing the path of total submission.
We do not try to stand against Satan because we know that we are frail, powerless weaklings who are totally dependent on the Ones who made us. We count on our Creators to protect us from demons and we try to keep our focus on Them as much as we can. When demons are allowed to attack us, we trust that there are good reasons, and we look to the Holy Spirit to help us learn everything He wants to teach us. Life is about pursuing a deeper bond with our Creators, not about conquering demons. Demonic harassment is simply another tool which God uses to draw us closer to Him.
Why didn’t God make us stronger than demons?
Demons Cannot Control Your Prayers
Mind Wars: Defending Against Demonic Voices in Your Head
The Spiritual Benefits of Being Trampled by Demons