Pastor Craig Carter
In our current sermon series, we’ve gained insights from Pete Greig’s book, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People. In the book, Pete suggests the Lord’s Prayer is structured around four basic steps captured by the acrostic, P.R.A.Y. – Pause, Rejoice, Ask, Yield.
First, we pause in prayer by remembering whose presence we’re in – Our Father. We come before the Lord in silence and stillness. Next, we rejoice in prayer because we have a Father in heaven and hallowed, or holy, is His name. We praise Him for who He is and thank Him for His blessings. Then, we ask in prayer saying, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and we present our requests to God both for ourselves and for others. Lastly, we yield in prayer by saying “thy will be done” and listening for God’s voice. We say “yes” to the Lord by acknowledging that we need His forgiveness and being willing to forgive others.
That seems like a pretty good way to end as we are able to leave our place of prayer on a high note. Our needs have been met and we are at peace with God and those around us. But Jesus reminds us there is one more matter to address when we are taught to pray…
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13 KJV)
That’s not a very pleasant thought, is it? But it’s an important matter to consider.
The truth is, you and I find ourselves on a battlefield. It’s best that we be prepared for the war that is being waged.
Our adversary is not one who we can see marshaling his forces on our border. Instead, the source of temptation and evil in our world is the Devil, or Satan.
It’s why Paul tells us: “You [must] defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.” (Ephesians 6:11-12 CEV)
Since it is a spiritual enemy that we’re up against we must use spiritual weapons – and the primary one is prayer. When we pray for freedom from temptation and deliverance from evil, we are tapping into the power we need to overcome the Devil and his snares.
If we’re going to be effective in this type of prayer, we need to pray with power. Pete shares in his book that to pray with power we need to…
1) Know our ENEMY
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13 KJV)
The New Living Translation reads this way: “Don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” I like this translation better because it really gets to the heart of the matter and captures the meaning of Jesus’ words. Our enemy is referred to as “the tempter” when the Devil first confronts Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4:3 (NIV) So, as Jesus did, we too must not yield to Satan and his enticements (rather we are to yield to God and His will).
In the Lord’s Prayer, the Greek word for evil is preceded by a definite article, so it is referring to the evil one. According to the Bible, evil is not some abstract, “dark force” in the universe. Instead, there is someone behind the curtain pulling all the strings.
He is identified as Satan, which literally means, “enemy or adversary.” Here’s how he is described in the New Testament:
Jesus refers to him as a “thief [that] comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10 NIV) and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV).
Peter says, “Your enemy, the devil, is like a roaring lion, sneaking around to find someone to attack.” (1 Peter 5:8 CEV).
John calls him a “serpent” and “the accuser of the brothers and sisters” (Revelation 12:9-10 NIV).
Make no mistake, this is not a nice guy. But even though Satan is a force to be reckoned with, we don’t have to fear him. That’s because, just like us, he is a created being, albeit a heavenly one.
According to Scripture, he fell from grace when he tried to ascend to the place of prominence reserved for God, His Creator (see Isaiah 14).
God and Satan are not co-equals. The devil is not omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (everywhere) or omnipotent (all powerful). In each of those regards, he is limited and severely so.
Since he is limited, Satan is uses his power and influence to do the greatest harm possible. As Christians, we shouldn’t expect less temptation than unbelievers, but more. We shouldn’t think we’re immune from Satan’s evil devices, but more likely to encounter them.
Why? Because Satan has been cast out of heaven and there is a place in hell reserved for him and his minions. Since “misery loves company,” he wants to take as many down with him as he possibly can (using the limited “bullets” in his arsenal). He wants to kill, destroy, and devour each of us by any and every means possible.
The devil is a worthy adversary but he need not be feared. Only God is to be feared. C.S. Lewis was on-target when he said we can make two mistakes in our assessment of Satan. We can give him too much credit or we can give him too little credit.
Our focus should be on a healthy respect for our opponent. We don’t need to cower in fear, but we shouldn’t take him too lightly either. That leads to the second thing we need in order to pray with power. We need to…
2) Know our AUTHORITY
Jesus spent a great deal of time and energy during His earthly ministry setting free those who were under the influence and control of demonic forces. In fact, it was one of the primary reasons Christ came to Planet Earth – to do battle with and conquer Satan and his evil army.
“But the Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8b NLT)
“We are people of flesh and blood. That is why Jesus became one of us. He died to destroy the devil, who had the power over death.” (Hebrews 2:14 CEV)
Satan’s fate is already sealed and we know how the story ends … with him going down in utter defeat and cast into the eternal lake of fire (see Revelation 20:10).
That being said, we still are subject to Satan’s attacks. As we await Jesus’ triumphant return and the establishment of His eternal kingdom, we now live in a battleground. Satan knows he can’t and won’t ultimately win, but he won’t go down without a fight.
“Terror will come on the earth … for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.” (Revelation 12:12b NLT)
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”
He goes on to say in another book, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” (Christian Reflections)
Since there is no neutral ground, there can be no neutral people. We have to pick a side. It is through prayer that we choose to be a part of the Lord’s army. And in doing so, we exercise our God-given authority.
Listen to what Paul says on this subject and follow his reasoning: “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and made him head over all things…” (Ephesians 1:22 NLT). This is done through His death, resurrection and ascension.
“Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come.” (Ephesians 1:21 NLT) This includes Satan (the ruler of this present world).
“He raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:6 NLT)
The same authority given to Jesus has been given to us through our union with Him. When we pray, we are learning to rule and reign with Christ. We don’t have to plead for mercy from the mess we’re in because we exercise God-given authority from above, since we are seated with Jesus in the heavenly realms.
Sometimes we lose a battle and so every prayer doesn’t come with a happy ending, but we know that the ultimate victory has been won and will one day be revealed. In the interim, the Devil thrashes around like a wounded and cornered animal, inflicting as much harm on folks as is possible before his own destruction.
But, as one author puts it, “The end is in sight, and those who endure to the end shall be victorious even if in the meantime they become victims.” (Chuck Lowe)
Do we know that, as God’s people, we are not a pawn in Satan’s hands? He has no control over us. Instead, he is under our authority.
Maybe you and I need to start acting like it, believing that we don’t have to yield to temptation and that we can be delivered from evil. Remember what Jesus said, “Take heart, because I have overcome the world [and the ruler of this world].” (John 16:33 NLT)
Lastly, to pray with power we must…
3) Know How to FIGHT
In our western worldview, we’ve attributed virtually every sin to a society or clinical cause and we try to combat the forces that seek to destroy us with human means, such as government programs, psychotherapy, medications and self-help books.
Even so, at our core, we know the truth – that there are evil forces at work in the world. We are also acutely aware of the evil that lurks within the human soul as well. It’s scary when we realize how quickly we can be tempted to hate or hurt others or engage in self-destructive behaviors.
Friends, there is no doubt “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT)
We must learn how to fight with the spiritual weapons God has given us. We must “Put on all of God’s armor” so that we will be able to “stand firm against all strategies of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11 NLT)
Paul goes on to mention what that armor looks like: belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes prepared for peace, shield of faith, and a helmet of salvation. Virtually every piece of hardware is defensive in nature. It is designed for spiritual resistance more than for attack.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil … Then after the battle you will be standing firm. Stand your ground…” (Ephesians 6:10-14a NLT)
The emphasis is on courageous resistance and complete reliance on God.
You and I don’t have to pick fights with the Devil in prayer. If we want to resist temptation and overcome evil, it’s probably better for us to plant seeds than to pull weeds. Put another way, we need to shine the light rather than curse the darkness. Forgive an enemy, care for the poor, have compassion on the addicted, side with the downtrodden, and spread the gospel in word and in deed.
Did you know evil is defeated every time someone becomes a believer? When someone is saved that means there is one less agent of Satan and one more soldier of Christ. You and I need to “stand firm” and live in a way that is the opposite of the evil we find around us.
Paul mentions only two offensive weapons – Scripture and prayer. These are a potent combination.
“…take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:17b-18 NLT)
We pray with power when we pray wielding “the sword of the Spirit.” We use Scripture for hand-to-hand combat with the devil. Here’s what it might look like…
You’re feeling worthless, overcome with a sense of not measuring up. Grab your Bible and read, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14 NIV)
Then swing it like a sword. “God doesn’t make mistakes and He made me just the way He wanted me to be. I refuse to believe your lies about me. I’m okay and more than okay. I’m a child of the King above all kings. That makes me a prince, so don’t talk to me like you’ve been doing. Treat me with respect and dignity.”
Then you turn to Romans 8:1, “There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (NLT). Say, “Get off my back, Satan. I see what you’re trying to do and I’m not buying what you’re selling. Stop belittling me and lying to me. I’m seated with Jesus in the heavenly places and He says He loves having me by His side. And if He’s for me, who can be against me? Certainly not you, Satan. So be gone! Good riddance!”
Try that sort of approach and you’ll be surprised at what happens. Satan becomes quite cowardly when confronted with the simple truth of God’s Word. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7b NLT) Let me also add there is strength in numbers. We lock arms with our fellow soldiers in Christ and do battle in prayer together.
Pastor and Bible teacher John Piper says, “Until you believe that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for.” Once we come to that realization, we want to learn how to pray with power. We do it by knowing our enemy, knowing our authority, and knowing how to fight
Father God, “don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Amen.