“Prayer warriors” call it that because it’s way easier than actual spiritual warfare.
- Spiritual warfare /'spɪr.ɪtʃ.(əw.)əl 'wɔr.fɛ(.ə)r/ n. Actively opposing the activity of evil spirits. Usually through exposing their hidden involvement, in exorcism, and in otherwise standing against them.
- [Spiritual warrior /'spɪr.ɪtʃ.(əw.)əl 'wɔr(.ri).ər|/ n.]
Yeah, “prayer warriors” react badly whenever I point out prayer isn’t the beginning and end, the be-all, do-all, and end-all, of spiritual warfare. Because they honestly think it is. They equate the two. They’re “doing battle” against evil by fervently praying against it, by emotionally draining themselves, by taxing their bodies. “I contended for that person in prayer,” they’ll point out; “don’t tell me it’s not warfare.”
Contended nothing. They twist their bodies in a way which unnecessarily hurts them. They think their strong emotions, their acts of self-torture, make God take their prayers more seriously than usual. They’re no different than people who whip and cut themselves.
God never told us to torture ourselves to get his attention. Nor does he even want such a thing. Our stressing out, our emotional gyrations, don’t make him any more likely to answer a prayer with yes or no. We’re literally going through the motions—and achieving nothing. Call it “warfare” all you like. The only thing we’re fighting is our own bodily comfort. And not in a good way.
What’s spiritual warfare then? It’s fighting evil. It’s standing up to the devil. It’s resisting temptation. It’s freeing others from evil influence, even devilish possession.
You probably know the passage about God’s armor. If not, here’s a refresher.
Ephesians 6.10-18 KWL
- 10 Lastly: Get powerful in the Lord, in the authority his strength
gives you. 11 Wear all God’s gear.
- Then you’ll be able to stand fast against the devil’s tactics,
- 12 because we aren’t in a battle against blood and muscle:
- We’re against types of authority, power, things which govern this world’s dark places,
- supernatural evil in the high heavens.
- 13 For this reason put on all God’s gear, so you’ll have a fighting chance on the evil day:
- You’ll be entirely ready to stand fast.
- 14 Stand: Belt your waist with truth. Wear a vest of rightness.
- 15 Lace your shoes in preparation for the good news of peace.
- 16 Carry the shield of trust
in Godat all times,
- which you’ll use to put out every flaming arrow of evil.
- 17 Accept the helmet of
yoursalvation and the machete of the Spirit,
- which is God’s spoken word, 18 praying every second in and to the Spirit,
- consistently watching out for every request of every saint as well.
Yes, prayer is in there. We gotta pray. Constantly. We gotta stay in communication with our master. But that’s in concert with a whole lot of other actions and instructions: Truth, rightness, peace, trust in God, salvation, God’s word. And as you’ll regularly see, a lot of “prayer warriors” only do the praying. The other stuff? Redefined till it’s all about prayer.
- The belt of truth: Truthful prayers.
- The vest of rightness: Righteous prayers.
- The good news of peace: Peaceful prayers.
- The shield of trust: Trusting prayers.
- The helmet of salvation: Prayers where we remind God of our relationship.
- The machete of the Spirit: Prayers where we quote lots of bible, just in case God plans to weasel out of his own word like some other fathers we know.
There ya go. Don’t have to literally fight evil. All we gotta do is pray, and let God and his angels do all the fighting on our behalf. And in this way, “prayer warriors” fight nothing but the Holy Spirit’s insistence to get off our knees and get into the actual battle.
No, don’t stop praying. Definitely keep praying. But act, people. Act before you’re destroyed.
Calling for air support isn’t battle.
If Paul had written Ephesians in the 20th or 21st century, he’d have compared prayer to getting on the radio and talking to our commander. Getting our commands. Or calling for support, calling for backup, calling in an air strike. Prayer isn’t nothing.
But if prayer is all the warfare, it’s not warfare. Is a man calling headquarters for drones doing any actual battle? Nope. Just saying, “Guys, I need drones.” Doesn’t matter how loud he shouts it into the radio. Doesn’t matter how anxious he is, how fervent how is, how strongly he tries to psyche himself into feeling his need. Doesn’t matter how close his relationship is with the generals back at HQ; in fact if that relationship gets in the way of the mission, the generals get in trouble. And God, to set this simile straight, does not prioritize us over his mission. Jesus warned us: In this world, we’re gonna suffer.
When it comes to actually standing fast against evil, many self-described “prayer warriors” don’t. When evil happens, they don’t seek out fellow citizens to help fight it. They don’t create organizations or raise awareness. They don’t petition the government, or coordinate with police. They don’t join any existing groups who do this already. They just pray.
They don’t fight their fears and step out in faith. They embrace their fears, and stick to prayer groups in safe places, or prayer walks in safe neighborhoods. They have no peace; they’re all rage and fear and worry. They have no rightness, so they’re not gonna resist temptation; they’ll flee, or give in. They lack faith, so the devil’s attacks discombobulate them. They don’t know anything God said, so they wield the “sword of the Spirit” pathetically.
Yeah, they have the helmet of salvation. Now picture an army of naked soldiers, wearing nothing but helmets.
Give ’em real testing, and they flee and hide. They stay in their Christian enclaves and never come out. They never interact with pagans: All their friends are Christians. All their customers are dealt with solely in a business-like manner, so they never show Christ to them. They have little to do with their coworkers, next-door neighbors, or strangers. They aren’t in the thick of anything. They’re behind their hedges of protection. Praying from afar.
Calling themselves “warriors” instead of fighting. You know what we call that.
Actual spiritual warfare.
True spiritual battle is being out there in the world where we can be tempted to either do evil, or passively accept it. It’s why we need the armor.
Yeah, spiritual warriors pray. Because the fight is hard, and we need God’s support; not because we expect God to do all the work. We intercede for people by helping them, physically, materially, financially, and prayerfully. We’re acting as salt and light in the world.
But most of our warfare has to do with our own personal growth. God’s kingdom doesn’t advance by fighting back the devil; it grows by Christians being Christians, and loving other people till they wanna become Christian too. We concentrating on resisting the things which tempt us. Not on devils behind every corner, possessing people, manipulating the press and entertainment industry, spreading death and drugs and corruption. I mean, we fight that too, but we won’t make headway against that stuff unless we fight, in the Holy Spirit’s power, our own sin nature.
Too many Christians concentrate on other people first, instead of ourselves. It’s why people call us hypocrites, and why we’re so often ineffective, and look stupid. Some of us even resort to un-Christian things: We exaggerate, lie, slander, and use devilish trickery in order to get our own way. Watch the elections; you’ll see what I mean. They’re so interested in fighting the devil, they’re blind to the fact they’re using its tactics—and have therefore taken its side.
So concentrate on that. Grow fruit of the Spirit. Resist temptation. And do keep praying. But give up on the “prayer warrior” talk unless you have actions to go along with your prayers. Christianity isn’t supposed to be all talk anyway. The kingdom depends not on talk, but power.