Spiritual warfare: Resist temptation!

by K.W. Leslie, 01 April
SPIRITUAL WARFARE 'spɪr.ɪtʃ.(əw.)əl 'wɔr.fɛ(.ə)r noun. Actively opposing the activity of evil spirits by resisting temptation, exposing their hidden involvement, and exorcism.
2. Popularly (but inaccurately), vigorous prayer, singing, or other acts of worship.
[Spiritual warrior 'spɪr.ɪtʃ.(əw.)əl 'wɔr(.ri).ər noun.]

Spiritual warfare is fighting evil. Plain and simple.

Every human, Jesus obviously included, gets tempted to do the self-serving, self-satisfying thing, regardless of whether it’s wise or right or good. And usually if someone else is urging us to do it, it’s for their own self-serving, self-satisfying reasons. In the case of evil spirits, it’s so they can spread evil, chaos, and corruption—and of course ruin us. So when we realize there are evil motives mixed up in our decision-making process, we gotta fight those temptations, expose the evil, and maybe even exorcise the evil spirits.

It’s hardly a complicated idea. But you know humans. We complicate everything.

Usually with false definitions. Visit a lot of churches, and yeah, they’ll correctly describe spiritual warfare as opposing and fighting evil. Funny thing is… their way of opposing it isn’t always to resist temptation. Sometimes they never even talk about resisting temptation. That’s not the evil they worry about. What they’re worried about are other people. Namely pagans, their nonchristian lifestyles, and their godless politics. Namely their fears that pagan behavior is corrupting our nation and families, and threatening to start the cycle and trigger God’s wrath upon us. Or at least rob us of God’s blessings.

Eek! How are we to fight this evil? Well you won’t find such Christians talking about integrity, personal accountability, confession, and other activities which help us behave ourselves and develop the fruit of self-control. Instead we’re encouraged instead to pray really hard. Sing harder, and it’ll create a positive atmosphere where somehow evil can’t thrive. Pray harder, and really contort yourself in asking God for stuff. Go through all the motions of Christianity, and supposedly this is “spiritual warfare.”

It’s why people who pray a lot like to call themselves “prayer warriors,” and musicians like to claim, “Worship is warfare.” They’re not necessarily resisting temptation… but they’re certainly agitating themselves against evil.

But you do realize Jesus and his apostles describe neither prayer nor music as warfare. Because they’re not. Resisting temptation is.

Easier to sing and pray than resist sin.

How’d Christians get the idea talking and singing count as warfare? I suspect it began as hypocrisy. Someone wasn’t resisting temptation any, but claimed his prayers and music were just as good, and convinced people to believe him. And why shouldn’t they? Praying and singing is way easier than not lying, not cheating, not stealing, not hating. Way easier than literally fighting evil.

And Christians have even invented little myths which go along with our lack of holiness. Supposedly the battle between Michael and Satan Rv 12.7 is raging in the heavens, right over our heads. And every time we pray and sing, the good angels gain power. And every time we stop praying and singing, the bad angels advance. Exactly like a battle with Amalek where the Israelis were winning whenever Moses had his hands raised—and losing when he didn’t. Ex 17.11-12 So we gotta raise our hands—in prayer—so Michael can win the actual spiritual war. Our prayers and songs are helping! They have power.

Rubbish. But popular rubbish. Found in the superstitions of sports fans, who think their positive vibes for their teams help them win. Or the superstitions of ancient Greco-Roman pagans, who straight-up believed their prayers and offerings turned into ἀμβροσία/amrosía, “immortality.” In Greek myths, amrosía was literal food which gods ate to make them immortal. In fact if you prayed to someone—say, your dead grandmother—your prayers would turn into amrosía for her to eat, and if she ate it she’d actually become a god. It’s why the Roman senate actually decreed that Romans pray to certain dead personages, like Julius Caesar: They truly believed their prayers had to power to make gods.

And no, prayer doesn’t work like that at all. Prayer’s not a spiritual force we grant to angels so they can fight harder. It’s talking to God. Yeah, we can ask him to empower people or angels—and if the Holy Spirit likes the idea he’ll do it. But the Spirit doesn’t always make our prayers a condition for what he’ll do. If he determines to do something, none of our prayers will stop him. If he wants Michael to defeat Satan, Michael’s gonna win whether we pray for Michael or not. Period.

…Though why am I talking about Michael’s fight with Satan in present tense? It’s not ongoing. It concluded an age ago. Michael kicked its ass out of heaven and threw it to earth. There might be other battles in heavenly places, but that battle was decisively won millennia ago. The devil’s a defeated foe. Nobody’s still fighting that war… except “prayer warriors” who got suckered into thinking the devil’s a real threat. Which it is when nobody ever bothers to resist it!

The actual battle, the real spiritual war, is between us humans, and our tendency to be totally self-centered and corrupt. But because we’ve claimed the long-ago battle is the actual battle… we’re totally losing the actual battle.

So stop visualizing the wrong battle! Stop thinking all you gotta do is sing or pray really hard, and it’ll strengthen Michael’s angels to fight harder. They won their fight! Now you need to fight. Stop sinning, dammit!

God’s armor doesn’t include music and prayer.

Many a Christian can quote you the Ephesians passage about God’s armor. What they won’t always notice is how Paul doesn’t include prayer in any of our equipment. Nor music. Really. Check it out:

Ephesians 6.10-17 KWL
10 Lastly: Get powerful in the Master, in the authority his strength gives you.
11 Wear all God’s gear, so 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 the dark places in this world,
types of supernatural evil in the high heavens.
13 This is why you 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 righteousness.
15 Lace your shoes in preparation for the good news of peace.
16 Carry at all times the shield of trust in God,
which you’ll use to put out every flaming arrow of evil.
17 Accept the helmet of your salvation
and the machete of the Spirit—which is God’s spoken word.

It’s after Paul described the armor that he brought up prayer:

Ephesians 6.18-19 KWL
18 Through it all, as you’re praying prayers and requests at every moment in the Spirit,
as you’re staying alert about it, always staying on it and making requests for all saints—
19 and pray for me, so a word would be given to open my mouth,
to boldly make known the mystery of the gospel.

’Cause prayer’s not a weapon. I know; plenty of Christians claim it is. Our weapon is our machete (KJV “sword”): God’s spoken word. Ep 6.17 Everything else is protective—and prayer isn’t even among our protective gear! But if we’re to compare prayer with any field equipment, it’d be our radio. It’s how we call for support. But it’s nothing we wield. And neither is music—and you know soldiers throughout history have used music in battle, both to encourage warlikeness and to communicate; so Paul had every opportunity to bring up music in God’s armor, and he didn’t. If we’re doing our music right, it’s largely another form of prayer anyway. Still not a weapon!

Y’notice the armor is to resist the devil’s attacks against the individual Christian. Not Christianity, not the church as a whole, not our nation; it’s not a wall or moat. It’s personal armor. True, ancient Romans could lock shields together to resist an attack, and there’s a lot to be said about Christians supporting one another. Still, Paul described a one-on-one fight between an individual Christian… and our common foe.

If prayer is all the “warfare” we do, it’s not enough! If an enemy soldier is clubbing a soldier, and he keeps screaming into his radio, “Guys! Send me a drone!” does it really matter how fervently or loud he is? How badly he wants that support? How strongly he tries to psyche himself into feeling his need? How close his relationship might be with the generals at headquarters?

Again, not saying we shouldn’t pray. Just that we’ve been given a weapon, and that James told us if we resist Satan it’ll flee. Jm 4.7 Do we not trust the scriptures?

Well, maybe we don’t. Or maybe it’s just that it’s more fun to not resist temptation at all, and beg God to do all the fighting for us, because fighting temptation is so hard.

But we gotta stop being lazy Christians, pick up the armor and weapons God gave us, and start fighting.

Spiritual warfare.