Chapter 1: Rules of Engagement
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit. – Ephesians 6:17-18
Nothing has more greatly shaped the experiences and events of my life than prayer: personal prayer, public prayer gatherings, pointed and focused prayer, passionate prayer and power-filled, Spirit-energized prayer!
This kind of praying rises from more than simple devotion; it is born of a growing discipleship—availability to God’s Word where understanding is gained through learning, joined to an acquired and expanding experience in applying its truth to real-life pursuit and practice of prayer. That is the kind Jesus taught. It is prayer that lifts praying well beyond the habits of multitudes who, when they pray, are exercising more of something akin to rubbing a rabbit’s foot. Then, others express a hope heavenward that “something good will happen” or that “this awful thing will go away”—a hope-against-hope, desperate call to a God irregularly consulted but now desperately needed.
Further, though we build the important basics of the believer’s devotional prayer life, these pages extend the Savior’s call to His people—to receive and employ “the keys of the Kingdom”; to enter an extended dimension of faith-grounded prayer. This introductory chapter is not only to invite you to a broadened perspective and an increased constancy in faith and the Word of God, but to set a framework of thought—or “the rules of engagement”—that I think may help. Rules of engagement is a military term that defines for commanders and troops when, where and how force will be used. I have chosen this term to title this chapter, not only because we are setting a framework into place, but also to send a clarion call that when we pray, we are, indeed, engaged in spiritual warfare.
Simply put: it’s a war
This order of prayer involves a biblical understanding of the continuing spiritual “struggle between kingdoms” and the spiritual discernment the Holy Spirit enables. In short, it is that kind of prayer the apostle Paul described as “praying with the understanding and with the Spirit.” This will be helpful for engaging the invisible warfare between God’s will for mankind and the evil design of the dark world of Satan’s ploys.
The clash of good and evil, of God and Satan, or the Kingdom of God and powers of darkness is there—there in the Word of God. It is a battle over which some believers have puzzled themselves, saying, “Didn’t Jesus ‘win it all’ at the Cross? He said, ‘It is finished.’” Bewildered by that, some have suggested that any mention of spiritual warfare trivializes the Cross of Christ, but in fact, that is not the case.
-The epistles laud the Cross and the Blood of Christ as having completed salvation’s provision, but they also teach that a spiritual conflict is being engaged in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
-The Blood of the Cross is not only honored, but its power is testified to as the source of authority that equips believers to prevail in this present age-long battle against “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
-All prayer—petition, intercession, supplication and praiseful thanksgiving—is noted as “the weapons of our warfare,” as believers gird for the battle in spiritual armor and take up spiritual weaponry (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18).
Enlisting “Kingdom Warriors”
Central to understanding the resources and tactical weapons the Word of God describes as essential in this conflict is the dual reminder within Jesus’ words when on trial before Pilate. Being asked “Are you a king” He affirmed He is, but He qualified His kingship as being over a spiritual Kingdom—the Kingdom of God. We will take time to study the reality of this invisible Kingdom, the history of warfare being waged and the strategies employed by each side.
The Lord of the Church is the King of a kingdom—the Kingdom of God. The message and ministry of that Kingdom was at the heart of everything Jesus did—His preaching, teaching, healing, casting out of demons, forgiving, freeing and initiating the founding of His Church. He was explicit that what He began in the ministry and penetration of His Kingdom of love, life, truth and grace was to continue beyond His death, resurrection and ascension through His people. That “people” includes you and me, along with all the redeemed, discipled, Spirit-empowered and commissioned Body—the “troops” within His Church. He said:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and the end will come. – Matthew 24:14
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. – John 14:12-14
These basic texts join to Jesus’ announcement of His plan to “build My Church” (see Matthew 16:13-18). It is in that context that our Lord also relates His basic strategy for the Church’s advance unto spiritual victory as the powers of hell are rendered unable to prevail.
As we traverse the Scriptures together, we will draw alongside Jesus’ own disciples as He taught them about the Kingdom, and will discover how essential it is that we perceive how real the invisible war is, and how adequate the resources He provides for us through prayer—unto “penetrating the darkness.”
It is darker than ever
In a very real sense, the words of the title of this book could appropriate be used to provide a subtitle for the Bible. All of the Word of God is a story—from the Creation to the Consummation, from the chaotic darkness “upon the face of the deep” to the glories of the eternal city where forever “the Lamb is the Light thereof.”
Today, the Bible’s prophecies of the end times declare the challenge between, on the one hand, the increasing enterprises of evil and dark powers that corrupt humanity, and the inky blackness of hell’s demons surfacing for the final conflict (see 1 Timothy 4:2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Revelation 9:1-21). On the other hand are those who answer Christ’s call as the Lord of the Church for us to overcome (see 1 John 5:4-5)!
The darkness is deepening—but the Word of God sounds a trumpet blast of faith-inspiriting promise: Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds! It is the grace that flows from the Cross and the grace that flowed to each of us who have met the Savior there. And it is also the same grace, filling and overflowing each of us who open to those overflowing “streams of living water,” that is available to every believer who will receive that full endowment of the Holy Spirit Jesus prophesied. It is the “river” that provides power to live for Christ, to grow in the Word and prayer, and power to follow the Kingdom’s King—Jesus—as He leads us to “stand, therefore,” becoming equipped for battle.
In His name, by the Word of His promise and by the Blood of His Cross through which He triumphed over the authority of all dark powers, let us learn and apply His triumph. Those are the grounds, and His power in the Spirit is the way. Applied in prayer in simple faith made bold through the truth it can—and will—pierces like a sword, cut through the bonds of darkness and release the lost from shame, futility, enslaving addiction, sickness and eternal loss.
Excerpted by permission from Penetrating the Darkness: Discovering the Power of the Cross Against Unseen Evil copyright © 2011 by Jack W. Hayford. Chosen Books, Bloomington, MN.
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