Seminary Viewpoints

Our War Cry for Spiritual Battle: Prayer Makes Us Dangerous

Renton Rathbun | February 10, 2022
Theology Thursday

As discussed by Renton Rathbun on The Steve Noble Show on Feb. 10

When I went through basic training in the Army (the only way I was able to afford college), we learned how to deploy bayonets. Bayonets may seem a little outmoded, but they are essential tools for hand-to-hand combat if a gun jams.

We were taught to use a war cry — an intense “huh!” — as we thrusted the weapons into the base of a tree. Why? The guttural grunt gets adrenaline pumping and conditions and emboldens soldiers for the extremely violent, distasteful and bloody act of plunging the blade deep not into the trunk of a tree but rather that of an enemy. Because as useful a tool as a bayonet can be, it’s useless if not employed with vigor and deadly purpose.

Ephesians 6:10-17 lays out even more powerful and purposeful tools — and an even more forceful war cry — to be deployed in spiritual battle with Satan and his demons, the most important being the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word.

Our War Cry: Prayer

Verse 18 describes how Christians are to use these tools. The verse begins with a present participle: “praying.” Praying is our war cry that attaches to the bayonet of God’s Word for the very real and brutal spiritual warfare in which we must engage. As one Reformer maintained, “We fight by prayer.”

Another Reformer, Martin Luther, saw the world much differently than we do. In Luther’s worldview, Satan and his demons were a part of the fabric of the physical world he lived in. Some historians attribute this high awareness of Satan and his demons to Luther’s medieval background. That might be partially true, but Luther was not being superstitious. He was recognizing the reality of the world we live in, even today. He saw this world filled with devils who threaten to destroy us.

The more real the warfare, the more Luther understood his work of warfare to be prayer. He saw his most potent work not in speeches before magistrates and church leaders but rather petitions before his Almighty God.

Luther expressed this sentiment in that great hymn of the faith, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” In prayer we will not fear Satan, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.

In fact, alongside prayer, Luther recognized that one small word is mightier than any power on earth — and can even bring Satan to his knees. When Satan came to attack, Luther pointed his finger and thundered, “Liar!”

Prayer that Wins Spiritual Battle

Like Luther’s, our worldview needs to be one of warfare to advance the truth of God against Lucifer’s lies. And like Luther, we need to understand that victory comes by prayer. Disciplined, vigorous, purposeful prayer-work. We must stop forcing prayer to be limited to an emotional event. It is duty first.

We must stop imagining ourselves in battle without prayer. If we are not in prayer, we are lying on the battlefield in fetal position.

We must stop taking this weapon lightly or cavalierly, as we so often do in unthinkingly and often insincerely tossing off the promise, “I’ll pray for you.”

We must stop fighting Joe Biden and other imagined political opponents and take a swing at the devil in prayer. As Paul emphasizes, “Our battle is not with flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” And although we have the tools for warfare, our thrusting of the sword of the Spirit into the chest of our enemy can only be accomplished alongside the war cry of prayer.

Jim Elliot, a man whose life actually ended with an edge of a spear to his chest, chastises us Christians who too often remove ourselves from the fight. He once lamented:

We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are “harmless,” and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in the battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places … .

We are “sideliners”—coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us; we are too much like its own. Oh, that God would make us dangerous!”

Oh that through prayer, we might fight.

That through prayer, we might contend against the enemy.

That through prayer, we might kill our sin.

That through prayer, the enemy might fear.

That through prayer, God might indeed make us dangerous!

For more content on spiritual warfare, check out Sam Horn’s blog post on winning spiritual warfare in today’s broken culture.