In his book ‘Mere Christianity’ the former atheist-turned-Christian C.S. Lewis writes:
“One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked about a Dark Power in the universe—a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the Power behind death, disease and sin…This universe is at war.”
It is central to Christian belief that there is a ‘Dark Power’ who ultimately lies behind all the evil in the world. Indeed this Power is at war with the Kingdom of God, and any true Christian will be a combatant in this battle. Of course if someone is a soldier in a warzone they are likely to be attacked, and wounded. I wonder if we take this Biblical fact seriously enough. Jesus did when he warned his followers in John 15:19 that the ‘World’ would hate them (‘World’ being humanity in rebellion against the Kingdom of God). It is inevitable that a true Christian will be attacked.
Similarly, as John Eldridge says in his book ‘Waking The Dead’:
“The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto death…You were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth…Until we come to terms with war as the context of our days, we will not understand life.”
We can’t understand life with all its problems in our sad and suffering world until we understand that it is a warzone. The idea that true followers of Christ, soldiers in the army of the King (even if it’s a while since we sang ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ or ‘Fight the Good Fight’), can live a comfortable, smooth life unaffected by the spiritual battle that rages around us, is a nonsense. As Peter reminds us, suffering for Christ is the Christian lot (1 Peter 4:12,13). Indeed there is a Biblical principle that it is through suffering that the power of God is released, after all it was the extreme suffering of Jesus on the Cross that released the power of God to save the world, the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
Is it just a coincidence that the places that the church is growing in the world are often the same places where Christians suffer for their faith most? It could indeed be argued, in the light of all this, that our faithfulness to God, indeed whether we are a Christian at all, can be measured by how many ‘hits’ we have taken for Jesus in our life. If we are truly in the battle field it is certain that there will be some.
So if we are in this battle how do we fight it? Our chief weapon is prayer as the Apostle Paul reminds us when he writes to Christians in the thick of the spiritual battle, “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests…and keep on praying for fellow Christians” (Ephesians 6:18). The more effective in gospel ministry we are the more we will likely be to come under attack. Therefore we must pray more. In reality I wonder how much we do pray and for what? It should not be just ‘shopping list’, that is prayers for our own concerns, but pray for our effectiveness in producing kingdom fruit.
For we are engaged in a mighty battle, a battle for the eternal souls of the thousands of people drowning in the sea of spiritual darkness around us. And the more we are effective in gospel ministry the more severe the opposition will be.
C.S. Lewis’s ‘Dark Power’ is “prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Prayer is our protection against that power, prayer that calls on the protection and mighty empowering of God—this is an empowering and protection that none of us can safely do without. It is vital that we “pray continually” so that we might be blessed as soldiers of the kingdom, that God might empower us to win great victories for Him in our local community and beyond.