Effectual prayer is effective prayer; prayer which produces results. However, practically all Christians seem ignorant that prayers are actually spiritual warfare. Why spiritual warfare? Because prayers seek the supernatural hand and will of God to change the circumstance which presently exist on earth.
Satan and the enemies of God have worked long and hard to get things on earth as they are, and they do not want their plans changed. As a result, they will do their utmost to block our prayers, and to block God’s responses to our prayers. There is an unseen spirit world, an unseen supernatural realm where much of this battling takes place, and it is happening constantly all around us. We just don’t see it as we can’t see it, and are therefore not aware of it. In Second Corinthians 10:3-5 Paul talks about it and warning us:
“For though walking about in flesh, we do not war according to flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, pulling down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ…”
In the Old Testament we are given an amazing glimpse into this supernatural spiritual reality contained in the Book of Daniel 10:1-14. Briefly, Daniel received a unique vision which He understood and “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning [travailing in prayer] three full weeks. I ate no food for delight, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, until three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Yes, for three weeks Daniel fasted and prayed and waited for a reply from God to his questions. Then,
“… behold, a hand touched me, which set me shaking on my knees and the palms of my hands. And he said to me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright. For to you I am now sent. And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood trembling.
Then he said to me, Do not fear, Daniel; for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and to chasten yourself before your God, your words were heard. And I have come for your words.
But the ruler of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days. But lo, Michael, one of the chief rulers, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand…”
Daniel prayed, and God heard. God immediately sent a heavenly messenger to Daniel bearing a personal reply, but the demonic powers over Persia (Babylon/Persia, where Daniel was) withstood this messenger for 21 days until help arrived to overcome the demonic Prince of Persia and make the way free for God’s messenger.
This spiritual battle took three full weeks and was only resolved when the Archangel Michael (commonly understood to be one of the highest level of Angels) interceded on behalf of the messenger. Why did the Prince of Persia fight so hard? Quite simply, he did not want the prophetic Word of God regarding the future secret plans of Persia passed onto mankind.
In Hosea 4:6 God said through His prophet “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge….” This is how seriously God takes our lack of knowledge. It can destroy us. God knows this; God’s enemy also knows this. If we are ignorant of God’s ways, will and means, God’s enemy can and will destroy us while we bathe and luxuriate in our ignorance.
I believe that an understanding in the Church as a whole, to the effect that all prayer must be seen as spiritual warfare, would absolutely change our attitude to prayer totally and entirely. Immediately our prayer would become more serious and I argue, more effective.
When Daniel prayed, he did it three times a day on his knees. When Daniel got really serious, he first humbled himself in fasting and with the imposition of sackcloth and ashes as he continued to cry out to the Lord in prayer until and answer was received. Daniel also prayed alone. Jesus suggests that too for us saying in Matthew 6:6,
“But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.”
Does this mean that corporate prayer is worthless? Be, I don’t believe so, but it is hard in corporate prayer to get all the congregants praying of one accord. The results a large group of praying of one accord can be spectacular as Acts 2:1-4 shows:
“And in the fulfilling of the day of Pentecost, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly a sound came out of the heaven as borne along by the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And tongues as of fire appeared to them, being distributed; and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled of the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
The salient points here are that they were all on one place, and that they were all praying in one accord – in other words, they prayed with one intent and one goal and all in one agreement. The larger the group, the harder it is to accomplish. This is why so many public prayer meetings seem so dead and so lifeless, for there are often small groups and individuals praying independently toward their own ends, often even in direct opposition to the leader. Why do they do this? They simply don’t know they as Christians, are actively at war with God’s enemies.
Jesus has given us the tools to overcome this problem, saying in Matthew 18:20,
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.”
Praying by ourselves, we pray with the power of 1x. Praying in accord with one of two others does not just multiply the prayer power by 2x or 3x but infinitely, as Jesus is there in the midst praying with them, in His role as our eternal High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
Satan works hard to short-circuit our prayer lives and our prayers by any and all means available to him. Consider how easily we can be totally self absorbed watching a mind numbing TV show for hours on end, and yet how easily we can be distracted in prayer. You say, oh, but that is just our minds wandering! I say NO, that is a lie from the enemy; it is spiritual warfare. Occasionally during some of my deliverance sessions I found myself unable to pray because I was getting so many visions flashing before my eyes as soon as I closed them, that I could not even focus on repeating words dictated by another. To overcome tis, the deliverance leader simply (in Jesus’ name) bound all visions and sounds in me which were not of the Holy Spirit, and instantly the stopped. You see, the action of my deliverance leader complied with Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 10:3-5, in that in by binding the enemy she took control, “pulling down imaginations” and bringing “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God… into captivity…. into the obedience of Christ…” Trust me here, it is my personal testimony and personal experience that these interruptions to prayer are not of our flesh, but are demonically influenced and controlled. Persistence and practice overcomes, but if we don’t know it is a spiritual fight, it is much harder for flesh to overcome alone. Sadly, most Christians seem never to achieve victory and succumb to a prayerless Christian life.
In Romans 15:30 we find an impassioned plea from Paul for prayer as he sought to overcome disbelief around him and return to Jerusalem to minister to Christian there. Paul pleaded with them “But I exhort you, brothers, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and for the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in your prayers to God for me….” The word for strive together here is the Greek συναγωνίζομαι or sunagōnizomai, which is the root of the English word agonise. Paul was asking for agonising prayer to overcome the spiritual obstacles which Satan was putting in his path, such that his prayers may be heard and answered.
Agonising Prayer! How different is that to the flowery and the theological prayer which we commonly present to God? I say flowery, in that we often use superfluous and meaningless vain words and repetition intended to make us sound good and appear pious, as if we are trying to flatter God into submission as seek to entertain Him. I say theological, in that we often try to couch our prayers in the latest and most correct denominational theology and doctrine, as we dot all i’s and cross all t’s and put ourselves before God as if worthy and deserving of His attention because we are so law abiding. Both styles of prayer are not effectual prayer. They simply do not acknowledge that there is a war going on and that prayer is taking the war into enemy territory to change it and claim it back for God’s Kingdom. Remember what the angel said to Daniel: “From the very first day you decided to get wisdom and to be humble in front of God, he has been listening to your prayers. I came to you because you have been praying, but the prince (angel) of Persia has been fighting against me for 21 days.” What was true for Daniel’s prayers is also true for ours. In fact, the closer we get to God, the harder the enemy will fight back and the higher the level of demon which will be railed against you. This makes sense; even battles on earth are fought that way.
Undoubtedly the Christian walk of faith is a much bigger and more serious undertaking than we are ever taught. So many pieces of the big picture are missing, as they are never taught or preached from pulpits. I guess they don’t want to scare new believers, but in their seeker friendly approach, I charge they are growing a generations of Christians who are spiritually impotent and ignorant and whose prayers are just ineffective.
All Christians need to understand how much we need the Holy Spirit in our lives and the active presence of Christ. Without them, we are lost. Simply put, Christians need to know that Effectual Prayer and Spiritual Warfare are one in the same thing.