Praying with Purpose, Precision, Power and Authority
When the enemy’s fiery darts sail in your direction, fire back with arrows of prayer using the power of God’s word and the authority of Jesus Christ!
When talking about the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), prayer has been called the “lance of the Spirit,”* but I like to think of it as an arrow. While “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17, niv) was likened by Paul to a deadly machaira dagger, arrows are used with lethal precision to strike from a distance. Prayer is the missile that pierces through to the spiritual realm to find its intended target.
PRAYING WITH PURPOSE—THE WILL OF THE FATHER
How can we know where to aim if we don’t know our target? Jesus taught His followers to pray, “‘Our Father in heaven…Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’” (Matthew 6:9-10, niv). Our primary purpose in prayer is always to see God’s will come to pass on earth. Even Christ Himself in His most agonizing prayer, as “His sweat fell to the ground as great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44, nlt) prayed, “‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’” (Luke 22:42, esv). Like Jesus, our goal in prayer is to see God’s will be done, no matter what.
“Nevertheless…” No matter what… Faith plays an enormous role in praying God’s will. When the outcome is undesirable to our flesh or mind, we must trust—unflinchingly—that the Lord is good and that His plans are “to prosper you, and not to harm you” (Jeremiah 29:11, niv). It is essential in prayer to “trust in the LORD with all your heart [and] not depend on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, nlt). We pray for the Father’s will to come to pass whether or not we understand how or why.
PRAYING WITH PRECISION—THE LEADING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Now that we know our goal is to see God’s will be accomplished, how do we discern what His will is for a given situation? Jesus said, “the Spirit of truth…will guide you” (John 16:13, nlt), and Romans 8:27 tells us, “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (esv).
So, how do we aim our arrows with precision? We ask the Holy Spirit to direct our prayers.
The Holy Spirit is our Source of discernment and direction in prayer. Listen for Him to give direction to your natural mind in the form of a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8). That is, something you didn’t know before and couldn’t know aside from the Holy Spirit revealing it to you (knowledge), or an insight into or a strategy for the situation (wisdom).
One crucial way the Spirit directs us in prayer is by revealing the source of a problem, especially whether it’s of the world, the flesh or the devil. Such revelation allows us to direct our prayer arrows straight to the heart of the true enemy, without wasting effort on worthless decoys.
For believers who also pray in the spirit, or “in tongues” (Acts 19:6, niv), 1 Corinthians 14:2 assures us that when we do, we are speaking to God. Verse 4 also tells us, “he who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (niv). That is, he strengthens his spirit, builds up his faith and enriches his understanding of God’s word, will and ways.
PRAYING WITH POWER—THE WORD OF GOD
The enemy may come at us with “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16, nkjv), but we can set our prayers aflame with the living word of God! Hebrews 4:12 proclaims, “The word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword…” (nlt).
When “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1, nkjv), our Lord carried with Him but a single weapon—the word of God. For every temptation hurled at Him, Jesus countered with Scripture. Three simple words began each of the Master’s rebuttals: “It is written…”
But He answered and said,
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (v. 4)
Jesus said to him,
“It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’” (v. 7)
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan!
For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God,
and Him only you shall serve.’” (v. 10)
At this, the Lord’s third rebuke, the devil turned tail and ran.
But, what is it that makes praying the words of Scripture, God’s Word—the words of God—so powerful? I believe the answer lies in Paul’s second epistle to his protege, Timothy. Some Bible translations phrase 2 Timothy 3:16 as “All Scripture is inspired by God.” However, I believe the better translation is, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (niv). In fact, the original Greek word translated “inspired” or “God-breathed” is theopneustos (Strong’s Concordance, G2315), from theos (G2316) meaning “God” and pneo (G4154) meaning “breathe out.” When you speak out the words He breathed out, you are, in effect, breathing out the breath of God!
Lest we start thinking Scripture works like some sort of magic spell or incantation, let me point out that Satan knows the Bible, too. As a matter of fact, he knows it far better than most Christians and even tried quoting Scripture back to Jesus:
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:5-6, nkjv).
The devil’s problem (besides picking a fight with Jesus, of course) was that only children of God—those who believe in Jesus’ name (John 1:12, nlt)—have the authority to pray God’s word and, more importantly, to pray in the name of Jesus.
PRAYING WITH AUTHORITY—THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST
Simply put, there is no authority higher than Jesus. Christ Himself proclaimed, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18, nkjv). Paul elaborates in Philippians 2:9-11, God “has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (nkjv).
Jesus told the first-century disciples, “‘Look, I have given you authority over all power of the enemy’” (Luke 10:19, nlt). The same applies to His followers today. When Jesus prayed for the original disciples in His Great High Priestly Prayer, He included us in the petition as well: “‘I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in Me through their message’” (John 17:20, nlt).
When we align ourselves with Him, willingly placing ourselves under His authority, Christ transfers that authority to us.
But, take note. This prayer point comes with a warning to any who would usurp Christ’s authority without submitting to His lordship. Acts 19:13-16 (nkjv) relates the cautionary, and somewhat humorous, account of the seven sons of Sceva. Sons of a Jewish chief priest, these brothers traveled about casting out evil spirits but were no followers of Christ. On their journeys, they heard of the miracles God was working through Paul, including how the apostle would cast out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. Deciding they could add Jesus to their own repertoire, they “took it upon themselves” to use the Lord’s name. It didn’t go well for them.
When the men pronounced, “‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches,’… the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’” That’s when things got ugly.
“Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (Acts 19:16, niv).
Like all evil spirits, this demon knew who Jesus was, and it knew the authority Paul carried as a follower of His. These itinerant exorcists came with no authority. They knew of Jesus, but they did not know Him. And, in turn, the demon, neither knew nor obeyed them. (Also see how demons responded to Jesus in Mark 1:24 and Matthew 8:29/Mark 5:7).
In short, there’s more than one way to take the Lord’s name in vain. Without the lordship of Christ, any claim to spiritual authority is baseless. But with Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life, when you make yourself a servant of the Most High, “‘no weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me’” (Isaiah 54:17, nkjv).