Spiritual Warfare

Yesterday, I was scheduled to pray to open up the Quad State Legislative Conference. This is a group of legislators from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia who gather each year to discuss issues that affect our region, especially the Interstate 81 corridor which connects all four states. The meeting was held in Martinsburg, West Virginia, about a 25-minute drive from my house.

I had thought through what I might pray for when I got there. I usually thank the Lord for public servants who serve as ministers for the good of the people, pray for them personally including their families, pray for their spiritual lives and ask for godly wisdom as they make decisions for their constituents. I left the house at the time I had planned. Everything was right on schedule until I hit Tuscarora Pike, which was closed.

Now you have to understand where I live. There is a mountain between my house and Martinsburg, so when you encounter a closed road, your options are limited. I was halfway up the mountain when I saw the sign, so after backtracking, finding another way and getting behind a rather slow driver, I lost 40 minutes.

I was going to call a legislator on his cell phone to let him know I was running behind, but for the only time I can remember, my phone just had a black screen. It was fine earlier that morning and was fine when I finally got to the meeting, but was dead when I needed to call someone before the meeting started.

Then I went to the wrong floor of the hotel and couldn’t find the meeting room for a few minutes. When I did arrive, the welcome was being delivered and I wasn’t called on to pray. I had to leave after about an hour. Like I said, it was a bad day.

I asked the Lord “why” a lot yesterday. Why the delays? Why the frustration? Why the opposition? Why was Satan so intent on making me late? After all, it was just a prayer.

It was just a prayer.

As soon as I thought it, I was ashamed. Did that sentence really show what I think about prayer? I call people to pray for their leaders constantly. Deep down, do I really consider prayer something so small that it’s unworthy of satanic opposition?   

Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

So there’s the confession of my fleshly thought and the rebuke I gratefully received. May we not handle prayer as an insignificant thing.

And please keep praying for your leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The historic Dunker church at the Antietam Battlefield

The historic Dunker church at the Antietam Battlefield

I stopped by the Antietam battlefield today.  I do this from time to time to connect with my area’s historical roots and, since the battle was the single bloodiest day in American history, remind myself things could be worse.

Today I decided to do my daily Bible reading in the small Dunker church building around which much of the fighting took place early in the day on September 17, 1862.  It was a little cool for mid-June and all one could hear was raindrops slapping the window panes.

When I finished reading, I took a few minutes to look out over the quiet battlefield from the open doorway.  How could something so horrible have happened in such a peaceful place?  Then a challenging thought came to me: I’m in a battle.  I’m in a battle every day as a follower of Christ.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

I’m reminded, too,  that we in the Church must focus on this battle.  I’m concerned when pastors or political activists quote this verse (as I’ve heard them do), acknowledge the spiritual nature of our struggle, then spend the rest of the time railing against people – the very flesh and blood we aren’t ultimately fighting against.

After verse twelve, Paul lists the weapons of the Christian: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation and the Word of God.  Then he asks for prayer.  Not prayer to have success combatting bad government policy, but that

utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:19, 20)

Where is the virtue in winning a war we’re not even called to fight with weapons fashioned by the world’s political system?  When our involvement with our government looks suspiciously like the world’s approach, that’s exactly what we’re doing.