Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Believers need power, God's power, to overcome the past and look forward to the future. And prayer is the key to channeling that power. Today we'll learn about warfare praying, channeling God's power to the destruction of Satan's strongholds. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, should all our prayers be warfare prayers?
Well, the answer, of course, is no. All of our prayers don't have to be warfare prayers. When I think of the Lord Jesus Christ, he rebuked Satan often, but it's not as if that's all he did. He prayed to the Father with gratitude. He gave thanks to the Father. And of course, that's the kind of emphasis our prayers should have as well.
I love the fact that we have the privilege of fellowship with the living God, and that to me is really, in a sense, the essence of prayer. Today is one of the last days we're making available a book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. I wrote this book so that Christians would be given hope.
I know that many carry baggage from their past. But there comes a point in their life when that has to be laid down because they need to understand that the very fact that they are alive means that God still has a future for them. This resource will be a tremendous blessing to you and to help and to those whom you love. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And be sure to listen because after this message, I'm going to tell a story of someone who made a bargain with their unforgiving spirit. But for now, let us listen. We should pray in the name of Christ. Jesus said in John chapter 16 as well as John 14, he says, hitherto you have asked nothing in my name, ask and you shall receive. Why do we pray in the name of Jesus?
First of all, because we need the access into God's presence that only Jesus Christ possesses. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ by whom also we have access. Sometimes the question is asked whether God hears the prayers of the unsaved or those of different religions. The word hears is a bit ambiguous. Of course, he hears them in the sense that he is aware of them and knows what is being said.
In that sense, he hears them. But there is only one name by which God can be approached. Only one name through whom he regards those prayers and that is Christ. And so Jesus said, ask in my name. We need the access of Christ, but we also need the authority of Christ.
Because what we're talking about today is challenging Satan, taking away territory that has been given to him. Many years ago, in fact it was in 1968, I was involved in going to the land of Israel and we went to the top of Masada. Now you must understand that Masada is the place where the Jews held out against the Romans and they did that for three years on the top of this fortress. Despite all the Roman armies, all that they could do was camp around Masada and the Jews were on the top of this mountain and because it was so well fortified and they had food up there, they lived for nearly three years. As I walked to the top of Masada and reflected back on that experience, something occurred to me and this is very important.
In fact, those of you who are young people here, though it applies to everyone, this may be one of the most significant things that you will hear from me. Do you realize that it is much easier to defend territory that belongs to you than to capture it back after it is in enemy hands? We're speaking about fortresses. Let me make the analogy. It is much easier to say no to alcohol if you have never tasted than it is for you to say no after it has become a part of your lifestyle for a number of years. It is much easier to say no to immorality before you're involved in immorality than to say no to it after it has become part of your experience.
It is easier to say no to all the sins of the flesh. It is easier to say no to all the addictions and the afflictions before they become a part of you because it's always easier to defend territory than it is to capture it after it's in the hands of the enemy. But there's something else about strongholds. Not only is that true, but secondly, let us realize that when we capture the enemy, we must do so with resources that are stronger than the enemy.
There must be strategy and there must be resources that are stronger. Now when you think about the enemies of the soul, when we think about all of the experiences that people have, the bondages that we have talked about in other messages, we realize that the only way we can come to victory is to lay hold of the power of Christ and go behind enemy lines and capture people and circumstances for the glory of God. And that is called warfare praying. Warfare praying. Are you acquainted with warfare praying?
Let's turn to Ephesians chapter 6, the passage of scripture that we began with this morning, and I want to give you an illustration of warfare praying. Let's suppose that you begin your day this way. I began my day this way. I frequently begin my day this way.
I ought to begin it this way every day. What you do is you use prayer to put on the armor of God before you're going to go into the battle. And isn't life a battle? Don't you encounter it in the office?
Don't you encounter it in your family? So you pray this way. It says in verse 13, take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything to stand firm, you say, Lord Jesus, through your strength and power, I put on truth. I receive you as my truth.
I want to hear only the truth, and I want to be kept from the deceptions of Satan. And now, Lord Jesus, I put on the breastplate of righteousness. I affirm the fact that you are my righteousness, and you represent all that I need in the presence of God, and I depend upon you today as the righteousness of God. I want to shod my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
I claim in the name of Christ the ability to share the good news of the gospel with whomever you may bring me in contact with today. And then notice I take up the shield of faith with which I will be able to extinguish all of the flaming missiles of the evil one and pray that no enemy dart, no enemy missile will come into my life except those that you desire for my purification and growth. And, Lord Jesus, in faith I take up the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. You put on the armor. That's the way you go into battle, and you do it.
How? Through prayer. I think that's why Paul says there in verse 18, with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit. Now that you yourself are fitted for the battle, it is time now to begin to intercede on behalf of others and their needs, their strongholds. I brought a copy of a warfare prayer with me today from Mark Bubek's book entitled The Adversary, but I can't find it. Well, yes, I can.
As a matter of fact, it's right here. Let me give you an example. If you're praying for someone else, you can say, loving Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bring in prayer, and then you name the person, I ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance that I might pray in the Spirit as you have told me. I thank you, Father, for the sovereign control that you have over this person's life. And then you begin to say, I claim back the ground of his life which he has given to Satan by believing the enemy's deception. In the name of Jesus, I resist all of Satan's activity to hold him in blindness and darkness, and exercising my authority which is given to me in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, I pull down the strongholds which the kingdom of darkness has formed against him.
I smash and I break and I destroy all those plans formed against his mind, his will, his emotions, and his body. In prayer, I destroy the spiritual blindness and deafness that Satan keeps upon him. Oftentimes I've prayed and I've said, oh God, I bring before you the resurrection, the ascension of Christ, and all of that power in the name of the Lord, we bring it to bear on that particular situation. That's warfare praying. It is praying within the will of God so you can pray with confidence. If your own heart is right, it means that you are praying in the Spirit with submission and faith, and you're praying in the only name that really matters when it comes to satanic conflict, that of Christ.
About 14 years ago through Mark Bubek's book, and I would recommend it to you, it's entitled The Adversary, I began to understand the dimensions of warfare praying. I was the pastor of a different church here in the city at the time, and a woman came to me with an excruciating situation. She said that her husband had just left her and took the children. They had had many family problems and seemed to be unreconcilable, and because of arguments and abuse and alcoholism, he ran off with the children, and there was evidence that he had intended to kidnap them and to take them with him for good.
And this broken-hearted mother faced the possibility of never seeing her children again. I didn't know what to do. But I told her, and I remember this so vividly, it was in the parking lot of the church. I had just read about warfare praying. I said, will you agree with me that in the name of Christ, we will stand against Satan and we will take back territory that your husband has given over to satanic spirits, and we will take it back in the name of Christ, and we will bind those powers that they might not have control over him so that he might not act irrationally. And so we agreed.
And then we enlisted the help of others. Oh, that's so important, because when people gather together in the name of Christ, in twos and in threes, and begin to agree together, God does miracles. A few days later, as a result of prayer, the husband returned with the children. Now, you may say, well, that may have happened whether you prayed or not. That, I guess, is possible. But believe me, that woman didn't believe that that was possible.
She accepted it as a miracle of God because she knew that without that kind of praying, her husband would have never returned. I'm speaking to people who have children who are wayward into alcoholism and into immorality and into drugs and you name it. I know that during these days, as we have preached these messages, we've talked to people who have been abused, people who know what it is to fight demonic spirits, who actually sense the presence of evil in their bodies and in their lives.
How can we possibly capture those strongholds? Paul says, with all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, with this in view, be on alert with all perseverance for all the saints. You say, well, if you pray this way, when do you get results? I can't tell you.
Sometimes it may be instantly, it may be days, it may be weeks, it could be months. Paul says, pray with all perseverance, all perseverance. My dear friend, we are living in a time when it is absolutely important that believers know how to go behind enemy lines and take back ground that has been claimed by satanic spirits. The day of little prayers is over.
The needs are huge. What is the goal of it all? The goal of praying this way in my life and in your life is that there may be nothing in our lives that belongs to the enemy.
That's why Paul says, we pull down strongholds and every high thing that exulted itself against the knowledge of God and we bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. I'm not there yet. Maybe you aren't either, but that is my goal.
But there may be nothing in me that belongs to the evil one. I know that there are many needs represented here this morning. I want to remind each of us that until we learn to pray in the will of God by the Spirit in the name of Christ effectively, aggressively, we can do all the things we want after we pray and often there is still much to be done after we have prayed, but there is nothing to be done until we have prayed. For only through prayer does God release spiritual power. It seems like it's getting to the point where I'm the only person in the world left that I know who hasn't read any of Frank Peretti's books.
Everybody else seems to have. But I do know after reading reviews and parts of them that he's on to a principle that angels are waiting to deliver God's people, but they can't until God's people pray aggressively against the enemy. Is there territory in your life that belongs to Satan?
God wants us to see that out of your life to set you free. Join me as we pray together. Our Father, we think of those who struggle with their past, addictions, alcoholism, abuse, sexual addictions. We pray today that you shall give us both the courage, the boldness, and the strength to take over territory. Enable our lay counselors to pray in faith aggressively to see you do a mighty work in the lives of people. Free all of us today that we may pray effectively in Jesus' name. Amen. This is Pastor Lutzer. Even though we like to emphasize that we love to run the race of life, we must remember that others run with us. So today is Friday.
As you think about the weekend, go to church, connect with other believers, strengthen one another, encourage one another, worship together, and God will enable you to have a much better week. I want to say a word about bitterness. There was a woman who at the age of eight quoted some verses of Scripture in order to go to camp. According to her, and now she's speaking as an adult, she was able to quote these Scriptures better than the boy who was the son of a prominent churchman.
And yet she said he won the prize, and she didn't. She said that at the age of eight, she made the decision that she would never go to church again. And now as an adult, she's proud of the fact that she held to that vow. Think of what she got in return. She missed the opportunity of fellowship with God. She missed the opportunity of walking with God all these years because of bitterness. In my book entitled Putting Your Past Behind You, I have an entire chapter on the topic of bitterness and how forgiveness can enable you to put that bitterness behind you.
It's a stumbling block that you must get rid of. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. And I want to emphasize that this is one of the last days that we are making this resource available.
The title of the book is Putting Your Past Behind You. And for a gift of any amount, as I've already mentioned, this resource can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. We here at Running to Win are deeply committed to helping you run the race of life successfully.
I trust that this book will enable you to cast off all of the weights, all of the hindrances as you run the race of life. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book Putting Your Past Behind You.
Right now, you can go to your computer, rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Dr. Lutzer, today's question comes to us from Angel, who lives in Ohio. I received the Lord in 1968 and trusted Him to change my life, but nothing happened. I kept going to church, I prayed and fasted to see if I could somehow change, but I was just the same sinner. At one point, I had a powerful temptation to say curses against the Holy Spirit.
I fought these thoughts for about a year and many times I went up to the altar of my church asking for deliverance, but nothing changed me. One day, sitting at home, I said some bad words to the Holy Spirit. Immediately, I asked God to help me because I didn't mean to say something like that. Two years ago, I began fasting and renounced every evil thing that was in my life. Thoughts of fornication and adultery were always hounding me.
I feel scared. I've been asking God for His mercy and forgiveness, but He is not answering, so maybe I am lost forever. Oh, Angel, I'm so glad that you wrote to me because I think I have hope for you. I don't think for a moment that you committed the unpardonable sin. If you had committed the unpardonable sin, you wouldn't be writing to me and asking about it. You would not have been fasting and praying, seeking God for forgiveness and cleansing. So I think that that in itself is proof that God is working in your heart. He has not abandoned you. And as I oftentimes point out, there are people who are genuinely saved, even though they doubt it, particularly if they've had a very difficult and sinful past.
And maybe you fit into that category. So I want to give you hope. I want you to renounce Satan. You know, it says in the Book of Revelation, they overcame him by the word of their testimony and by the blood of the Lamb. Always remember that salvation is not based on our performance or our sins or lack of them. It is based on the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, and we come on that basis. When I go to an airplane and board it, nobody asks me how I'm feeling, whether I'm a great sinner or a little sinner.
What they want to know is whether or not I have the ticket. In the very same way, at the end of the day, the issue is not whether our sins were big or little. The issue is whether or not we've trusted Christ and His matchless grace. Of course, it's much better to be a sinner that has small sins rather than large ones, but at the end of the day, it's Christ that makes all the difference. The unpardonable sin was a sin that was committed by the nation Israel when Christ was here on earth. The people who committed today, they are the ones who harden their soul in unbelief, and they don't want to have a thing to do with God. Angel, you don't fit into that category because you really do love God, and you desire to come to saving faith, and I'm sure that you've done that. I pray that God will take you to the next step and grant you the wonderful gift of assurance through His Word and by the Spirit. Words of hope. Thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Next time don't miss Finding Your Way Back, following in the steps of King David, who found his way back to renewed fellowship with God. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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