Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Art of Praying with Authority (First bind ... then spoil)

binding the strongman
Background image courtesy

Matthew 12:28-29; Luke 11:21-22

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (NKJV)

“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.  But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armour in which he trusted, and divides his spoils.” (NKJV)

Prayer may be resolved into five constituent elements. 

  • ADORATION is the soul lost in the wondering worship of God.
  • THANKSGIVING is the heart overflowing in grateful appreciation of His many mercies.
  • CONFESSION is the expression in words of genuine contrition of a sense of sin and failure to attain to the Divine standard.
  • PETITION is the laying of personal needs before a loving heavenly Father.
  • INTERCESSION is request for others who do not stand in the same place of privilege and who do not enjoy the same access into the presence of God.

Each of these elements of prayer will find its place in a well-balanced devotional life.

Within the ministry of intercession there may be contrasting spiritual activity. Our intercession may be the calm expression of a restful faith:

“Ask, and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7)
“he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6)

Or it may be expressed in Spiritual conflict:

“I would that you know what great conflict I have for you” (Colossians 2:1) 
“Epaphras ... salutes you, always labouring fervently in prayer for you” (Colossians 4:12) 
“We wrestle ... against principalities, against powers” (Ephesians 6:12) .

This later aspect of prayer is too little known and practiced, but the mastery of what has been called “prayer warfare” will change defeat into victory in many a situation.

In the passages read at the beginning, Christ was vehemently refuting the charge of the Pharisees that He was exorcising demons by the power of the prince of demons. As though the Devil would be naive enough to destroy his own kingdom! Jesus pointed out that surely His casting out of demons indicated His mastery over their prince rather than subservience to him.

The Strong man

The picture presented here of authoritative praying is that of a “Strong man armed” who keeps his palace and his goods in peace until “a stronger than he” overpowers him and divides the spoil. “The strong man” is the Devil whose power over the souls and minds of men is mighty though limited. “The Stronger than he” is none other than the Lamb because of whose blood we can overcome the powers of darkness (Revelation 12:11)

The Lamb is engaged in deathless conflict with “the strong man” and He will not rest until he is overcome and his palace utterly destroyed. And in this conflict between rival kingdoms the intercessor fills an important role. But he will never play his part with the fullest effectiveness unless he has a vivid sense of the victory of Christ gained over the devil at the Cross. He must constantly recognize and count on the fact that Satan is a vanquished foe since Calvary.

Read More: First Bind the Strong Man

Binding the Strong man

Our failure to recognize priorities indicated in Scripture is a potent cause of lack of effectiveness in our witness. Christ said we must first bind “the strong man” before we can spoil his goods. No one can go into a strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house. (Mark 3:27) Are you at pains to observe this order so clearly enunciated by our Lord, or do we unsuccessfully try to plunder his house while he is still unfettered? If so, it is little wonder that in so many cases he has snatched back souls we have endeavoured to deliver from his clutches. It is this heartbreaking experience which has discouraged so many missionaries, who have seen people make profession of faith and then have watched them suckled back into the vortex of heathenism. Too much of our praying is merely the repeated offering of our earnest petition rather than what Jesus referred to as binding “the strong man”.

So that we may understand what is meant by this expression we will consider the way in which our Lord Himself bound him. Jesus Christ had three great encounters with the Devil – in the wilderness, in the garden of Gethsemane and on Golgotha. In the wilderness He achieved His first victory by successfully resisting the temptation which assailed Him along the only three avenues by which it can reach man – appetite, avarice, and ambition. Each phase of the temptation He rebutted with the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, and the Devil thus vanquished, left Him for a season. Because of this triumph Jesus was able to confidently claim: The prince of this world comes, and has nothing in Me” (John 14:30) Oh that Christians will read the Word of God and appropriately apply it to their daily lives! We shall be powerless to effect the practical binding of Satan if there are unyielded areas in our lives which give him a hold over us.

Our Lord’s next major encounter with the Devil was in the Garden of Gethsemane. So intense and agonizing was this conflict that contrary to nature, the blood forced its way through His sweat pores. And how did He triumph on this occasion? by merging His will in the will of His Father. There is a striking progression in His prayers:

“And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done."(Luke 22:41-42) 

“Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done."(Matthew 26:42) 

In the second prayer, the reluctance of the human will evidenced in the first petition has been lost in glad acceptance of the Divine will. There is no “My will and Your will” but only “Your will”. He is now able to cry not with more acceptance but with exultation: “The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11) It is no longer the “Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38)

Thus Satan suffered another shattering defeat as the Lord steadfastly refused to move from complete and joyous acceptance of His Father’s will even though it involved death on the Cross. With us too there must be an unquestioning acceptance of the will of God if we are to remain in the place of victory.

The complete and final defeat of the Devil was consummated at Golgotha, where Christ triumphed over him in His death.

“And the hostile princes and rulers He shook off from Himself, and boldly displayed them as His conquests when by the Cross He triumphed over them” (Colossians 2:15)  

Was this not the very purpose of His incarnation?

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage?” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

The word “destroy” used in the later passage means “to render inoperative, to put out of action” and the same idea is involved in the command to “bind” the strong man. By His death our Lord forever broke the power of the Devil over the believer. Henceforth he is a usurper. Any domination, he now exercises over us is either because we fail to apprehend and appropriate the completeness of Christ’s triumph, or is the result of sin tolerated in our lives, which provides a vantage ground for his activities. Let us firmly grasp the fact that Christ has destroyed and bound the Devil, and as members of His Body, united to Him by a living faith, sharing the same life, we may participate in His victory. The victory was our Lord’s victory. The final execution of the sentence on Satan will be by Him to whom all judgment has been committed. But He identifies us with Him in this victory. His triumph is our triumph.

The practical question arises: How does this victory over Satan become actual and operative in the sphere which is our special concern? It is not sufficient to know that on the Cross Christ potentially delivered every soul from Satan’s power. The potential must be translated into the actual and this is done when we exercise the Spiritual authority which has been given to us.

Read More: Aggressive Prayer

The Authority to Bind and Spoil

When the seventy returned radiant from their journey of witnessing, rejoicing that even the demons were subject to them, Jesus made an amazing statement the full significance of which is seldom realized.

“And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  Luke 10:18-20 

We are in no less privileged position than were those early disciples. In this statement, Jesus linked with the overthrow of Satan, the delegation to His disciples of authority over all the power of the enemy an authority which they could use in any situation and at any time. As they wielded this authority, they found that it worked and even demons were subject to them. In the same way, we can bind Satan and then confidently “spoil his house.”

But in doing this we must be sure of our ground. Acts 19 records the attempt of the seven sons of Sceva to exercise authority over Satan and evil spirits. When their own attempts at exorcism failed, they tried to use an authority they did not possess.

“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” Acts 19:13-16 

 It is a solemn thing to pretend to an authority which has not been conferred. The powers of darkness are not to be treated lightly.

Jesus was well known to the demons and feared by them too.

“I know You who You are, the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24) 
“Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29) 

For thirty years they had watched Jesus’ sinless life and knew they had no hold over Him. They were acquainted with Paul too. Had they not rejoiced in Paul’s thirst for Christian blood? And had they not been dismayed at his complete transformation on the Damascus road which made him their most dreaded foe? Yes, they were acquainted with Paul. But they did not know these vagabond sons of Sceva. Does the Devil tremble when he sees you on your knees or does he laugh as you make futile attempts at binding him and destroying his house? Is your name known in hell as enemy of the kingdom?

There is thus other sad aspect of this authority. The father of the demon possessed boy lamented over the very disciples on whom Christ had bestowed His authority over all the power of the enemy when he said “they could not” exorcise the demon. When they asked the Lord: “Why could we not cast him out?” He diagnosed the cause in one word – unbelief. (Matthew 17:20-21) They had no vital faith in the authority He had given them and their unbelief had paralysed them.  When we find ourselves involved in a situation for which our human power is totally inadequate, it is for us, making use of Christ’s authority, to claim the victory He won on the Cross and to maintain the stand of faith until the victory becomes manifest. Is this not what the apostle meant by fighting the fight of faith?

Making use of Christ’s authority and participating in His victory we can be instrumental in binding “the strong man” in any given Spiritual situation. Only then will we be in a position to spoil his goods and deliver his captives.

God bless you!  

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