I was describing recently our church’s outreach ministries to a pastor friend of mine. He asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks: “What percentage of your congregation understands the ‘principalities and powers’ nature of this ministry and pray accordingly?”
I’ll tell you my answer below.
But first, what’s he talking about, “principalities and powers”?
It’s a reference to Ephesians 6:10-20. There, Paul calls every Christian to put on the “full armor of God.” And he spells out the need for this: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). The King James renders this, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers….”
These spiritual forces are also mentioned in Romans 8:38, Ephesians 3:10, and Colossians 1:16 and 2:15.
There is always more going on than meets the eye. The real struggle is never with people. It’s always with a higher authority – with spiritual forces that, as Paul says in another place, “set themselves up in pretension against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). These powers try to mess with our ability to see, hear, worship, and serve God. They hate Christ, his gospel, and his people, and do everything they can to distract, discourage, hinder, and defeat us. The real battle has never been against mere people. Not Pharaoh, not Herod, not Caesar, not Stalin, not Dawkins, not Ahmadinejad, not Dear Leader, not your God-hating boss, not your Christian-baiting colleague, not a belligerent city council or board of trustees: it’s always against their spiritual backers, the principalities and powers that prompt them to action.
My answer to my friend: “I fear only a small handful.”
I would love to be proven wrong.
Or, if right, I’d love to see this change.
It’s no accident that Paul ends the section in Ephesians on the armor of God with this: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Eph. 6:18-20).
Prayer is the main weapon God gives us to move his kingdom forward in the face of the principalities and powers.
Do you pray accordingly?