A Prehistoric Conflict
A Prehistoric Conflict.
In its simplest meaning prayer has to do with a conflict. Rightly
understood it is the deciding factor in a spirit conflict. The scene of
the conflict is the earth. The purpose of the conflict is to decide the
control of the earth, and its inhabitants. The conflict runs back into the
misty ages of the creation time.
The rightful prince of the earth is Je
us, the King's Son. There is a
pretender prince who was once rightful prince. He was guilty of a breach
of trust. But like King Saul, after his rejection and David's anointing in
his place, he has been and is trying his best by dint of force to hold the
realm and oust the rightful ruler.
The rightful Prince is seeking by utterly different means, namely by
persuasion, to win the world back to its first allegiance. He had a fierce
set-to with the pretender, and after a series of victories won the great
victory of the resurrection morning.
There is one peculiarity of this conflict making it different from all
others; namely, a decided victory, and the utter vanquishing of the
leading general has not stopped the war. And the reason is remarkable. The
Victor has a deep love-ambition to win, not merely against the enemy, but
_into men's hearts, by their free consent_. And so, with marvellous
love-born wisdom and courage, the conflict is left open, for men's sake.
It is a spirit conflict. The earth is swung in a spirit atmosphere. There
are unnumbered thousands of spirit beings good and evil, tramping the
earth's surface, and filling its atmosphere. They are splendidly organized
into two compact organizations.
Man is a spirit being; an embodied spirit being. He has a body and a mind.
He is a spirit. His real conflicts are of the spirit sort; in the spirit
realm, with other spirit beings.
Satan is a spirit being; an unembodied spirit being. That is, unembodied,
save as in much cunning, with deep, dark purpose he secures embodiment in
The only sort of power that influences in the spirit realm is _moral_
power. By which is not meant _goodness_, but that sort of power either bad
or good which is not of a physical sort: that higher, infinitely higher
and greater power than the mere physical. Moral power is the opposite of
violent or physical power.
God does not use force, violent physical force. There are some exceptions
to this statement. There have been righteous wars, righteous on one side.
Turning to the Bible record, in emergencies, in extreme instances God has
ordered war measures. The nations that Israel was told to remove by the
death of war would have inevitably worn themselves out through their
physical excesses, and disobedience of the laws of life. But a wide view
of the race revealed an emergency which demanded a speedier movement. And
as an exception, for the sake of His plan for the ultimate saving of a
race, and a world, God gave an extermination order. The emergency makes
the exception. There is one circumstance under which the taking of human
life is right, namely, when it can be clearly established that God the
giver and sovereign of life has so directed. But the rule clearly is that
God does not use force.
But note sharply in contrast with this that physical force is one of
Satan's chief weapons. But mark there two intensely interesting facts:
first, he can use it only as he secures man as his ally, and uses it
through him. And, second, in using it he has with great subtlety sought to
shift the sphere of action. He knows that in the sphere of spirit force
pure and simple he is at a disadvantage: indeed, worse yet, he is
defeated. For there is a moral force on the other side greater than any at
his command. The forces of purity and righteousness he simply _can_not
withstand. Jesus is the personification of purity and righteousness. It
was on this moral ground, in this spirit sphere that He won the great
victory. He ran a terrific gauntlet of tests, subtle and fierce, through
those human years, and came out victor with His purity and righteousness
Prayer is Projecting One's Spirit Personality.
Now prayer is a spirit force, it has to do wholly with spirit beings and
forces. It is an insistent claiming, by a man, an embodied spirit being,
down on the contested earth, that the power of Jesus' victory over the
great evil-spirit chieftain shall extend to particular lives now under his
control. The prayer takes on the characteristic of the man praying. He is
a spirit being. It becomes a spirit force. It is a projecting into the
spirit realm of his spirit personality. Being a spirit force it has
certain qualities or characteristics of unembodied spirit beings. An
unembodied spirit being is not limited by space as we embodied folk are.
It can go as swiftly as we can think. If I want to go to London it will
take at least a week's time to get my body through the intervening space.
But I can think myself into London more quickly than I can say the words,
and be walking down the Strand. Now a spirit being can go as quickly as I
Further, spirit beings are not limited by material obstructions such as
the walls of this building. When I came in here to-day I came in by this
door. You all came in by these doors. We were obliged to come in either by
doors or windows. But the spirit beings who are here listening to us, and
deeply concerned with our discussion did not bother with the doors. They
came in through the walls, or the roof, if they were above us, or through
the floor here, if they happened to be below this level.
Prayer has these qualities of spirit beings of not being limited by space,
or by material obstacles. Prayer is really projecting my spirit, that is,
my real personality to the spot concerned, and doing business there with
other spirit beings. For example there is a man in a city on the Atlantic
seaboard for whom I pray daily. It makes my praying for him very tangible
and definite to recall that every time I pray my prayer is a spirit force
instantly traversing the space in between him and me, and going without
hindrance through the walls of the house where he is, and influencing the
spirit beings surrounding him, and so influencing his own will.
When it became clear to me some few years ago that my Master would not
have me go yet to those parts of the earth where the need is greatest, a
deep tinge of disappointment came over me. Then as I realized the wisdom
of His sovereignty in service, it came to me anew that I could exert a
positive influence in those lands for Him by prayer. As many others have
done, I marked out a daily schedule of prayer. There are certain ones for
whom I pray by name, at certain intervals. And it gives great simplicity
to my faith, and great gladness to my heart to remember that every time
such prayer is breathed out, my spirit personality is being projected
yonder, and in effect I am standing in Shanghai, and Calcutta and Tokyo in
turn and pleading the power of Jesus' victory over the evil one there, and
on behalf of those faithful ones standing there for God.
It is a fiercely contested conflict. Satan is a trained strategist, and an
obstinate fighter. He refuses to acknowledge defeat until he must. It is
the fight of his life. Strange as it must seem, and perhaps absurd, he
apparently hopes to succeed. If we knew all, it might seem less strange
and absurd, because of the factors on his side. There is surely much down
in the world of the sort which we can fully appreciate to give colour to
his expectations. Prayer is insisting upon Jesus' victory, and the retreat
of the enemy on each particular spot, and heart and problem concerned.
The enemy yields only what he must. He yields only what is taken.
Therefore the ground must be taken step by step. Prayer must be definite.
He yields only when he must. Therefore the prayer must be persistent. He
continually renews his attacks, therefore the ground taken must be _held_
against him in the Victor's name. This helps to understand why prayer
must be persisted in after we have full assurance of the result, and even
after some immediate results have come, or, after the general results have
Giving God a Fresh Footing.
The Victor's best ally in this conflict is the man, who while he remains
down on the battle-field, puts his life in full touch with his
Saviour-Victor, and then incessantly, insistently, believingly claims
_victory in Jesus' name_. He is the one foe among men whom Satan cannot
withstand. He is projecting an irresistible spirit force into the spirit
realm. Satan is obliged to yield. We are so accustomed through history's
long record to seeing victories won through force, physical force, alone,
that it is difficult for us to realize that moral force defeats as the
other never can. Witness the demons in the gospels, and in modern days in
China, clearly against their own set purpose, notwithstanding intensest
struggle on their part obliged to admit defeat, and even to ask favours of
their Conqueror. The records of personal Christian service give
fascinating instances of fierce opposition utterly subdued and individuals
transformed through such influence.
Had we eyes to see spirit beings and spirit conflicts we would constantly
see the enemy's defeat in numberless instances through the persistent
praying of some one allied to Jesus in the spirit of his life. Every time
such a man prays it is a waving of the red-dyed flag of Jesus Christ above
Satan's head in the spirit world. Every such man who freely gives himself
over to God, and gives himself up to prayer is giving God a new spot in
the contested territory on which to erect His banner of victory.
The Japanese struggled for weeks to get a footing on the Port Arthur
peninsula, even after the naval victories had practically rendered Russia
helpless on the seas. It was an unusual spectacle to witness such
difficulty in getting a landing after such victories. But with the bulldog
tenacity that has marked her fighting Japan fought for a footing. Nothing
could be done till a footing was gotten.
Prayer is man giving God a footing on the contested territory of this
earth. The man in full touch of purpose with God praying, insistently
praying--that man is God's footing on the enemy's soil. The man wholly
given over to God gives Him a new sub-headquarters on the battle-field
from which to work out. And the Holy Spirit within that man, on the new
spot, will insist on the enemy's retreat in Jesus the Victor's name. That
is prayer. Shall we not, every one of us, increase God's footing down upon
His prodigal earth!