The Importance of the Offensive
Imagine putting on a whole array of implements of war solely for the purpose of being on the defense. That would not work for two reasons.
One obvious reason is that you can’t win anything by being on defense all the time.
Not quite so obvious but equally as important is the fact that those constantly on the defense ultimately will be defeated. The prime example of that is the Republican Party. They are always reacting rather than acting, always headed for cover rather than trying to take a hill. As a result, they are almost always on the losing side. Not only can you not win wars by being on the defensive. You cannot even survive.
In addition, never being on offense, always being on defense, is discouraging. It is exciting to take territory, or at least try, but the exciting goal of not losing any territory doesn’t inspire the troops to greatness.
Scripture Regarding the Offensive
In Ephesians 6:14-17 the Apostle Paul describes the six defensive implements of war which we have been discussing in previous posts. Those are absolutely essential for our survival because without them Satan would destroy us before we had an opportunity to go on offense.
However, it is crucial to recognize that the description of these defensive implements does not end Paul’s discussion regarding our warfare with Satan. Instead, from there he launches seamlessly into a challenge to take the offensive with these words: “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints….” (Ephesians 6:18 NKJV)
Jesus describes our military objective in His statement to Peter, “… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18 ESV) The church is commissioned to break through the gates of Satan’s kingdom and liberate those being held captive by him.
Assault on Satan’s stronghold is achieved through prayer. That is a battering ram used to demolish Satan’s gates.
We hold that truth to be self-evident. Imagine seeking to initiate any ministry, to achieve anything for the Lord, without first praying for God’s direction, His strategy, and His power. Imagine trying to take on Satan without first asking for God’s protection, strength, and victory. Doing so would be like going to war without intelligence regarding the enemy, without a plan, without ammunition. It would result in certain loss.
But in a deeper sense, prayer is not just a necessary preparation for the battle. Rather, in large measure prayer is the battle. We fight and win through prayer. Usually there are actions which we must take to complete the victory, but those to a great extent are merely the mop-up operation after the victory is already won through prayer.
How Scared Is Satan
So how is the contemporary evangelical church doing in the fight on the prayer front? Let’s consider a few developments.
The first is found in the demise of the prayer meeting. Most churches have eliminated that so that they can devote time to the important activities. However, even where it has survived one could hardly view it as a powerhouse. Most prayer meetings I have attended in recent years start with a few songs, move into a devotional, transition into a fairly extended time for taking prayer requests, and oops, we’re almost out of time, so we better take a few minutes to pray. Of course, it is best to keep prayers to sentence prayers so even the novice can feel comfortable. Wrestling in prayer isn’t nearly so hard (or so effective) when the wrestling bouts last less than 10 seconds.
Not to worry about the loss of the prayer meeting, though, because we have our power packed times of prayer during the Sunday morning service. You know what I’m referring to: the five minutes or less dedicated to prayer sandwiched between the “worship time” and the sermon. That gives us enough time to cover uncle Joe’s hernia operation, but it’s really hard to storm the gates of hell in the remaining two minutes.
Prayer: the Church’s Priority
Three times in the Gospels Jesus is recorded as saying, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’” Today’s evangelical church is anything but.
Paul seems to be referring to the worship service when he states in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
It seems that on our priority list prayer has moved from “first of all” to almost “not at all.” Hell’s gates don’t have a scratch.