WITHSTANDING THE DEVIL

Scripture Reading: James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9; 2 Cor. 2:11

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (James 4:7)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.  (2 Corinthians 2:11)

The devil is known also as Satan (Rev. 12:9- “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”). He was first a cherubim, created by God (Ezek. 28:12-14 – “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.”) and he was an archangel (Rev. 12:7 – “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,”; Matt. 25:41 – “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:”). Later, he rebelled against God by uplifting himself to be equal to God. Because of this, God judged him (Isa. 14:12-15 – “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” [In versions after the KJV, especially the NIV the word Lucifer is removed and replaced with “Morning Star” which is a name for Jesus.]; Ezek. 28:15-19 – “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.”) and he became Satan, the adversary of God. In the original text the word Satan means “an opposer, an adversary.” The devil opposes everything that God does. In addition, he always sets himself against God’s children.

We want to look at the way the devil attacks God’s children and how they withstand him.

I. SATAN’S WORK

We will look at Satan’s work in four aspects.

A. Satan’s Work in the Human Mind

Second Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” This shows us that Satan uses every high thing as a stronghold to surround man’s thought. In order for the Lord to gain us, He must first overthrow the strongholds of Satan. He must do this before He can charge into man’s thought and take it captive.

1. Satan’s Reasonings and Temptations

What are reasonings? This word in Greek can be translated “imagination” or “thought.” Satan often surrounds us with many imaginations. Men are foolish; they think that these thoughts are their own. Actually, they are the strongholds of Satan, and they prevent the mind from submitting to Christ. Often Satan injects a kind of imagination into our mind. If we think this imagination is from ourselves, we fall into his snare. Often thoughts develop which have no basis in fact; they are merely imaginations. Many so-called sins are imaginary in nature; they are not real. Many of the so-called problems among the brothers and sisters come from our imagination; they have no factual basis. Often Satan injects a wild thought into our mind, and we are completely oblivious to his work. When he injects a sudden thought into our mind and we accept it, we are accepting his work. If we reject this thought, we reject his work. Many thoughts are not our own; they are actually concocted by Satan. We must learn to reject these thoughts from Satan.

Most of Satan’s temptations come through the mind. Satan realizes that God’s children will rise up and withstand him vehemently if he attacks openly. This is the reason he tempts us by sneaking in stealthily and planting a thought in our mind unconsciously. Once the thought gets into us, we begin to think about it. If the more we dwell on a thought the more we feel justified and right, we have fallen into his snare. The thought that we have accepted is Satan’s temptation. If we reject Satan’s attacks in our mind, we will shut off the most vulnerable entrance of his temptations.

Many problems among God’s children are problems in the mind; they are not real problems. Sometimes when you see a brother or a sister, you may feel that he or she has a problem with you or that there is a distance between you. This may result in a barrier between you. Actually, there is nothing between you. The so-called problem is merely Satan’s attack in your mind or the mind of your brother or sister. Such problems are unnecessary problems. God’s children must reject sudden thoughts and sudden feelings. They must learn never to give in to Satan.

Here, we need to issue a warning. We should not be overly concerned about thoughts from Satan. There are people who go to one extreme of paying no attention at all to Satan’s thoughts. There are also people who go to the other extreme of paying too much attention to thoughts from Satan. A person can easily be cheated if he is not alert to thoughts from Satan. At the same time, a person can lose his mental sanity if he is obsessed about thoughts from Satan. If a person pays too much attention to Satan’s temptations, his mind will become confused, and he will easily become a prey to Satan’s snares. As soon as a person’s eyes are not focused on the Lord, he will find himself in trouble. On the one hand, we need to see that Satan does attack our mind. On the other hand, we need to realize that as soon as we reject his attacks, that is the end of them. If a person has to reject Satan day and night, something is wrong with his mind; he is heading down the wrong road. On the one hand, we must be familiar with his wiles; if we are ignorant of them we will be cheated. On the other hand, we cannot be overly concerned because that will also lead us into deception. As soon as our eyes are set on him, he has gained what he wants. This distraction will render us useless, and we will become obsessed with his thoughts day and night. Any brother or sister who is overly concerned with such thoughts has already been deceived. We must learn to maintain a proper balance. An excessive concern is wrong. If a person’s mind is constantly worried about thoughts from Satan, he is in reality giving ground to Satan to enter into him. We must never go to the extreme.

2. How to Reject Thoughts from Satan

How do we reject thoughts from Satan? It is easy to reject these thoughts. God has given us our mind; it is ours, not Satan’s. We are the only ones who have the right to use our mind; Satan has no authority over our mind. All we need to do is not allow him to think. Satan can only usurp our mind with deception. He will give us a thought, and we may think that this thought is ours. Actually, it is from Satan. As soon as we recognize that it is not ours, we have overcome.

Satan always tempts and attacks a person by stealthy, surreptitious, and covert ways. He does not shout loudly, “Here I come!” Instead, he deceives with lies and falsehood. He does not let us know that he is the one who is doing the work. Once we are aware of an attack from Satan and expose him and his disguise, it will be easy to withstand him. The Lord Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). The truth is the fact. We will be set free once we know the fact. The power of Satan is in his lies; once his lies fail, his power is gone. Therefore, as soon as we realize that Satan is attacking us and that this is the fact, we are freed. Some children of God say with their mouth that Satan is the instigator behind everything, but their spirit has no assurance that those things are actually from Satan. Although they say that they are withstanding Satan, they do not know the reality of Satan’s work. As a result, they cannot withstand him. However, as soon as they identify Satan’s work, they can withstand him, and as soon as they withstand him, he flees.

Satan attacks our mind mainly through deception. He makes us think that his thoughts are ours when in reality they are from him. Once we expose his lies, we will reject the thought from him. To withstand means to refuse. When Satan gives us a thought, we should say, “I do not want it.” This is what it means to withstand. When he injects one thought into us, we should say, “I do not take this.” When he injects another thought into us, we should repeat, “I do not accept this.” If we do this, he will not be able to do anything with us. One servant of God in the Middle Ages said, “You cannot stop birds from flying over your head, but you can at least stop them from nesting in your hair.” This is a good word. We cannot stop Satan from tempting us. However, we can stop him from nesting, from gaining a beachhead in us. This power is ours. If we ignore the thoughts that enter our mind, these thoughts will stop.

On the positive side, we need to exercise our mind. Many people have lazy minds. This makes it easy for Satan’s thoughts to lodge in them. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” We can take account of spiritual matters. We need to exercise our mind concerning spiritual matters. If a person always sets his mind on sinful things, Satan can easily inject his thoughts into him, because his thoughts and Satan’s thoughts are not much different. But if we always set our mind on spiritual things, Satan will not be able to inject his thoughts into us easily. Satan is able to inject his thoughts into many people because they are passive, because they have too much spare time, or because their thoughts are unclean in the first place.

There is another point that deserves attention: Our mind must not be attracted to satanic thoughts. There are many people whose minds are attracted to satanic thoughts. They have no interest in the wonderful, spiritual experiences of other brothers. Yet they become very interested when it comes to gossip. Since they love Satan’s work, they cannot reject satanic thoughts. We need to hate Satan’s work in order to reject his thoughts. All filthy thoughts that damage one’s fellowship with the Lord and love for the Lord are from Satan. These thoughts will not come to us if we are not attracted to them in the first place. But if we incline our heart toward these things, they will come to us easily. Therefore, we must learn to reject everything that comes from Satan.

We must pay special attention to rejecting all filthy thoughts. Satan always places filthy thoughts in man to induce man to sin. The starting point is one filthy thought. If we allow it to continue, it will bear the fruit of sin. Therefore, we must refuse any thought that comes from Satan.

However, there is a great problem: What should we do if the thought refuses to leave after we have rejected it? We need to realize that we only need to withstand unwanted thoughts once. Withstanding is a one-time act; we should never withstand twice. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” This verse says to withstand the devil and the devil will flee. We must believe that when we withstand the devil, he will flee. It is wrong to continue withstanding for fear that the devil is still around. Whose words do we believe? The Bible says, “Resist…he will flee…” If there is a voice within that suggests that he has not fled, whose voice is it? It is Satan’s voice! Many people choose to believe Satan’s words. Therefore, they lose. We must declare after we have withstood him, “I have already withstood the devil. He is gone from me.” The feeling that he is still lurking around is a lie; it is not real, and it is not from the Lord. He must run. He has no ground to stay. We must be clear that it is right to withstand once, but wrong to withstand a second time. The first withstanding glorifies God’s name. The second withstanding questions God’s Word.

Many people make the mistake of checking with their feelings after they have withstood the devil. They ask, “Is the devil gone?” Their feeling tells them that he is not gone, and they try to withstand him again. Once there is a second withstanding, be sure there will be a third, a fourth, even a hundredth, and a thousandth. In the end we will feel as if we are completely helpless in rejecting it. But if we ignore him completely after we have withstood his temptation once, we will experience victory. We must care for the fact of God’s Word and ignore our own feelings. The fact is that as soon as we withstand the devil, he flees. If we think that he has not fled after we have withstood him, we are being deceived by our feeling. If we believe this feeling, the devil will come back. We must learn to believe God’s glorious words. Once we have withstood him once, there is no need to withstand him a second time because the matter has been settled already.

These are the issues relating to Satan’s work in man’s mind. We must realize that Satan attacks man’s mind. We should reject any thought from Satan. At the same time, we should realize that once we reject his thoughts, the matter is finished. Furthermore, we must not be overly concerned with his attacks. Otherwise, our mind will be thrown into confusion, and we will be ensnared by the devil.

B. Satan’s Work on Man’s Body

The Bible shows us clearly that many physical diseases are the result of Satan’s attack.

The fever of Peter’s mother-in-law was an attack from Satan, and the Lord Jesus rebuked the fever (Luke 4:39 – “And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.“). Something must have a personality before the Lord can rebuke it. We cannot rebuke a cup or a chair; we can only rebuke something that has a personality. Fever is a symptom; the Lord could not rebuke the symptom. But Satan was behind the symptom with a personality of his own. Therefore, as soon as the Lord rebuked the fever, it was gone.

In Mark 9 we see a dumb and deaf child. In man’s eyes dumbness and deafness are sicknesses. But the Lord Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, saying, “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him.” (v. 25). The dumbness and deafness of the child were outward symptoms of his demon possession; they were not ordinary illnesses. We must realize that many sicknesses are medically defined diseases. But there are many sicknesses that are actually attacks from the devil. The Bible does not say that the Lord healed the sickness but that He rebuked it. The boils on Job’s body could not be healed by medicine; they were not medical illnesses; they were attacks from the devil. Unless one first deals with the devil, he has no way to deal with such sicknesses.

We admit that illnesses often occur through man’s negligence of natural laws. However, it can quite often be the result of Satan’s attack. In such a case one only has to ask the Lord to rebuke the sickness, and it will go away. This type of sickness often comes and goes away suddenly. It is an attack from Satan rather than an ordinary illness.

The complication lies in the fact that Satan does not want us to uncover and expose the illnesses he has inflicted. He always hides behind natural symptoms and makes us think that every sickness is the result of natural causes. If we allow him to hide behind these natural symptoms, our illness will not go away. Once we expose his work and rebuke him, the sickness will go away. One Christian had a very high fever and suffered greatly. He could not sleep and did not understand what was happening to him. Later, he was convinced that it was Satan’s work. He prayed to the Lord about it, and the next day the fever went away.

When a Christian becomes sick, he should first find the cause for his illness. He should ask: Is there any proper reason for this sickness? Is this out of natural causes or is it an attack from Satan? If there is not a proper reason for the illness and you discover that it is indeed an attack from Satan, you should withstand him and reject him.

The work of Satan on man’s body results not only in illness but also in death. Satan was a murderer from the beginning, in the same way that he was a liar from the beginning (John 8:44 – “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”). We should withstand not only Satan’s sickness but also his murdering. All thought of death is from Satan. Every notion of death as a means to escape from anything is from Satan. Satan made Job think of death. He did this not only to Job but also to every child of God. All notions of suicide, death wishes, and premature death are temptations from Satan. He tempts man to sin, and he also tempts man to die. Even thoughts of danger during one’s travels are Satan’s attacks. We must reject these thoughts whenever they come and not allow them to remain in us.

C. Satan’s Work on Man’s Conscience

Revelation 12:10 says, ” And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” This shows us that part of Satan’s work is to accuse us. This work is carried out in man’s conscience. As soon as a person is saved, his conscience is quickened, and he begins to know sin. Satan knows this. He knows that the Holy Spirit touches the conscience of God’s children concerning sin. He knows that He guides them into confession and prayer for forgiveness before God. Consequently, Satan steps in to counterfeit the Holy Spirit’s work. He accuses man in his conscience. Such an attack is found frequently among God’s children, and it causes much havoc.

Many children of God cannot differentiate between the Holy Spirit’s reproach and Satan’s accusation. As a result, they are hesitant to withstand anything. This gives Satan further ground to exercise his accusations. Many children of God could have been very useful in the hands of God, but their conscience has been weakened to the uttermost by Satan’s attack. They are bombarded constantly with the accusation and feeling that they have sinned in this and that matter. They are unable to stand up before God or before men. As a result, they become spiritually handicapped for the rest of their lives.

It is true that we should pay attention to the reproach of the Holy Spirit once we become Christians. However, we also need to withstand Satan’s accusation. We need to pay attention to the difference between the Holy Spirit’s reproach and Satan’s accusation. Many so-called reproaches are counterfeits; they are, in fact, Satan’s accusations.

1. The Difference between Satan’s Accusation and the Holy Spirit’s Reproach

What is the difference between Satan’s accusation and the Holy Spirit’s reproach? We need to distinguish between them.

First, all reproaches from the Holy Spirit begin with a small feeling from within. This inner feeling becomes stronger and stronger and convicts us of our mistakes. Satan’s accusation, however, is a continual nagging within. The reproach of the Holy Spirit grows stronger and stronger as time goes on; the accusation of Satan is the same from beginning to end. As time passes, the inner sense of the Spirit ascends by degree; but the accusation of Satan is a constant, muddled nagging that stays the same from beginning to end.

Second, each time we yield to the rebuke of the Spirit, we find the power of sin diminishing in us. Each rebuke of the Spirit diminishes the power of sin a little. Therefore, any rebuke from the Spirit weakens the power of sin; it results in a diminishing of sin. This is not the case with Satan’s accusation. Every time he accuses us, we find the power of sin to be just as great as before.

Third, the reproach of the Holy Spirit brings us to the Lord, whereas Satan’s accusation brings us disappointment. The more we are reproved by the Holy Spirit, the more we are strengthened within to deal with our problem before the Lord. But Satan’s accusation brings about despair and resignation. The reproach of the Holy Spirit causes us to come before the Lord and to rely on Him; Satan’s accusation causes us to turn back to ourselves and to be disappointed.

Fourth, if it is the reproach of the Holy Spirit, confession before the Lord will follow. This confession will result in at least peace, if not joy. There may or may not be joy, but there is always peace. Satan’s accusation, however, is totally different. There is no joy and no peace, even after one confesses his sins. This is like coming out of a major illness or going through a theatrical performance—nothing remains after the act is over. The reproach of the Holy Spirit has a result—peace, if not joy. However, Satan’s accusation leads us nowhere.

Fifth, the reproach of the Holy Spirit reminds us of the blood of the Lord. With Satan’s accusation, there is always the Satan-injected thought: “There is not much use. Perhaps the Lord will not forgive you.” This thought will be there even when we know that we have the blood. In other words, the reproach of the Holy Spirit leads to faith in the Lord’s blood, while Satan’s accusation causes us to lose our faith in the Lord’s blood. When a certain feeling comes, simply check whether we are reminded of the blood as a result of this feeling or whether we have been distanced from the blood. This will tell us whether the feeling is a reproach of the Holy Spirit or an accusation from Satan.

Sixth, the result of the reproach of the Holy Spirit is power from God; one will rise up on his feet and run faster. He will go on with renewed zeal, cast aside his trust in himself, and have more faith in God. However, the result of Satan’s accusation is the debilitation of the conscience. The conscience of such ones is smitten before God. They have no faith in themselves, and they have no faith in God either. It is true that the reproach of the Holy Spirit takes away our strength and our trust in ourselves. But at the same time it causes us to have more faith in the Lord. Satan’s accusation is not like this. It takes away our confidence in ourselves as well as our faith in the Lord. The result is that we become a debilitated person.

2. How to Overcome Satan’s Accusation

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” Him here refers to Satan, who accused the brothers. How do we overcome him?

First, we overcome by the blood of the Lamb. On the one hand, when we sin before the Lord, we must confess our sins. On the other hand, we must say to Satan, “There is no need for you to accuse me! I come before the Lord today by the blood of the Lord!” To overcome Satan, we must show him that we are forgiven through the blood of the Lamb. All our sins, major or minor, have been forgiven through the blood of the Lamb. This is the Word of God: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7).

We must realize that the blood of the Lamb is the basis of our forgiveness before God as well as the basis of our acceptance in Him. We should not be so presumptuous as to think that we are good. Neither should we be so foolish as to condemn ourselves from morning to evening. It is foolish to be proud, and it is also foolish to keep looking at oneself. Those who consider themselves to be good are foolish, and those who are blind to the saving power of the Lord are foolish as well. Those who believe in their own power are foolish, and those who do not believe in the Lord’s power are foolish as well. We must see that the blood of the Lamb has already fulfilled all the demands of God. It has also overcome all the accusations of Satan.

Second, we overcome because of the word of our testimony. This word of our testimony declares the spiritual facts; it declares the victory of the Lord. We must tell Satan, “There is no need for you to trouble me! My sins have been forgiven through the Lord’s blood!” We need to exercise our faith to declare that Jesus is Lord and that He has won the victory. We need to speak out the word of our testimony and let Satan hear this word. We must not only believe in our hearts but also declare it to Satan with our mouth. This is the word of our testimony.

Third, we must not love our soul-life even unto death. “The blood of the Lamb” and “the word of their testimony” spoken of previously are two conditions for victory over Satan. The refusal to love one’s soul-life even unto death is an attitude. No matter what Satan is doing, even if he is putting us to death, our attitude should be such that we still trust in the blood of the Lamb and still declare His victory. Satan’s accusation will stop if we stand fast in this way. He cannot overcome us. Instead, we will surely overcome him!

Some brothers and sisters receive so much accusation from Satan that they can no longer discern whether it is an accusation from Satan or a reproach of the Holy Spirit. They should stop confessing their sins for a while; the Lord does not want us to do things foolishly. Instead, they should pray to the Lord and say, “If I have sinned, I will confess my sins and ask for Your forgiveness. But now I am under Satan’s accusation. I pray that You cover all my sins. From this point on, everything is under Your blood, and I will not be bothered by anything anymore, whether it be sin or otherwise!” Those who are in such a condition must forget about everything for a while before they can differentiate clearly between Satan’s accusation and the Holy Spirit’s reproach.

3. How to Help Those Who Are under Satan’s Accusation

We must never add to the burden of the conscience of those under Satan’s accusation. First, we should help them to do only what is within their ability to handle. If we ask them to do what is beyond their ability, they will fall easily into condemnation. We must be sure that they have enough strength before the Lord to go on before we give them stronger advice or urge them to move ahead. Second, where there is the clear work of the Holy Spirit, we should raise the standard a little, for with the clear operation of the Spirit of the Lord and the spirit of revival, the Lord’s word has the ability to uplift the capacity of a person. If we raise the standard very high when the Spirit of the Lord has not done anything, we are not helping these accused ones to go on; rather, we are giving Satan opportunities to accuse them even more.

We must not be careless in pointing out the failures of others. Suppose a brother has failed in certain areas, yet he can still pray, read the Bible, and attend the meetings. As long as you have the assurance within that you can help him, a little push may be all that is necessary to bring him through his trouble. But if you do not have the assurance within and you do not have the power to uplift him, your exposure of his failures will only quench his prayers, his reading of the Bible, and his meeting life. The smoking flax must be rekindled; it must not be smothered. The bruised reed must be supported; it must not be broken. We should not make ourselves the standard and put the conscience of others under condemnation. We must learn not to do things that would offend the conscience of others.

We must point out Hebrews 10:22 to those who are under Satan’s accusation: “Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” With such a sprinkling, our conscience should no longer feel guilty. The principle of the Christian life is a life free from any condemnation in the conscience. When a Christian is condemned in his conscience, he will be weak before God and will be debilitated in all spiritual matters. Satan’s goal is to derail us from this principle. This is the reason he accuses us unceasingly. We need to lay hold of this principle by applying the blood. The more Satan tries to make us feel guilty, the more we should apply the blood to all of our sins. The brothers overcame him not by their own strength, but by the blood of the Lamb. We can declare, “Satan, I admit that I have sinned. But I have been redeemed by the Lord! I have never denied that I am a debtor. I am in debt, but the Lord has paid my debt!” We do not need to deal with Satan’s accusation by denying that we are debtors. We can deal with him by declaring that our debt has been paid.

D. Satan’s Work in the Environment

All circumstances are arranged by God. However, there are many things in our environment which, though permitted by God, are the result of Satan’s direct and active work.

Take Job’s experience as an example. His oxen and donkeys were taken away, his house collapsed, and his children were killed. These were all things in the environment. Though they were permitted by God, Satan was the one directly instigating the attacks.

Peter’s failure was another example. The cause of his fall was partly due to himself, but partly due to Satan’s attack in the environment. The Lord said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:” (Luke 22:31). Peter’s fall was the direct result of Satan’s work. Yet it was something permitted by God.

Paul’s thorn was clearly the work of Satan. Paul said, “…there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (2 Cor. 12:7). This is the work of Satan. It is Satan who attacks God’s children in the environment.

An even clearer example can be seen in Matthew 8, when the Lord Jesus ordered the disciples to depart to the other side of the sea. He knew that powerful demons had to be cast out on the other side of the sea. After He and the disciples stepped into the boat, suddenly a great tempest arose in the sea so that the boat was covered by the waves. The Lord was asleep. The disciples came near and roused Him, saying, “Lord, save us: we perish.” (v. 25). A few of the disciples were fishermen; they were very experienced sailors. However, they realized that the waves were more than they could handle. The Lord Jesus rebuked their little faith; then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea. The winds and the sea have no personality of their own, yet the Lord rebuked them because the devil was behind them. Satan had stirred up the winds and the waves.

In conclusion, Satan not only attacks our body, our conscience, and our mind, but also attacks us through our environment.

How should we react to Satan’s attack in the environment?

First, we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Both James 4 and 1 Peter 5 tell us to withstand Satan. These two portions also tell us to humble ourselves before God. When Satan attacks us in the environment, our first reaction should be to submit to God. We cannot withstand the devil if we do not submit to God. Our conscience will condemn us if we withstand the devil without submitting to God. Therefore, our first reaction should be to submit to God.

Second, we should withstand the devil. When God’s children encounter unreasonable and inexplicable things in the environment and have the clear sense within that these are attacks from Satan, they should withstand him. Once they withstand, the attacks will be behind them. On the one hand, they need to humble themselves under the hand of God. On the other hand, they must withstand Satan’s work in the environment. When they humble themselves, and their attitude before God is firm, God will show them that it is not Him but Satan who is doing the work. Thus, they will be able to differentiate God’s arrangement from Satan’s attack. Once they are clear and once they withstand the devil, the attacks will go away.

Third, we must reject all forms of fear. Satan has to find a lodging ground before he can work on God’s children. He cannot work where he has no ground to work. Therefore, his first attack is to gain a beachhead. He then attacks us from this beachhead. We should not give any ground to him. This is the way to victory. There is one area which can become Satan’s greatest stronghold—fear. When Satan tries to put us through trials, the first thing he does is to put fear into us. An experienced sister once said, “Fear is Satan’s calling card.” Once you accept fear, Satan steps in. If you reject fear, he will not be able to come in.

All thoughts of fear are attacks from Satan. Whatever you are afraid of, you will surely experience. Job said, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” (Job 3:25). Job experienced everything that he feared. Satan’s attack in the environment comes mostly in the form of fear. If you withstand the fear, the things that you fear will not come. But if you allow the fear to remain, you will give Satan the opportunity to do the very things that you fear.

Therefore, in order for God’s children to withstand the work of Satan, the first thing they have to reject is fear. When Satan puts a fear in you for this or that thing, you must not give in to this fear. You should say, “I will never accept what the Lord has not measured to me!” Once a person is delivered from fear, he is delivered from Satan’s realm. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Neither give place to the devil” (Eph. 4:27).

Why do we not need to fear? We do not fear “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4). If we are fearful, it is because we are ignorant of this fact.

II. WITHSTANDING SATAN BY FAITH

First Peter 5:8-9 says, ” Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” God’s Word shows us clearly that the way to withstand Satan is by faith. There is no other way to withstand him. What should our faith rest on? How should we exercise our faith to withstand him? Let us consider what the Word of God says concerning this.

A. Believing That the Lord’s Manifestation Is to Destroy the Works of the Devil

First, we must believe that the Lord was manifested for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil (1 John 3:8 – “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”). The Son of God has come to the earth; He was manifested. When He was on earth, He destroyed the work of the devil wherever He went. Often Satan’s work was not obvious; he hid behind natural phenomena. However, the Lord rebuked him every time. It is clear that He was rebuking Satan when He rebuked Peter’s speaking (Matt. 16:22-23 – “Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”), when He rebuked the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39-“ And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.”), and when He rebuked the winds and the waves. Although the devil hid behind many natural phenomena, the Lord Jesus rebuked him. Wherever the Lord went, the power of the devil was shattered. This is why He said, ” And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.” (Matt. 12:28). In other words, wherever the Lord went, Satan was cast out, and the kingdom of God was manifested. Satan could not remain where the Lord was. This is why He said that He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.

We should also believe that in manifesting Himself on the earth, the Lord not only destroyed the works of the devil, but also gave authority to His disciples to cast out demons in His name. The Lord said, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19). He gave His name to the church so that His church might continue His work on earth after His ascension. The Lord used His authority on earth to cast out demons. He also gave this authority to the church.

We must distinguish between what the devil has and what we have. What the devil has is power. What we have is authority. All that Satan has is power. But the Lord Jesus has given us authority, which can overcome all the power of Satan. Power cannot prevail over authority. God has given us authority, and Satan will surely fail.

Consider an illustration of how authority overcomes power: A traffic light on a road controls traffic. When a policeman turns on the red light, all pedestrians and cars have to stop. No one is allowed to dash through a red light. The pedestrians and cars are much more powerful than the red light in terms of power. However, no pedestrian or driver will dare dash through the red light because of the presence of authority. This is an example of authority prevailing over power.

Authority prevails over power; this is God’s established policy in this universe. No matter how strong Satan’s power is, one fact remains sure—the Lord Jesus has given His name to the church. This name stands for authority. The church can cast out demons in the name of the Lord. We can invoke the Lord’s name to deal with Satan’s power. Thank God that no matter how great Satan’s power is, the Lord’s name is immeasurably greater. The authority behind the Lord’s name is strong enough to overcome all the power of Satan.

The disciples went out in the name of the Lord. They were surprised when they returned. They told the Lord, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.” (10:17). The Lord’s name spells authority. His giving of His name to us means that He has given His authority to us. The Lord said, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (v. 19). Whoever desires to withstand Satan must learn to know the difference between the Lord’s authority and Satan’s power. No matter how great Satan’s power is, the Lord’s authority is able to overcome him. We must believe that God has given this authority to the church. The church can cast out demons and withstand the devil in the name of the Lord Jesus.

B. Believing That the Lord’s Death Has Destroyed Satan

Second, we must believe that through death the Lord Jesus has destroyed him who has the might of death, the devil (Heb. 2:14 – “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;”). The manifestation of the Lord Jesus destroyed the works of the devil, and the death of the Lord Jesus destroyed the devil himself.

The Lord’s death pronounces the greatest defeat for the devil because the Lord’s death is not only a punishment but also a way of salvation. In Genesis 2:17 God spoke of death: “… for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This death is surely a punishment. Satan was delighted at this word. Since man would die if he ate the fruit, Satan tried his best to seduce man to eat it, so that death would reign in man and he could claim the victory. However, the Lord’s death constitutes the greatest way of salvation. It is true that God said, “For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” This death is punishment. But the Lord has another death. The second death is a way of salvation. Death can punish those who sin. Death can also save and deliver those who are in sin. Satan thought that death could only punish the sinner. He seized upon this fact and reigned through man’s death. However, God saves and delivers man from sin through the death of the Lord Jesus. This is the most profound aspect of the gospel.

The Lord’s death on the cross takes away not only our sins but also the whole old creation. Our old man has been crucified with him. Although Satan reigns through death, the more he reigns through death, the worse his lot becomes, because his reign stops at death. Since we are already dead, death can no longer sting us. He has no further reign over us.

“For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” God said this so that man would not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But man ate it and sinned. What then should be done? The result of sin is death; there is no way to change this. However, there is a way to salvation, a salvation which goes through death. When the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross for us, the old creation and the old man were both crucified with Him. This means that Satan’s authority can only go as far as death. The Scripture says, “…that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” (Heb. 2:14).

Thank and praise the Lord. We are those who are already dead. If Satan attacks us, we can say to him, “I am already dead!” He has no authority over us because we are already dead. His authority extends only to the point of death.

(Note – When I learned this truth years ago, God gave me this song:

Thank God I am dead, I’m freed from sin.

The Lord Jesus Saved Me and He cleansed me within,

He searched ‘til he found me and He gave me life anew,

And the life that He gave me, He’ll give to you.

 

So go tell your brothers and sisters alike.

Tell them of Jesus and this wonderful life.

Tell them of heaven and glory to come,

Of Christ dead and risen God’s only Son.)

Our crucifixion with Christ is an accomplished fact; it is God’s doing. The Bible does not say that our death with the Lord is something that belongs to the future. It is not some experience that we hope to attain one day. The Bible does not tell us to pursue death. It shows us that we are already dead. A person is not dead if he is still pursuing death. However, our death with Christ is a gift from God in the same way that His death for us is a gift. If a man is still pursuing crucifixion, he is standing on fleshly ground, and Satan has full control over those who stand on fleshly ground. We must believe in the Lord’s death. We must also believe in our own death. Just as we believed in the Lord’s death for us, so also we should believe in our death in Him. Both are acts of faith, and neither has anything to do with human pursuits. As soon as we strive to realize these facts, we expose ourselves to Satan’s attack. We have to lay hold of the accomplished facts and declare: “Praise and thank the Lord; I am already dead.”

We must see that, in the eyes of God, our death with Christ is an accomplished fact. Once we see this, Satan can no longer do anything with us. Satan can deal only with those who are not dead. He can rule over only those who are facing death and who are on their way to death. But we are no longer facing death; we have already died. Satan can do nothing about us.

In order to withstand Satan, we must realize that the Lord’s manifestation was a manifestation of authority, and the work of His cross has released all those who are under Satan’s hand. Satan no longer has any authority over us anymore. We are above him. We are those who are already dead. Satan’s way is terminated by death, and there is nothing more that he can do.

C. Believing That the Lord’s Resurrection Has Put Satan to Shame

Third, we must believe that the Lord’s resurrection has put Satan to shame. Satan no longer has any way to attack us.

Colossians 2:12 says, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” This verse speaks of death as well as resurrection. Verse 13 tells us how we died and resurrected; verse 14 tells us what the Lord did at the time of His death; and verse 15 says that the Lord Jesus stripped off the rulers and the authorities and “….having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Verse 20 says, “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ….” and 3:1 says, “If ye then be risen with Christ,” These verses begin with resurrection and end with resurrection, and the verses in between speak of triumphing in the cross. We stand in the position of resurrection, and we triumph in the cross.

Why can we do this? The statement we made earlier explains this: The Lord has died, and we also are dead in Him. Satan, who has dominion over the old man, can follow us only as far as the cross. Resurrection is beyond him. Just as Satan had nothing in the Lord Jesus while He was on earth (John 14:30), so also he has nothing in Him in resurrection. Satan has no place at all in the new life. He has no authority at all in the new life and cannot touch our new life!

When the Lord was hung on the cross, it seemed as if myriads of demons were surrounding it. They thought that they could destroy the Son of God. It was to have been their greatest victory. Little did they realize that the Lord Jesus would go into death, come out of death, and overcome the authority of death! Here is the glorious fact: The Lord has come out of death! Therefore, we have the boldness and the confidence to say that the life of God is well able to cast away death!

What is the resurrection life? The resurrection life is a life that cannot be touched by death. It is a life that transcends death, that is beyond the boundary of death, that comes out of death, and that death cannot hold. Satan’s power extends only as far as death. The Lord Jesus proved how great the power of His life is through His resurrection. He dismantled the power of Satan. The Bible calls this power the “the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10). When this resurrection power is expressed through us, everything of Satan is cast down!

We can withstand Satan because our life is a life of resurrection. This life has nothing to do with Satan. Our life issues from the life of God; it is a life that comes out of death. Satan’s power only goes as far as death. Whatever it does to us is limited to this side of death. But our life has come out of death. We have a life which he cannot touch. We are standing on resurrection ground, and we look back in triumph through the cross. Colossians 2 speaks of triumphing in resurrection. It is a chapter on resurrection, not death. We do not triumph in death through resurrection; rather we triumph in resurrection through death.

In order to withstand Satan, every child of God must declare with a strong faith, “Thank God, I have resurrected! Satan, what can you do? What you can do goes only so far as death. But the life that I have today has nothing to do with you! This life has been tested by you already. What else can you do? You are powerless! This life has transcended over you! Satan, get away from me!”

We cannot deal with Satan on the ground of hope. We can only stand on the ground of resurrection, the ground of the Lord. This is a very basic principle. Colossians 2:12 tells us that we must believe in “faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”

We need to take the same position before Satan as that which we take before God. The Bible tells us to put on the robe of righteousness when we come before God (Isa. 61:10; Zech. 3:4-5). Our robe of righteousness is Christ. We need to put on Christ to come before God. In the same way, we need to put on Christ to come before Satan. God cannot find our sins when we put on Christ. Likewise, Satan cannot find our sins when we are in Christ. When we take this stand, Satan can no longer attack us. We are perfect before God and perfect also before Satan. What a glorious fact!

We must not be afraid of Satan. If we are afraid of Satan, he will laugh at us. He will say, “What a fool there is on earth. How can this one be so foolish?” Anyone who is afraid of Satan is foolish, because he has forgotten his position in Christ. We have no reason to fear him. We have transcended over his power. We can stand before him and say, “You cannot touch me! No matter how strong and resourceful you are, you are still one step behind!” On the day of the Lord’s resurrection, He led the enemy captive and openly shamed him. Today we are standing on the ground of resurrection, and we triumph through the cross!

D. Believing That the Ascension of the Lord Is Far above the Power of Satan

Fourth, we must believe that the ascension of the Lord has put Him far above the power of Satan. Ephesians 1:20-22 says, “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” This means that the Lord Jesus is already seated in the heavenlies and is far above all the power of Satan.

Ephesians 2:6 says, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” This is our position, the position of a Christian. The Lord Jesus is resurrected; He is seated in the heavenlies far above all the power of Satan. We are raised up together with Christ and are seated together with Him in the heavenlies, far above all the power of Satan.

Ephesians 6:11 to 13 says, ” Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Chapter two shows us that we are seated together with the Lord in the heavenlies. Chapter six shows us that we need to stand firm. Chapter two says that we need to sit, while chapter six says that we need to stand. What does it mean to sit? To sit means to rest. It means that the Lord has overcome and that we can now rest in His victory. This is what it means to depend on the Lord’s victory. What does it mean to stand? To stand means that spiritual warfare is not a matter of assault but of defense. To stand does not mean to attack; it means to defend. Because the Lord has overcome completely, we have no need to attack again. The victory of the cross is complete, and there is no further need to attack. Here we see two attitudes: One is to sit, and the other is to stand. To sit is to rest in the Lord’s victory, while to stand is to withstand Satan and to stop him from taking away our victory.

Christian warfare is a matter of warding off defeat; it is not a matter of fighting for victory. We have already overcome. We fight from the position of victory, and we fight to maintain our victory. We are not fighting to win a victory. We fight from victory; victory is something that is in our hands. The warfare spoken of in Ephesians is the warfare of the overcomers. We do not become overcomers through fighting. We need to distinguish between these two things.

How does Satan tempt us? He causes us to forget our own position and our victory. He blinds our eyes to our own victory. If we give in to his tactics, we will feel that victory is far away and beyond our reach. We must remember that the victory of the Lord is complete. It is so complete that our whole life is included in this victory! Once we believe, we overcome. Satan is defeated and we have overcome in Christ. Satan wants to steal away the victory which we have gained. His work is to taunt us to secretly find out if we still have the faith. If we do not know that victory is already ours, we will fail. But if we know our victory, his work will fail.

Therefore, we counter the work of Satan with the work of the Lord Jesus. We withstand Satan through the Lord’s manifestation, death, resurrection, and ascension. We are standing today upon the accomplished work of the Lord. We do not need to try to overcome in any way when Satan attacks us. Once we have the slightest thought of trying to overcome, we have failed, because our position is wrong. How great is the difference between a person who tries to overcome and one who withstands by knowing that he has already overcome. To withstand the devil means that we withstand him by the victory of Christ.

This matter indeed needs revelation. We need to see the manifestation of the Lord. We need to see His death, resurrection, and ascension. We need to know all these things.

As Christians we must learn to withstand the devil. We must say to Satan under all circumstances, “Get away from me!” May God be gracious to us so that we may all have such a faith. May we have faith toward the four things the Lord has accomplished for us, and may we exercise strong faith to withstand Satan and reject his work upon us.

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(Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  David Williams – site Admin.)

PRAYER

Scripture Reading: John 16:24; James 4:2-3; Luke 11:9-10; Psa. 66:18; Mark 11:24; Luke 18:1-8

Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.  (John 16:24)

Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  (James 4:2-3)

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:  (Psalms 66:18)

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.  (Mark 11:24)

And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:1-8)

 

I. PRAYER BEING A BASIC CHRISTIAN RIGHT

Christians have a basic right while living on earth today, the right to receive answers to prayers. The moment a person is regenerated, God gives him the basic right to ask of Him and to be heard by Him. John 16 says that God answers when we ask in the name of the Lord so that our joy may be made full. If we pray without ceasing, we will live a Christian life that is full of joy on earth today.

If we unceasingly pray, yet God does not unceasingly answer our prayer, or if we have been a Christian for years and God hardly or never listens to our prayers, there must be something seriously wrong. If we have been a Christian for three to five years without receiving one answer to prayer, we are ineffectual Christians. We are not just a little ineffectual, but very ineffectual. We are children of God, yet our prayers are never answered! This should never be. Every Christian should experience God answering his prayers. Every Christian should have frequent experiences of prayers being answered. This is a basic experience. If God has not answered our prayers for a long time, it means that there is surely something wrong with us. There is no way to deceive ourselves in the matter of answers to prayer. If it is answered, it is answered. If it is not answered, it is not answered. If it is effectual, it is effectual. If it is ineffectual, it is ineffectual.

We would like to ask every Christian: Have you learned to pray? Has God answered your prayer? It is wrong for prayers to be left unanswered, because prayers are not just a speaking into the air. Prayers are meant to be answered. Unanswered prayers are vain prayers. Christians must learn to have answered prayers. Since you have believed in God, your prayers should be answered by God. Your prayers are useless if God does not answer them. You must pray until your prayers are answered. Prayer is not only for spiritual cultivation but even more for receiving answers from God.

Prayer is not that easy a lesson to learn. A person may be a Christian for thirty or even fifty years and yet not learn to pray well. On the one hand, prayer is not a simple thing. On the other hand, prayer is so easy that a person can pray as soon as he believes in the Lord. Prayer can be considered the most profound as well as the simplest subject. It is so profound that some still cannot pray well despite learning about it all their lives. Many children of God feel that they do not know how to pray even up to the time they die. However, prayer is so simple that the moment a person believes in the Lord, he can start praying and have his prayers answered. If you begin your Christian life in a good way, you will always receive answers to your prayers. If you do not have a good start, you may not have an answer to prayer for three or even five years. If you do not have a proper foundation, you will need much effort to correct it later. Therefore, once a person believes in the Lord, he must learn to receive answers from God for his prayers. We hope that every believer will pay attention to this matter.

II. CONDITIONS FOR PRAYERS BEING ANSWERED

In the Bible we can see many conditions for having prayers answered, but only a few of them are basic. We believe that if we meet these few conditions, our prayers will be answered. These few conditions are equally applicable to those who have prayed for many years. These are very basic conditions, and we should pay attention to them.

A. Asking

All prayers should be genuine petitions before God. After a brother was saved, he prayed every day. One day a sister asked him, “Has God ever listened to your prayer?” He was surprised. To him prayer was just prayer; why did anyone have to bother about whether or not they were answered? From that time on, whenever he prayed, he asked God to answer his prayer. He began to consider how many of his prayers were answered. He discovered that his prayers were quite vague and capricious. It did not matter whether God answered them, and it did not matter whether God ignored them. They were like prayers to God for the sun to rise the next day; the sun would rise whether or not he prayed. He had been a Christian for a year, yet none of his prayers were answered. All that time he had been just kneeling and muttering words. He could not pinpoint what he had asked for. This amounted to not having asked for anything at all.

The Lord says, “Knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). If what you are knocking on is just the wall, the Lord will not open the wall to you. But if you indeed are knocking on the door, the Lord will surely open the door to you. If you ask to go in as well, the Lord will surely let you in. The Lord said, “Seek and ye shall find” (v. 7). Suppose that there are many things here. Which one do you want? You must ask for at least one thing. You cannot say that anything will do. God wants to know what you specifically want and what you specifically are asking for. Only then can He give it to you. Hence, to ask means to demand something specific. We have to ask. This is what it means to seek and to knock. Suppose you want something from your father today. You have to ask for the specific thing you want. If you go to a pharmacy for medicine, you must say exactly what medicine you want. If you go to a market to purchase vegetables, you must say what vegetables you want. It is strange that people can come to the Lord without saying what they want. This is why the Lord says that we need to ask and ask specifically. The problem with us is that we do not ask. The hindrance is on our side. In our prayers we need to speak what we need and what we want. Do not pray an all-inclusive prayer in a frivolous way, caring little whether or not it is answered.

A new believer needs to learn to pray. He needs to pray with a specific goal in mind. “…ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2). Many people go through the motion of prayer without asking for anything. It is useless to spend an hour or two hours or even eight or ten days before the Lord without asking for anything. You need to learn to ask for something; you need to knock, really knock hard, at a door. Once you clearly identify the entrance and seek to go in, knock hard at the door. When you seek something specific, you will not be satisfied with just anything; you want that particular thing. Do not be like some brothers and sisters who stand up in the meeting to pray for twenty minutes or half an hour without knowing what they want. It is strange that many people have long prayers that do not ask for anything.

You must learn to be specific with your prayer. You should know when God has answered your prayers and when He has not answered your prayers. If it makes no difference to you whether or not God answers your prayers, it will be hard for you to effectively pray to Him if you come across a difficulty in the future. Empty prayers will not be effectual in times of need. If prayers are empty when needs are specific, one cannot expect any solution for the problem. Only specific prayers can deal with specific problems.

B. Not Asking Amiss

We should ask, but there is a second condition to prayer; we should not ask amiss. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3). We should ask God out of necessity. We should not ask mindlessly, unreasonably, or wildly. We should never ask carelessly or amiss for any unnecessary things according to our lust or our flesh. If we do, our prayers will be in vain. While God often gives us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), asking amiss is a different matter.

Asking amiss means asking beyond one’s capacity or real need. If you have a need, you can ask God. But you should only ask God to take care of your need. Asking beyond what you need is asking amiss. If you have a great need, it is not wrong to ask God to satisfy such a need. But if you do not have a great need, and you ask for it, you are asking amiss. You can only ask according to your capacity and need. You should never ask foolishly for this and that. Asking carelessly is to ask amiss, and such asking will not receive any answer from God. Asking amiss before God is like a four-year-old child asking his father for the moon in the sky. God is not pleased with evil asking. Every Christian should learn to confine his prayers within the proper scope. Do not open your mouth rashly and ask for more than you actually need.

C. Dealing with Sins

Some do not ask amiss, but God does not answer their prayers. This is because there is a basic barrier between them and God—sin. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psa. 66:18). If a person has obvious and known sins in his heart, yet is unwilling to drop or part with them, the Lord will not answer his prayer. (Note the words in my heart.) The Lord cannot answer a person’s prayer when there is such a great hindrance.

What does it mean to “regard iniquity in my heart”? It means to keep a sin in one’s heart, being unwilling to part with it. Such a person knows something is a sin, yet he continues to cherish it. It is not only a weakness in conduct or appearance but also a craving in the heart. This is different from the person spoken of in Romans 7. Although the person in Romans 7 has failed, he hates what he is doing. The person here, however, regards iniquity in his heart. This means he keeps the iniquity to himself and is unwilling and reluctant to let go of it. The sin remains not only in his conduct but also in his heart. The Lord will not hear such a one when he prays. So long as there is one sin, it will hinder God from answering our prayer. We should not keep any favorite sin in our heart. We should acknowledge all sins as sins and should put them under the blood. The Lord can sympathize with our weakness, but the Lord will not allow us to regard iniquity in our hearts. Our prayers will not prevail if we have removed all the sins outwardly but still regard them in our heart and are unwilling and reluctant to part with them. The moment we begin our Christian life, we have to ask for the Lord’s grace to keep us from falling and to sanctify us in our conduct. At the same time, we must thoroughly reject all sins in our heart. We should not retain or regard any sin in our heart. Our prayer will be useless if sin remains in our heart. The Lord will not listen to such a prayer.

Proverbs 28:13 says, ” He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” You must confess your sins. You must tell the Lord, “I have regarded a sin in my heart. I cannot give it up. I ask You to forgive me. I want to forsake this sin. Please deliver me from this sin. Do not let this sin remain in me. I do not want it. I want to reject it.” If you confess to the Lord this way, the Lord will forgive; you will receive forgiveness. Then, your prayer will be heard. You must never be loose in this matter. You will not receive anything if you do not ask. You also will not receive anything if you ask amiss. Even if you do not ask amiss, the Lord will not answer your prayer as long as you keep back a favorite sin and regard it in your heart.

(To help you with confession of sins, I am putting this download link that I call the SIN AND REPENTANCE CONFESSION LIST.)

D. Believing

A condition on the positive side for having prayer answered is faith. Faith is indispensable. Without faith, prayer is ineffectual. The story in Mark 11 speaks loudly of the need for faith in prayer. The Lord Jesus said, ” What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (v. 24). We must believe when we pray. If we believe that we have received what we are praying for, we will have them. We hope that as soon as a person has received the Lord, even a week after his conversion, he will know what faith is. The Lord said, ” believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” He did not say, “Believe that you will receive them” but, “Believe that you have received them.” We should believe that we have received what we asked for, and we will have them. The believing that the Lord speaks of here is followed by its predicate you have received. What is faith? Faith is believing that we have received what we have asked for.

Christians often make the mistake of separating believe from its predicate you have received. They place it before the expression you will have them. They pray to the Lord thinking that it is a matter of great faith to “believe…and you will have them.” They pray to the Lord that the mountain be taken up and cast into the sea, and they believe that it will be so. They think that this kind of faith is great faith. However, this is to move believe away from you have received and to place it before you will have them. The Bible says that we should believe that we have received, not that we will receive. The two are definitely not the same. Not only do new believers need to learn this, but even those who have been believers for many years need to learn this.

What is faith? Faith is the assurance that God has answered our prayer. It is not the conviction that God will answer our prayer. Faith is when we kneel down to pray and say in an instant, “Thank God! He has answered my prayer. Thank God! This matter is settled.” This is to believe that we have received. A person may kneel down and pray and may rise and say, “I believe that God will definitely hear my prayer.” The expression will definitely hear is wrong. No matter how hard he tries to “believe” in this way, he will not see any result. Suppose you pray for a sick person and he says, “Thank God! I am healed.” His temperature may still be high; there may be no change in his symptoms at all. But his problem is over because he is clear within himself that he is healed. However, if he says, “I believe the Lord will surely heal my sickness,” he will probably need to try harder to “believe.” The Lord Jesus said, “Believe that you have received them, and you will have them.” He did not say that you will receive if you believe that you will receive. If you turn this around, it does not work. Brothers and sisters, have you seen the key? Genuine faith lies in the phrase It is finished. Genuine faith is thanking God for having already answered your prayers.

We need to say a few words more about faith. Consider the matter of healing. We can find some solid examples of faith in Mark’s Gospel. There are three sentences in the Gospel of Mark which bear special significance to prayer. The first relates to the Lord’s power, the second to the Lord’s will, and the third to the Lord’s act.

1. The Lord’s Power—God Can

Let us look at Mark 9:21-23, which says, “And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. ” The father said to the Lord Jesus, “If You can do anything…help us.” The Lord Jesus repeated his word and said, “If You can.” The Lord’s “if You can” is a quotation of the father’s “if You can.” The Lord Jesus was repeating what the father said. The father said, “If You can do anything…help us.” The Lord Jesus said, “If You can. All things are possible to him who believes.” It was not a question of “if You can,” but a question of whether or not he could believe.

When man finds himself in difficulty, he is usually full of doubt; he cannot believe in the power of God. This is the first thing we need to deal with. It may seem at times that the power of the obstacle is greater than the power of God. The Lord Jesus rebuked the father for doubting the power of God. In the Bible we seldom find the Lord interrupting a person as He did in this case. It seems that the Lord was angry when He said, “If You can.” The Lord rebuked the father when the father said, “If You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” What the Lord meant was, “How can you say, `If You can’? What is this? All things are possible to him who believes. This is not a matter of `if I can,’ but a matter of whether or not you believe. How dare you ask if I can!” When God’s children pray, they should learn to lift up their eyes and say, “Lord! You can.”

Mark 2 records the incident of the Lord healing a paralytic. The Lord said to the paralytic, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (v. 5). Some scribes reasoned in their hearts, saying, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” (v. 7). In their hearts they thought that only God could forgive sins and that Jesus could not. They regarded forgiveness of sins as a great thing. But the Lord said to them, ” Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” (vv. 8-9). The Lord was showing them that to man it was a question of whether or not one could do it, but to God it was a question of which was easier. For man, it is impossible for anyone to forgive sins or to ask the paralytic to stand up and walk. However, the Lord showed them that He could forgive sins as well as make the paralytic rise up and walk. Both forgiving and making the paralytic rise up and walk were easy for the Lord. The Lord was showing them that “God can.” In our prayer we need to know that “God can” and that nothing is too difficult for the Lord.

2. The Lord’s Will—God is Willing

It is true that God can do everything, but how do I know that He is willing to heal me? I do not know His will. Perhaps the Lord is not willing to heal me. What should I do? Let us look at another story. Mark 1:41 says, “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Whether or not God can do something is not the question here; rather, it is a question of whether or not God is willing. No matter how great His power is, what does it matter if He is unwilling to heal? If God does not want to heal us, the greatness of His power will be of no consequence to us. The first question that has to be settled is whether or not God can, but the second question that also has to be settled is whether or not God will. The Lord said to the leper, “I am willing.” The Old Testament tells us that leprosy is a very filthy disease (Lev. 13—14). Whoever contacted a leper was defiled. However, the Lord’s love was so great that He said, “I am willing.” The Lord Jesus stretched out His hand and touched and cleansed the leper! The leper entreated the Lord, and the Lord was willing to cleanse him. Can it be that the Lord will not heal our illness? Can it be that the Lord will not answer our prayers? We can all say, “God can” and “God is willing.”

3. The Lord’s Act—God Has Done

It is not enough for us to know that God can and God will. We need to know one more thing—God has done. We need to go back to Mark 11:24, which we quoted earlier: “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” This tells us that God has done something already.

What is faith? Faith is not just believing that God can and will do something but also believing that God has done something already. God has accomplished it. If you believe that you have received it, you will have it. If you believe and are confident that God can and will do a certain thing because He has given you a word concerning it, you should thank Him, saying, “God has done it!” Many people’s prayers are not answered because they are not clear about this point; they still hope that they will receive something. However, to hope means to expect something in the future, whereas to believe means to consider something as being done. Genuine faith says, “Thank God, He has healed me! Thank God, I have received it! Thank God, I am cleansed! Thank God, I have recovered!” When faith is perfect, it will not only say “God can” and “God wills,” but also “God has done.”

God has listened to our prayers! God has accomplished everything! If we believe that we have received it, we will receive it. Very often, our faith is a faith that believes in what we will receive. As a result, we never receive anything. We should have the faith that we have already received. Faith is always a matter of “having been done” rather than of “will be done.”

Consider a simple illustration. A person has just heard the gospel. If you ask him, “Have you believed in the Lord Jesus?”, he may answer, “I have.” You may then ask, “Are you saved?” If he says, “I will be saved,” you know that he is not saved. Suppose you ask him again, “Do you really believe that you are saved?” If he says, “I will surely be saved,” you know that he is still not saved. You may want to ask him again, “Are you really sure that you will be saved?” If he answers, “I think I will,” his words do not sound like someone who is saved. If one says, “I will be saved,” “I will surely be saved,” or “I think I will surely be saved,” there is no guarantee that he is saved. If the person says, “I am saved,” he has the right tone. Once a man believes, he is saved. Any faith, if it is faith at all, believes in what has been accomplished. For example, once a person possesses faith at the time of his salvation, he immediately says, “Thank God, I have received.” Let us lay hold of these three things—God can, God wills, and God has done.

Faith is not a psychological exercise. Faith is receiving God’s word and believing with much assurance that God can, God wills, and God has done. If you have not received His word, do not take the spiritual risk of trying to tempt God. The exercise of psychology is not faith. Take illness as an example: All who are healed through genuine faith are not afraid of a medical checkup (Mark 1:44). The result of a medical checkup for those who have experienced a genuine divine healing will prove that it was a genuine healing rather than something psychological.

When new believers learn to pray, they should pray in two stages. In the first stage they should pray until they receive a promise. They should pray until they receive God’s word. All prayers begin by asking God for something. Such prayers can continue for a period of time, sometimes lasting for three to five years. One needs to keep asking. Some prayers are answered quickly, while other prayers continue to go unanswered for years. This is the period of time when one needs to continue to ask. The second stage begins from the time one receives a promise and extends to the time the promise is realized. It begins from the time one receives God’s word and extends to the time His word is fulfilled. This stage is not for praying, but for praising. In the first stage one prays, but in the second stage one praises. In the first stage he prays until he receives a word. In the second stage he praises the Lord continuously until the word is fulfilled. This is the secret to prayer.

Some people only know two points about prayer: First, they pray on their knees for what they do not have, and second, they have it; God has given it to them. Suppose I ask for a watch from the Lord, and after a few days the Lord gives me a watch. There are only two events: being without something and having something. Some do not realize that there is another event in between these two—the event of faith. Suppose I pray for a watch and one day say, “Thank God, He has already heard my prayer.” Although my hands are still empty, I am clear within that I already have the watch. Indeed, after a few days the watch arrives. We cannot be concerned with just two events: not having and then having. We must be concerned with a third event—an additional event between not having and having, in which God gives us a promise, and then we believe and rejoice over it. Perhaps we have to wait three days before we actually receive the watch. But in our spirit, we received it three days ago already. A Christian should experience this kind of receiving in the spirit. If a person never experiences this kind of receiving in the spirit, he does not have faith.

We hope that new believers will know what faith is, and we hope that they will learn to pray. Perhaps, you have prayed continually for three or five days, a month, or even a year, and still your hands are empty. But deep in your heart, you have a little assurance that the matter will eventually be accomplished. At that time you should begin to praise God. You should continue praising Him until you have received the thing in your hand. Simply put, the first stage is to pray from nothing to having faith, and the second stage is to praise from having faith to actually receiving.

Why should we divide our prayers into these two stages? Suppose a person prays from having nothing to having faith. If he continues to pray, he may lose his faith. Once a person has acquired faith, he should begin praising. If he continues to pray, he may pray away his faith and not receive anything in the end. “You will have it” is an actual having in the hands, while “you have received it” is a having in the spirit. If the faith is already there, but the things have not materialized, one has to remind God with praise; he should not try to remind Him with prayer. If God has said that He will give us something, what else do we need to say? If we have the inward assurance that “we have received it,” what more do we need to pray for? Many Christians have the experience that as soon as their prayer strikes faith, they can no longer continue to pray. They can only say, “Lord! I praise You.” They have to keep their faith and praise, “Lord! I praise You. You have heard my prayer. I praise You because You answered my prayer a month ago.” If you do this, you will receive. Unfortunately, some people do not have the knowledge. God has already promised them something, yet they still pray. In the end their prayer drives away their faith. This is a great loss.

The word in Mark 11:24 is too precious. In the whole New Testament, we cannot find another passage that explains faith as clearly as this one. “Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.” If a person sees this, he will know what prayer really is, and prayer will be a powerful tool in his hands.

E. Persevering in Asking

Another point about prayer which requires attention is that we must persevere in prayer and never stop praying. Luke 18:1 says, “… men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Some prayers require perseverance. One has to pray to such an extent that the prayer seems to wear out the Lord and force Him to answer. This is another kind of faith. The Lord said, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8). This faith is different from the faith spoken of earlier, but they are not contradictory. Mark 11 says that we must pray until we have faith. Luke 18 says that we must ask again and again. We must have the faith to pray to the Lord persistently until one day He is compelled to answer our prayer. We should not care whether or not there is a promise. We should just pray until God is compelled to answer.

Many prayers are inconsistent prayers. A person can pray for one or two days. But after three months, he completely forgets it. Some people can pray about something only once. They cannot even pray a second time for it. Such ones care little whether they receive what they ask for. Please count how many of your prayers have been offered for the second time, the third time, the fifth time, or the tenth time. If you have forgotten your prayers, how can you expect God to remember them? If you do not have a heart to pray, how can you expect God to have a heart to listen? If you have forgotten your prayer, how can you expect God to remember it? Actually, you have never wanted what you asked for. A person will pray persistently only if he has a real need. One prays persistently only when he is pressed in the environment and driven by needs. In such cases he may persist for decades and still not give up praying, “Lord! If You do not answer me, I will not stop asking.”

If you want to ask for something, you should trouble God about it. If you really want it, you must ask persistently until God hears you. You have to ask in such a way that God cannot do anything except answer your prayer. You have to ask until God is forced to answer you.

III. THE PRACTICE OF PRAYER

Every Christian should have a prayer-book, one a year. He should record his prayers as one keeps books in accounting. Each page should be divided into four columns. The first column should record the date he begins to pray for something. The second column should record the prayer item. The third column should record the date the prayer is answered, and the fourth column should record how God answers the prayer. In this way, one will find out how many things he asks God for in a year, how many prayers God answers, and what prayers are still unanswered. New believers should definitely keep such a book. But it is good for those who have been believers for many years to keep a prayer-book also.

The advantage of writing things down in a prayer-book is that it shows us whether or not God is answering our prayers. Once God’s answers stop, something must be wrong. It is good for Christians to be zealous in serving the Lord, but such service is useless if their prayers are not answered. If a man’s way to God is blocked, his way to men is also blocked. If a man has no power before God, he will have no power before men. We must first seek to be a man of power before God before we can be useful before men.

A brother once wrote down the names of one hundred forty persons and prayed for their salvation. Some names were recorded in the morning and the persons were saved in the afternoon. After eighteen months, only two on the list remained unsaved. This is a very good pattern for us. May God gain more Christians who will keep a record of their prayers. I hope you will put this into practice. Write down the items you are praying for one by one and the items that God has answered. Any item that has been recorded in the book, but has not received an answer, should be followed up by persistent prayer. You should only stop if God shows you that a certain prayer is not according to His will. If He has not shown you this, pray persistently until you receive an answer. You should not be careless in any way. You should be strictly trained in this matter from the beginning. You should be this serious before God. Once you pray, do not stop until you receive an answer.

In using the prayer-book, note that some items require daily prayer while others require prayer only once a week. The schedule depends on the number of prayer items you have in your prayer book. If you have little to ask, you can pray daily over every item in the book. If there are many items, you can arrange for certain items to be prayed over on Mondays and others to be prayed over on Tuesdays. Just as men schedule their time to do other things, we should set aside a specific time every day for prayer. If our prayers are not specific, we will not need a prayer-book. If our prayers are specific, we will need a prayer-book. We can place this book in the same place we put our Bible and hymn book. They are to be used daily. After a period of time, count how many prayers have been answered and how many prayers have gone unanswered. It is a blessing to pray in a specific way according to a prayer-book.

As for the prayer that the Lord teaches us in Matthew 6, the prayer of 1 Timothy 2, and prayers for light, life, grace, and gifts for the church, these are general subjects for prayer. They should not be classified under ordinary items for prayer. We should pray for these great things every day.

Prayer has two ends—the person who is praying and the one who is being prayed for. Many times, the one being prayed for will not change unless the praying one is first changed. If the situation on their side remains unchanged, we need to seek after God concerning our side. We should say, “O Lord! What changes do I have to make? What sins have I not dealt with yet? What loves should I forsake? Am I really learning the lesson of faith? Is there anything else I should learn?” If there is a need for change on our side, we must change first. We cannot expect those who are being prayed for to change while there is no change at all on our side.

Once a person believes in the Lord, he must learn to pray earnestly. He must learn the lesson of prayer well before he can have a deeper knowledge of God and a fruitful future for himself.

WANT TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY?  CLICK HERE

Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

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