PRAYER IS PRAYING beyond ourselves. It is pressing beyond our limited human
reasonings and our vulnerable emotional states to make a faith
connection with God. It results in our perspective being altered
to see things clearly and Godís power being released to change
I vividly remember a personal
experience of powerful prayer that occurred when I was in the
fifth grade. I woke up one morning with abdominal cramps.
experienced them before on several occasions and feared that it
might be appendicitis. But, the cramps and pains always went
away within a few minutes. So I comforted myself on this
occasion with the thought that these symptoms would let up this
time as well. Only, they didnít.
Pushing the fear to the back
of my mind, I went to school only to find myself getting
progressively worse. By the end of first period class, I took my
few books in hand and made my way to my next class. By the time
I made two bends in the hallway and entered the classroom, I was
so weakened that my mind was racing with fear. Instinctively, I
dropped my books off and made my way to the bathroom where I
stood against the wall with both hands over my stomach. I was
beginning to double over from the pain, and chills set in.
Reflecting on my brotherís bout with appendicitis and surgery
a year earlier, my eleven-year-old mind became frantic with
I made my way back to class to
get my books and ask permission to go to the clinic. Second
period was recess, and there were only a couple of students left
in class. I went to pick up my books and found that I was so
weakened that I couldnít lift them. So, I asked a fellow
student if he could help me get to the clinic, and he obliged.
I scuttled my way to the
clinic as I could not lift my feet. The nurse was out, the beds
were empty, and my companion dropped off my books and left so as
not to miss recess. Making my way over to one of the beds, I
spent a good two minutes trying to get in a laying down position
on the bed. If I laid my head on the pillow, my knees were up in
the air. If I flattened my legs, my head was up in the air.
pains, chilling, and cramping just wouldnít let up, and my
mind was racing.
I began to pray frantically,
"God, youíve got to help me! Please, God! Do something!
Youíve got to do something! Please, help me!"
my imagination was picturing the revolving lights of an
ambulance coming to get me and fearing it would not make it in
time if the nurse didnít show up soon.
Suddenly, I heard the Lord
speak to me in my thoughts. I donít remember His exact words,
but it went something like this: "If you believe Iím here
to help you, why are you so troubled?" Instantly, all fear
left though the symptoms remained the same. I said out loud,
"Thatís right, Lord. If I believed you were hearing my
prayer, I wouldnít be acting like this. Okay, God.
"What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that
ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Mark 11:24) Now I desire that You touch my stomach and heal me.
Iím asking You to heal me. I believe I receive it, and I know
I have it!
At the instant that I finished
saying these words, I suddenly saw in my minds eye a cloudy sky
and noticed that the clouds dissipated at once to reveal a
perfectly clear sky. I had the sensation that my vision had been
clouded over but that I could now see all the way through to a
clear sky. At that moment, two things happened back to back
quicker than it takes to tell about it. First, I felt as though
God gave me an injection of faith. All doubt vanished, and I
positively knew that I was healed. Second, upon receiving that
assurance of faith, my body flattened out on the bed as though
someone had lifted a barbell from across my waist. All symptoms
vanished. I stood to my feet pressing against my stomach to see
if I could find the slightest sign of pain. There was none.
Iíve chosen to relate this
particular experience because it demonstrates praying beyond
ourselves and pressing into the dimension of Godís reign where
faith is imparted and supernatural power is released. I did not
know it when I was 11 years old and laying in that clinic, but
the vision God gave me at the moment He came to heal me connects
graphically with a biblical teaching underscoring the need to
exercise faith when we pray.
The apostle Paul writes,
"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers,
so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of
Christ, who is the image of God." (See 2 Corinthians 4:4.)
The word translated "blinded" in this verse, tuphloo,
means "to dull the intellect," and the simple form of
the same verb, tupho, means "to make smoke."
Dutch Sheets, commenting on this verse, says that "it is
like a smoke screen that clouds or darkens the air in such a way
as to prohibit a person from seeing." [Sheets 1996:166]
saw the smoke screen! And, at the moment the injection of faith
came, the clouds dispelled.
The smokescreen that clouds
our spiritual vision and disables our ability to pray in faith
is erected by the "god of this age" (See 2 Corinthians
4:4a) -- a biblical reference to Satan. Elsewhere in Scripture,
these clouds that blind our minds are referred to as spiritual
"strongholds." (See 2 Corinthians 10:4.) In this
teaching, weíre going to talk about spiritual strongholds --
what they are, how they are formed, how they hinder our prayer
lives, and how they can be identified and demolished through
What Are Spiritual
The definitive text concerning
spiritual strongholds comes from 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, which
reads as follows:
The weapons we fight with
are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have
divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments
and every pretension that sets itself up against the
knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make
it obedient to Christ.
The word translated
"strongholds" in this passage could also have been
rendered "fortresses." In its verbal form, the word
means "to make firm." [Vines 1985: 605] Just as
military forts are established in firm places such as on a
hilltop or at the mouth of a bay, so Satan attempts to
established strong forts in our minds to hold our thought life
In the passage cited above,
Paul defines strongholds as arguments, pretensions, or thoughts
that set themselves against the knowledge of God. Any beliefs
entrenched in our thinking that are contrary to truth as
revealed in Scripture are strongholds of the Enemy that stand in
the way of our knowing God and making Him known. Thus they
hinder us in our walk with the Lord and in our prayer lives.
The best working definition of
spiritual strongholds that I have found is Edgardo Silvosoís.
He states: "A spiritual stronghold is a mind-set
impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept as
unchangeable, situations that we know are contrary to the will
of God." [Silvoso 1994: 155] With this definition in view,
hereís a few examples of strongholds and Scripture references
that demonstrate how these assertions are contrary to the will
My husband is hopeless.
never be saved. (See 2 Peter 3:9.)
Iím just a carnal
person. Iíll never be free from lust. (See Galatians
No upward mobility for me!
Iíll always struggle to make ends meet. (See 3 John 2.)
Iím getting older.
Feebleness and disease is inevitable. (See Psalm 103:2-5.)
Each of these assertions
reflect beliefs entrenched in the mind that are contrary to the
revelation of Godís will as revealed in Scripture. Since Godís
Word is truth (see John 17:17), these beliefs reflect minds
clouded by Satanís smoke screen from seeing things the way God
desires us to see them. They are spiritual strongholds.
How Are Spiritual
The Apostle Paul gives us a
key to understanding how spiritual strongholds are formed by
listing three descriptive terms for strongholds. He says that
strongholds are arguments, pretensions, and thoughts contrary to
the knowledge of God. (See 2 Corinthians 10:5.) Letís look at
each of these terms to gain insight into how strongholds are
First, Paul states that
strongholds are arguments contrary to the knowledge of
God. The word Paul uses is logismos, which would be more
correctly translated as "reasonings." [Vines 1985:
319] The word does not imply arguments with other people but the
battle that goes on in oneís mind when the conclusions drawn
by human reason and those given through divine revelation in
Scripture contradict each other. In such cases, to believe our
own human reasonings is to reject the revealed will of God.
Second, Paul refers to
strongholds as pretensions contrary to the knowledge of
God. Paulís word here is hupsoma, which literally means
"high thing" and can also be translated
"height." [Vines 1985: 304] It speaks of pride by
which we exalt our own human reasonings over divine revelation.
It puts the intellect in the place of God so that one is more
comfortable trusting his reasonings than believing Godís Word.
This is mind idolatry.
Third, Paul calls strongholds thoughts
that are contrary to the knowledge of God. The word used
here is noema, which refers to a "purpose" or
"devise of the mind." [Vines 1985: 630]. This word is
particularly helpful in that it is also used in 2 Corinthians
2:11 where it refers to Satanís schemes. Paul writes:
are not unaware of [Satanís] schemes." The relevant point
here is that when human reasonings are allowed to become schemes
that set themselves against Godís Word, the mind has
essentially become captive to Satanís schemes. In such
situations, Satan has effectively planted thoughts into our
minds and deceived us into thinking that those thoughts were our
How are strongholds formed?
They are formed when we:
situations in life without looking to God for guidance.
Draw our own conclusions
without consulting Godís Word for validation.
Set our rationalizations
above Godís revealed will in Scripture.
Devise schemes for
handling life situations contrary to Godís directives
It is important to note here
that when a person first comes to Christ for salvation, he quite
likely has strongholds in his life already. His directions for
living have come through parents, teachers, authority figures,
his own human reasonings. Any number of things from genetics, to
environment, to parental discipline, to traumatic experiences in
life have played a role in shaping his values and conditioning
his responses to real life situations. Now, as a new Christian,
it is his responsibility to feed his mind and heart upon Godís
Word so that he can learn to live by the Holy Spiritís
directives rather than by his previous conditioning. This
reorientation process involves developing a lifestyle of
demolishing strongholds and building godly foundations for
How Do Spiritual
Strongholds Hinder Prayer?
Spiritual strongholds hinder
our prayer lives by turning us into double-minded people. If as
Christians we profess to live under the authority of Godís
Word and yet allow our lives to be frequently directed by human
reasonings contrary to the revelation of Godís will in
Scripture, we have become spiritually schizophrenic. There are
two obvious ways in which such a condition hinders our prayer
tries to balance competing agendas. Jesus said
that the heartbeat of prayer is deference to Godís reign in
our lives. Weíre to pray: "Your kingdom come, your will
be done on earth as it is in heaven." (See Matthew 6:10.)
But, as Neil Anderson points out, double-mindedness determines
to have a Plan B of human reasoning to fall back on in case the
Plan A of Godís revealed will doesnít come through. [Anderson 1990: 157-158]
As long as we hold a Plan B in reserve,
weíre not able to pray with faith and confidence for Godís
Plan A to come through.
A biblical example of
double-mindedness trying to balance competing agendas help us to
see just how this tendency sets us at cross purposes with Godís
work in our lives. First, right after Peter received a
revelation that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus commended him for
having gotten this insight from the Holy Spirit by revelation.
Then, when Jesus began to foretell how He would suffer
crucifixion as a part of his Messianic calling, Peter rebuked
Him and said, "Never, Lord! . . . This shall never happen
to you!" Jesusí response to Peter was, "Get behind
me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in
mind the things of God, but the things of men." Peterís
honorable intentions reflected Plan B thinking when he realized
that the Plan A of Godís will for Jesus was something horrible
from which he wanted Jesus to be spared. Yet, without following
through on Godís Plan A of Jesusí crucifixion, resurrection,
and ascension, eternal salvation for humankind would have never
This example of Peterís poor
judgment should give us all pause to consider that many rational
decisions we make may stand contrary to specific purposes God
has for our lives, and some of those purposes may, in ways we
cannot see at the time, include the salvation of eternal souls.
Truly, a lot is at stake when we try to embrace Godís agenda
for our lives without letting go of our own.
leads to instability and weakness. Weíve been
talking about the human tendency to succumb to spiritual
strongholds by professing to live under the authority of Godís
Word while tending to actually live by the dictates of human
reasoning. I think sometimes we realize that the ideal we uphold
and the reality that we live out are not the same, but we hope
that somehow they will mysteriously converge at some point --
that God will give us the grace to start practicing what we
preach. But, as long as this gap exists between what we say we
believe and what we tend to practice, we are building our house
upon the sand. Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words
of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish
man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams
rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it
fell with a great crash." (See Matthew 7:26-27.)
choosing the strongholds of human reasonings over the revealed
will of God for our lives is to build a life that is unstable
and that is headed for a great crash.
Double-mindedness makes us
unstable in our faith and thus ineffective in prayer. James
encourages us to pray for wisdom so that we will know the will
of God for our lives. Then he adds, " But when he asks, he
must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave
of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not
think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a
double-minded man, unstable in all he does." (See James
The basis for strongholds is
that we doubt. We doubt Godís Word so we depend on our own
reasonings. And, James points out that our tendency to put more
faith in our own ability to think through things than in the
revelation and direction that God gives through His word produce
prayers that waver and a life that is unstable. Truly,
strongholds are a disease that must be excised from our souls if
we are to live lives that are fruitful and productive.
How Does Prayer Demolish
Paul writes that "The
weapons we fight with . . . have divine power to demolish
strongholds." (See 2 Corinthians 10:4.) The King James
Version reads that our weapons are not "carnal" but
are "mighty through God to the pulling down of strong
holds." (See verse 4.) What weapons is he talking about?
The only weapon that can
demolish deception is truth. And, as Jesus said to the Father in
His Prayer of Intercession, "Sanctify them by the truth;
your word is truth." (See John 17:17.) In Paulís own
description of the Armor of God, he only named one part of the
armor that was a weapon. He said to take "the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God." (See Ephesians 6:17b.)
That the word of God does indeed have "divine power to
demolish strongholds" is confirmed by the writer of Hebrews
who said, "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to
dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the
thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (See Hebrews 4:12.)
By judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, Godís
powerful Word distinguishes between those thoughts and attitudes
that line up with divine truth and those that constitute human
reasonings and demonic strongholds.
Jesus used the Word of God as
a weapon to defeat the "schemes, devices, reasonings"
of the devil in the wilderness. With each suggestion the devil
made to Jesus, he included reasons why Jesus should act upon his
suggestions. He was attempting to use human reasoning to build
strongholds in Jesusí mind that would influence his own
thoughts and direct his actions. Satan does no different with
us. Jesus defeated him with the Sword of the Spirit.
He said, "It is written" (see Luke 4:4,8,12), He was
wielding the Sword of Truth to cut down subtle deception. We
should do the same.
One passage of Scripture that
demonstrates well how to use the Word of God in prayer to
demolish strongholds is James 4:7-10. It specifies four steps we
should take in defeating the devilís works in our lives and
two promises as to the results that will occur when we do.
want to demonstrate briefly how these four steps to demolishing
strongholds imply using the Word of God as a weapon in prayer.
should use Godís Word in prayer as an avenue for submitting to
God. James says, "Submit yourselves, then,
to God." (See verse 7.) We acknowledge from Godís Word
that Jesus is Lord (see Romans 10:9), that His teachings are a
sure foundation for our lives (see Matthew 7:24), and we commit
to His rule in our lives. (See Matthew 6:10.)
should use Godís Word in prayer as an effective way to be
spiritually cleansed. James writes, "Wash
your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you
double-minded." (See verse 8b.) We acknowledge that the
blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin (see 1 John 1:7b), that we
are sanctified by the water of the Word (see Ephesians 5:26),
and that God has established a new covenant with us in Christ
that gives us "singleness of heart and of action."
(See Jeremiah 32:39-40.)
should use Godís Word in prayer to draw near to God.
James exhorts us, "Come near to God." (See verse 8a.)
We ask God the Father to draw us to Jesus. (See John 6:44.)
we enter with confidence into His Holy Place (see Hebrews 4:16),
and we worship Him in spirit and with grateful hearts. (See John
4:4 and Hebrews 13:15.)
should use Godís Word in prayer to stand against Satanís
schemes. James urges us, "Resist the
devil." (See verse 7b.) We expose Satanís lies with the
truth of Godís Word (see Hebrews 4:12) and exercise our
authority over him by commanding him to move over and make way.
(See Matthew 16:33.)
Godís promise through this
passage in James is that when we take these four steps of
submitting to God, being spiritual cleansed, drawing near to the
Lord in worship, and resisting the devil, two things will
happen: God will "come near to [us]" (see verse 8b)
and Satan will "flee from [us]." (See verse 7b.)
bottom line is that our relationship with God will be strong and
solid and the strongholds that Satan had in our lives will
weaken and fall away. The picture of God drawing near to us and
Satan fleeing from us says it all.
One final word needs to be
said on how to use Godís Word through prayer to demolish
spiritual strongholds. That word is -- persistence. Ed Silvoso
tells of a friend of a friend who was making some renovations on
his home. He needed to demolish a cement wall in order to
enlarge a room. The contractor he hired for the job came with
three tools -- a sledge hammer and a regular workmanís hammer
and chisel. First, with the sledge hammer, he began striking the
wall with blow after blow. To a casual bystander, it appeared he
was wasting his time. Ten, twenty, thirty blows, and not so much
as a crack. But, on the thirty-sixth blow, a horizontal crack
appeared in the wall. On the thirty-seventh, several cracks
appeared in a spiderweb pattern. On the thirty-eighth, the whole
wall was covered with cracks. Then, the contractor laid his
sledge hammer down and with a workmanís hammer and chisel
proceeded to bring the wall down one piece at a time.
Some of us may feel that we
have stubborn strongholds that defy change -- worry, fear,
anxiety, slothfulness, lust, addictions, poverty, disease, or
what have you. We try to defeat them with speaking Godís Word
into our circumstances and it just doesnít seem to work.
we must keep in mind that faith increases as we continue hearing
Godís Word (see Romans 10:17) and such faith gives us victory
over all ideologies and reasonings that are of this present
world. (See 1 John 5:4.) As we persist in speaking Godís Word
against the strongholds of our lives and rendering an obedience
of faith in His Word, those strongholds will come down.
Spiritual strongholds are
human reasonings that exalt themselves over the revelation of
Godís will for our lives as revealed in Scripture. More than
human reasonings, they are injected with the poison of
diabolical devices and schemes to trip us up in our walk with
God. They breed hopelessness that paralyze faith in Godís
promises and cloud the mind from being able to see Godís
purposes for our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray.
Weíre in danger of
succumbing to strongholds when we make decisions as to how we
will respond to lifeís challenges without seeking God for
wisdom and looking to His Word for guidance. When we do so, we
choose to live independently of God and to make idols of our own
Strongholds weaken our lives
and make our prayers ineffective by causing us to become
double-minded. We try to balance our own agenda with Godís
rather than dying to ourselves with a whole-hearted commitment
to follow Him. In doing so, we build our lives on a shaky
foundation and find ourselves praying prayers that waver through
indecisiveness and unbelief.
We overcome strongholds in our
lives by allowing Godís Word to be final authority in our
lives. We allow the light of Scripture to expose our hearts, to
bring us to repentance, to lead us to worship, and to recognize
and resist Satanís schemes against us. When we are persistent
in wielding the sword of Godís Word against the strongholds of
the Enemy, God will draw near to us, Satan will flee from us,
the clouds of deception and blindness with dispel, and the walls
of Satanís strongholds will come down.
The challenge before us is to
apply what weíve learned. Whatís holding us back from a
deepening intimacy with the Lord, greater victory over the
Enemy, and a fruitful ministry and prayer life? It is our duty
before God to allow the Lord to expose any strongholds that we
have tolerated and to put the Sword to them. I pray that God
helps each of us to meet that challenge.