The Role of Authority in Spiritual Dynamics
This is my third and final post on authority. Personally, I find writing on topics like this both challenging and helpful in understanding the many times I feel defeated and overwhelmed amidst the seemingly constant barrage of spiritual attack. We will look specifically at how our posture to authority is linked to spiritual dynamics. I propose that failure to submit to authority is one of the primary ways we open ourselves up to defeat when spiritually attacked.
First, we must recognize that there is an on-going battle raging in the spiritual realm. It is interesting that Ephesians 6, known for its instruction in how to stand firm in this spiritual battle, follows a section on submission to various authorities. There are ultimately only two sides to this cosmic conflict – the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Both kingdoms have an authoritative agenda and we have been given the choice to which we will give ourselves. Jesus is the King of the Kingdom of God and He says if you are not following Him, you are working for the other team.
We cannot say we are submitted to Him and not submit to the authorities He has placed us within. In a previous post, I have gone to great lengths to redeem the idea of authority and my hope is that by understanding the spiritual side of things it would further lead us to the safest place spiritually.
There is much insight into the link between authority and spiritual dynamics that can be gained by examining the flow of the type of prayer Jesus taught us to pray. He tells us not to pray as those who are seeking selfish gain in this life or pray rote prayers that are empty and not heart-felt, but instead pray “like this”. Let’s look at the sections and how they flow.
He begins with the words “Our Father”. Our Father is the perfect authority. He is good. What a comfort! We have a heavenly Father who cares for us and we are not alone. There are Christians all over the world actively suffering in varying degrees for the sake of the gospel and we are calling out, together, with a heart-felt cry to the Lord!
What follows is the first of several requests – prayer for His glory, His will, and His kingdom. Guess whose glory, will, and kingdom we are not praying for if praying for His? Ours! Instead, we are to prayerfully express our desire that God’s name would be glorified and asking that He would cause this to happen on Earth as it is in Heaven!
This is not the type of prayer found in James 4, which is birthed out of selfish ambition. It is, in essence, standing outside of God’s will and authority and praying for our own will, our own kingdom, and our own glory. Again, this is praying for an alternative kingdom with an alternative agenda. The Bible says these types of prayers are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
This might give me insights as to why, as a husband, my prayers can be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). When I attempt to operate outside of God’s will of living incarnationally with my wife and fail to live with her in an understanding way, I am attempting to relate to her according to my selfish desires rather than what He has called me to. I want Him to work it out without me leaving the comforts of my world to enter into hers and when I do, I often do not trust Him and, consequently, I am left feeling defeated.
Instead, Jesus tells us to pray in agreement with His plan and purposes, praying next for the provision we need to live out His will, as we live for His kingdom in a way that brings Him glory. In other words, I am not praying that God would help me live out my wants, but that He would help me live as He wants. We are praying that He would provide whatever is needed to sustain us in the victory we have in Jesus.
There is also an interesting check in the middle of this prayer to make sure we are really submitted to Him. Do we fail to trust Him as a perfect authority by being unwilling to forgive others? This is often how we give the enemy a foothold to torment us. You may be familiar with a parable Jesus tells in Matthew 18 of a servant who has been forgiven much but will not forgive his fellow servant a relatively small amount and is turned over to the jailers to be tormented.
Lastly, we continue praying according to His good character, that He would not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. We are to pray daily prayers for deliverance, asking God not to allow us to fall prey to the enemy but instead allow us to walk through our circumstances with hope. This requires that we remember truth and put on our armor daily.
Jesus demonstrates perfect obedience as He submits Himself to the perfect will of the Father through much suffering and many trials, even death. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was able to overcome all things without falling into temptation. Likewise, this is how we overcome the otherwise daunting reality that we live in. We trust God in the midst of our circumstances that in Christ we will overcome all things.
This is not where I find myself much of the time, but rather believing a myriad of lies and feeling defeated. Upon reflection, I realize the problem. I rail against difficult circumstances rather than trusting God in the midst of them. I want my will and my plan and not the path that God has for me. I resist picking up my cross and following Him. The answer James gives is to repent and submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you, as he did with Jesus.
Otherwise, we run the risk of ending up like the sons of Sceva, who were beaten and left naked by demons, revealing the reality of their spiritual condition outside of Christ – defeated and uncovered.
Posted on January 3, 2012