Recently a friend breathed a sigh of relief when a difficult relationship ended with the other person moving out of state. But as the emotional dust settled and she tried to put into perspective what had happened, she continued to experience feelings of sadness and self-condemnation over what seemed like a personal failure. She asked if I would pray for her.
As I interceded for her, I had a distinct sense that her melancholy was an attack from the enemy. It was affecting not only her sense of self worth, but also her view of her heavenly Father. However, I knew from experience that just recognizing spiritual opposition isn’t always enough to go on. I needed to know if the enemy had access or an assignment.
When Jesus ministered to people, sometimes He indicated the problem they were suffering from was related to their own sin (Lk. 22:21-32; Jn. 5:14). Other times, He simply exerted His authority over the devil’s schemes without reference to anything the person may have done to give the enemy jurisdiction (Lk. 13:10-16).
Access means there is something a person’s life that gives authorization or legal jurisdiction to the enemy. An example of this is unresolved anger: “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Eph. 4:26-27).
In the original Greek text, the word translated “foothold” is topos. Topos implies a tangible space in the same way that there was no topos (room) for Mary and Joseph in the inn (Lk. 2:7), and that Jesus has gone to prepare a topos (place) for us in heaven (Jn. 14:2-3). When we allow unconfessed sin (including negative emotions such as anger, bitterness, etc.) to remain in us, we give the devil a “place” where he can afflict, torment, or oppose us.
For example, as I pointed out in my last post, “Praying from God’s Perspective, Part 1,” Jesus told Peter that Satan had demanded permission to “sift Peter as wheat” (Lk. 22:31). Jesus didn’t say that Satan had no right to do so. Apparently there was something in Peter that needed sifting!
In this situation, Jesus simply alerted Peter to the enemy’s scheme. Then He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail and that he would repent and turn from his sin (v. 32). This is how we intercede when the Holy Spirit reveals that the enemy has gained access for an attack. We intercede for the process: that the person’s faith will be strengthened and that any personal sin giving ground to the enemy will be exposed and renounced. (And obviously, if we’re praying for ourselves and come to realize it’s our own sin that’s at the root of it, we need to take care of that personally!)
An assignment, on the other hand, means there is not ground of personal sin (no topos) involved in the enemy’s activity. In this case, a demonic spirit is making an unauthorized, unfounded attempt to discourage, distract, or even destroy an individual (1 Pet. 5:8).
Often, what seems to be a “natural” or flesh and blood problem may be the result of this kind of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12). The enemy engages in strategic planning, and operates with specific schemes in mind (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11) In 1 Thess. 2:18, Paul speaks of the enemy directly opposing him, preventing him on multiple occasions from completing ministry trips.
When we discern from the Spirit, through prayer, that there is a demonic assignment, our intercession can take the form of direct authority. Jesus did this when He healed the woman who was bent over for 18 years by a spirit of infirmity: “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Lk. 13:11-13). Paul did it when he rebuked the spirit that was harassing him through a young slave girl: “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you do to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18). We, too, can identify the enemy’s scheme aloud, assert the authority Jesus has given us in His name (Lk. 10:19; Eph. 1:19-21, 2:6) and command the enemy’s attack to be broken and the opposition lifted.
My friend recognized that the oppression she had ben experiencing through this troubled relationship had been an assignment all along. That was the ammunition we needed for prayer! We could take authority, in Jesus’ name, over the schemes of the enemy to oppress her with discouragement and tormenting thoughts.
The lingering melancholy she had experienced was not really caused by her own failure but by a last ditch effort of the enemy to oppose both her self worth and her view of her heavenly Father. With the oppression lifted, she recognized God’s sovereign and merciful intervention, and all sense of condemnation and regret was eclipsed by a fresh revelation of God’s goodness and love. Scheme exposed—and assignment broken!
The take-away: I encourage you to look up the scriptures referenced in this post to help build your understanding and awareness of how spiritual warfare can operate in our lives, and how we can counter it though prayer. Are there any situations you are currently praying about that might fall into this category? Ask the Lord to speak to you in light of these scriptures to determine how best to intercede.
(c) 2017 Arlyn Lawrence. All Rights Reserved.