A Tactic of the Enemy: The Undermining of Duty
The enemy of our souls, who is also the enemy of all that's good, the enemy of God, and the enemy of the human race, works hardest, I think, at keeping us from prayer. How do I know this? I only have to look at my own prayer life and feeble prayer attempts over the years. As I talk with others, both men and women, they acknowledge the same: weak to no prayer life. Why? Why is this?
Perhaps this is our archenemy's #1 agenda because he knows, far better than we do, the power intrinsic in prayer, power that is designed to thwart, defeat, and destroy him. He works in various ways to keep us from the one thing that we most need. As Paul says in II Corinthians 2:11, let us not be unaware of his tactics.
I'll write in the future about other tactics of the enemy, but for today let's think about his accusations that center on duty. I wrote last week about this dichotomy we struggle with between heart-felt, Spirit-driven inspiration and duty-bound discipline. Our sense that there is a dichotomy between the two is itself a tactic of the enemy. If we pray out of duty and feel no heart or inspiration behind it, the enemy taunts us with accusations of legalism, hypocrisy, or flesh-driven, rather than Spirit-driven, motivations. Our hearts and minds are pounded with incriminations that we are self-serving, trying to win God's favor, etc., etc., etc. On and on his harangue echoes in our heads and hearts. Actually, I think the opposite is true—which shouldn't surprise us since he is the father of lies. If we base our prayer lives on feelings (i.e. whether we feel inspired by God, feel filled with His Spirit, feel unhypocritical, etc.), we are living out of our soul (mind, will, emotions) rather than out of our spirit where the Holy Spirit dwells, beckoning us to obedience. Prayer is first of all a step of obedience, and all obedience to God requires faith.
Ah, that is the root of our real problem: faithlessness. It feels like our prayers are hitting the ceiling and bouncing off; it feels like they are powerless; it feels like they aren't "working." So we neglect to pray. We can't see its effects—at least not right away, sometimes not for years; we can't see God bending His ear to hear us and moving His hand in response to our prayers. So we fail to pray. But isn't the need to see also part of our fleshly, carnal nature? Hebrews 11 has a fair bit to say about that. Faith is setting our eyes on what we cannot see, on the invisible. Faith places its confidence in the Word of God, not on feelings. As the children's chorus goes, "faith is just believing what God says He will do." And God has promised to hear our prayers and work on our behalf. Faith obeys.
So let's be done with living by feelings, living by sight, and living faithlessly. Let us call this what it is: a tactic of the enemy. Let us pull his bluff and not fall for this any longer. And let us rise to the duty God is calling us to, that we might engage the power of God in our lives, tapping into all the strength and resources He wants to give us. Obedience in prayer begun as duty will end in inspiration. How do I know? It's the story—and I write this with tears of deep gratitude welling up in my eyes—of my own journey. It is in itself an answer to one of my prayers.