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PRAYER IS THE BATTLE

(SERMON #17 ON REVIVAL)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, March 1, 2015

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10, 11).


I struggled with this sermon all last week. I knew that God wanted me to preach on prayer. But I did not know what aspect, what feature, of prayer to focus on in this sermon. Finally God showed me that I should go back to the subject I spoke on last Sunday night, titled “Fighting the Devil in Prayer.”

We don’t often hear preaching on prayer as a battle. But it is a battle. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

We are in a spiritual battle. The Devil has in battle array his minions [his demons] arranged by ranks. It says that we wrestle against them. This speaks of a hand-to-hand encounter with the spiritual forces of wickedness...against the spiritual hosts of evil...This is our warfare (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, volume V, p. 279; note on Ephesians 6:12).

What does the Apostle Paul say about this warfare? It all comes down to verses 18 and 19, which say,

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

Leonard Ravenhill said, “Prayer is the battle.” I think he was right about that. “Prayer is the battle.”

When I was young I heard Sunday School lessons on verses 13 to 17. They were lessons about putting on the armor of God. I found these lessons boring. Why were they boring? Because they centered on the armor rather than the fight. I would have listened attentively if they had spoken about our fight with the Devil and his demons. I would have been aroused to action if they had spoken about “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Claim verses from the Bible, and stick them like a sword into the heart of Satan. Take Scripture verses and hack the demons with them in prayer – until these foul spirits are defeated.

That’s not what the seminaries are telling young preachers. I just read an article on the Internet by a professor of systematic theology, at a so-called conservative seminary. It was a veiled attack on the Bible. First he said, “the words [of the Bible] are inspired.” But then he turned around and criticized the idea that the words are inspired! He called that the “dictation theory” and the “mechanical theory.” What nonsense! Either the words are given by inspiration or they are not! At apostate Southern Baptist and Presbyterian seminaries I heard totally liberal professors mock the inspiration of the words of the Bible calling it a “mechanical theory.” Does this mean that liberalism is entering his seminary? Yes, it probably does. Preachers need to know that all the words of the Bible are “given by inspiration of God” (II Timothy 3:16). And all of us need to know “the sword of the Spirit...is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). You get hold of a promise in the Word of God, and then hit the Devil with that verse, and then stick that verse through the hearts of the demons, and they will recoil and flee from you, as Satan fled from Jesus when He quoted Scripture in the wilderness.

That’s what happens in revival. The last great regional revival in the Western world occurred on the Isle of Lewis, off the coast from Scotland. God sent down the power of the Holy Spirit in floods between 1949 and 1953. Read about it! What did the people pray? Why, they claimed Isaiah 44:3 in prayer!

“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:3).

I am giving this from memory. The preacher, Duncan Campbell, got some Christians to pray late at night in a house. About midnight, he said to one of the men, “I think it is time for you to pray.” That man stood up and said, “God, you promised to ‘pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground’ – and you’re not doing it! Oh God, do what you promised.” Duncan Campbell said, “At that moment the house shook like a leaf – like an earthquake.” He said, “We went outside and the power of God had fallen. People were going to the church with chairs to sit on. We made our way to the church, it was full in the middle of the night, and the lost were weeping and sobbing, and people were asking, ‘What must I do to be saved?’” The fire of revival had come down! Now, I paraphrased that from memory, but it is pretty close to what Duncan Campbell wrote.

Can we get ahold of a verse like Isaiah 44:3? Can we throw that verse in the face of the Devil? Can we stick it like a sword into the belly of the demons? Can we bring a verse like that to God and beg Him to answer it? That is real prayer! That is the kind of prayer God answers!

I love Dr. A. W. Tozer. I just read his biography again last week. He doesn’t fiddle around. He doesn’t play with words. He says exactly what he thinks. Dr. Tozer said,

“We pour out millions of words and never notice that our prayers are not answered.” (“Born After Midnight,” p. 34).

Again, Dr. Tozer said,

“Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on – and how little revival has resulted?...What has gone wrong? Simply this: neither the leaders nor the people have made any effort to obey the Word of God...Prayer is never an acceptable substitute for obedience” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “Prayer No Substitute for Obedience”).

Now look at our text again. Who is it addressed to?

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).

This section of Ephesians, on spiritual warfare, is addressed to the men in the church, “my brethren.” The Textus Receptus Greek text tells us this passage is for the men in the church. That’s why I believe this passage refers primarily to prayers in the church, in what we call “prayer meeting.” It isn’t exclusive to prayer meeting, but this is the primary meaning. We read in I Corinthians 14:34, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak.” Again, in I Timothy 2:11 we are told, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.” Dr. John R. Rice wrote about that in his booklet, “Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives and Women Preachers” (Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1941).

Now that doesn’t mean that the women can’t pray silently in the prayer meeting. They can follow the prayers of the men and say “amen,” thus making the prayer their own. I know this will cause some women to rebel. Even if they are true Christians, many worldly ideas from the “feminist” movement are still in their minds. And many pastors are afraid to correct them. The situation is pitiful. That’s one of the reasons I don’t think the American churches will experience revival again, at least not in my lifetime.

But this passage in Ephesians six is speaking primarily to the Christian men in the church, leading the congregation in prayer against the demonic forces of Satan. That’s one reason I think it is foolish to teach about “The Christian’s Armor” to little boys and girls in Sunday School! This is a man’s battle. Men should stand up and lead the church into battle in prayer! The men are to lead in prayer, and the women and children are to follow them in battle against the enemy with their “amens.” If you sit in prayer meeting and don’t say “amen” after each part of the prayer, you are not part of the Army of God. You should stay at home if you aren’t going to “amen” the prayers of the men who are leading in prayer. Why come? – if you aren’t going to support them with your “amens.”

I beg your pardon if this offends you – but I believe that men and young people leave our churches in droves, as an indirect result of letting women be in charge of Sunday School, and by letting them lead in prayer meetings.

If you want to read a book about this, I recommend Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow, Thomas Nelson, 2005. Chapter three deals with the fact that young adults, as well as men are not involved in churches led by women. Even if the pastor is strong and masculine, he often gives up his authority to a woman Sunday School superintendent or woman deacon! No wonder young people and most men hate going to church! Women cannot lead most men, or most young people in their late teens or early twenties. Only men can lead them. That is one of the psychological reasons Islam is growing wildly, while the Christian churches are losing members every year. Muslim men do the praying. Muslim men do the leading. God help us! No wonder so many young people are tricked by Satan into joining Islam! In that regard, the Muslims are closer to the Bible than we are! No, I say again, the strong men in the church should lead out in the prayer meetings.

Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O men of God! The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task; Rise up, and make her great!
   (“Rise Up, O Men of God!” by William P. Merrill, 1867-1954).

Then we are told,

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

Here we are told to “stand against” the “wiles” or “schemes” of the Devil. The word “stand” is repeated three times in verses 11, 13 and 14. This tells us to stand against Satan’s schemes as a soldier standing against the enemy in battle in the name of Christ! Again, I repeat Ravenhill’s words, “Prayer is the battle.”

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:18-19).

My long-time pastor, Dr. Timothy Lin, said this about prayer meetings,

People often say that it makes no difference whether you pray individually or with a group, nor does it matter whether you pray alone at home or together with brothers and sisters at church. Such a statement is merely a self-consolation of the lazy, or a plausible explanation of one ignorant of the power of prayer! See what our Lord says about this aspect of prayer:

“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).

      Our Lord has emphatically reminded us that the utilization of this divine authority [cannot] be achieved by the effort of one individual, but only through the corporate effort...of the entire church. In other words only when Christians pray in one accord from...the entire church, can the church then effectively use and enjoy such divine authority.
      The Church of the last days, however, cannot see the reality of this truth, nor [have] God’s power. What a great loss it is!...She wants to bind the work of Satan, to loose the [lost] and to further experience the reality of God’s presence. Alas! it cannot be done (Timothy Lin, Ph.D., The Secret of Church Growth, FCBC, 1992, pp. 92, 93).

We have to admit that we aren’t up to that standard yet. I hope you will take the copy of this sermon manuscript home with you tonight. Read it several times next week if you are already saved. Let’s come up to the standard, as Dr. Lin told us!

One other thought. It is clear to me that Paul is speaking about men praying in the prayer meeting of a church. Ephesians 5:19 to 33 speaks of the local church. Then Paul says, “Finally, my brethren”…do battle in prayer!

If you aren’t saved yet, keep reading this morning’s sermon, “I Will – Be Thou Clean!” This evening sermon is directed mostly to those who are already saved. It’s time for us to “pray through” for revival. God wants to send revival, and He will send revival. Believe it! Claim the promise of Isaiah 44:3. Pray “Oh, God, do what you promised.” Amen! And Amen! Old John Newton (1725-1807) knew about that! He said,

Come, my soul, thy [words] prepare,
   Jesus loves to answer prayer;
He Himself has bid thee pray,
   Therefore will not say thee nay,
Therefore will not say thee nay.

Thou art coming to a King,
   Large [requests fear not to bring];
For His grace and power are such,
   None can ever ask too much,
None can ever ask too much.
   (“Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare” by John Newton, 1725-1807;
      altered by the Pastor).

To you who are lost I say, “Don’t give up hope!” Don’t be sad and hopeless! You have been sad and hopeless long enough – in fact too long! Way too long! Jesus is here to help you! Jesus is here to take away your sadness! Jesus is here to give you hope and peace! We have prayed the best we could, and now Jesus is here for you! The Holy Spirit makes Him available right now! You have been sad and hopeless long enough! You don’t need any more conviction. Joseph Hart (1712-1768) said, “All the fitness He requireth is to see your need of Him.” His Blood will make you clean! He will cover your sin! He will wash it away – and you will be saved! It’s easy to come to Jesus! It’s hard to stay away from Him! It’s so very easy to trust Jesus! Oh, I pray that you will trust Him soon! Amen!

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Ephesians 6:10-19.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Come, My Soul, Thy Suit Prepare” (by John Newton, 1725-1807; altered by the Pastor).