I’ve participated in a weekly First Place 4 Health Bible study for more than a year, and I’ve been a group leader for the same since February. Several times each week I experience “aha moments” when spiritual truth hits home in a particularly relevant way. The most recent “aha moment” happened when I read Luke 13:10-13,16.
Put yourself in this woman’s sandals. Locked facedown, she could neither feel the sun’s warmth on her face nor enjoy others’ smiles. She couldn’t see potential danger on the path when she walked from place to place. She was unable to do what healthy-bodied people for granted—tasks such as looking in the mirror while combing her hair or retrieving an object from an overhead shelf. When she shopped in the marketplace, she could see items placed on blankets on the ground but nothing placed on a tabletop. And what about giving or receiving hugs? Impossible.
Scripture says this gal visited the synagogue. I assume this was her regular practice. She had a heart for God and wanted to learn more about Him. It also says an evil spirit crippled her.
What? An evil spirit was responsible for this woman’s plight? Yes.
Is it possible that sometimes we, as North American believers, don’t fully understand or acknowledge the spiritual dimension in which we live? Perhaps this was true for this God-fearing woman. Maybe she assumed her affliction was a consequence of sin. Or maybe she figured it was purely a physical condition. Perhaps the possibility of it being caused by an evil spirit had never crossed her mind, and so the root cause for her suffering went unaddressed as Satan held her in bondage for nearly two decades.
Last weekend I taught a workshop about prayer. One gal asked, “Why do we pray and pray and pray for someone’s salvation or about a difficult situation without ever seeing an answer?” Instantly this thought came to mind: Perhaps it’s because we’re praying on the surface. We need to go deeper and address root issues.
For instance, we ask God to draw our loved ones to saving faith in Christ but we don’t see results. Maybe the spirit of lies has convinced them that God-talk is for religious fanatics and their behavior is perfectly acceptable. Maybe the spirit of lies has caused them to believe that they need to work hard to gain God’s favor rather than simply receive His free gift of salvation. That evil spirit holds them in bondage, and we need to pray against it so they can understand spiritual truth and respond to the Gospel.
We ask God to restore a broken relationship. Our intent is good, but perhaps we miss the mark. Maybe we ought to ask Him to show us what the real issue is. Has the spirit of selfishness played a role in wrong attitudes and behaviors? Is the spirit of pride hindering either party from humbling themselves and asking for forgiveness? Is the spirit of insecurity causing one party to perceive the other party’s intentions through a skewed lens? If so, then let’s ask God to destroy those spirits so the relationship can be healed once and for all.
I see women in bondage within the context of First Place 4 Health. When they don’t see immediate weight loss results, they might either try a new diet, starve themselves, or gorge themselves. At the root, they might be dealing with a spirit of idolatry—they’ve made food an idol, their source of comfort or strength rather than turning to the Lord and giving Him first place in their hearts. Until that spirit of idolatry is dealt with, Satan will hold them captive just as He did the bent-over woman. He’ll likely enlist the spirit of shame to dig their trench deeper—specifically, shame over their lack of self-discipline. Shame causes them to think they’ll never see victory so they may as well give up trying.
And then there’s the spirit of fear. By focusing on situations that stir worry within us, we invite the spirit of fear to move into our minds and take up residence. We pray, “God, help me sleep better at night” or “Help me not to worry so much,” but to no avail. Why? Because we fail to stand in Truth against the spirit of fear that’s holding us in bondage. We need to recognize the origin of this stronghold and ask God to crush its presence.
Satan stalks about like a hungry lion seeking someone to devour. He does this by blinding our spiritual eyes to his evil spirits. In my limited experience, three of the biggest culprits are the spirit of shame, the spirit of pride, and the spirit of fear. When they gain access to our lives, they bring despair and defeat.
How do we turn things around?
- By asking God to reveal root causes for whatever problem concerns us. The revelation might surprise us.
- By declaring the truth of God’s Word as it relates to that problem. What does it say about the spirit of fear, for instance? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
- By mediating on and declaring aloud the truth of God’s Word as it relates to that problem. Again—in the context of the spirit of fear—Psalm 34:4-7 – “I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me, freeing me from all my fears. Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. I cried out to the LORD in my suffering, and he heard me. He set me free from all my fears. For the angel of the LORD guards all who fear him, and he rescues them.”
Jesus saw the bent-over woman even when she couldn’t see Him. He called her to Himself, and she responded in faith. Then He spoke words of healing and touched her. As if these displays of respect and compassion weren’t enough, He called her “dear woman.”
Jesus is all about setting us free from bondage. There are no cookie-cutter answers to the tough issues with which we deal, but He is more than willing and able to help us discover the right answer to address our situation because we’re precious to Him.
In the fall of 2015, my husband and I started praying and fasting weekly. As we enter into God’s presence, we ask Him to teach us to pray for our family members and our ministries. These insights, I believe, come as the result of our asking Him to teach us how to intercede more effectively.
I know I have much yet to learn, but applying these insights have already seen results and been incredibly freeing.
#SpiritualWarfare #PrayerWorks #bgbg2