The term resistance movement describes situations in which oppressed people rise up against their oppressors. Resistance fighters take the stance, “I’m not going to stand idly by and allow this evil to continue. I choose to resist the wrongs. Whether I live or die in resisting my oppressor, I will no longer live as I have been.”
Resistance in prayer is the biblical approach to confronting and overcoming the devil. Peter wrote, “But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). James echoed this teaching: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8). Both Peter and James make clear that we are to actively resist evil through our persevering prayers.
On the surface, resistance may appear to be passive. In practice, it is anything but passive. It is an active stance, both intentional and powerful.
What would you do if a weight began to press against you, attempting to push you off a position that is rightfully yours? How would you resist? You would lean into the weight and press back. The pressure you exert would equal or exceed the pressure exerted against you. That’s a posture of resistance.
Resistance is first and foremost a firm decision to join the struggle against evil in prayer, rather than turning away, backing off, or retreating. Such resistance takes strength and courage. It also takes patience and perseverance. That’s why Luke includes a parable designed to teach us “at all times [we] ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Peter and James point to two key words at the heart of our ability to resist the devil through our prayers: submission to God and faith.
Submission to God is saying, “I can’t, but You can.” In our battlefield prayers we might say, “Lord, I can’t defeat the devil on my own. But with You I can.” This is the position the apostle Paul took when he said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
James taught that submission occurs when we seek to develop a closer relationship to God. As we spend time with God, we get to know Him better and discover how He wants us to overcome evil and experience blessing.
We draw near to God through prayer and by spending time in His Word. We draw near to God when we set aside time solely to listen to God and to wait upon Him for direction and guidance. We draw near to God when we periodically shut ourselves away, closing off all other influences that might distract us from knowing Him better. The better we know Him, the more we see His awesome power, experience His vast love, learn from His wisdom, and grow in our faith. We come to an even greater realization: “Yes, God can defeat the devil on my behalf. Yes, God will win in any conflict with the devil. Yes, God does want me to be able to overcome my adversary and to live in victory in Christ Jesus.”
Faith is saying to God, “I believe You will.” In our battle to overcome the enemy, we might pray this way: “I believe You will defeat the enemy and cause him to flee from me as I resist him and put my trust in You.” Again and again, David made this declaration of faith to the Lord: “O my God, in You I trust” (Ps. 25:2; also 31:6; 55:23; 56:3; 143:8). Perfect faith views the battle as being done and God gaining the victory. When David said, “In You I trust,” he meant: “It is done. Lord, You are perfect in nature. You do all things well. And You have victory over all my enemies.” He had absolute faith in God’s ability. There was no hint of “I hope He will” because David knew it was as good as done.
We grow in faith by exercising it, by trusting God in situation after situation, circumstance after circumstance, relationship after relationship. We develop a personal history in which we obey God and He remains faithful in His loving care of us.
It is impossible for you to resist the devil for very long if you do not believe that Christ Jesus through you can and will defeat the devil. Furthermore, you can remain firm in your faith only when you completely submit to God—in all areas of your life. When you refuse to submit a problem or area to the Lord, you are saying, “I can handle this. I don’t need Your help.” That’s precisely what Satan wants you to do: trust your ability and not in omnipotent God. It is also the place where he will level his greatest attack against you!
The good news is that God has given each of us a measure of faith to develop. He also gives us the ability to trust Him and surrender our lives to Him. We can stand firm and resist the enemy, but only by the power of God. He is the One who hears our prayers and rushes to our defense. When we pray, Satan flees.
Adapted from The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, © 2009.