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Putting Your Past Behind You

Channeling God's Power

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | December 3, 1989

Selected highlights from this sermon

Did you know that we can channel the dead, “higher powers,” and ancient masters of “wisdom”? It’s true. But the problem is, those channels all tune into the world of demons. Through channeling, astrology, horoscopes, séances, Ouija boards, tarot cards, and other such practices, we open the door for demonic spirits to enter our lives.

But we can open a channel to God—through prayer. Prayer can unlock the awesome power of God. Through this channel, God can dismantle the strongholds of addictions, abuse, and a painful past. It can also provide comfort and blessing.

In order to pray effectively, we need access to God that’s only available through Jesus. We need to pray in the will of God, by the Spirit of God, in the name of Christ – for it is only through prayer that God releases spiritual power.

You know, of course, that there is a new word that we all have adopted in the last couple of years. It’s the word channeling. We’re told by the New Agers that it’s possible to go to a channeler and be in touch with ancient masters of wisdom, to be in touch with the dead, to be in touch with higher powers. Now we shouldn’t doubt these claims because there are channelers that are indeed in touch with masters of wisdom and all kinds of occult authorities and powers. The problem, of course, as all of us know, is that this is putting people in touch with the wrong spirit world.

There is a spirit world out there, a world of demons, a world populated by satanic spirits who want awesome authority and control over people, and so you go to channelers, basically ancient mediums, and they are in touch with the spirit world.

But I’m not ready to surrender the word channeling to the New Age Movement. Long before the New Age Movement had its beginning, were not we as evangelicals singing “Channels Only”? It’s a perfectly good word that talks about our ability to channel the power of God, the living and the true and the pure Spirit who permeates the entire universe.

You see, the word channel, and we use it for television sets, simply means that we’re able to be plugged into a signal. Well today we’re not talking about how to be plugged into the occult signal, but how to be so plugged into the divine signal that we actually become the conduit, if you please, of the awesome power of God. That’s what we’re speaking about.

Now, if you attend here regularly, you know that this happens to be the seventh message in a series of eight entitled Putting Your Past Behind You. And last week we talked about the power of Satan. We mentioned that there are four different levels of control that wicked spirits seek over people.

The first level of control is dropping ideas into people’s minds. If those ideas find a home, if they are welcomed, the second level of control is obsession where we become preoccupied with those ideas. The third level of control is a stronghold. A stronghold means that that obsession now has become so deeply rooted that we are controlled by our memories and our past. And then the fourth stage is invasion. On different levels wicked spirits actually inhabit people.

Now, what we’re going to talk about today is how do we, through the power of prayer, become such a channel of God’s blessing that we see obsessions and strongholds, and even invasion of satanic forces, melt and dissipate under the awesome authority of Christ? How is that done? We all know it’s done through prayer, but what kind of praying?

You and I know that sometimes we offer prayers to God, but it could be best described as pabulum. We say, “Oh Lord, So-and-So is in trouble. Please help them. Please help So-and-So get a good grade in school, or do this or that.” Those kinds of prayers may be necessary and good, but my dear friend, there are situations in people’s lives that are so severe and so difficult (some are so far gone) that there is nothing that will help them except an awfully strong jolt of the power of God to dismantle the strongholds. I’m speaking about addictions, as we have talked about in preceding messages, those who have been the victims of abuse, those whose past controls them.

Now I’d like to ask you to take your Bibles and to turn just for a moment to Ephesians 6. This is where the Apostle Paul talks about the armor of the Christian, and I want you to notice how in verse 18 he adds an important dimension in our spiritual warfare.

Ephesians 6:18! After he lists all the pieces of the armor that we should put on as believers, he writes: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit. With this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

As I was thinking about this message, I was going to outline it on the basis of the four uses of the word all in this text. I decided not to, but it was a temptation I found hard to resist. Notice it says, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit. Be on the alert with all perseverance for all the saints.”

What I’d like to do today, however, is to speak about prayer just a little differently than is outlined in this text. But before I do I must answer two questions. The first is this: Why is it that we don’t pray more? We hear messages on prayer and some of you perhaps already, knowing that that is the topic, sit there and you say, “Oh please, I dare you to try to tell me something new.” And you may not be praying, and yet the very mention of the word brings a yawn. Why?

I think there are several barriers that we sometimes have to overcome. The first is that we will not pray very much if, within our hearts, we doubt the wisdom and the love of God. You see, if you don’t believe that God cares, you aren’t going to be mentioning very many things in His presence (Are you?), because down deep inside you will say to yourself, “It’s not going to make any difference because God doesn’t care.” That’s one of the greatest barriers that those who have been abused have to get over. As someone said to me recently, “God wasn’t there for me when I was a child. What makes you think that He is going to be there for me as an adult? I can never trust Him.”

I want to remind you lovingly that the Bible does say, “He does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (Psalm 9:12). That’s a barrier you have to get over, but there’s a second barrier. And that is sometimes we don’t pray because we get all confused about what is known as the will of God. You see, we pray for things that God hasn’t done. We have asked for healing, and we have asked for money, and we’ve asked for circumstances that have not worked out according to the way in which we have asked God for them, and so down deep in our hearts we have said, “Well, it must not be God’s will.” And we begin to wonder that surely if God’s will is so inscrutable, why bother trying to figure it out? And we think to ourselves, “If it’s His will, He’ll do it anyway. If it’s not His will, all the praying in the world isn’t going to change anything,” so we don’t pray.

Now, it is true that there are some prayers, that when we pray them we don’t know what God’s will is. I’ve prayed that way. You’ve prayed that way. We bring petitions before the Lord, and then in the end we have to say, “Lord, I commit these to You. Do Thy will.” But my dear friend, there are some prayers that we can pray with absolute unswerving confidence, knowing that we are praying the will of God. The reason that I like to pray those prayers is because you can pray them with confidence, not with unbelief, not by getting to the end of the prayer and saying, “Now, Lord, these are the petitions, but do them if it be Thy will.” You can pray them knowing that you have lined up directly with the will of God. It’s the most effective praying, and it’s the only praying that will bring down the strongholds.

What I’d like to do this morning is to point out that all three members of the Trinity are involved in effective prayer. And all that I’ll do is to point that out and illustrate it in the message today.

First, God the Father! We must pray within the will of God to have the confidence I spoke about just a moment ago. Now, you say, “How do I pray within the will of God?” Since your Bible is open to the book of Ephesians, I want to illustrate how the Apostle Paul did it. For example, in chapter 1 (You may turn there quickly.) he says in verse 15: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…”

Listen to me carefully. You can pray that prayer for any believer, whether he’s spiritually mature or whether he’s already a seasoned believer in Christ, and you can pray it, knowing that that is exactly the will of God. You can pray without doubting.

Let me give you another example from the book of Ephesians. (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians) As a father I try to keep up with the needs of my family—with my wife and my children. I pray for them everyday. But sometimes I don’t know exactly how to pray for them, and so what I have frequently done is taken this prayer in Colossians 1 and prayed it with utter confidence that I was praying within the will of God. I did not have to come to the end of the prayer and then say, “Now, Lord, these are the petitions if it be Thy will.” Sometimes you have to do that, and how I thank God for those times when I don’t have to do it because I know that this is exactly what God desires.

Notice what Paul says in verse 9: “For this reason also, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask (seven requests) to know the will of God, to be able to walk in wisdom, to make wise decisions, to walk worthy of the Lord.” What a request. The word worthy means weighty. And the Apostle Paul is saying, “Live a life that is making an imprint on people’s experiences and on their lives, bearing fruit in every good work (We are either going to bring forth good fruit or evil fruit, and Jesus wants us to bring forth fruit that remains.), increasing in the knowledge of God with all spiritual strength, with stability, steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks.” Now there’s a prayer you can pray.

You wives, wouldn’t you like to be married to a man who has all of these qualities that the Apostle Paul talked about? Wouldn’t that be a delight? You men, wouldn’t you like to be married to a woman who has all of these qualities? Wouldn’t you like to live with somebody, you singles? Wouldn’t you like to have a roommate that is all of these qualities?

The reason I love the prayer is because when I pray it, I know that this is exactly what God wants to do in the life and the experience of every single believer, so you pray within the will of God. The praying that I’m talking about today is prayer within God’s will that can be prayed with confidence.

Secondly, there is also the power of the Spirit. Notice in Ephesians 3:18 Paul says: “with all power praying in the Holy Spirit.” What is the role of the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? To pray in the Spirit means that our lives are in harmony with the Holy Spirit. If praying according to the will of God has to do with the intellectual part of prayer, knowing what God’s will is, praying in the Spirit enables me to have a heart that is in tune with God. Why is that important?

Let me ask you another question: Why doesn’t God just go ahead and do things in the universe and answer prayers even if we don’t pray them? Why doesn’t He bless the missionaries whether we pray for them or not? Why doesn’t He bring in the money whether we pray about it or not? Can’t He do it? Of course He can, but let me give you an illustration. Let’s suppose you had in your family a child that is born, we’ll say a boy, who happens to be strong-willed. Now that may not have happened in your family. It happened in my family when I was growing up. It was my older brother who was strong-willed.

It is said that all of us are strong-willed. I know that all of us are strong-willed, but you know, I think that my older brother, when he was born, probably complained about the temperature of the delivery room. I mean, there are some people who are particularly strong-willed.

You tell the child at the age of six, “I don’t want you to watch television this afternoon.” The child watches television, and you decide you’re not going to say anything about it because you want the boy to come to you, and you choose to not make dinner that night just to see whether you can capture his attention, whether he’ll come to you or not. Well, 7 o’clock goes by, and 8 o’clock goes by. Finally, at 9 the boy asks for his dinner. Now you could go ahead at that point and give him the dinner. You could have given it to him at 6 o’clock. You have the ability to do that, but you withheld it. Why? It’s because you realize that the boy is asking for his dinner, but he actually has a more severe problem than that. It is the problem of his heart, and there’s an issue between you and him that needs to be resolved. And the physical problem is but a symptom of a deeper spiritual emotional problem, an issue that must be taken care of. And so even though he comes to you at 9 o’clock and asks for dinner, you are not yet ready to give it to him because you say to him, “There’s something else that we need to talk about first.”

And that’s the way God deals with us. We come to Him, and we say, “Oh God, resolve this situation.” Our coming is a good sign. It means that we are bringing ourselves under the authority of Christ, but that isn’t all that there is to it. God says, “Is there something in your life that has to be taken care of first before we can get on with the business of honoring the request?” And that’s why it says in the Old Testament, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” And the reason that we must pray in the Spirit is to be in harmony with the Spirit in submission and in faith so that we come, having confessed all the sins that God has brought to our attention. We come in humility, saying, “I want only one thing and that is submission to God.” And in faith we come to pray in the Spirit.

I read a story of a boy. He probably was one of those strong-willed children. He was told by his father that he wasn’t supposed to smoke cigarettes, but the boy found a pack and went out into the field and lit some. And he began to smoke, and he found out it made him cough, and all those other things, but at least he felt grown up. But suddenly, because he wasn’t too far away from the farm house, his father shows up. And the boy tries to get rid of his cigarettes and puts one out. And then he tries to divert his father’s attention by pointing at a billboard and saying, “Look at that billboard over there, Dad. It’s a reminder that we ought to be going to the circus.” And his dad, who saw the whole thing, says, “Son, never ask for a petition when, at the same time, you have smoldering disobedience.”

Isn’t that the way we are? We come before the Lord and we say, “Lord, do this.” And God says, “There’s another issue that has to be dealt with.” Praying in the Spirit! Submission and faith!

Thirdly, we should pray in the name of Christ. Jesus said in John 16, as well as John 14: “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you shall receive.” Why do we pray in the name of Jesus? First of all, it’s because we need the access into God’s presence that only Jesus Christ possesses. “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access.”

Sometimes the question is asked whether God hears the prayers of the unsaved or those of different religions. The word hears is a bit ambiguous. Of course, He hears them in the sense that He is aware of them and knows what is being said. In that sense He hears them. But there is only one name by which God can be approached. There’s only one name through whom He regards those prayers, and that is Christ.

And so Jesus said, “Ask in My name.” We need the access of Christ, but we also need the authority of Christ because what we’re talking about today is challenging Satan, taking away territory that has been given to him.

Many years ago, in fact it was in 1968, I was involved in going to the land of Israel. And we went to the top of Masada. Now you must understand that Masada is the place where the Jews held out against the Romans. And they did that for three years on the top of this fortress. Despite all the Roman armies, all that they could do was camp around Masada. And the Jews were on the top of this mountain, and because it was so well fortified, and they had food up there, they lived for nearly three years.

As I walked to the top of Masada and reflected back on that experience, something occurred to me, and this is very important. In fact, those of you who are young people here, though it applies to everyone, this may be one of the most significant things that you will hear from me. Do you realize that it is much easier to defend territory that belongs to you than to capture it back after it is in enemy hands?

We’re speaking about fortresses. Let me make the analogy. It is much easier to say no to alcohol if you have never tasted it than it is for you to say no after it has become a part of your lifestyle for a number of years. It is much easier to say no to immorality before you are involved in immorality than to say no to it after it has become part of your experience. It is easier to say no to all the sins of the flesh, and it is easier to say no to all the addictions and the afflictions before they become a part of you, because it’s always easier to defend territory than it is to capture it after it is in the hands of the enemy.

But there’s something else about strongholds. Not only is that true, but secondly, let us realize that when we capture the enemy we must do so with resources that are stronger than the enemy. There must be strategy and there must be resources that are stronger.

Now, when you think about the enemies of the soul, when we think about all of the experiences that people have, the bondages that we have talked about in other messages, we realize that the only way we can come to victory is to lay hold of the power of Christ, and go behind enemy lines and capture people and circumstances for the glory of God. And that is called warfare–warfare praying.

Are you acquainted with warfare praying? Let’s turn to Ephesians 6, the passage of Scripture that we began with this morning, and I want to give you an illustration of warfare praying. Let’s suppose that you begin your day this way. I began my day this way. I frequently begin my day this way. I ought to begin it this way every day.

What you do is you use prayer to put on the armor of God before you are going to go into the battle. And isn’t life a battle? Don’t you encounter it in the office? Don’t you encounter it in your family? So you pray this way. It says in verse 13: “Take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm…”

You say, “Lord Jesus, through Your strength and power, I put on truth. I receive You as my truth. I want to hear only the truth, and I want to be kept from the deceptions of Satan. And now, Lord Jesus, I put on the breastplate of righteousness. I affirm the fact that You are my righteousness, and You represent all that I need in the presence of God, and I depend upon You today as the righteousness of God. I want to shod my feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I claim in the name of Christ the ability to share the good news of the Gospel with whomever You may bring me in contact with today.”

And then notice, “I take up the shield of faith with which I will be able to extinguish all of the flaming missiles of the evil one, and pray that no enemy dart, no enemy missile will come into my life except those that You desire for my purification and growth. And Lord Jesus, in faith I take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

You put on the armor. That’s the way you go into battle. And you do it how? You do it through prayer. I think that’s why Paul says there in verse 18, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit.” Now that you yourself are fitted for the battle, it is time to begin to intercede on behalf of others and their needs, their strongholds.

I brought a copy of a warfare prayer with me today from Mark Bubeck’s book entitled The Adversary. Let me give you an example. If you are praying for someone else, you can say, “Loving Heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I bring in prayer (and then you name the person). I ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance that I might pray in the Spirit as you have told me. I thank You, Father, for the sovereign control that You have over this person’s life.”

And then you begin to say, “I claim back the ground of his life which he has given to Satan by believing the enemy’s deception. In the name of Jesus, I resist all of Satan’s activity to hold him in blindness and darkness, and exercising my authority, which is given to me in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, I pull down the strongholds, which the kingdom of darkness has formed against him. I smash and I break and I destroy all those plans formed against his mind, his will, his emotions, and his body. In prayer I destroy the spiritual blindness and deafness that Satan keeps upon him.”

Oftentimes I have prayed and I have said, “Oh God, I bring before You the resurrection, the ascension of Christ and all of that power. In the name of the Lord we bring it to bear on that particular situation.” That’s warfare, friend. It is praying within the will of God so you can pray with confidence. If your own heart is right, it means you are praying in the Spirit with submission and faith, and you are praying in the only name that really matters when it comes to satanic conflict—that of Christ.

About 14 years ago, through Mark Bubeck’s book (And I would recommend it to you; it’s entitled The Adversary.), I began to understand the dimensions of warfare praying. I was the pastor of a different church here in the city at the time, and a woman came to me with an excruciating situation. She said that her husband had just left her and took the children. They had had many family problems that seemed to be irreconcilable. And because of arguments and abuse and alcoholism he ran off with the children. And there was evidence that he had intended to kidnap them and to take them with him for good. And this broken-hearted mother faced the possibility of never seeing her children again.

I didn’t know what to do, but I told her (And I remember this so vividly; it was in the parking lot of the church.) I had just read about warfare praying. I said, “Will you agree with me that in the name of Christ we will stand against Satan, and we will take back territory that your husband has given over to satanic spirits, and we will take it back in the name of Christ, and we will bind those powers that they might not have control over him so that he might not act irrationally?” And so we agreed, and then we enlisted the help of others. Oh, that’s so important, because when people gather together in the name of Christ in twos and in threes, and begin to agree together, God does miracles.

A few days later, as a result of prayer, the husband returned with the children. Now, you may say, “Well, that would have happened whether you prayed or not.” That, I guess, is possible, but believe me, that woman didn’t believe that that was possible. She accepted it as a miracle of God because she knew that without that kind of praying, her husband would have never returned.

I’m speaking to people who have children who are wayward into alcoholism and into immorality and into drugs, and you name it. I know that during these days, as we have preached these messages, we’ve talked to people who have been abused, people who know what it is to fight demonic spirits, who actually sense the presence of evil in their bodies, and in their lives.

How can we possibly capture those strongholds? Paul says: “With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit with this in view. Be on alert with all perseverance for all the saints.” You say, “Well, if you pray this way when do you get results?” I can’t tell you. Sometimes it may be instantly. It may be days. It may be weeks. It could be months. Paul says, “Pray with all perseverance.”

My dear friend, we are living at a time when it is absolutely important that believers know how to go behind enemy lines and take back ground that has been claimed by satanic spirits. The day of little prayers is over, and needs are huge.

What is the goal of it all? The goal of praying this way in my life and in your life is that there may be nothing in our lives that belongs to the enemy. That’s why Paul says, “We pull down strongholds, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and we bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” I’m not there yet. Maybe you aren’t either, but that is my goal, that there may be nothing in me that belongs to the evil one.

I know that there are many needs represented here this morning. And I want to remind each of us that until we learn to pray in the will of God, by the Spirit, in the name of Christ effectively and aggressively, we can do all the things we want after we pray (and often there is still much to be done after we have prayed), but there is nothing to be done until we have prayed, for only through prayer does God release spiritual power.

It seems like it’s getting to the point where I am the only person in the world left that I know of who hasn’t read any of Frank Peretti’s books. Everybody else seems to have read them, but I do know after reading reviews and parts of them, that he’s onto a principle, that angels are waiting to deliver God’s people, but they can’t until God’s people pray aggressively against the enemy. Is there a territory in your life that belongs to Satan? God wants you to see that to get it out of your life to set you free.

Join me as we pray together.

Our Father, we think of those who struggle with their past—addictions, alcoholism, abuse and sexual addictions. We pray today that You shall give us both the courage and the boldness, and the strength to take over territory. Enable our lay counselors to pray in faith aggressively, to see You do a mighty work in the lives of people. Free all of us today that we may pray effectively. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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