Spiritual opposition is part and parcel of ordinary Christian life—and a focus for our prayers, as is evident by our Lord’s inclusion of it in His model prayer for us in Matthew 6:9-13. The very brevity of that prayer shows the importance of accounting for a spiritual enemy in our daily prayer.
What difference does this adversarial vantage point make for our prayers? For one, we live our daily lives on high alert, on guard. Like a soldier on the field of battle in enemy territory, we live a little paranoid. We’re always looking over our shoulder. We receive packages with a bit of suspicion, attentive to danger.
When our Lord instructs us to pray that our Father in heaven would not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one, He prompts us to regard the circumstances of life with a degree of caution. The word translated “temptation” in Matthew 6:13 can also be translated “trial.” Trials do come to us from the hand of our God. But His intention is not our spiritual harm. Trials are for the perfecting of our faith, so that we might grow in spiritual maturity.
But our enemy the devil is present in that same trial to tempt us for our spiritual detriment. He wants to create doubt, to cast aspersions on our Father. “You asked for bread,” our enemy whispers, “but didn’t God give you a stone? Is He really good? Is He real at all? Does He care for you?”
So when the packages of Providence arrive at our door, we are alert for the threat of spiritual terrorism, orchestrated not by our God but by our enemy the devil. And we ask our Father to grant us wisdom and power that we might thwart the enemy’s efforts.
Scriptural reconnaissance alerts us to an enemy who tries us to divorce us from our God, to lure us from the ground of the gospel, and to lull us into kingdom complacency. He is at work to promote disunity among the people of God. He distracts us from seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. He inflames the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life residual in our hearts. Satan fans the flame of pride and sows seeds of division to discredit the gospel and bring dishonor to the name of Jesus. Therefore, we approach personal struggles and situations of conflict dusting for our enemy’s fingerprints.
Jesus calling us to prayer against the schemes of the evil one in Matthew 6:13 finds itself sandwiched between the petition on forgiving others in verse 12 and teaching on forgiving others in verses 14-15. We can see how this works. When someone wrongs us, we may count them our enemy. But God’s Word reminds us who our real enemy is:
Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
In calling us to pray in view of an enemy, a kingdom adversary, our Lord Jesus brings the perspective of spiritual opposition to all the other elements of the model prayer. He spurs us on to “prayeranoia,” praying aware of and against an invisible (but actual) opponent as part of our daily prayer—as long as we sojourn the paths of this present, evil age.