What Is Spiritual Warfare?

Sometimes it is hard to truly comprehend a threat that comes from things that are unseen. However, God warns us that the threat of spiritual warfare is very real and to arm ourselves with what He has given us.

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

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. (Ephesians 6:12)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

As said in Ephesians 6:12, our struggle is ultimately against "spiritual forces of evil," meaning the real battle is the spiritual warfare of good versus evil. There is a spiritual war ongoing for the hearts of man, as the forces of evil want to turn us away from God and separate us from Him. But for those with God through Jesus, the battle is already won as Christ overcame death with the resurrection. We must be born again of spirit with faith in Jesus to be saved from the "second" death of the spirit (John 3).

The Bible tells us to be watchful and to guard our hearts against the iniquity of sin. Evil can only enter us when we allow it to live in our hearts, like a vampire who must be let into your house. The first step to engage in this grand spiritual warfare is recognizing it exists and to genuinely examine your heart. "For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

The Devil Is a Liar

Admittedly, the topic of Satan and spiritual warfare is one that some Christians find challenging and even difficult to consider. However, one must consider the truth: By choosing to ignore that the devil exists and that his sole aim is to ruin us, we set ourselves up to fall victim to his ploys. In particular, his use of lies that makes us doubt God and His promises over us. In Hosea 4:6, it states, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge."

The devil uses our mental space as his battlefield to wage war against us. One of his favorite tactics is to tell us lies and to speak them so convincingly that we hold them for the truth. One of Satan’s strategies is to present us with a worst-case scenario of our future in order to arouse fear in us. He can take advantage of our vulnerabilities and circumstances, and even use people to make us worry, instill hopelessness, and rob us of joy. However, by far the worst lie of the devil is his effort to convince us to believe him over God, and that our Father is no match for him. In addition to Satan’s deception towards Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Bible reveals other instances of the devil telling lies to God’s children through people or circumstances.

(excerpt provided by Madeline Kalu, How Do We Know the Devil is a Liar?)

The Power of Prayer in Spiritual Warfare

Understand that there is a war and you are in it. Like it or not, all of us are caught up in the spiritual war that’s taking place between good and evil. If you don’t engage in the war, you’ll still be affected by it – and you’ll be much more vulnerable to evil than you would if you decided to fight as God calls you to do. So be active; not passive. Engage in spiritual warfare with the confidence that God’s power working through you is greater than any evil working against you. Your prayers can help prevent bad things from happening to people and usher good things into people’s lives. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings for guidance about how best to pray for what’s most needed – and then pray to advance God’s kingdom on Earth and stop the spread of evil.

Know your commander and stand on His side. Your commander in spiritual warfare is Jesus Christ, who leads two armies: the army of holy angels in heaven and the army of prayer warriors on Earth. Jesus chose you, saves you, gives you an eternal inheritance of blessings, and lives in your soul as the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants you to choose His side in the spiritual war, and to remember that the power He gives you is more powerful than evil. Your commander Jesus is the greatest example of a prayer warrior; by studying his life on Earth you can learn how to serve God without fear.

Recognize who your true enemy is. Your enemy is Satan, the highest-ranked of the fallen angels who rebelled against God. Satan is your adversary, accuser, tempter, and deceiver. He works by trying to convince you to doubt God’s truth and believe his lies instead. You open doors for your enemy to attack you whenever you deliberately disobey God and choose to sin. It’s vital to run away from temptations to sin and pray against Satan’s plans to hurt you and other people.

Be certain of your authority in prayer. Jesus has given you the authority to pray in His name and to know that He will answer your prayers according to God’s will and at the right time. Be confident that you can pray to usher God’s power into any situation.

(excerpt provided by Whitney Hopler, How to Be a Prayer Warrior)

A Spiritual Warfare Prayer (Psalm 91)

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

The enemy will use anything and anyone to steal, kill, and destroy you (John 10:10). The enemy will even use the people closest to you. But God has given you armor to help defend yourself. We, as children of God, cannot go into war alone, just as an army does not go to the front lines alone. So, we need to make use of what God has given us in battle. After all, God is our strength and shield of protection (Psalm 28:7). He will never leave nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Claiming Victory Over Spiritual Warfare

In Strong’s Greeks concordance, it states the phrase “full armor” means panoplia in Greek. Specifically, to have complete armor of defensive and offensive weapons. According to HELPS word studies, God has given us these weapons to have victory over the enemy. Moreover, to “fight from His victory rather than to achieve the victory” (Helps Ministries). 

So, why do we war over the enemy, even our own flesh, to have victory? 

Let's look at a few verses about God’s victory:

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith” (1 John 5:4).

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

Often, we forget that Jesus Christ has already given us victory over the enemy. The fact is that the enemy and our own desires have us believe we need to fight for victory. The lie tells us we never had victory in the first place. When Jesus went to the cross and died for us, the enemy was defeated. Jesus Himself even gave us authority over the enemy. 

“Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:19-20).

The Whole Armor of God

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,...” (Ephesians 6:14-17).

The belt of truth is Jesus, continually seeking Him (John 14:6). When your mind is waging war, it is crucial to look to the Holy Spirit. He will guide you to all truth (John 16:3). The metaphor Paul employs here reveals that God’s truth will always be around you and keep everything intact. 

The breastplate of righteousness is to continue to chase after God's righteousness (Matthew 5:6). MacLaren’s Exposition states, “Christ has set our feet on the rock, and so the first requisite is secured. If we, for our part, will keep near to that Gospel which brings peace into our hearts, the peace that it brings will make us able to stand and bear unmoved any force that may be hurled against us.”

The shield of faith is putting your faith in front of you as if you were shielding a blow from the enemy. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We go forth in the armor of faith because we know that God is already there with us. 

The helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit are combined because if we do not continually renew our minds (Romans 12:2), then we will be influenced by our own thoughts and desires. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:21-23). They protect from the enemy’s lies because he is the father of lies (John 8:44). 

Sometimes it is hard to truly comprehend a threat that comes from things that are unseen. However, God warns us that the threat of spiritual warfare is very real and to arm ourselves with what He has given us. Just as a good father protects his children, our Father God gives us all we will need to stand against the enemy so that we may love one another (1 John 4) and reveal Christ to those who do not know Him (Matthew 5:14-16).

©iStock/Getty Images Plus/kevron2001


Rebecca Mashburn (Gordon) has a wonderful husband named Joseph. She has a blog, Trust. Lean, Seek and is working on becoming what God is calling her to. She has a bachelor's in psychology and hopes to one day pursue a degree in biblical counseling. Rebecca loves to be in nature, especially in springtime, and she loves to travel. She has a loving family and hopes one day to have children of her own.