We are approaching the holy season of Lent, a period of intensified prayer and penance preparing us for the celebration of Easter. Prayer and penance are essential weapons we must use in our battle against Satan, our fallen human nature and the spirit of worldliness that pervades our society. This battle is called spiritual warfare, one which each of us must wage as we make our way to our eternal home in heaven.
Yes, we are at war. We may not see our adversaries or realize they are battling us, but they are real nevertheless. We base our strength on the Lord and draw upon His power.
Ephesians 6:10-13 “Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.”
Our enemy attacks our weaknesses. When we feel powerless, out of control, not knowing how to get past our problems, we open ourselves to the enemy’s discouragement, which could lead to sin.
Drawing upon the Lord’s strength means we are confident He will give us His strength.
Philippians 4:13 “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”
God knows our needs before we open our mouths. He provides what we need as the loving Father He is.
Philippians 4:19 “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
Psychologists tell us that each day we encounter 2,000 choices and decisions. Are we moving toward God or away from God in those choices? We must realize God wants to protect us, and the enemy desires to weaken us and defeat God’s purpose for our lives.
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.”
Similar to Peter’s choice to deny Christ during the Passion, the devil wants us to choose the flesh and the world.
Satan is a liar. He often tells us we are junk and unloved and that trials will always beset us. The devil tries to convince us there is no God and we can never be forgiven. Lies!
Learning how to win this war with evil is critical. In fact, we must understand God has already won the war. When we are obedient to God and resist the devil, he will flee from us.
James 4:7 “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
God is within us, and He is infinitely greater than any force against us!
1 John 4:4 “…for the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world.”
Winning this battle with the enemy takes seven steps.
First, we can’t be double-minded, distracted by the world and our busy lives.
James 1:7-8 “We must not suppose that we will receive anything if we are a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.”
It is time we take seriously our faith and totally surrender to Christ. I often say our greatest and most difficult journey is just 18 inches—from our heads to our hearts. How much do we hunger and thirst for God? We know Jesus said He thirsts for us and for our souls. Would we do anything for Him? Sacrifice for Him? Deny ourselves for Him? Die for Him?
When we surrender to God, we put Him first and foremost. Doing so removes the power posed by trials and challenges. We become indifferent to them; Christ becomes our priority!
Our second step in winning this battle is to ask the Holy Spirit to take over our lives and lead us. I find it powerful that the Holy Spirit leads us into battle against Satan.
Matthew 4:1 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
Without the Holy Spirit, we cannot draw upon the Spirit’s gifts and fruits, essential to defeat the enemy.
The third step and spiritual tool is to ask for faith.
1 Peter 5:9 “Resist him, steadfast in faith.”
Faith is our shield. Faith protects us against the devil’s attacks.
Ephesians 6:16 “In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Faith gives us the strength, peace and joy to overcome whatever is sent against us.
The fourth step in battling evil is to use praise and prayers to strengthen us and rout the enemy. God inhabits the praises of His people as Psalm 22 proclaims. When we pray “in the Spirit” or tongues, we pray directly to the Father in a way that we can’t comprehend, but doing so gives us grace and strength.
Other tools are praying the blood of Jesus over your family, friends, people you are praying for and with and yourself. The Precious Blood of Jesus protects and purifies the person or individual whom you pray it upon. The same blood that poured from the side of Jesus at His crucifixion is the Blood of Salvation. We must recognize the importance of the eternal cup of salvation is for us, and we can use this spiritual tool to pray for people. It is extremely important! I have 40 years of experience with healing and spiritual warfare that attests to that reality.
In addition, ask for protection from your guardian angel and especially Saint Michael the Archangel. Pray the litany to Saint Michael.
Finally, pray and say the name of Jesus. At times, I pronounce the name of Jesus over and over until the attack passes.
Luke 10:17 “Lord even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Mark 16:17 “In my name they will drive out demons.”
Remember the truth of these words:
Philippians 2:9 “Because of this, God greatly exalted him / and bestowed on him the name / that is above every name, / that at the name of Jesus / every knee should bend, / of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, / and every tongue confess that / Jesus Christ is Lord, / to the glory of God the Father.”
The fifth step, also extremely important, is to use spiritual tools to strengthen us against attacks and provide support in our trials. The sacraments are the most vital of these tools, beginning with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I can’t overemphasize the importance of Reconciliation. We enter the confessional broken and full of shame and leave confident, healed and full of grace.
Please take advantage of this critical sacrament, which provides tremendous protection against the enemy’s attacks by giving us grace to defend us. In my experience, the attacks seem to just melt away. How often should we seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Often! You decide for yourself, but at least once per month and many times twice—not that we are stubborn sinners as much as we want the sacrament’s grace to enable us to fulfill our individual purpose and mission.
The next spiritual tool is the most important: the Mass and Eucharist. For years, my spiritual director told me to attend to daily Mass. Like many of us, I came up with excuse after excuse. The reality? There is no excuse! If it is important, you will find a way to go to Mass, if not daily then as often as possible during the week. We need to receive this “daily Bread” to strengthen and fill us with grace and love!
Other spiritual tools include participating in a prayer meeting. Do not isolate yourself. When in the midst of trials, we often don’t want to see or talk to anyone. I remember wanting to pull the sheets and blankets over my head and not get out of bed. This tendency to isolation plays directly into the hands of the enemy. Go to Mass, prayer meetings, adoration and Bible studies. Be led by the Spirit. In addition, fast on a regular basis. We know that fasting strengthens our prayers.
The sixth step in winning the battle of the mind is to take every thought captive.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 “For the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.”
It is so critical and important, this battlefield response. Like a finely-tuned athlete, we must train and become disciplined. Memorize this important verse:
Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Let only things of the Lord enter your mind. This includes what you read, what you watch on television and what you view on your computer or smartphone. No compromise. None! If someone speaks negatively about anything or anyone, either change the conversation or leave. When we are under trial and adversity, the enemy wants to discourage us. He attacks our minds. Win the battlefield of the mind and we win the battle and, ultimately, the war.
The final step to strengthen us on this battlefield is performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy. To what extent are we involved in spreading the word of God? Helping the poor with their challenges? Do we work with those in leadership in our parishes? What leadership roles can we take within our parish and even the diocese?
In summary, renounce Satan and he will flee from you. Use the power and name of Jesus. Be involved in church through the sacraments and make a difference in building the Body of Christ. Do not let the enemy in the door with unconfessed sin. Take the authority God has given us through our Baptism to defeat the attacks of the devil. Be single-minded, focusing on Jesus as our solution. Avoid sexual sin, pride, self-righteousness, lack of forgiveness, bitterness, anger, resentment, revenge, violence, self-condemnation and anxiety.
In times of trial, powerful tools are available to defeat the enemy. Learn how to use them often and daily. You will receive such grace and strength you never knew possible.
Praise the Lord! Now and forever!