Spiritual warfare is a nasty business.  We Christians can romanticize the battle against our flesh, our sinful desires, and the forces of evil in the world.  But in truth, the fighting is ugly, bloody, and brutal.  Even when we emerge victorious by God’s grace, we often limp out, wounded and traumatized by the battle.  Even victors need healing.

James 5:16 teaches us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.  We need each other.  We cannot battle our sin alone.  Once we have been struck down by sin, we cannot stand up on our own.  We need each other.  And confession and prayer with other Christians is how we return to our feet once again.

But I submit to you that confession and prayer within the community of faith does not have to wait until sin has already occurred.  When I stand on the spiritual battlefield, I don’t want to wait until I have been struck by a bullet or wounded by a bayonet before I ask for the help of fellow soldiers who can come and defend me from further attack and drag me off for treatment.

shield turtle formationI want help before I fall!  I want support in the midst of the battle.  When the flaming arrows of temptation have been loosed from Satan’s bow, I want a company of shield-bearers surrounding me before those dreadful arrows find their target.

Why wait until your weakness is exposed and the enemy jabs into that weakness to make confession and ask for prayer?  I must confess my weakness to my brothers and ask for prayer support before the evil one thrusts forth his cursed sword.

Recently, I traveled home for two weeks for my seminary’s annual on-campus residency program.   Immediately upon arrival, I encountered the most intense series of temptations I can recall in my life thus far.  I tried for three days to battle the temptations alone.  It was a harrowing time, and I knew I needed help.  I would not last one more day on the battlefield alone.

I reached out to three dear friends with the following message:

Hey brother, I need to ask for your prayers and accountability over the next 2 weeks here. Ever since I got back in the U.S. on Sunday night, I have been experiencing what feels like the most intense temptation I have ever had to return to an old sinful habit – it’s crazy tremendous pressure. I want to give in just so the intensity of the pressure will go away! But I know that’s a trick and a lie.

I don’t know if the evil one is trying to sabotage this seminary residency program experience for me or to bring me down into sin just a month before my ordination or what, but this sucks, and I need to reach out to you, my brother, for help.

Please pray for me.  Please ask me if I’ve given in whenever we next talk or see each other.  Please stand with me.  Help me stand strong against this overwhelming tsunami of temptation.

Thank you so much.  I love you, and I thank God for you.  –nick

The responses from these three friends were tremendous!

  • They replied back with immediate encouragement and Bible verses that had helped them in similar times.
  • They sent me specific words that they were praying for me.
  • They called me to see how I was doing.
  • They prayed for me over the phone and in person when we saw each other.

The temptations did not vanish, but their power did diminish.  Sin lurks in the hidden cover of darkness… my friends were holding up brilliant flashlights for me.  The enemy had loosed his fiery darts… but many shields of faith were held at the ready around me to extinguish them.

I thank God for these friends.  I thank Him that He gives us a community of faith to surround and support us.  I praise Him for the gracious gift of confession, not only after a sin has occurred, but also before sin even has a chance to trip us up.