Defeating the Kingdom of Darkness

Defeating the Kingdom of Darkness

Legendary quarterback Joe Namath famously said, “When you win, nothing hurts.” The pleasure of winning more than outweighs the pain of bruised bodies, aching joints, and sore muscles. Conversely, losing regularly pours buckets of water on the fire inside that motivates us. When it comes to the spiritual battle with sin, it is easy to lose heart because it feels like sin and the kingdom of darkness are winning. This episode raises the question, “Could it be that Satan and sin are racking up wins against us NOT because we’re NOT trying hard enough, but because we are not fighting with the right weapon?”

As we’ve seen in this month’s series, “Focused and Effective for the Master,” Jesus told us in Matthew 6:33 what our mission as his followers is:  Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We’ve seen that our mission is the recovery of Adam and Eve’s original mission. They also were to spread the righteous rule of the High King over earth. But there is a watershed difference between Adam and Eve’s calling and ours. They were morally free to choose good or evil until they joined Satan’s rebellion. But this betrayal surrendered the throne of their hearts to sin, enslaved their race to the kingdom of darkness, and brought the curse of decay and death upon their kingdom, earth. Now, every effort to spread righteousness over the earth requires defeating the kingdom of darkness.

We must learn to use a specific offensive weapon in spiritual battle. That weapon is PREVAILING PRAYER. Although this all may sound trite, I would suggest that most of the time we Christians do NOT think of prayer as a weapon. For the most part we see prayer as praise to God, confession to God, thankfulness to God, requesting God’s help for those in crisis who are grieving over a loss or facing surgery. But rarely do we see intercessory prayer as a weapon we must employ relentlessly until righteousness prevails in a particular sphere of earth. We tend to overlook the biblical teaching that prayer is a weapon. It is an act of war. It is the only artillery powerful enough to dislodge the kingdom of darkness. Jesus said, “Peter, Satan has wanted to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you.” When Jesus returned from the Mount of Transfiguration to discover a demon so powerful that it resisted the efforts of the apostles to cast it out in Jesus’ name, his explanation was, “This kind can only be driven out through prayer.” PREVAILING PRAYER for the dislodging of Satan’s strongholds and advance of Christ’s kingdom is the primary process that God has ordained by which righteousness spreads over the earth. PREVAILING prayer is prayer that continues UNTIL IT IS ANSWERED. The foundational importance of prevailing prayer leaps out at us when we review what we’ve seen about our mission.


  • To image himself, God created humans as kings and queens, entrusting to them a kingdom he created, earth, to rule FOR HIM.
  • Though the first Adam handed his throne to the powers of evil, God sent the second Adam to redeem Adam’s kingdom from the destructive penalty, power, and presence of sin, recovering the throne of Adam, and becoming the new head of Adam’s race. King Jesus would spread the righteous kingdom of God over earth from his position at the right hand of the Father. Scholar George Ladd explains, The Kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God’s reign. The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history. (The Presence of the Future).
  • A disciple enlists in the cause of his master. What is that cause? Spreading his agenda of righteousness over every square inch of human life. We live between these two moments in history; Jesus has already ultimately defeated Satan, sin, and death, and yet they have not yet been destroyed. During this present age, Jesus wants us to spread his righteous rule over earth (Matt 6:33) THROUGH HIS POWER. The fact that this can only be done through his power was stressed by Jesus in the words that preceded his great commission: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore—go and make disciples of the nations. Only IN CHRIST is there power to overcome the kingdom of darkness.
  • Christ-followers are those who are committed to invading Satan’s kingdom of darkness, which has spread over all of human life, to take it back in the power of Christ FOR its rightful King. We are to put on display the redeemed heart attitudes of the new humanity—love, joy, peace, patience, etc.—to be the movie trailer for what life in the kingdom of righteousness will look like—a preview of coming attractions when Christ returns, and his righteousness covers the earth. Meanwhile, we spread Jesus’ kingdom of righteousness, geographically, to the ends of the earth and, spiritually, to the gates of hell.
  • Our power to advance the kingdom comes from Jesus’ defeat of the kingdom of darkness at the cross, his resurrection and ascension which brings about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8)


A. Just as God left the earth undeveloped because he wants Adam to exercise dominion over the earth to develop its potential, much of Christ’s redemptive power for the new creation is waiting for us to access. Because he made us to be his image bearers, he wants US to engage the weapons of spiritual warfare to advance the kingdom of righteousness over earth. Just as God did not create the world with iphones already invented, God’s new creation does NOT begin with Christ-followers and their world already perfected. During our current period of church history, he has given us spiritual resources to spread the righteous rule of Christ over earth. God does NOT need us to do anything for Christ’s kingdom to advance. But he has chosen to grant Christ-followers, a role in advancing the kingdom of righteousness. 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 (Eph 6:12). Paul reveals two vital implications of this reality 1) we must put on our spiritual armor—the belt of truth, etc. 2) we must PRAY. This text on spiritual warfare continues, PRAYING at all times in the Spirit, with all PRAYER and SUPPLICATION. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making SUPPLICATION for all the saints (vs 18). Paul uses one of the words for prayer 4 times.

B. The kingdom can only advance through the resurrection power of Christ. Only Jesus has exhibited the power required to defeat Satan, sin, and death. That fact is proved by the resurrection. Jesus took upon himself the curse of God for our sin. The validity of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement for the sin of all who are in Christ is demonstrated by Jesus’ resurrection. In Paul’s view, resurrection power is the might to overcome the power, penalty, and eventually the presence of sin. He prays fervently that the Christ-followers in Ephesus would grasp the greatness of this spiritual power—(see Ephesians 1:19). The resurrection of Christ brings the future power of God—that will one day heal and renew the entire world—into our lives now, accessed by prayer in his name. 

C. God, himself, identifies PRAYER as the way Christ's kingdom advances. Just as a military invasion begins with cruise missiles and bombing runs, our efforts to advance the kingdom on earth must begin with prayer, the only weapon capable of dislodging the enemy from its strongholds. Prayer is such a potent offensive weapon for advancing the kingdom of Christ over earth, that in Psalm 2 we hear God the Father identify prayer as the way Christ’s kingdom spreads. The Father promises the Anointed One, “ASK of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” As Christ-followers join Christ in ASKING that his kingdom would advance, the Father promises to act.

D. When we realize that the spread of Christ’s kingdom of righteousness is accomplished through his ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to bring righteousness, it becomes clearer why Jesus urges his followers to pray. Jesus sees prayer as asking for the Holy Spirit’s help. If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! In context Jesus is not talking about a one-time filling of the Holy Spirit but continuing to ask God to work through the Holy Spirit. Indeed, we may even ask for the Holy Spirit’s help for others, not just ourselves. Paul tells the Ephesians that he prays to the Father “That he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (3:16).

E. Further evidence for the centrality of PREVAILING PRAYER to spread Christ’s righteous agenda comes in Jesus' direct command. “Pray then like this... ‘May your kingdom come, i.e. may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’” A comparison of Matthew’s version of the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:10ff) with Luke’s version (11:2-4) reveals that when Jesus teaches us to pray, “May your kingdom come,” his next words, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven are NOT a third petition but an explanation of what he means in the second petition by the kingdom coming. Praying for God’s kingdom to come means that God’s preceptive, moral will is perfectly done on earth as it is perfectly done in heaven. It is praying that God’s kingdom of righteousness, brought down from heaven by Jesus, will spread over earth, just as righteousness rules heaven.


A. Ask God to bring about change in heart loves and loyalties.

The example of Elijah. The first commandment and the greatest commandment are about the allegiance of our heart. We are to love God above all else. It is notable that Elijah, whose example is the great NT paradigm for PREVAILING PRAYER, was praying for the heart loyalties of Israel to return to God. James writes, Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. The turf on which Elijah fought was the battlefield of the Israelite’s hearts. So long as they continued to worship Baal, God would continue to withhold the rain. They had to repent, change directions, turn back to their first love, give the true God his rightful place as their creator and ruler. Day after day after discouraging day, Elijah prayed for God to turn the hearts of the people back to him. If he prayed just 3 times a day, (and he must have prayed much more often than that), Elijah asked God over 3800 times to bring about a heart of repentance among the people. Finally, we read the profound words describing the scene on Mt Carmel, Then fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they FELL ON THEIR FACES and said “Yahweh he is God; Yahweh, he is God” (1 Kgs 18:38-39).

The most complete triumph of Christ’s kingdom of righteousness is repentance, full surrender to Christ’s lordship. This level of triumph of the kingdom usually requires much prayer. PREVAILING prayer perseveres until the answer comes. In Luke 11, Jesus compares the prayer he desires from his followers to a man who asks for bread from his neighbor to feed a guest who has just arrived at midnight. The neighbor initially says “no” because doing so will wake up his whole house—but then he relents because he realizes that this neighbor who wants bread will not take “no” for an answer. God wants us to persevere in requests to spread Christ’s kingdom in ways we know will glorify God, so severely that with humility we refuse to take “no” as an answer. PREVAILING PRAYER REQUIRES TOUGH MEN LIKE ELIJAH—who refuse to stop asking after 3800 requests.

Jesus never explains why it takes so much prayer to dislodge evil; he just teaches us to persevere. Perhaps the power of Christ to defeat sin could be compared to an antibiotic against the bacteria of moral evil that has spread to every aspect of human life. Prayer in Christ’s name for that person or battle does cause God’s Spirit to inject antibiotics into that bacterium. God promises, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (Ja 5:16). But we may not see the result of the injection for two reasons: 1) we can’t see inside people and 2) the disease of sin is so strong that multiple injections are needed. We may not see the result of our prayers, but they bring others one step closer to defeating evil. 

I recently got to see the power of prevailing prayer. I met with a brother, one of whose daughters had gotten into the wrong crowd, was vaping, doing drugs, failing in school, and lying to him and his wife. We had been praying for her for years, but just seeing things get worse, to the point where she attempted suicide and dropped out of school. When we met in 2021 and 2022, he was often very disheartened, wondering if God would ever answer his prayers and change her heart. However, God was hearing our prayers. She happened to form a friendship with a girl who invited her to her church’s youth retreat, where she committed her life to Christ. Her dad was skeptical. But two weeks ago, he said to me, “I think when she went on that youth retreat God really did regenerate her. She has really changed. She has gotten her GED, and I see an amazing change in her attitudes at home.” The greatest triumph of the kingdom is repentance, a heart turning from self-rule to Christ’s rule. That does not happen easily. It requires prayer that PREVAILS over many discouragements and setbacks.

Specific Prayer Requests in the Fight for Our Loved-One’s Heart Allegiance

  • This is my favorite because I want the person I am praying for to be set free from the spiritual blindness of human sin and see God’s love for him or her. I pray that he may be able to grasp how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for himself that love so far beyond our comprehension. May he be filled though all his being with you, yourself (Eph 3:16-19).
  • That you will give faith to this person to know you exist and that you are the rewarder of those who seek you. (Heb 11:6).
  • That you will give this person the eyes to see that LIFE is in YOU (John 10:10).

B. Ask God to give spiritual strength for Christ-like attitudes.

What Paul Prayed for His Loved Ones at Colossae

  • That they would have the knowledge of his will in understanding and wisdom
  • That they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
  • That they would be motivated by the desire to please the Lord
  • For spiritual fruitfulness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control)
  • That they would be doing good works
  • That they would be increasing in their knowledge of God
  • That they would be STRENGTHENED with all power, according to Christ’s glorious might (wherever they are extending Christ’s righteous rule).

This is just one list reflecting how Paul prayed for the kingdom of righteousness to spread through the Colossian believers. The last petition points to our ability to give spiritual strength to loved ones for their spiritual battles.

Another location of heart attitudes to pray for the Holy Spirit to impart to our loved ones is the set of lists portraying godly manhood and womanhood. On my prayer list for my wife are biblical feminine qualities like those from Titus 2, reverence, self-controlled, purity, kindness, being a husband-lover and a children-lover. I have no trouble finding motivation to ask God to give my wife the strength to be a husband-lover (Titus 2:4). Not only does that benefit ME but if you knew me the way my wife does you’d inderstand why loving ME takes superhuman strength! However this past Sunday I realized that I had not specifically been asking God to help her be a “children lover.” She does that pretty well without God’s help! So, I mentioned it specifically in my prayer. Then I was struck several days later when she came to me with a plan to drive halfway up to my son’s house to have lunch with him one day during the week, because she felt a little distant to him. And he accepted. (W're trying to figure out what it looks like to have fully launched our kids but still love them well now that they are all married). Just a small reminder to me that God notices what we ask for and loves to move the kingdom of righteousness and restoration forward even in tiny ways.

C. Ask God for the Gospel to Spread

NT Prayers: Paul asked the Ephesians to pray that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Acts 1 tells us that after the resurrection the apostles and other followers of Jesus devoted themselves to prayer, and when in the next chapter, Peter publicly preached the gospel for the first time 3,000 souls came to faith.

One of the board members of our ministry is the leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the HS where he coaches. He and some of the board members have been undergirding his work with teens and coaches in prayer. Last spring he brought one of the coaches we’ve been praying for to an FCA golf tournament where he won an award and chose as his prize a devotional--helping him walk more closely with Christ. Their first before-school meeting this school year had 40 kids, twenty of them football players. (Prayer for his wife's FCA ministry are having such an impact that we are now asking God to bring 100 kids to her FCA meetings). God loves to answer specific prayers for the impact of the gospel.

May I close this month’s series with a question? Could it be that living in an age in which it is so instinctive to give attention to every cubic inch of life other than our inner world has caused us, not only to lose sight of our mission, but to leave in some old, abandoned, weapons depot the primary weapon God wants us to use to overthrow the kingdom of darkness? Renowned missionary leader, Wesley Duewel, argues from experience:

"Prevailing prayer is God’s ordained means for extending His kingdom, for defeating Satan and his empire of darkness and evil, and for fulfilling God’s eternal plan and bringing into effect his good will on earth. It is God’s means of covering the earth with His blessings. Prevailing prayer is God’s priority strategy for our age" (Mighty Prevailing Prayer).

For further prayerful thought.

  1. Do you agree that most Christians do not look at prayer primarily as a weapon? If you agree, why do you think that is the case?
  2. What are two or three of the arguments that most stood out to you, to show that God’s intention for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom of righteousness over earth requires us using the weapon of prevailing prayer?
  3. As we looked at the prayers of Elijah and Paul what practical insights can help you better pray for the things that will advance Christ’s agenda in the lives of your loved ones and spheres of your life?