The Basics of Spiritual Warfare

The Basics of Spiritual Warfare

Did you know that we are fighting a war? I’m not talking about a war with another country, but a war within ourselves. 

As St. Paul says, “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. . . I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:20-24

There is a constant struggle within each one of us between good and evil. Have you been baptized? Then you are enlisted in the war. The truth is, we live in a fallen world that wants to sweep us into darkness. We need a hero, and we need rescued, because hell and death and sin are real. Our eternity is a stake here and it is a big deal! Often you see people who think if you are good person then you go to heaven. It doesn’t work like that. We need to be saved from sin! That’s why we need Jesus! Jesus is who we will meet at death, not primarily to judge us, but to rescue us.

But our struggle isn’t like the sensationalism of The Exorcist. The devil is often more subtle, like in the Garden where he convinces Eve that God doesn’t have her best interest in mind. He gets her to doubt God’s goodness, just like he still does to us.

It’s important to realize this battle we are in, and why Jesus is so important. We don’t go to Church because we’re good people. We go to Church because we need to be rescued by the Savior! We have just celebrated Christmas – which more than anything is a celebration of a hero who has come to rescue us from the darkness of sin. Like St. Paul, we feel trapped by lures of the devil, flesh, and the world and we cannot rescue ourselves. So who will deliver us? A hero sent behind enemy lines, as an infant baby, to come to the world and set us free from sin.

We are all fallen. We are all constantly temped. Temptation means you are alive! Don’t be discouraged by it, but do be vigilant! The important thing is to not let temptation lead to sin.  

So in those moments of temptation, how can we cling to Jesus and defeat the enemy?

Here are 4 strategies to help us fight temptation:

1.    Scripture

When Jesus was tempted in the desert in Matthew 4, how did he defeat the devil? Through the use of Scripture. He spoke scripture verses out loud in the face of the enemy. The Bible is not just some book written over thousands of years that we can learn from. It is our weapon against the Devil! It would be helpful to memorize a few verses to say out loud when faced with temptation. Or, open your bible and pray out loud whatever verses you land on. For “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword. . . able to discern the thoughts and reflections of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 

2.     The Name of Jesus

Remember that God is always bigger than Satan. In the end, God wins. The truth is the devil is afraid of God, so there is power in the name of Jesus! The name alone sends demons fleeing: “[The disciples] returned rejoicing, and said, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” And then Jesus reminds them that this is cause for rejoicing because it means they are on their way to heaven. Keep the end goal in mind!

3.     Praise

Praise is the opposite of panic. Remember that God wins! So when we focus on how great God is, we can see how small the devil really is. And we can see past the current temptation to the heavenly prize that awaits. If you don’t know how to praise God, read many of the Psalms, as they sing praise to God. Or, you can say out loud things such as “God you are glorious, your are mighty, you are worthy, you are righteous.” This puts the focus back where it needs to be! And your heart and spirit will follow.

4.     Prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, St. Michael…)

This is probably the one Catholics are most comfortable with, but it’s important to make use of the tactics listed above. The good news is that the  “Our Father” and the “Hail Mary” come straight from scripture, and the “Hail Mary” even says the name of Jesus. Pray these to get through those times of temptation, and bonus points if you pray them in the rosary, which is also a huge weapon against evil.

It’s important to do these things out loud, to fight the enemy with our minds, hearts, and bodies. Things get muddled when we try to do it all in our head. And lastly, remember that darkness isn’t the last word. Winter is dark. But as the light of Christ comes into the world on December 25th, the nights start to get shorter. God is bigger! In the end, God wins. And I know that I for sure want to be on the winning team!

Let us end with this prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours:

Lord,
we beg you to visit this house
and banish from it all the deadly power of the enemy.
May your holy angels dwell here
to keep us in peace,
and may your blessing be upon us always.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Some of these points are taken from a talk that I heard recently by Fr. John Ignatius, SCJ)

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