I’m reminded of an incident in my previous (evangelical) life – a Frank Peretti moment that may or may not have included angels and demons.
I’d been with my CCC (conservative Christian community) for probably seven years, when one of our number – call him Dave – decided to run for a local office. A very local office in a small town. He asked us, the CCC, to help him with his campaign. We canvassed the neighborhood, some of us dropping off flyers, others knocking on doors, still others committing to prayer.
After the polls closed on Election Night, I remember texting Dave and asking him how it was going. He was optimistic. A little later I got a message from him saying something like, “The spirit of darkness is strong here. It’s quite a battle.”
I gave a non-answer, along the lines of, “Well, God is on the throne.”
Long story short, Dave lost the election.
The CCC figured that Dave had been quite a formidable threat to the strongholds of darkness in Boone County, Illinois, and Satan had sent some of his most malevolent minions to defeat Dave. Well, God had allowed this to happen, so presumably God would work it out for good.
Today, I look back on that incident with a bit of an eye-roll.
Demons counting ballots?
The polls were closed. Did we think there was a slimy demon standing behind each election official, throwing them off as they counted?
Election official: “38, 39, 40, 41…”
Demon: “22, 23…”
Or maybe, when the officials took a bathroom break, goblins would steal a handful of uncounted ballots and eat them?
Perhaps they used double-sided tape to make ballots stick together? Anything is possible.
Whatever the case, there were also male angelic beings – most likely blonde and blue-eyed, with rippling muscles – courageously fighting off the fiends with…swords of fire? Holy lightning bolts? Molten righteousness?
At any rate, the bad guys apparently won that night.
It couldn’t be that Dave ran a weak campaign, or that voters found him forgettable. No way his opponent was more appealing or just plain better qualified. No – this election was decided in the heavenlies.
I had read Frank Peretti’s books and found them captivating. His descriptions of the angels and demons, and their epic battles, were so vivid, it wasn’t hard to sorta, kinda, passively believe that maybe the characters were real, and the conflict was legit.
With this backdrop, and my regular exposure to the language of binding and loosing and whatnot, I took in stride Dave’s commentary on the election. Clearly he believed in spiritual warfare.
Even though Dave lost, we all knew that God was still on the throne. God had allowed Dave to lose.
Hard questions about God and demons
Today I wonder why it never occurred to me to think critically: if God is omnipotent, and therefore knew how many demons would be at Dave’s precinct that night, why didn’t he send a few extra good guys to get Dave elected? And since God didn’t do that, didn’t he actually on some level want Dave’s opponent to win? And if that was the case, were we in the CCC sorta kinda praying against God’s will?
Or – was it our fault that Dave lost, because we didn’t pray enough angels into the precinct? Or was it God’s fault for not stirring us to pray longer and harder? And who was responsible for the number of demons that showed up?
But…if the fervency of our prayer kicks more good guys into action on our behalf, doesn’t it also attract more bad guys too? In which case…does every intercessory prayer just basically initiate a sort of cosmic rugby game between evenly-matched teams (light sabers vs. pitchforks) – in which it’s anybody’s guess who will win?
And if that’s the case, is God really in charge, or are we, or are the demons? Etc., etc., etc.
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“Just do it”
If, back in the day, I’d thought things through like this, I might have stepped back from some aspects of my CCC a lot sooner.
Frederick Douglass, a slave in the 1800s, once said,
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
This is the opposite of the passive “waiting on God” that I’d learned. Obviously, we know that prayer must be accompanied by action – but this quote suggested to me that maybe, sometimes, action ought to be the main focus. That some longings are not to be answered by God, but by ourselves.
Today, I believe that much of the power of prayer is in how it activates me.
Mind you, I have no problem with asking God to “bless my efforts,” but that phrase just sends me back to the mental turmoil of the cosmic rugby game. I know “God is for me” (Rom. 8:31) – and I try to always be “for God.”
The longer I’ve been away from evangelicalism, the clearer it becomes to me that praying for my own wants and needs is not really important. God cares infinitely more about the human race, the Kingdom, and the earth we live on, and that’s what I should care about (and pray about) too. And that’s really where I should “pray with my legs” too.
Am I doing something to bring joy…peace..healing….justice to the world? Or am I too busy chasing after riches and the goodies it can buy for me (remember the dude with the “bigger barns” in Luke 12)?
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