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Prayer is a crucial tool in battle of good vs. evil

The novel “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti is about a struggling church deciding whether to keep their new pastor.

The pastor asked a church elder to resign because of an adulterous relationship. Angry leaders call a congregational meeting to decide whether the pastor himself should be asked to leave.

Under any circumstances this might be an interesting story, but what’s unique happens in the background. There is a war going on between the forces of good and evil over that little church and the surrounding community. These good and evil spirits are locked in perpetual combat.

The preacher saves his job and the forces for good win because the preacher and a handful of faithful followers spend a lot of time and energy in prayer. Their prayers give the angels strength to vanquish the demons and allow good to triumph over evil.

Why am I telling you this story? Good question.

Recently our men’s group challenged me to teach the book of Revelation in one session. Whew! That’s a huge task. The last book of the Bible can be difficult to read and even harder to understand.

But, in many ways Revelation is like Peretti’s novel. There are visions of demons and angels representing good and evil battling over the souls of everyone on earth. But within Revelation is a letter offering hope amidst tough times. We keep our faith by continuing to worship God, believe in Christ’s promises and maintaining an active life of prayer and service.

Revelation portrays the powers and activity of evil. Do not be fooled into thinking evil does not exist. We may not know or understand the details of the visions, but “the faithful” must continue struggling against evil. Our faith in Christ sustains us.

Every time you pray. Every time you do something or say something in the name of Christ for someone else. Every time you choose to show love in the face of evil and despair, you strengthen the forces of good against the forces of evil.

The final chapters of Revelation turn away from the battle and describe a scene of awesome beauty. You can feel the excitement of the writer.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.“ (21:1) Sea is an ancient symbol for evil or danger. In other words, a new heaven and earth with no sin.

“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (21:2) The old Jerusalem was the site of the stoning of the prophets and the crucifixion of Jesus, but the new Jerusalem looked like a beautifully dressed bride. The new dwelling represents the faithful who have remained with God.

God’s reassuring presence and Heaven’s promise quiets our nerves, calms our fears and wipes away our tears. Yes, there is a war between good and evil, and we are certainly part of it, but we can take comfort and cling to the hope that God is ultimately in control and will prevail.

“Now what?” God is in control. God wins over evil. However, we play an important role in that continuing battle, and our contribution matters. So, what should be our response?

We could join a fringe group and spend months and years trying to understand the mysterious signs and symbols of Revelation and predict what God does next. Or, we could retreat into the mountains, strum a guitar and eat birdseed while reciting scripture so we will no longer be contaminated by the world around us while we wait for the end-times.

I believe there is a better answer.

“This Present Darkness” describes people faithfully maintaining their worship and prayer life despite the obstacles. “Here I am!” says the risen Jesus. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them and they with me.” Revelation 3:20

Jesus stands at our door ready to enter and be with us. Do we give ourselves a chance to listen? Prayer is one of our most important tools in the battle of good vs. evil. A life of prayer, worship and service puts our trust and faith in God’s hands.

Here is what I learned so far:

1. You are important to God. What you say, what you do is important.

2. God is calling us to keep our faith and our hope alive.

3. Evil exists, and it needs to be dealt with through the tools God provides.

4. We must continue struggling against evil. Our faith is part of that struggle.

5. Our best weapon in the struggle is a life devoted to prayer and service.

Revelation contains a promise, “I am making everything new!”

God’s grace will overcome.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.