Tony Evans & Spiritual Warfare: Demon Busting With A Less Than Sovereign God
Pray then like this:“Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil.”Matthew 6:9-13
Most are familiar with these words from our Lord in Matthew’s Gospel, often erroneously called the “Lord’s Prayer.” More correctly called the “disciples’ prayer,” it is a remarkable guideline for formatting our prayers to God in a Jesus-approved manner. What often goes missed by us when studying this prayer is what it itself is missing.
How many times, for instance, do you count the personal pronoun “I” in Christ’s model prayer? Do you see where our Lord instructs us on how to properly pray so that we may perform such popular, albeit Biblically illicit, procedures in spiritual warfare such as rebuking Satan, binding him or his demons, or praying “hedges of protection” around ourselves or others?
According to Tony Evans’ 2015 book, Prayers For Victory in Spiritual Warfare, success in prayer – particularly when engaged in spiritual warfare – is very much about “I.” While Christ taught a more corporate, intercessory nature to our prayers, Evans suggests a heavily emphasized first-person approach, as we shall see.
Tony Evans has quite the impressive evangelical industry resume and has garnered a substantial voice within American “Christianity”. Pastor of the 11,000 member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, the mega-pastor is also known for “The Alternative” radio show broadcast on over 1,000 stations, and his “Urban Alternative” ministry. The first African-American doctoral graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary, Evans is a board member of the National Religious Broadcasters, has served as a chaplain to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.
Evans is seen moving and shaking with other celebrity Christian “leaders” in popular ecumenical conferences, summits, and unity conclaves. He’ll be, for instance, joining the likes of Ronnie Floyd, Anne Graham Lotz, Robert Morris, Marcus Lamb, Greg Laurie, and “apostle” Sammy Rodriguez at “The Gathering” in late September 2016, an enclave purposed “to unite the Body of Christ in America – all believers, regardless of race, age, or denomination …” Driven less by allegiance to the Gospel and sound doctrine, and more by what appears often to be mere self-aggrandizing self-promotion in the name of praying for America, the event will also feature Evans’ daughter, Priscilla Shirer, perhaps the most notable rising star promoting Christian mysticism today.
According to Oak Cliff’s bio on him, Evans has “authored over 100 books, booklets and Bible studies.” It’s his book, Prayers For Victory in Spiritual Warfare, that is considered here. The book currently ranks at #1007 in Amazon’s Christian Living category and is noted as a “Best Seller” from FamilyChristian Bookstores.
In the opening chapter – as in each subsequent chapter – Evans penned 6 prayers, each a paragraph in length, for the believer to repeat in order to achieve success in spiritual warfare. In just the first six recommended power prayers, “I,” “me,” or “my” is the mentioned focus sixty-six times. Considering the 180 prayers comprising the book, if chapter one’s self-centered emphasis follows throughout the others at the same average, “I” am the focus nearly 2,000 times. Obviously, Jesus mustn’t have been aware of the 21st century, narcissistic needs of demon-battling believers. His model prayer included not a single first-person pronoun.
Evans’ book, opening with an expected glowing endorsement from daughter Priscilla Shirer, is outlined on the basis of Paul’s words regarding the armor of God for the believer found in Ephesians 6: 13-18. For each piece of armor, Evans offers a specific prayer that, when repeated by the reader, will aid in securing victory in the many battles of spiritual warfare the engaged believer will face. One wonders why the apostle Paul himself failed to provide us with such insightful supplication savvy when he penned the inspired Text itself.
“I’m offering some powerful prayers that address some of the major battles we face. For each of the topics listed, you’ll find prayers based on each piece of armor.” Tony Evans
The 30 topic-specific chapters of the book each contain 6 such prayers, one each for the “Belt of Truth,” the “Breastplate of Righteousness,” the “Shoes of Peace,” the “Shield of Faith,” the “Helmet of Salvation,” and the “Sword of the Spirit.”
The chapters range from prayers for “Receiving the Power of the Holy Spirit” to “Victory in Marriage,” from “Using My Spiritual Gifts” to “Prayers for Favor.” There are prayers for “Overcoming Past Failures,” “Prayers for Comfort,” prayers for “Breaking Free From Financial Bondage,” and prayers for “Receiving Healing from Sickness.” Satan is attacking the believer incessantly in all these, and other, areas of life. These battles of spiritual warfare are critical, according to Evans, who offers this “God can’t do this without you” encouragement:
“As you pray the prayers on the following pages that are relevant to your needs, my hope is that you’ll develop the fighting spirit that warriors need to win the battle and that you will join the mighty army God is raising up as overcomers. Your part in carrying out spiritual warfare can change the course of history for you, your family, your church, your community … even your nation.” Tony Evans
While neither the apostle Paul, nor any other New Testament author, nor our Lord gave any indication that the armor given to the believer should be analogously appropriated and interpreted into circumstance-specific “power” prayers, Evans’ description of them in the book’s introduction yields more about him that just his comfort in taking liberties with Scripture. He also exposes serious errors with his theology.
In describing the “Helmet of Salvation,” Evans gives us not merely a semi-pelagian view of God and man, but also one that is uncomfortably close to the heresy of open theism. God is still learning; He is more reactive than sovereign; He is in a mode of response, merely guiding the believer on the basis of His unique heavenly perspective rather than from the sovereign Truth that “His will” most certainly will be done.
“He [God] is above all things – seated in the heavenly places – and views the scene below. He can see the field of life much better than we ever could. He can examine the opposition’s strategy much better than we can. He has studied the game films much longer than we have. And, because of all this, God has a few secrets He wants us to hear. They are secrets because often what God has to say to you is meant only for you.” Tony Evans
Besides God being better positioned to review the enemy’s game plans – not because He’s sovereign but because He’s been doing it longer than we have – God is also, according to Evans, the giver of continuing private revelation because “often what God has to say to you is meant only for you.”
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the heresy of the “insufficiency” of Scripture might infest Evans’ theology. He earned his Masters of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1976 and his Doctorate in 1982. In 1976, coincidentally, DTS installed charismatic, John Wimber & Vineyard protégé Jack Deere as an associate professor. Deere is noteworthy for the following statement.
“The sufficiency of Scripture is a demonic doctrine. In order to fulfill God’s highest purpose for our lives, we must be able to hear His voice, both in the written word and in the word freshly spoken from heaven. Satan understands the strategic importance of Christians hearing God’s voice, so he has launched various attacks against us in this area.” (Source)
While this certainly meshes nicely with the heresy of contemplative prayer promoted by Shirer, also a graduate of DTS, Evans implies a teaching that is in direct conflict with Scripture and historic Christian orthodoxy. God’s revelation is in His Word, exclusively. The only ones to whom it is hidden, or secret, are those who are perishing, per the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 4:3)
While Evans’ view of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture seem suspect, his view of spiritual warfare itself is far from the Bible’s teaching on the matter. His premise starts with an apparently less-than-fully sovereign God who must look down at the enemy’s goings-on to respond with a game plan that He will then privately tell you about.
“As Jesus demonstrated in the wilderness, using the sword of the Spirit means communicating to the enemy specific Scriptures that relate to your unique situation.” Tony Evans
Citing Daniel 10:10-15, Evans writes of a more sovereignly-empowered Satan than Scripture actually teaches. In reading Evans’ text, one gets the impression of an omnipresent devil, capable of taunting, tempting, and attacking every believer everywhere simultaneously. Satan is seen is the source of all troubles for the believer struggling in the drudgery of day to day life. The influence of our fallen nature, a la Paul’s “I don’t do what I want to do” struggle in Romans 7 – isn’t cited. Our carnal nature isn’t the problem; it’s Satan, frequently, it seems, facing us one on one.
While “the devil made me do it” was first used as an excuse in the garden, it’s validity for us is no less inaccurate. We’re all too eager to shift blame to Satan for temptation-inducing desires that arise purely out of our own fallen nature. While the fall was Satanically-induced, to be sure, temptation and sin don’t require the evil one’s constant, malicious presence before us. James reminds us of the source of temptation … “ Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14)
As Pastor and author Jim Osman notes in his highly recommended book, Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach To Spiritual Warfare, the believer’s engagement with Satan is not the primary concern, nor a correct focus ascertained from Scripture.
“The clear teaching of the New Testament is that the flesh, not the devil, is the major and most influential enemy that the Christian faces. The world is not our most powerful and influential enemy. The devil is not our most powerful and influential enemy. The flesh is our most powerful and influential enemy!” Jim Osman
Evans however promotes, effectively, a spiritualized, mystical form of spiritual warfare, one in which Satan is not merely a powerful force against humans, but also against God.
“Your battle is fought in the spiritual realm. You must not fail to realize that. If you do, you will not fight for the win. As we have seen, when Daniel first offered his prayer, God heard it and responded immediately. Yet because there is a battle taking place in the invisible, spiritual realm, there was a delay in God’s response reaching its intended destination. In fact, another angel – Michael – was needed in order to eventually remove the demon from acting as an obstacle for Gabriel. Ultimately, the prince of Persia was double-teamed so God could deliver His message to Daniel.” Tony Evans
The notion that God is somehow less than omnipotent and that Satan is precipitously capable of stopping God’s plans may be a prevalent view, but it’s decidedly unbiblical. Scripture affirms for us that Satan has been defeated. Remember the cross? (1 John 3:8, Hebrews 2:14-15, Colossians 1:13, Colossians 2:15, John 12:31, Romans 16:20, Revelation 20:1-3)
When praying to our hallowed God, unlike Jesus’ teaching on how believers ought to pray, Evans cites – by name – and sometimes speaks directly to – by name – Satan himself. Over 70 times in Evans’ recommended power prayers, Satan is either referenced or spoken to.
“Satan, I am a saved and redeemed person. I am no longer a citizen in your kingdom.”
“And Satan, in the name of Jesus, I rebuke and bind your attempts to disrupt the peace of God in our home and in our hearts. I declare our home and our marriage a place of peace, calm, and mutual kindness.” (You might recall a similar scene from the movie War Room.)
“Satan, you must yield to the shield of faith. You may no longer instill fear or anxiety in my mind, in Jesus’s name. I proclaim myself free from your fearsome taunts …”
“Satan, I rebuke your unholy thoughts …”
By comparison, consider John MacArthur’s comments about a similar “pray to Satan” experience he had.
“I remember being at a Pastors’ Conference one time and a prominent wonderful church and the pastor got up to begin the pastor’s conference with several thousand men and he said, “Let’s pray,” and the first words out of his mouth were, “Satan, we bind you.” And I almost fell over. What? “Let us pray,” and the first word is “Satan” and he’s talking to the devil, telling the devil what he can or cannot do? Maybe he thinks that spiritual war, and maybe he thinks he has the power to do that. That’s a delusion.” John MacArthur (Source)
Beyond the unthinkable and unbiblical gumption of praying to God while simultaneously speaking to Satan, Evans teaches binding and rebuking as part of his unscriptural understanding of spiritual warfare. He also instructs readers on praying “hedges of protection” and declaring the removal of curses as well as the imbuing of blessing by our words. Elsewhere Evans has suggested an eye-brow raising affinity for beliefs drawn directly from Word-Faith, positive confession teachings.
“I ask you to place a hedge of protection around me to ward off Satan’s attempts to get me off course”
“In Christ’s name, I silence the enemy of their future and their hope. I set a wall of protection around my children – a wall the enemy cannot penetrate.”
“I speak peace into the organs and hormones that my body needs to function well.”
“I remove the curse of this illness and command it to depart in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord. Satan, you may not have my body or any part of it. I refuse your symptoms of disease and claim bodily healing for the sake of my Lord and the ministry He’s given me.”
The spiritual warfare endeavor evident from Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare is one in which the believer is engaged in ongoing, mystical combat with Satan and his demons throughout the normal challenges of life, as well as in the regular temptations to sin actually prompted by our fallen flesh.
For Evans, spiritual warfare is a perpetual demon-busting battle that requires the effective use of incantations against the enemy, proper use of power prayers for success, and the employment of spurious methods of ensuring victory based on twisted applications and recitations of Scripture. As Osman points out, “The approach to spiritual warfare so uncritically embraced by the bulk of modern evangelicalism has more in common with pagan mysticism that anything remotely biblical.”
For a proper understanding of spiritual warfare, the first place in Scripture to go is not the familiar armor of God text from Ephesians. It’s from Paul’s words to the church in Corinth.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” 2 Cor. 10:3-5
John MacArthur elaborates:
“What are these fortresses? At the end of verse 4, the “destruction of fortresses,” the beginning of verse 5, “we are destroying speculations,” in the NAS. The fortresses are defined in the next verse, destruction of fortresses, destruction of speculations. The Greek word there is logismos, ideas, ideologies, theories, viewpoints, belief systems, psychologies, philosophies, religions. This is what we’re engaged in in spiritual war. It’s a battle for how people think. It’s a battle for the mind. It’s not about chasing Satan away. It’s not about running off demons. That’s not within the purview of our abilities. Ours is a war for the mind.” John MacArthur (Source)
Spiritual warfare is about truth. It is not about illicitly-empowered believers seeing demons behind every bush who get armored up and revved up to go “rebukes” a-blazing to thwart the Devil’s advances. It isn’t about rebuking him, binding him, or, even, speaking to him. It’s not about praying hedges of protection or using power prayers or incantations of Scripture, “in Jesus’ name,” to pummel the minions of Lucifer as they make us think bad thoughts, have a bad hair day, or tempt us to behave in ungodly, sinful ways.
“Could Satan be more pleased with the modern fascination of the church? You can bind Satan all day long. He doesn’t care, just so long as you do not share the gospel, stand for truth, or assault the errors and lies of his strongholds. You can rebuke him until you are blue in the face and he will go right along deceiving multitudes. He doesn’t care, just so long as your love and focus is not the truth, sound doctrine, and preaching the gospel! Binding Satan and rebuking Satan are completely useless practices that accomplish absolutely nothing. They are unbiblical practices, manufactured in the minds of men for a church that has abandoned its call to be the ‘pillar and support of the truth.’ (1 Timothy 3:15)” Jim Osman
The battle for truth in the world, and in the pews, is, indeed, spiritual. The warfare engaged upon by the enemy of our Lord is vicious, brutal, and eternally jeopardizing. But, as believers, we know the truth that will “set you free.” (John 8:32) It’s the Gospel, the “power of God” (Romans 1:16) that destroys strongholds, arguments, and opinions. It is the Gospel that He uses to save souls and illuminate darkened minds. Our task is to wield that truth to a dying world that already “lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) And what about believers? Well, we have this certain assurance from our Lord:
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:14-17
We are kept … from the evil one … and … we are being sanctified in truth. And that news? Yeah, it’s better than a rebuke, a binding, or a hedge building faux power prayer any day.
Evans may have penned a bestseller that’s attractive to the Biblically illiterate, but it’s a volume that teaches error, not truth. This book is one for the “Discard Shelf” … because even the Devil knows the Bible better than this.
(For an excellent resource based on Scripture about spiritual warfare, I heartily recommend the book cited above by Jim Osman. Truth Or Territory: A Biblical Approach To Spiritual Warfare is available HERE.)
Quotations from Tony Evans come from Prayers For Victory in Spiritual Warfare, published 2015 by Harvest House Publishers, copyright Tony Evans.
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[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]