In its simplest meaning prayer has to do with a conflict. Rightly understood it is the deciding factor in a spirit conflict. The scene of the conflict is the earth. The purpose of the conflict is to decide the control of the earth, and its inhabitants. The conflict runs back into the misty ages of the creation time.
The rightful prince of the earth is Jesus, the King's Son. There is a pretender prince who was once rightful prince. He was guilty of a breach of trust. But like King Saul, after his rejection and David's anointing in his place, he has been and is trying his best by dint of force to hold the realm and oust the rightful ruler.
The rightful Prince is seeking by utterly different means, namely by persuasion, to win the world back to its first allegiance. He had a fierce set-to with the pretender, and after a series of victories won the great victory of the resurrection morning.
There is one peculiarity of this conflict making it different from all others; namely, a decided victory, and the utter vanquishing of the leading general has not stopped the war. And the reason is remarkable. The Victor has a deep love-ambition to win, not merely against the enemy, but into men's hearts, by their free consent. And so, with marvellous love-born wisdom and courage, the conflict is left open, for men's sake.
It is a spirit conflict. The earth is swung in a spirit atmosphere. There are unnumbered thousands of spirit beings good and evil, tramping the earth's surface, and filling its atmosphere. They are splendidly organized into two compact organizations.
Man is a spirit being; an embodied spirit being. He has a body and a mind. He is a spirit. His real conflicts are of the spirit sort; in the spirit realm, with other spirit beings.
Satan is a spirit being; an unembodied spirit being. That is, unembodied, save as in much cunning, with deep, dark purpose he secures embodiment in human beings.
The only sort of power that influences in the spirit realm is moral power. By which is not meant goodness, but that sort of power either bad or good which is not of a physical sort: that higher, infinitely higher and greater power than the mere physical. Moral power is the opposite of violent or physical power.
God does not use force, violent physical force. There are some exceptions to this statement. There have been righteous wars, righteous on one side. Turning to the Bible record, in emergencies, in extreme instances God has ordered war measures. The nations that Israel was told to remove by the death of war would have inevitably worn themselves out through their physical excesses, and disobedience of the laws of life. But a wide view of the race revealed an emergency which demanded a speedier movement. And as an exception, for the sake of His plan for the ultimate saving of a race, and a world, God gave an extermination order. The emergency makes the exception. There is one circumstance under which the taking of human life is right, namely, when it can be clearly established that God the giver and sovereign of life has so directed. But the rule clearly is that God does not use force.
But note sharply in contrast with this that physical force is one of Satan's chief weapons. But mark there two intensely interesting facts: first, he can use it only as he secures man as his ally, and uses it through him. And, second, in using it he has with great subtlety sought to shift the sphere of action. He knows that in the sphere of spirit force pure and simple he is at a disadvantage: indeed, worse yet, he is defeated. For there is a moral force on the other side greater than any at his command. The forces of purity and righteousness he simply cannot withstand. Jesus is the personification of purity and righteousness. It was on this moral ground, in this spirit sphere that He won the great victory. He ran a terrific gauntlet of tests, subtle and fierce, through those human years, and came out victor with His purity and righteousness unstained.