Swirling Serpents:  Praying in Dangerous Times

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on June, 15, 2019

Swirling Serpents:  Praying in Dangerous Times

One early morning, while still in bed, a brief clip of a serpent winding about appeared to my mind and repeatedly visualized itself, maybe ten times or so over the next hour or so. The seconds-long short movies reminded me on how the evil one was seeking an entryway into my life to somehow trouble me. Each time the background scenes blurred out so I did not know where he was craftily seeking to hurt or otherwise ensnare me to frustrate me from doing God’s work. By appearing many times over, I understood that he sought any avenue he could take and that I needed to stay more attuned to these potential hazards.

My Response

My immediate response was to pray. I will share about that, but I also want to introduce several biblical perspectives that helped me keep a steady and trusting heart through these times to withhold the attack of the evil one upon me. I notice how some believers get very troubled by such experiences and don’t know how to properly handle them.

Pray without Ceasing

We should always be praying. The Scriptures warn us of the necessity of this. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). Be vigilant for the enemy is near. These visual reminders did not necessarily reveal that the enemy is now, as in contrast to another time, more pernicious or determined to destroy me. He always is. But it did highlight my need for more intense prayer for protection. The Lord used it as a reminder to keep praying to guard those things and people I count precious.

So how did I pray? I immediately started going through each area of my life, praying for the Lord to guard me against attack. I knew the evil one could be stirring up special trouble in one or more places and wanted to take special guard. For example, the evil one stirred up trouble once in David’s mind inciting him to do wrong. David did not have to sin by counting the Israelites, but he did. “Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel” (1 Chr 21:1). He was unprepared. This decision was David’s, and yet Satan stood against him, making it hard for David to discern the issues.

So I set to immediately start praying for each area of my life and ministry that I could think of and then prayed generally.

Targeted Prayer

I first went through each area of my life asking the Lord to protect me from any attempt (note the word “tempt” part of the word “attempt”) to enter and somehow disturb and attack my life and the accomplishment of God’s purposes through my life. I thought and prayed about my personal life, choices, and then went on to pray for my marriage, my children and grandchildren, our church pastors, and church council. After this, I proceeded to pray for God’s help in shielding my service to Him and especially my ministry organization (BFF).


Nothing I did was new. I pray this way each morning, but there was a distinctive element of seeking protection whereas usually I am seeking His blessing and general help and guidance. I sensed the evil one was jiggling every door and window of my life to enter, and that I needed to make sure that they were secure, locking him out. Of course, I realize I had no way to do this on my own. The purpose of prayer is to seek God’s wisdom, strength, protection, help, inner persistence, etc, so to ward off Satan’s attacks.

For who is God, besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God? - 2 Samuel 22:32

General Prayer

After specifically praying through each sphere of life and ministry, I recognized my inability to rightly pray for myself. Yes, I prayed about so many people and situations, but I was also confident that I would miss someone or something to pray protection over. So I entered a general time of asking God to protect me.

  • First, (I forgot this but now remember as I am writing) that Jesus stands as our High Priest interceding for me. I welcomed His prayer and admitted to the need for Him to pray over me and my situations.

Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:34)
You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth. (Deuteronomy 32:18)

  • Second, I affirmed that God was my Rock. The picture here is that I would stand firm no matter how turbulent things would be around me. The evil one might want to even sift the ground about me, entrapping me, but my faith would be firm, and I would stay at peace on His Rock that cannot be moved.

For who is God, besides the Lord? And who is a rock, besides our God? (2 Samuel 22:32)

Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. (Isaiah 26:4)

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
The Scriptures are full of such images and help us realize our vulnerabilities and weaknesses along with His amazing strength and 24/7 protection (Psalm 121:6). The greater our desperation, the more we sense our need for His help. These prayers are like roots which send roots further down so that they can stretch further upward toward the sun. I am not saying that we just vegetate in our sins (of bitterness, lust, anger, etc.) and ask Him to protect us, but that we stand clear-hearted, seeking to accomplish His full purposes through our lives and openly admit to our need of Him (1 Tim 2:8). Jesus’ devoted prayer life exemplified this for us.

  • Third, I sensed a need for a more complete shield of protection from many attacks that would come upon me. I sought the Protector of my faith, my Shield and Sun, to obliterate those attacks. Whereas the sun inwardly renews, enlightens, and strengthens, the shield guards and outwardly protects us.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

The Scriptures are full of such images and help us realize our vulnerabilities and weaknesses along with His amazing strength and 24/7 protection (Psalm 121:6). The greater our desperation, the more we sense our need for His help. These prayers are like roots which sends its arms further down so that the plant or tree can stretch further upward toward the sun. I am not saying that we just vegetate in our sins (of bitterness, lust, anger, etc.) and ask Him to protect us, but that we stand clear-hearted, seeking to accomplish His full purposes through our lives, and openly admit to our need of Him (1 Tim 2:8). Jesus’ devoted prayer life exemplified this for us.

Satan Always Seeks to Tempt

There are several biblical concepts that help us to rightly respond to such temptation. The first that I mention has to be the right perspective of temptation. Jesus tells us in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into not into temptation.” “Keep us from evil (literally “the evil one”). The devil is near, seeking to trip believers up in their attempts to have Christ perfectly reflected in their lives by committing themselves to do the works the Father has appointed them (1 Tim 2:10; 5:10).

Although I saw these vivid clips of a snake moving about, in a sense these dangers are always present for me and others. Every believer is fair prey to Satan, but leaders become outstanding targets. I suppose we might otherwise be very distracted or alarmed if we could see the spiritual world and all the attempts of the evil one to attack us, but the scriptures teach us very clearly we ought to “Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46). The disciples fell asleep despite Jesus’ repeated warning, making them unable to withstand the devil’s attack.

The appearance of such serpents in my mind, however, reminds us of what is true all the time. Yes, the evil one is limited and can “hit” us hard at certain times, but he is always diabolically seeking to destroy us. He keeps his minions posted to know of any open doors or windows. By keeping an open door to porn, or lying, or anger, are we not leaving a door open for the thief that will make use of this opening and further trouble us (John 10:10)? Of course. This is why the exhortation to humble ourselves is accompanied by a hope that He will at the right time exalt us (1 Peter 5:6). He always provides sufficient grace to escape each temptation (1 Cor 10:13). This is the reason that such trying circumstances or unsettling visions should not be responded to in fear. We can peacefully seek the “sun and shield” to fully protect us.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. (1 Peter 5:6)

The enemy is always present with unchanged motives and techniques to undermine God’s people, and so, we necessarily need to remain a constant vigil watching for his crafty devices.

Accepting Affliction

I know, even with prayer, that trouble might still enter some sphere of my life. If it comes, the Lord allows the evil one to bring troubles into my life. He can, like he did with Job, bring health and sickness problems, family and financial ruin, or an overwhelming sense of defeat. My prayers do shield me from unnecessary attacks but do not completely shield me from any attack. My overriding confidence remains firm, that is, if the evil one is allowed to strike, it will not be in such a way that God’s greater purposes are not accomplished.

Consider Jesus who sought the Father for another way save apart from suffering on the cross (Luke 22:42). But having found no other way, Jesus committed Himself to this course. Satan would be allowed to strike hard, but Jesus had a greater confidence that it would turn out for the better. And it did. The disciples abandoned Him, all good effect from His work seemed to dissipate overnight, and He suffered excruciating pain right up to death. But God caused a much greater good to come from Jesus taking our judgment upon Him, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that we might live in Christ forever.

Christians wrongly assume protection means not to meet up with trouble and pain. Many times, our prayers like mine, will protect us from keeping any unlocked window of our lives from which the evil one can gain entrance. Perhaps, in prayer, I am reminded to be humble and seek God’s help in that area. If I didn’t, then pride might create an access point for him to come in. But, as stated above, sometimes to accomplish God’s greater purposes, we must suffer harm—but it will only be limited and temporary while our strong faith remains in God to accomplish His greater good.

I remember once back twenty years ago that I had a vision of Jesus seeking to do surgery on my life. I lay before Him. He was asking me to hand the scalpel in my hand to him. When I gave it to Him, the Surgeon, then He could freely operate where He saw need. What a struggle that was for me! The Lord knows how much I don’t like blood. But as the Spirit taught me, I came to realize that if there needed to be surgery, I could trust Him to wisely and kindly help me (through surgery) to do what I could not do for myself. After that event, I looked back and could not find any particular incident that I could connect to His obtaining the scalpel from me. Perhaps, He used this event to buttress my willingness to prioritize purity and His purpose in my life. Like Jesus, I had to trust Him even if the evil one was allowed to wound me. But even if the evil one had that permission, God would nurse and care for my soul and body. And so my confidence is that God will take care of my life—but I, we, need to stand vigilant seeking to do His will and praying for His guard over our lives.

Our goal is not a painless life, though, to be honest, I seek to experience the least amount of pain necessary. Thankfully, with diligent prayer, we can escape many needless painful situations.

Conclusion

“Keep us from the evil one” should remain a firm and permanent part of our daily prayers. The prayer should sound forth from a deep echo chamber of conscious need that we have one like a roaring lion who seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8) and that only God’s grace is enough to shield us from its danger. Again, it does not mean we are protected from all harm, but only from all harm that would otherwise keep us from doing God’s will. And so, I proceed through my days and nights, fully confident that even if danger or trials appear, God shall accomplish His good and perfect ways in my life.

Tags: pray, prayer, temptation, protect, Satan, evil

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