TITLE: PRAYER FIGHT
By Graham Insley
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THIS WAS SURE turning into a frustrating night. Lying in that mid-state of sleep Rod was not quite awake; but he certainly wasnít fast asleep.
Maybe it was the heat. It sure was a hot night and the sheets were soaked from the perspiration flowing freely from every pore of his skin. So perhaps it was being uncomfortable from the heat that made sure he did no more than doze. But maybe it was something else.
The fan, sitting on the dressing table, was turned to its highest setting. But it still only succeeded in blowing warm air across the ravine between itself and the bed. The noise of it, and the wind travelling from head to toe as it oscillated, could also be adding to his inability to drop off into a sound sleep. But maybe it was something else.
Perhaps it was the loneliness he had been feeling these last few days. It was certainly a growing sensation and seemed to fill much more of his thoughts than he felt it should. His wife, Janet, was due home in a weekís time and their forced break would be over. It was one thing to be apart for a day or two, but this separation had already lasted three weeks; and they certainly werenít used to spending that long apart. They had not spent more than five or six days away from each other since the day they were married just under two years ago. So right now the loneliness was real and painful. That could easily be the reason that deep sleep was avoiding this weary man tonight. But then again, maybe it wasnít.
Rod had spoken to Janet on the phone earlier this evening and she had told him she was not enjoying being apart either. But they both knew they had no choice at the moment. Her mum had been very sick and the still freshly married young lady was really needed to help dad through it all. It had been touch and go there for awhile, but mum had got better and was coming home from hospital soon. That meant that they would be together again shortly. And of course, he was glad she missed him, but he didnít wish her the same sort of night he was having. None of this knowledge, however, eased the ache that was invading his spirit tonight.
Rod wished he could be with them all, but time off from work right now was impossible. He had flown up with his wife, around seven weeks ago now, when they first though that mum was going to die. But once the older lady had turned the corner, her son-in-law had had no choice but to return to work. And he was feeling a little guilt on that issue too. On one hand he felt he should be there by his wifeís side. But on the other his boss was also his friend and he wasnít going through a good time either. He really needed his right hand man to be at his desk.
Jimís business was still reasonably young, quite small and wasnít exactly flushed with cash. In fact it was struggling to try and make ends meet. Rod had used all of his holidays up at the beginning of mumís sickness and he knew that he could not really be spared right now. And besides, mum was on the mend now and Janet didnít really need him; they just didnít like being apart. So maybe guilt was playing the role of sleep thief. Or maybe it was just plain anger at the snare he felt himself in over it all. Being honest, even though he knew Jim couldnít help it, there was a little bit of bitterness about not being able to just fly on up there to be with them all.
The guilt and bitterness started a viscous cycle. The guilt made him angry and the anger made him guiltier. A never ending circle that left him feeling trapped and seemed to be speeding up. It was probably all a bit silly really and a few years ago he would have just told Jim where to go and packed his bags; but that was before he became a Christian. So, maybe it was this anger and bitterness that was causing his guilt and robbing him of sleep.
Christianity also seemed to be causing its own brand of confusion for this struggling saint too. Rod thought that Christians were saved from guilt, forgiven for their sins and living in peace with their Lord. Yet, here he was, losing a full nightís sleep over something as stupid as this. Before he had given his heart to Jesus was the time he should have felt guilt. It had been drugs, booze and rock and roll. He had even spent four years in jail for crimes he never wanted to think about again. Yes sir, there was guilt in his past; but it shouldnít be there now.
That was probably it. Thinking about his past was sure to spoil any night of blissful slumber. But then again, heíd been lying here for hours and the subject of his past had only just come to mind. So it had to be something else.
Now that he had thought of his past crimes though, even more guilt started to flood through the trapdoors of his mind. Guilt was certainly going to try and make him its slave tonight and he was fed up of this racing, turning, tumbling maze of thought.
While the troubled man tossed and turned in his lonely bed, trying to find a passageway into the elusive land of peaceful sleep, a dark shadow crept across the floor towards his mattress. It wasnít actually a shadow; it was more a hint of a shadow. It was just a whisker of a suggestion, not really visible, more a presence. But what a presence it was.
Spiritual eyes would have popped had they been able to focus upon what moved within this mist of not quite real awareness. It hung, just out of reach of the senses, as if teasing them to try and catch it. But where Rod was concerned, teasing was not part of the game. Evil intent filled the eyes that stood out so boldly within the forehead of a skull that looked like death; but only spiritual eyes could see them.
It moved across the floor towards the bed like a reptile, but as it started to take shape you could see that it was not actually a snake. Arms were held tight against the long, slim, slithering body and its legs were held together as if an extension to the torso. No shoulders, no neck and no contours existed along the full length of its form. Not, that is, until it reached a point on the carpet just below Rodís head.
Then it seemed to rise from the floor and spread out like a cloak of deep, jet blackness; with arms three or four feet long that started to encircle the troubled mind. These same arms then seemed to simply pass through the pillow that Rodís head rested upon and even travelled through the mattress as they closed the circle. They then flattened out to form a collar around his neck. For all the world it now looked as if his head had been severed from his body and placed within a large black dish. And then a cold breath of hopelessness came floating out of the demonís nostrils to form a cloud of soul destroying gas that Rodís lungs had no choice but to breathe in.
At the other end of the state, approximately a thousand kilometres away, Janet was about to be woken from what was a very peaceful sleep. She had not gone through any of the struggles that her husband was having this night. In fact, she and her father had retired early as the relief of her motherís improved health had started to take the edge off their frayed lives. And the news about mum had been all good today.
The doctors at the hospital had suggested that the patient could be home within the next day or so. Now the tension and anxiety of the last few frightening weeks was slowly ebbing away; to be replaced by the sheer exhaustion that usually follows so many fretful nights.
But peace was not to last tonight as a cloud of darkness was looming over the sleeping woman. Without taking any specific form two arms came from within this gloomy, menacing body of air, and reached for Rodís wife. One hand, with fingernails that looked impossibly long, reached towards her chest while the other reached for her head. The hands closed around both heart and brain and gentle squeezed the organs of life and thought.
Rod was no longer in that in-between world of sleep and wakefulness. He was now wide awake and feeling lousy.
He had often questioned the whole idea of a church family. And his questions had become louder and more frequent since heíd tried to get involved in the Lordís work. Heíd given his testimony a few times but the rejection he felt, as soon as he mentioned prison, was quite strong. It was not always blatant and obvious, but the undercurrent of discomfort was real.
He reached over for Janetís pillow on the other side of the bed. Beating it up a little as he put it on top of his own he rolled over onto his back. Sinking forlornly into the pillows he reached his arms up, linked his fingers on top of his head and stared, open-eyed, at the ceiling.
Although he had not smoked for over a year now, tonight he really felt the craving for a cigarette. It wasnít the nicotine he wanted. It was the comfort of doing something familiar and the desire to pamper himself. But Rod quietly thanked the Lord that at least one deliverance in his life seemed to have worked. He was glad and praised God that he no longer smoked.
His head felt tight, as if a band had been firmly strapped around it. He felt tense and depressed. The tautness of his body almost seemed in contradiction to the feelings of hopelessness and the desire to give up. He couldnít help wondering how he could feel so on edge, so ready to fight, and yet so sagged in the middle as if defeated; and to feel both at the same time. But then, he was not aware of the two forces that were so determinedly fighting for his heart and soul. Only a glance into the spiritual world could have cleared Rodís confusion.
The very second that he began to praise God for his deliverance from smoking a light began to glow in the room. Another figure became visible. Eli had been waiting here all the time; just waiting for an invitation to get involved. Never wishing to impose upon a humanís free will, angels always needed to be invited into someoneís spiritual struggles. But once in they were extremely effective. And praise was definitely all the invitation this warrior needed.
ďItís time for you to go my friend.Ē Eliís voice left no doubt that the word friend was not what was really meant. The spirit of despair was in trouble.
Although not by any means confident, the dark spirit wasnít about to simply give up. ďIím allowed to test this human for a season, and my time is not up yet meddler. Why donít you just go away and letís see if this puny little man really does love your Lord.Ē
ďYouíve already lost that battle, toad. He just thanked my Father for his deliverance from smoking. Now, Iím telling you, leave or Iíll throw you out.Ē
Eli fixed his eyes upon despairs agent and started to move forward. Then, suddenly blocked, he had no choice but to step back as three dark shadows rose from the mattress beneath Rod.
Janet suddenly sat bolt upright in bed and gasped from the sharp jabs that had so unexpectedly attacked her. Clasping both hands to her chest she could not help but let out a small groan of pain. Her skin felt clammy, her heart was racing and her head pounded as she felt the anxiety attack start to engulf her.
Without hesitation she followed the practise that years of her parentís teaching had led her to. She slipped out of bed, pulled her dressing gown around her and instantly got to her knees.
ďJesus, I know that I have no need for anxiety and worry. No matter what happens, You are in control of my life. So please, Holy Spirit, search my heart and reveal the cause of this stress. Show me what I need to surrender and lead me into Your light.Ē
The hands that clasped so deeply into her life were reluctant to let go. And the dark, ominous cloud of petrifying evil moved closer to the praying woman. A slow, steady whisper of deceit started to floe into her heart.
ďYou know your husband hasnít really changed. Heís just pretending. Heís probably drunk. Or stoned. Or both. Heís probably passed out in the lounge room so drunk he couldnít even make the bedroom. Men like that never change and youíre a fool if you believe they do.Ē
Recoiling in horror from the thoughts that had so violently thrust themselves into her presence, the young wife gasped, ďNo! Where did you come from? I reject you as the lies of Satan and I claim the blood of Jesus on my mind and heart right now. In His precious name I command you vile, evil thoughts to leave my life and never return.Ē
The cloud which had so blatantly and horribly attacked one of Godís strong children paid the ultimate price for such folly. It suddenly burst into a million fragments of shattered horror and, as if a powerful vacuum cleaner had instantly been turned on, all of these fragments were pulled into a small dark hole and simply disappeared. A shrill, agonising shriek slowly ebbed away as it followed the pieces of dust to their distant, morbid end.
Sitting on his shield in a corner of the room was a small, angelic being with a smile on his cheeky face. He wore a knowing look of victory and his thoughts were spoken aloud as he rose and walked towards the praying saint. ďThatís my girl. There ainít none of those beasts from hell, no matter how big or tough they pretend to be, can stand against that sort of praying. You keep doing that, honey, and my job will keep getting better and better.Ē
Briefly placing his hand on her shoulder as he walked past, Jeshu, the angel known for his cheeky grin, laid himself out on the bed. Rolling onto his side, he leaned up on one elbow and placed his cheek into the palm of his hand. His confident, happy smile spread across the full width of his face as he whispered to Janet, ďKeep on praying, honey. And donít forget to throw in a word or two for that husband of yours.Ē
One of the shadows that raised itself from Rodís mattress materialised into a large dog that had hands and feet instead of paws. It clasped a sword that smelt of death and had a very nasty glint of blood covering the blade. Another of the shadows which stood some seven feet tall in the room was also a warrior. Dressed in metallic armour and carrying a large mace and shield, it immediately fixed Eli with a glare of hatred. The last misty figure began to solidify and the angel knew that the stakes for Rodís life had suddenly been raised.
This third creature from the swamps of hell was an Inflicter. Deathstrike was seven foot six tall but looked more human than the others; until you looked into his face. The eyes were dark pools of swirling mist. They had no actual substance to them, just a whirlpool of despair that led you into a deep, black hole. He was as broad in the shoulders as a yoke that joined two beasts of burden. His arms were lifted in a two handed grip on the most wicked sword that Eli had ever seen. Curved, and as sharp as hours of honing could make it, this sword had spelt the death of many humans and even more spirits. And Deathstrike was here to fight.
The Inflicter immediately placed himself between the other demons and the angel. ďYou just concentrate on destroying that wormís spirit. Leave this little tad-pole to me.Ē
Eli knew that he would meet the challenge of this angel of darkness, but he also knew that the timing of this fight was not his to decide. He did not back off from Deathstrike, but nor did he rush to meet him. Instead he circled around the Inflicter as he listened with his spiritual ears to Rodís prayers.
The manís mind was doing overtime. He hadnít felt this bad for ages. The questioning of having the lord in his life was confusing him. He was trying to get involved in his Materís work, but people seemed to be so dishonest. Christianity didnít seem to work for so many of them. He wasnít even sure if he believed it all himself anymore.
And that was when he remembered something his pastor had told him recently. ďRod, when you try to go into Godís service you are going to be attacked by the enemy. Satan is not going to give up on you easily and there will be many times of doubt. When this happens, mate, just take some time out for prayer. Go back in your mind and praise God for the last thing you were really sure of. Remember a time when there was a touch of the Lord in your life and praise Him for it. Praise Him and donít stop praising Him until the doubt goes.Ē
Well, wasnít this just such a time? Whatís the point of getting good advice if you donít take it when the time comes? Rod slipped out of bed and knelt beside it. He placed his head into his hands and started to pray.
ďNo you fools! Keep the humanís mind off prayer. Dogly, get in there and bite this stupid believer in the heart.ĒDeathstrikeís words were thrown over his shoulder as he saw the smile start to spread over Eliís face.
ďWell, my friend, it looks like you and I will cross swords after all. I have looked forward to this meeting for a long time. It is going to feel good to dispose of such a vile creature as you.Ē
ďDonít smirk too quickly, you angelic little fool. The humanís prayers may not last long. Besides, they wonít help you to pick up the pieces of your body as I slash them all over this crummy little roomĒ He started to move towards Eli as the other three spirits attacked Rod with their entire arsenal of despair, hopelessness and doubt.
Janetís thoughts were still reeling slightly from the shock of what had just been thrust into them. She continued to talk to the Lord, in an audible voice, as she reached for comfort and reassurance.
ďFather, I know that You gave Rod to me to honour and love. Iím not going to turn that into a shabby failure by distrusting him. If I doubt him, Lord, I doubt you too. You clearly brought us together and blessed our marriage, so I reject these fears and doubts. I choose to believe in You and Your Word. Father, I ask You to forgive and protect me tonight...Ē
As she continued to pray, the angel that lay upon her bed leaned slightly forward and whispered to her. ďPray for Rod now, honey.Ē
But Janetís prayers continued in their thanks for Godís hand in her marriage. And then they flowed atomically into praise for her motherís recovery.
Jeshu dropped the hand that had supported his cheek and sat a little more upright. As he looked with concern in the womanís direction, his voice took on a slightly urgent note. ďItís time for you to pray for Rod now, Janet. I think that man of yours needs your prayers; and he needs them now.Ē
Eli kept looking into those dark pools of sin where eyes should have been. ďWords, Deathstrike, nothing but words. Thatís all prayers are too, you know. Theyíre just words. But as the prayers go up I see your confidence go down. I can see the fear growing on your face. Because you know who else is listening to those words, donít you? And you know what they lead to, hey, my friend? How long will it be before this faithful, little believer is praising God? And then, as the Holy Spirit reaches out to him, my sword will shine with the very righteousness of the Lord. You vile toad from hell, Iím going to skin the flesh from your bones and send you back to the abyss you came from.Ē
Although Rodís prayers had begun to falter under the savage onslaught of the other evil spirits, the Inflicter could control himself no longer. Taunted beyond reason, which of course was Eliís entire plan, he swung his sword for all it was worth at the angelís head.
Janet was relieved at her motherís recovery and she knew this also meant a reprieve for her father. Secretly she had been dreading what would happen if her mother died. Both her parents had a firm relationship with Jesus, so their souls were safe. But they had been together for so long now that she was not sure her father would cope with his wifeís death. She had heard stories of one partner dying and the other following soon after. Right now this coupleís daughter felt that she had a lot to be thankful for.
ďHow about some prayers for Rod, honey?Ē
Of course, her father would have been welcome to move in with her and Rod; and probably will one day. But she was still glad that he had been spared the pain for the moment.
Jeshuís hand fell heavily onto the still kneeling womanís shoulder. He had risen from the bed and was now kneeling beside her as she continued praying. ďIím glad you were taught to count your blessings, lady. But someone should have told you that prayer is as much about listening to God as it is about talking to Him.Ē
Leaning his head slightly over, Jeshu raised his voice into her ear, ďJanet! Itís time to pray for Rod.Ē
On thinking about her father moving in with them, Janet smiled at the thought of her husbandís openness to her parents. He really did love them and was good to them. Her smile widened as she saw his smiling face form in her mind. But her mouth quickly changed shape and she gasped a groan of anguish as she suddenly saw the mental picture change before her. Rising up behind her husbandís head was a dark, ghostly shape that turned her blood cold.
She may have been slow to respond to the call to prayer, but when she did she did it with a vengeance. Invoking the name of Christ into her husbandís life, Janet recognised the hand of God as He called her into spiritual intercession for the man she loved. She was not sure of what her husband was facing, but she knew it was linked to the spiritual contest that had been waiting for her. Ever since they had decided to start working in Godís Kingdom, she had known this time would come. She called upon God to protect and strengthen her husband.
Deathstrike recovered his stance and twisted on the balls of his feet, as any practised sword master would do. Completing the swing and turning full circle he looked around for his henchmen and the expected, severed head of one meddling angel. Instead he found himself facing not one but three angels of light.
He found the head he was looking for alright. But it was still attached to the angelís shoulders and Eli was now at the rear of the angels arrayed against him.
Eli had seen the faintest glint in those dark pools of nothingness that served as the demonís eyes. That was all the warning an experienced warrior needed. At the same instant that the mighty sword of anger flowed over the point where his head had been, he had pirouetted under the blade, ducked beneath the large Inflicter and come up behind him. But he didnít worry about fighting the Inflicter; he saw the perfect opportunity to even the odds somewhat. The other demons had their attention fully on Rod, but not for long.
Eliís sword performed one slicing arc above the head of the nearest evil spirit. It happened to be Dogly, and the sound of the demon leaving this world was very similar to the yelping of an injured hound. Not unlike particles of dust suddenly picked up by a gust of wind, the exploding body of the servant of evil broke into millions of little pieces. Each one then floated into a hole of blackness that was formed in the centre of where its own body had been.
Then there was a flash of light, a blue peaceful light that filled the blackness left by the departing evil. Another angel had come to join the fray. Without hesitation both Eli and his newly arrived companion swung their swords at the other two evil spirits that were still attacking the praying human. Two more piles of dust left this world.
Knowing there was a need to protect their rear, the two angels turned their attention back to Deathstrike. They need not have worried, standing between them and their foe was yet another, newly arrived ally.
ďHi guys. Thought Iíd come and join the party. You know I hate missing out on these affairs; you really should have invited me sooner.Ē Turning his attention to the now very startled Inflicter, Benjamin, the latest angel on the scene, changed his voice to one of great menace. ďDeathstrike, itís been a long time since Iíve seen your ugly face. I hate you with a vengeance, you evil smelling skunk. Iíve seen your handiwork on some of these children of my Lord, and Iíd just like ten seconds with you alone. Come on, step into my space, dogbreath, and give me an excuse to use my sword on your head.Ē
The demon that now stood alone was not sure what galled him the most; the sight of these three angels where his own warriors should have been, or the sound of Rodís voice as it now lifted in praise to God. He was in trouble; but he also knew there was a way out.
If he pushed forward to attack the saint then Eli and his compatriots would have no hesitation in dispatching him from this world. But they were bound by a strange code of honour. If Deathstrike withdrew from his assault upon the humanís faith, and left the scene, Eli and Co. would not attack him; because the actions of angels always centred on the protection and strengthening of believers.
The demonic Inflicter considered this angelic attitude to be nothing but pure weakness. But he had no compunction about using it to save his own hide.
Weary and holding his sword in readiness, he slowly backed away from the small band of angels. ďYou may have won this battle, but the war is far from over. One day this pitiful man will fall into sin; and Iíll be waiting. The slightest chance and Iíll sever this soul from heaven and cleave it to hell.Ē
ďDonít just stand there blabbering your lips, loudmouth. Either take me on or depart. The stench of your presence is offensive and this saint needs peace as he praises our Lord.Ē
Deathstrike lowered his sword arm, gave Rod one last piercing look of hate and then turned to walk away. As he moved towards the wall of the room his figure started to become less solid. His form became faint, the edges seeming to fade into the surrounding background. His body turned into a foggy cloud of darkness.
Quite unexpectedly, in the centre of this fog, Deathstrikeís head rematerialised. His mouth cracked into an evil grin as he laughed in a deep, throaty, sinister way.
ďYou know, it just dawned on me. For every one of these pathetic believers who spend time in prayer, there is another dozen who donít; they feel theyíre just too busy to pray. I donít need to waste my energy on this weed and his wife. I can take my pick of hundreds of easy targets. I can smash a marriage every morning before breakfast and destroy a business for lunch. I can spend my afternoons devouring any of the homeless children left to wander the streets, and still have time to make two drug addicts and an alcoholic before tea. Keep your saintly man of prayer. I donít need him. I have plenty of other fish to fry.Ē
The head that had appeared in the fog so quickly, just as rapidly disappeared. Obviously Deathstrike was suddenly in an urgent hurry to be somewhere. But where?
Who will be next to receive a visit from one of Satanís favourite Inflicters? How many of his friends will he take with him on his next house call? Will there be angels waiting to protect his next victim? And even if there is, will they be invited, by faithful prayer, to join in the spiritual struggle?
Or will the poor believer fight alone, simply too busy to pray?
Until next time...
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