This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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How can we fight against the devil’s attacks? What are the weapons of spiritual warfare?
In her book Battlefield of the Mind, Joyce Meyer shares her ideas about how we can fight off Satan’s attacks and cultivate a positive mind that is aligned with God’s way of thinking. She believes that scripture, praise, and prayer are our primary weapons.
Continue reading to learn more about these three ways to fight against the devil.
Our Weapons Against Negativity
What are the weapons of spiritual warfare? Meyer explains that God’s written word (scripture), praise, and prayer are our primary weapons against Satan’s negativity.
Meyer argues that the written word of God provides us with an arsenal of positive messages that we can use when our mind is under attack from the devil. She explains that consequently, the more time we spend thinking about and studying the written word, the easier it will be for us to fight off Satan—when we know scripture well, we can easily recall helpful passages from the Bible to apply to any situation where Satan tries to corrupt our thoughts.
In addition to helping us recall God’s messages when we need them, Meyer proposes that when we can apply the meaning of scripture to our lives, our protection from negativity becomes more powerful. She explains that there are “treasures” and “secrets” hidden in the written word that we can reveal only by taking the time to think deeply about its meaning. The more time we spend studying scripture, the more we’ll get out of it. She explains that when she reads and meditates on a familiar passage of scripture, she often finds new meaning in it that she had never seen before.
|Finding Meaning in Scripture|
Meyer’s discussion of gleaning deeper meaning from scripture downplays the academic rigor required to interpret the Bible correctly, and therefore weakens her argument that we can rely on scripture to fight Satan. Most readers don’t have the theological training or expertise to reliably uncover personal meaning from the Bible that is consistent with the text’s original meaning, and thus, simply reading the Bible is often not enough to properly interpret it.
Jason DeRouchie, a professor of biblical theology, explains that the role of scripture is not to create meaning for readers but to convey meaning. Our job as readers is not to use scripture to generate meaning for our lives. Rather, our job is to read scripture as scholars of a historical text, compiled over generations, written by many authors, in many languages, and rich in political and cultural history. Just as we would be met with raised eyebrows if we gave “our version” of World War 2 in history class, we are not each academically invited to have “our version” of scripture.
DeRouchie outlines specific instructions for how to interpret scripture accurately. These include studying its grammar, the translation of keywords, and its historical and literary context, among others. From this, we can see that to get the deeper meaning of scripture takes active academic study. We can enjoy reading scripture independently and are free to interpret it as we choose. But to understand the Bible in the Christian tradition and to claim the authority to interpret it accurately is a rigorous undertaking.
Meyer writes that the quickest way to defeat the devil is with praise for God that comes from the heart. Praise is the expression of gratitude and appreciation for all God has done for us. It’s powerful because it represents true thankfulness for God’s blessings in our life, given without reservation, and coming from a place of peace and contentment. If we’re truly thankful and content regardless of our circumstances, there will be no place where the devil can penetrate our minds.
|The Power of Words|
Not only do our thoughts shape our reality, as Meyer proposes, but the specific words we choose have generative power—that is, they create our circumstances. When we talk to other people, we do this carefully and consciously, because we know what sort of relationship we’re trying to cultivate with them and we choose words that reflect that desire. However, the way we talk to ourselves often lacks the same care. While this may not seem like a big deal, psychologists believe that the way we talk (and think) to ourselves has an impact on our mental health.
Experts propose that making even subtle shifts in our self-talk can change our life. For example, if we substitute the phrase “I have to” with “I get to,” we’ll emphasize opportunity over obligation. And instead of saying (or thinking) that we’re “going” through something difficult, we might say we’re “growing” through something difficult. In this way, we can feel empowered rather than victimized and grateful rather than discontented.
Psychologists thus argue that, by using more optimistic language, we can lead happier lives, mirroring Meyer’s view that simply changing our language may make us better able to praise God for the positives we have in life. By speaking positively, even if our circumstances haven’t changed, we’ll be less susceptible to negativity.
Meyer also writes that we can grow our relationship with God through prayer, a third form of the word of God. Meyer explains that prayer can take multiple forms. We can pray with our mind, with our spirit, and with our mind and spirit simultaneously.
Praying With Our Mind
Meyer explains that praying with our mind starts with rational thoughts. For example, we may hear about something on the news and decide to pray for those involved. This type of prayer is valuable because it directly connects our prayer life to everyday life. But, Meyer explains that it can sometimes be overly rational and emotionless.
(Shortform note: While Christian tradition does not divide prayer into the same categories as Meyer, her description of praying with her mind most closely parallels the types of prayer that Catholics would call “petition” [which is asking God for the things we need] and “intercession” [which is praying on behalf of others].)
Praying With Our Spirit
In contrast to rational prayer from our mind, Meyer explains that prayer that comes from our spirit is all about our feelings. When we pray with our spirit, emotions too deep or abstract to put into words to flow out of us. Sometimes these feelings are our own; for example, we may pray with our spirit about a deep sense of longing that we cannot rationally explain.
Meyer explains that the feelings our spirits pray about sometimes come directly from the Holy Spirit. She explains that the Holy Spirit can guide us to pray about something God wants us to focus on, but our rational mind has yet to understand. Meyer refers to this as praying “in tongues”.
(Shortform note: The practice of speaking in tongues is often referred to as glossolalia [from the Greek for tongue]. It is most common in the Pentecostal Christian tradition, which Meyer represents. Some followers of this tradition [including Meyer] maintain that speaking in tongues is a “supernatural outpouring” from the Holy Spirit, which can then be interpreted by oneself or another member of the congregation for the benefit of the larger group.)
Praying With Our Mind and Spirit Together
When we accept the Holy Spirit as our guide, we can pray with our mind and spirit united. Meyer explains that this type of prayer is particularly powerful because it allows our thoughts and feelings to work together. For example, a prayer that starts as rational thought, say, “God, please help the victims of the hurricane,” can turn into a more profound prayer when we feel connected to the issue through our spirit.
The Holy Spirit can also help our rational mind make sense of prayers from our spirit. For example, Meyer explains that the Holy Spirit may call us to pray about something we don’t fully understand. If our minds and spirits work together, the Holy Spirit’s message may take a more coherent shape.
(Shortform note: In her discussion of prayer, Meyer does not mention the Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer). Christian understanding of prayer comes from this prayer in particular. For Christians, it serves as a model for how people “should” speak to God, inviting them to pray with both their minds and their spirits. It is the foundational Christian prayer and is the only prayer that Jesus actually taught His followers to pray. Readers who, after reading Meyer’s description of prayer, might not know where to start in their own prayer life, can start there.)
|Meditation and Prayer|
Both Meyer and the Catholic Church caution against equating prayer with eastern non-Christian meditation. Meyer explains that many Christians are “fearful” of the term “meditation” because they associate it with “pagan” and “occult” religions. She casts meditation in this context in a firmly negative light, calling it a “perversion” by Satan for the purposes of evil.
The Catholic church takes a more diplomatic view of the desire of many modern Christians to incorporate meditation into their lives. Some Catholic scholars attribute the increased popularity of meditation and eastern religions to people’s desire for connection in our largely technologically-based culture. However, while it has many benefits, meditation in the context of eastern religions does not foster a connection to God in the Christian tradition for multiple reasons.
The Christian faith is based on a relationship with God. For Christians, prayer is a way of tapping into and strengthening that relationship. As such, prayer requires two entities (us and God). Many forms of meditation invite practitioners to focus on themselves, their physical bodies, their breath, and so on as a means of connecting with divinity. Leaving God out of the equation means that mediation, by definition, cannot be a Christian prayer.
Meditation often focuses on transcending this worldly plane to tap into the divine. But Christians believe that God’s love (the Holy Spirit) and his literal presence (Jesus) are/were here on Earth. Therefore, Christians don’t need to transcend daily life to find God, and to suggest that they do would be to reject a central tenet of the Christian faith.
The authors do note that the increased interest in meditation and eastern religions has had the benefit of making more people realize that the position of their body influences their prayers. They explain that we can use body positions to add meaning and depth to our prayer life. For example, breathing practices can promote relaxation and overall engagement during prayer, and our body position during a prayer can act as a symbol of its meaning. However, they caution that feelings of relaxation or other physical sensations resulting from a physical component of prayer should not be interpreted as a literal connection with the Holy Spirit.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Battlefield of the Mind summary :
- How the Devil makes it his mission to corrupt our minds with negative thoughts
- How to recognize the signs that Satan is attacking your mind
- How to thwart Satan’s attacks and find happiness and fulfillment