In times of community tragedy even the most religiously indifferent political leader has expressed “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” This expression universally conveys sympathy, compassion, and heartfelt concern. But there has been times when a nation or state has faced a looming threat largely out of their control where its leaders have actually called its citizens to pray for this threat to be averted. One of the more famous examples of this was when the newly appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, announced a national day of prayer for the fate of the three hundred and thirty-eight thousand British and French troops on the beaches of Dunkirk who were facing certain annihilation from their approaching enemy. What immediately resulted was either a remarkable coincidence or an answer to the prayers of a nation!
When Paul said that “we wrestle” against “cosmic powers” that were not “flesh and blood”, what was really saying? In the previous verse, Ephesians 6:11, he describes these forces as being a part of the “schemes of the devil”. It seems that Paul had a very keen sense of the demonic real that was at work in attempting to hinder, destroy, and distort the work of the Kingdom of God on earth. He wrote to the Corinthians and told them that they were not “not ignorant of his (Satan’s) schemes” (2Cor. 2:11). He told the Thessalonians that he was hindered by Satan from coming to them earlier (1Thess. 2:18). And while there are a few other references in Paul’s epistles to Satan, it is perhaps surprising just how little attention the New Testament pays to the topic of Satan. But based on what Paul told us about Satan, it appears that the devilish work of Satan is still in operation, and if my reading of Revelation 20 is correct, there are good reasons for thinking that this might get worse in the days to come.
I am fascinated by history and particularly the history of past empires and the lessons to be learned from why an empire arose; and, why an empire collapsed. (I sit the final exam for this course next week.) This leads me to reflect on the most common I answer I get from people when I ask them, “What was/is your least favourite subject at school?” So far, my polling sample is unanimous with their reply: History! Some schools incorporate their history subjects into Social Studies (“Sose”) which sounds to me like they are trying to hide the foul tasting medicine capsules inside a chocolate cake! Another associated question I often ask adults is in two parts: (i) Can you remember anything you learnt in school? (ii) Have you learnt more when you were at school, or after you finished school? The answers I get to the first part of this two-part question is mixed, but the answer I get to the second part of the question is always the same: “I have learned way more things since I left school” This raises another question I then sometimes ask – How do you learn things? And that’s the question I’m going to ask you now.