Words have power. Words are mighty instruments to construct but also great weapons to deconstruct. With words, mountains can be erected, and with words, they can be razed. With words, things can be called into existence, and with words, they can be recalled into nothingness. The power of words must not be underestimated. Words have as much power to build as they have to destroy.
St. James elucidated the negative power of words in his Epistle:
“So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell” (James 3:5–6).
That even the words of men are very powerful indicates that the words of Him from whom the Eternal Word proceeded can be exceedingly mighty. This was evidenced by the act of God when the earth was formless and void and darkness covered the surface of the deep. He then called things into being, and they came to be.
John the Evangelist expressed this awesome manifestation of the power of words in the first chapter of his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (1:1–3). It was this same Word that God sent to Mary through the angel Gabriel. Mary received this word by pronouncing her own word: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). As soon as this fiat was pronounced, the Word became flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
By this same power of the word, God can call things back from being. The psalmist professed: “Thou turnest man back to the dust, and sayest, ‘Turn back, O children of men!’ ” (Ps. 90:3). Jesus recalled from being many sicknesses in many people through the power of the word and controlled the force of nature, when necessary, by the same power.
Sword of the Spirit
It is for this reason of the awesome power residing in words that St. Paul describes the word of God as the sword of the Spirit. In warfare, swords could be used to attack and to defend oneself or comrades. However, one could have a perfect sword for one’s purpose but lack the knowledge of using it to achieve the desired ends. Therefore, before a soldier can wield the sword to produce desired results, he must first spend time and effort to become acquainted with the art of using the sword. This means that he must believe in what the sword can accomplish and carefully learn how to put it to good use.
An intercessor must, in the same way, understand primarily the power in the Word of the Master and secondarily the power in his own words. He must equally learn the art of using the Word and his own words, too, in order to hit the desired targets. We will use a few passages from Scripture to highlight first the force an intercessor can set in motion when he properly uses the word of God as a sword and later his own words.
Any word that goes out of the mouth of God is destined to achieve a purpose, and it must of consequence fulfill its destiny, no matter how much opposition it may encounter. Consequently, it is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the things for which I sent it” (55:11). This is possible because the word of the Master travels with “lightning and thunder.”
The psalmist puts it in a very interesting way: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars. The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert. The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare” (Ps. 29:3–9 NIV).
In the same way, Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” This text expresses the dual function of the word of God. It cuts across the spiritual and the physical. When it is set in motion, it must arrive at its destination whether it is within the human physical world (bone and marrow) or in the depth of the spiritual domain (soul and spirit).
The word of God has accordingly no barrier whatsoever. Nothing can stop it from achieving its purpose or getting to its destination. Thus, the Lord says, “I work and who can hinder it?” (Isa. 43:13). No force can frustrate the power in the word of God. The mission of Jesus on earth was evidenced by the rampaging power of His words. Just a few examples will suffice:
- “Taking her by the hand He said to her, ‘Talitha cumi’; which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up and walked” (Mark 5:41–42).
- “And He came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up and began to speak. And He gave him to his mother” (Luke 7:14–15).
- “When He had said this, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’ ” (John 11:43–44).
Those who acknowledge the authority of words exploit it in their relation to the word of God. This is how it becomes a sword for an intercessor. An intercessor should take a lesson from the Roman centurion, who sent a message to Jesus to heal his servant.
The Roman Centurion and the Power in Words (Luke 7:1–10)
A Roman centurion had a servant who was at the point of death. He wished he could help the servant live. He was told of Jesus. He sent messengers immediately to some Jewish elders to go to Him on his behalf and plead that He might come and heal his servant.
When these elders came to the Master, they pleaded earnestly with Him with the following argument: “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.” The elders tried to put up a convincing argument. They showed their belief in the Master, that He had the power to do what they were requesting of Him, and supported their request with the fact that the centurion was a good man.
Jesus heard their plea and set out to visit the house of the centurion and heal his servant. But then a very surprising thing happened. The centurion sent messengers to stop Jesus from coming to his house.
What was his reason? His message read: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore, I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.” What a humble man! His attitude shows already how he sees Jesus in relation to himself. He holds Him in high honor and respect. With this message, he expressed his deep reverence for the Master. Though he did not want Jesus to come under his roof, he, nevertheless, needed Him to heal his servant. Thus, he added in his message, “For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
This is an extraordinary insight and manifestation of faith in the power of words (not necessarily the word of God). This man understands very deeply what we can accomplish with words when we have the authority to use them. A man under authority has the power to use words according to his office and achieve his desired ends. The centurion knows this and equally knows that Jesus is a man under greater authority. He expresses the fact that it is clear to Him that the authority of Jesus is more sublime and expansive than his.
A centurion has power over a limited number of soldiers, but Jesus has power over nature, over all creation, including sickness. It then follows from his perception that Jesus needed only to use His authority, give the necessary orders through His word, and the sickness of his servant, like the soldiers under him, would obey. Then his servant would be healed. His understanding deeply surprised the Master. He was highly impressed by this centurion’s rare knowledge and insight and praised his faith.
An intercessor requires this level of conviction and faith in the power of the word, primarily in the word of God and secondarily in his own words. If he does not use the word of the Master with absolute faith and pronounce it with total conviction in its efficacy, the power in the Word will remain inactive.
In the same way, he should believe that he is the weapon of war of the Lord and should make decrees in the name of the Lord as one under authority. Studying the ministry of the prophets and how the New Testament speaks of the use of words (divine and human) will give us insight into how an intercessor should wield the power in words to make things happen.
Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in The Art of Spiritual Warfare: The Secret Weapons Satan Can’t Withstand, which is available from Sophia Institute Press.