In “The Sound of Music” (1965), Maria says, “When God closes a door, some way he opens a window.” She’s leaving the abbey to work in the home of Captain von Trapp as a governess. Some Christians love this quote. They think when God closes one door, he’ll open another. Or he’ll give us a window to crawl through. I hope it isn’t high. What if no door or window opens? Do we just sit and wait on God? All this ruminating makes me wonder if these passive people have ever practiced spiritual warfare.
If ancient warriors had listened to people like Maria, they wouldn’t have battled long and hard for victory. They wouldn’t have tried to “make a way where there is no way” through doors, walls, and tunnels. They certainly wouldn’t have used battering rams or ladders! Prayer warriors wouldn’t have obtained victory over sin and Satan or won souls for God’s kingdom either.
What do we do when God leads us to a wall or closed door, i.e. a situation or unbeliever? Do we wait for God to open the door or shatter the wall? Do we bang our heads until they give way? Or do we walk away, hoping another door will open? “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).* I think this verse refers to winning souls in prayer. If God brings us to an impasse, a wall or closed door, he’ll remove or open it if we’ll witness, worship, fast, and pray. Some prayer is like banging our heads spiritually. But we can’t passively sit and do nothing or walk away. Then we would forfeit victory.
When Israel approached the Red Sea after fleeing Egypt, Moses said, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (Exodus 14:13). He didn’t walk away from the situation, but God rebuked him. He asked, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (14:15-16). While they’re obeying, God said, “lift up your rod and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it” (14:16). As a result, Israel will pass through the sea “on dry ground” (14:16). God miraculously made a way for Israel, but an obedient Moses used means – a rod. Are we obeying and using means?
A similar thing happened at the Jordan River 40 years later. Joshua told the priests with the ark to go forward (Joshua 3:13). Then the water receded and Israel walked on dry ground (3:16-17). When Elijah and Elisha came to the Jordan, the first prophet hit the water with his mantle (2 Kings 2:8). The water divided and they “crossed over on dry ground” (2:8). Elisha did the same thing after Elijah entered heaven (2:14). All three men obeyed God and used means. They didn’t sit there and do nothing or, worse, walk away from the impasse God had brought them to.
This is just water. How do we take cities? Jericho was a miracle like the Red Sea and Jordan, but God still used the means of an obedient people. They walked once around the walls in silence for six days (Joshua 6:3, 8-14). On day seven, they walked around it seven times and shouted victory (6:4-5, 15-16, 20). Then “the wall fell down flat” (6:20). Unlike the previous generation, Israel didn’t walk away from a promised victory because of Canaan’s giants (Numbers 13:31-14:4). They didn’t passively sit on the ground and wait for God to do something either. Israel obeyed and took action.
King David took some cities 400 years later. Thinking their city was impregnable, the Jebusites of Jerusalem boasted to David that “the blind and the lame will repel you” (2 Samuel 5:6). So he entered it through a water shaft (5:8). David also defeated the Philistines by conquering a city he renamed Baal Perazim, “master of breakthroughs.” David said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water” (5:20). Maybe he thought of the Red Sea and Jordan River miracles. In his final days, David praised God in a psalm. He said, “By you I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall” (22:30, Psalm 18:29). God worked miracles in battle and in prayer, but David obeyed and provided means. He refused to walk away but was willing to conquer walls, even if he had to leap over them.
How do we conquer spiritual enemies? When King Jehoshaphat learned that a multitude planned to fight Israel, he called for a nationwide prayer fast (2 Chronicles 20:1-3). Then he told God, “We don’t know what to do but our eyes are upon you” (20:12). God answered, “You will not need to fight in this battle. … Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (20:17). Some people read passive belief here, but they’re wrong. Jehoshaphat led his army into the wilderness (20:20). As the Levites went before them and worshiped God, he destroyed Israel’s enemies (20:21-22). They wouldn’t have received victory if they’d waited or done nothing.
When she learned of Haman’s plot against the Jews, Esther could have walked away. The king hadn’t called her to enter his presence in the past thirty days (Esther 4:11). Seeing him without being called meant instant death (4:11). But Mordecai knew that Esther was made queen “for such a time as this” (4:14). Willing to perish, she fasted and prayed for three days; she knocked on a closed door (4:16). Then Esther courageously sought the king and made her request (5:1-3). Her prayer prepared the way for his scepter, his permission to live (5:2). God worked a miracle through the king’s sleepless night, making Haman honor Mordecai (chap. 6). Esther still fasted, prayed, and prepared banquets. She obeyed God and provided means.
How do we turn spiritual enemies into friends? Some are like Pharaoh and Haman, others like Nebuchadnezzar and Paul. Only through prayer can we discern the difference. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus was a sudden miracle. What everyone seems to miss is that people behind the scenes prayed. The Bible doesn’t record the scattered saints who asked God to save Paul or kill him, but they still prayed. No conversion happens without it. When they hear “closed door,” some Christians point to Paul’s attempt to preach in Asia (Acts 16:6-7). Yes, God wouldn’t let him preach there and then opened a door to Macedonia through a vision (16:9). But he never led Paul and his company to Asia. That was their idea. Paul didn’t stay in Troas either! He immediately obeyed the vision and went to Macedonia (16:10).
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). “I have set before you an open door and no one can shut it” (Revelation 3:8). What does this mean? When God leads us to a wall or closed door, he’ll make a way. Sometimes we must bang our heads and fists! But we can’t walk away from the impasse. We can’t be cowardly or lazy either, choosing “the path of least resistance.” We must witness, worship, fast, and pray. Only then will God work a miracle and give us victory.
* All Scripture verses are NKJV, unless otherwise noted.