Prayer And Spiritual Warfare
– Excerpted with permission from the highly recommended book –
The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church by Jerry Trousdale & Glenn Sunshine.
(Kindle Locations 2399-2469, from Chapter 9 “Abundant Prayer”)
Disciple Making Movements are not a program, not a strategy or a curriculum. It is simply a movement of God. Without Him, there is nothing. That is why all discussion about Disciple Making Movements begin with Prayer and Fasting. Our Sovereign God is passionately pursuing the lost to bring them to himself. Prayer and Fasting allows us to align ourselves with Him. There will be no results if we are walking in our own strength and according to our own resources. God says, “Ask me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” Also, “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses . . . .” Behind any success in planting churches and making disciples there is a lot of prayer and a lot of fasting, a lot of bending knees, a lot of crying and weeping before God. This is where the victory is won and then when you go on the field you see the results.
—Younoussa Djao, Engage! Africa video series
PRAYER AND SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Prayer is a critical element of the spiritual warfare that we face daily. It seems sometimes, that from the moment we open our eyes and open our phones to look at the news until the moment we tuck into bed at night and search for a movie to watch before evening prayers, we are inundated with sin— spiritual warfare is so commonplace that not only can we not ignore it, we hardly notice it anymore. Furthermore, the church in the Global North often ignores the reality of demonic activity, but the churches of the Global South cannot.
A man whom we’ll call Gonda is a church planter in a central African country. He has seen God bring about miraculous outcomes in Central Africa, and he has survived and thrived in difficult situations. He told us that he has four principles that have shaped his ministry: 1. For him, everything depends on prayer, and listening to God’s voice; 2. He searches for people of peace; 3. When he finds them he catalyzes Discovery Bible Studies; 4. And he coaches and mentors his disciples, other leaders, and new churches so that they all reproduce themselves.
Gonda had heard about a town named Hante. It was a fairly closed community that engaged in a horrific business of murder and exportation of human blood and body parts to other countries for demonic purposes. The town did not tolerate strangers very well. And Gonda’s research suggested that some people had not survived a visit to that community.
So Gonda began to pray to God on behalf of this town. He knew the risk of seeking to bring the Kingdom of God into this place, but God had encouraged him in this endeavor, so the only thing to do was pray and obey— and do some more research.
He learned that the community’s chief was very deep into ancestral fetishes that gave him supernatural abilities to get right into the middle of a herd of elephants, then summoning his helpers. People feared him and his mystical powers.
Gonda prayed for guidance and waited.
Soon, he met a Christian woman who lived in the town of Hante. The moment he met the woman, he sensed that the Lord’s clear calling to start the process. She wanted to see the Gospel engaged there, but she worried that her community was just too much of a challenge. Gonda came up with a plan to start first with a village seven kilometers away. He figured it could be a staging place to get close enough to Hante to explore and prayer walk around the area.
Finally, on a Saturday afternoon, he made the journey to the “staging” village with two young disciples that he was coaching and mentoring, hoping to sleep there. But a former pastor happened to meet them on the way, and when he learned of their intentions, he insisted on taking them directly to Hante, to the target village itself. Gonda sensed that the pastor was a person of peace who could introduce them to the villagers, so he agreed to the change of plans.
It was well after dark when the exhausted men trudged into Hante— and it did not feel at all safe. But it helped that they were escorted by someone who was already known in the village, especially when the pastor told the people that his friends were storytellers who told the stories of the Creator God.
It was already 10: 00 at night, but the people who had first gathered to accost the group of strangers now insisted that they wanted to hear one of their stories; then they would judge whether or not they could stay. The residents built a fire and the men started telling the stories of the Bible, beginning with Creation and moving through the great narratives of the Old Testament and into the Gospels, all along giving the people time to discover what it all might mean for them if it was true. Sometimes Gonda would even sing a worship song and people would begin to dance. And so it went on for a couple of hours. At about two a.m. people started to leave the fire— but not to sleep. They rushed off to awaken their families to come and hear the wonderful stories.
Eventually, approximately 150 people were gathered around the fire listening to chronological storytelling of the Bible. Gonda had never expected that people would stay awake all night to hear the stories, but he and his disciples were thrilled for this surprising development.
Later, people reported that they stayed all night because they had a deep fear of dying, and these stories about the Supreme God resonated within their hearts. There were families among the group whose ancestors had done terrible things and some of them were still doing these things. They felt cursed and afraid, but they were intrigued with the stories— almost as if the stories were the first lifeline to hope and salvation they’d ever received. Whenever it seemed like the stories might end, these families insisted that the men continue.
During the night, the elephant hunter (who was also chief of the village) fell ill. He went to a local animistic priest but there was no help for the chief. He knew that something was happening in the town but he was too sick to check on it. The disciple makers were told of the town chief’s illness and they knew that some of them should go to him and pray so that he would know that there was a greater power than his fetishes. By God’s grace, with the disciple makers by his side, he experienced an immediate healing, and decided to attend the early morning storytelling.
The Bible storytelling did not end at daybreak or even at noon— it went on until three p.m.— seventeen hours of Bible storying from Creation to Jesus enthroned in Heaven. During all of that time, the team of disciple makers were amazed that the people were eager to give so much time and energy to this non-stop Chronological Bible Study.
Dialogue and Discovery Bible studies went on for two weeks, after which, the chief decided to become the community’s first Christ Follower. He called a gathering of the town, confessed many sins including his fetishes, brought out all of his occult devices, and destroyed them before receiving baptism. More than forty more were baptized soon after, and a church was birthed in the village. Eventually, 280 people were baptized. Then the chief travelled to the other villages in the region to tell them of the loving Creator God who heals, forgives, and changes peoples’ heart. Miraculously, with each visit, more churches were planted.
Gonda reports that, in the new town, people began to explain why they had become Christ Followers, simply stating, “We have discovered the Creator God who is very powerful!” In the new town, Christ Followers continued to grow and thrive with more answered prayers and evidence of the love of Jesus. A few months later, a rebel war caused all the villagers, many of whom had become Christ Followers, to evacuate to a much larger town for safety.
The story ends there, except for one remarkable detail. In the town that the team had originally intended to use as a staging area, there was a very large temple dedicated to the town’s goddess— a malevolent presence who, the residents believed, periodically caused people to die when near the temple. The pastor whom the team had met on the road, the man who had been their person of peace to enter Hante in the first place— that pastor had been emboldened by what God was doing in the region, and he spent three days of fasting and prayer. Then, one Monday morning at eight a.m., he walked to the center of that “staging area” town— and he personally burned down the temple. Most of the residents were certain that he would die, but he didn’t.
Thanks to that incident, powered by God through Hante’s persistent prayer, there was a surge of momentum among Christ Followers, as the worship of the goddess went into decline.
THE DESTRUCTION OF SATAN’S KINGDOM
This story illustrates that Jesus’ ministry was not to deliver a new philosophy or religion; it was to destroy the kingdom of Satan. Jesus ended one of His dialogues with the Pharisees with these words: “How can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house” (Matt. 12: 29). It is Jesus’ intent to destroy the works of Satan and his minions, and for Kingdom people to rescue others from darkness in order to populate the Kingdom of God.