Should Christians Pray Against Territorial Spirits? (podcast)
Greg considers geographical spiritual warfare.
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Dan Kent: Di asks a very involved question so I’m going to do my best to get to the point. It’s a good question. “You responded to a contributor in a Four Views book called, Understanding Spiritual Warfare. On one of those pages you flesh out this idea by saying, ‘Given the complete lack of biblical precedent, it seems unwise for disciples to ever make praying against territorial powers a centerpiece of their ministry.’’ And so Di says that her study group, they all agree on that, but then you go on to talk about the strategic level deliverance model and you write this: “Adopting the God-trusting, self- sacrificial and always counter-cultural lifestyle of Jesus, is the primary way that we wage war against the fallen powers and express the unique authority that we have in Christ.
There’s nothing wrong with praying against powers, but our all-consuming focus should be on manifesting Jesus’ victory over the fallen powers by living the way that he did.” So what Di wants to know is this: “Can you elaborate on ‘there’s nothing wrong with praying against the powers’? And how do you suggest that we do that? Should we
ever command them directly in Jesus’ name, or should we ask God to rebuke them? What are your thoughts and guidance in this aspect of spiritual warfare?
Greg: Thanks, Di. That’s an important question. It’s one that has been debated a lot. My core conviction is that the primary way that we do battle against the powers—Jesus said our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers—is by how we live and how we love and being counter-cultural; not acquiescent to systemic parts of our society that are anti-Christ. We’re fighting the powers when we resist consumerism. We’re fighting the powers when we resist convenience when it’s beneficial to the earth or animal kingdom to do that. We sacrifice for them. You’re pushing back on the powers that are always telling us, “You should have it your way, as convenient as possible, have your best life now, and all the rest.” So that’s the primary way that we resist them. And it is true that you don’t find any precedent, or not much precedent (I’ll say a word about that in a second), but a precedent of humans taking on the powers.
In Daniel 10 you have Daniel praying and it takes 21 days for the angel to arrive; the angel tried to get there and says “Oh, I was detained by the Prince of Persia, now I’ve got to go back because the Prince of Greece is going to join.” This is spiritual warfare going on in the heavenly realms that delayed the answer to prayer to Daniel. But the angel doesn’t say, “Hey, I want you to join in this battle. That territorial kind of realm is angelic warfare kind of stuff. Ours is more at a ground level sort of thing. And then you have in Jude this strange passage where they are fighting over the body of Moses, I think it’s Jude 6, he doesn’t say I rebuke you to the devil, he says, ‘the Lord rebuke you.’ And Jude makes a point of this. He makes it sound like it is arrogant to think you can rebuke the
Dan: It’s Jude 1:9. “But even the archangel, Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’”
Greg: Right. So even Michael, the archangel, even he doesn’t say, “I rebuke you,” but “The Lord rebuke you.” How much more should we be saying, “The Lord rebuke you.”
And that presents a very strong argument. On the other hand, you have Jesus rebuking the storm when he gets in the boat and the storm arises. Part of what’s going on there, this is Mark 5, part of what’s going on is that—I make this case in the book, God at War—Mark is drawing parallels between Yahweh trampling the seas in the Old Testament and now Jesus is controlling the sea in the New Testament. So he’s presenting Jesus as the sea-trampling deity of the Old Testament. And the sea, of course, in Semitic thought, representing chaos personified. The Lord always rebuked the raging waters. It’s how they thought about principalities and powers, basically. So here Jesus is rebuking principalities and powers. So you can go one of two ways on this. You can say, “He’s doing that because he is Yahweh, and therefore he has the authority to say, ‘I rebuke you,’ whereas we don’t. Or is he operating out of his perfect humanity and modeling the kind of authority that we all can have if we just had enough faith? And that seems to be the case because he just rebuked his disciples for not having enough faith. And so you could say that Jesus took on the powers, then we can too. You know, my two cents, I don’t have any real trouble if someone’s going to say, “We bind Satan.”
I pray that way sometimes. “If there are any forces of evil that are involved in a person’s life, we bind them in Jesus’ name, we take authority over them.” I think we have that kind of authority. And if that goes into talking about the powers, it doesn’t bother me, as long as we’re not a) getting arrogant, and b) we’re not spending a whole lot of time on it. You know, if it comes out in a prayer, fine. But some folks, some high profile folks, have made entire ministries out of this. Peter Wagner and others: you have to go into an area, you have to identify the territorial spirits, you’ve got to tear down those territorial spirits, the whole thing is focused on that. And that I think is not biblical and not wise.
So that’s I guess what I would say about that.
Dan: That’s good. Thanks, Di!
Greg: You know, one time, talking about not getting arrogant, I remember I met a guy at this youth retreat I was doing. In fact, it’s the only youth retreat I’ve ever done. One was enough for me. Talking to Junior High students is brutal. I don’t know how—I have such respect for youth pastors. Because, you know, adults, if they’re bored, they’ll try to be decent and at least pretend. But Junior High students, man if they’re bored, they yawn, they lay down, they just ignore you, you know. It’s rough. There was a guy, a youth pastor, he was one of the speakers, he claimed that the reason—he explained to these kids what the Berlin Wall was all about, and then he claimed that the reason the Berlin Wall came down—no, wait, he was talking about Gorbachev and this was when Communism was cratering out—and it was because he took authority over the Prince of Russia and rebuked it in Jesus’ name. There was a principality over Russia and he rebuked it and that’s why it allowed Gorbachev now to bring an end to — he was claiming to be the devil’s worst enemy. I thought, man you are setting yourself up for a fall. I actually talked with him a little bit about this after the conference, that he needed to kind of back off a little bit. That’s not a good model for our kids to be following.
Dan: There were a lot of other evils going on in the world at that time. If he had that kind of power—People talk about why doesn’t God intervene? Why doesn’t Jeff intervene or Todd, or —
Greg: Well, that’s it. It’s like “Someone’s finally thought of it. Gosh, why didn’t we think of that before? Someone should just rebuke him.