Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Target of our Prayers?

I just had to buy this beer the other day. I really was out for a Guinness. Even in bottle I prefer a Guinness. Beer just doesn't do it for me generally - except in some fine micro-breweries. I think there is something about the carbonation in beer which makes it feel like a bad soda to me. But Guinness...Okay I've digressed before I got started.

So here's my non-nitrogenated post:

I'm returning to my spiritual warfare thoughts from previous days.

In my city many Christians have gathered over the last twenty to thirty years to pray against the spirit(s) which rule over the city. Typically the "spirit of witchcraft" is cast out. Demons are wrestled in prayers of tongue-talking Pentecostals (I speak as being one), people see visions of clouds in the sky opening up to allow God's Spirit to move, revival is prophesied, and the businesses of local Witches are cursed with such words as "dry up their business! drive these foul spirits from our city!" A little shouting, and a few prophecies later people pat themselves on the back, and remark on the powerful gathering. The saints are pleased with some unseen window in heaven which has been opened, now allowing the Church to prosper.

Prayer walks have covered the streets of our city. Prayer mapping has attempted to identify the spiritually significant places which hold the keys to breaking the bondage of Witchcraft in our city. Witchcraft shops have been anointed with oil.

Since those prayers began Halloween has increased in size. The number of occultic events have increased. Some Witchcraft shops have closed only to make room for others to take their place.

So the meetings continue, and leaders gather to talk about the need for more prayer, more warfare, and more unity being the only hope for our city to return to its goodly godly destiny.

It seems to me that more of the same which has not worked is a little like a rich man throwing more money at his children when what they really need is time and love. Am I missing something?

I believe that the way we act in the prayer closet sets up our hearts for how we behave in public toward those who are the target of our prayers - and "targets" they have been too often. What are they being targeted for? For cursing? For being publicly branded as transgressors? For being driven out like heretics in an inquisition hearing? How close is a prayer of cursing to a public flogging, or a burning? Is it possible that prayers of cursing carry the same seed of fear, superstition, and maybe even hatred which fomented the Burning Times, the Inquisition, and the darkest hours of the Crusades?

Could it be that the answer to touching people's hearts with the love of God is found in another prayer, another attitude, and another set of actions altogether?

What do you think?

16 comments:

John Smulo said...

Phil,

I'm glad to see you posting more on spiritual warfare. I think this is a subject that we don't think through often enough.

I see spiritual "warfare" as living the life God would have me live. The best way to resist Satan is to not give in to the life he would have me live.

Using Ephesians 6 as a model, it says to me that I need to do "warfare" offensively, and not merely defensively.

I think that we've missed something important if we think that our only interaction with witches, or anyone, is supposed to be about shutting them down from afar.

Instead, I think spiritual warfare here is about hloving and living like Jesus would.

Pastor Phil said...

Being a Pentecostal (or perhaps a Neo-Pentecostal, or an Emo-Petecostal, or something like that) I feel as though there is a great deal of unlearning to be done, before learning can occur in balance.

I agree that right living is a primary activity of spiritual warfare, and living in proximity to those we hope to touch is all the more important in this model of Christianity

Shiloh Guy said...

Phil,

I have been away from your blog for far too long! I will not let that happen again! Your blog NEVER fails to challenge and intrigue me. Thanks for taking the time!

Back in the '70s I got all caught up in the extrabiblical spiritual warfare syndrome. I've been rethinking it for a long time. I'm sure of only one thing, I don't know everything!

I really appreciate hearing your experiences and perspective. I wonder why people think the witches and neo-pagans whom you know and love are more lost than the people who don't believe in any god who live on my street.

Keep writing, brother! You encourage me!

Dave Moorhead

Shiloh Guy said...

I guess I didn't know you were from Southern California! I grew up in Long Beach. My folks live in Temecula now.

So are you a USC fan?

Dave

Pastor Phil said...

I sometimes wonder if they are not more lost, but perhaps less. With a slight change in our Christian vocabulary, and attitude I find that there are many of whom Jesus might have said, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." (I just had to get all King Jimmy for the sake of sounding holier.)

I find myself deconstructing my Christianity for the sake of discovering the simplicity of the Gospel. It happens to be that spiritual warfare is one of those prime targets for deconstruction, because I have been a Pentecostal pastor for 21 years.

Thanks for the encouragement bro.

Pastor Phil said...

I grew up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA! :-) L.A. was North to me. Anything North of Orange County was another world. So I never rooted for any team from the L.A. area - college or pro. In fact, since I loved watching hoops, and San Diego could not keep a team, I ended becoming a Celtics fan - and hey now I live near Boston. Anathema to you, I know.

I know Temecula well, and have many friends there. Hmmmmm...so many changes in the last 7 years, I am not sure how well I know it anymore.

I spent most of my life in North San Diego County. Somewhere from Lake Wohlford to Carlsbad.

Steve Hayes said...

Something worth remembering, when we are consciously engaged in spiritual warfare, is Solzhenitsyn's words:

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil. It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.

Spiritual warfare directed entirely at "them" lays me open to the devil.

Pastor Phil said...

Targeted spiritual prayer warfare is similar to "smart bombs." As much as they are directed specifically, they go astray at one moment, and kill unwanted passerbys at another.

It must certainly be a tactic of the enemy of our souls to make us target one another. By one another I mean the human race, and am not limiting this to Christians only.

John Smulo said...

Steve,

I appreciate your words that "spiritual warfare directed entirely at "them" lays me open to the devil." There's a lot of wisdom there.

Pastor Phil said...

John Paul Jackson's book "Unecessary Casualties of War" is a really good read on this very subject of being "[laid] open to the devil" by means of misdirected spiritual warfare tactics. Although it primarily deals with the concept of wrestling with dark forces, it has some direct examples of people
experiencing unecessary trouble due to their prayer activities.

There are people all around Pentecostal and Charismatic circles who are challenging the strange practices. Some have hurt themselves by doing it, some have simply seen through the facade of pseudo-spiritualized aggression.

Adam Gonnerman said...

I'm glad you posted on this topic. I lived in a town in Missouri a decade ago where friends from a Pentecostal church did "Jericho drives," circling the city over a period of days in a van while praying for the Spirit's outpouring.

They burned a lot of gas.

I've been thinking a lot about incarnational ministry and spiritual warfare lately, and I'm more and more convinced that in our post-modern times the most effective way to make inroads against the Enemy is through forming relationships, sharing the Good News in word and deed, and praying. There's no way to do it without directly engaging people with the Good News.

It bothers me to see believers in Christ doing everything possible to open the windows of heaven so that they themselves won't have to listen respectfully to someone different and be challenged to embody the message of Christ.

The most powerful demonstration of the Spirit in our times...or any times, I believe, is the fruit of the Spirit in a redeemed life.

"By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things" (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV).

Pastor Phil said...

"It bothers me to see believers in Christ doing everything possible to open the windows of heaven so that they themselves won't have to listen respectfully to someone different and be challenged to embody the message of Christ."

Adam, rockin' statement! Thanks.

carl said...

I believe there are many sides and dimensions in the progression of the great commission (or maintenance for that matter). Prayer, Relationship and Service/Action. Courage is needed most in the areas of relationship and service/action. Most christians tend to lean towards either one of these three sides. It would be best in my mind if there was a healthy balance between all of them in the individual believer.

That is very true about how we pray for others is reflected in how we relate with them personally (or vice versa, or something, perhaps both ways work.)

Another random thought. The spiritual discipline of fasting which is the one that I confess I ignore the most because it seems so foreign to me and I get scary when I'm hungry :) is one that seems to be important. Many significant things happened after there was a fast both in the new and old testaments.

These are good posts Phil, this topic of spiritual warfare is one in need of a good dose of wisdom and discernment. I have seen and heard of some whacked out behavior from people who are way too much into spiritual warfare.

Pastor Phil said...

Carl,

I love your breakdown of the things we need to balance - Prayer, Relationship, and Service/Action. I also believe in a healthy balance.

jenelle said...

phil, I'm here at IHOP in Kansas City and found that John Paul Jackson book you've been talking about. I'm gonna try to read it in the bookstore while I'm here without buying it...thanks for the good recommendation...cheers

Pastor Phil said...

Jenelle,

Thanks for the kudos. I am putting a book proposal together, but it's topic is a combination of the story of our Inquisition and the lessons we've learned about loving strange people.

About John Paul's Book: The stories in the first section of the book I find most interesting, and challenging. They are experiential illustrations of something I have believed to be true. Let me know what you think. I get lost in specific application sections of books, and most tend to end that way.