Spiritual Warfare in Missions

What does it take to see success in missions? Is it mostly a matter of learning the right techniques for stimulating a church planting network? Or maybe it is a matter of learning the language and culture like a native? Should we focus on servant leadership and loving our neighbor or should we just faithfully preach God’s Word? While certainly as missionaries we must be focused on all of these areas, it is easy to forget the important role that spiritual warfare plays in the advancement of the Gospel worldwide.

The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This says that we are in a battle, but not the kind of battle that we think of, with flesh and blood. The battle he has in mind is a spiritual battle, against powers and principalities. The weapons to fight this battle are primarily God’s Word and prayer.

Sadly, it is easy to forget as we go through the Christian life that a fierce battle is raging. When we entered the ministry, we without a doubt underestimated this battle. When Ray graduated seminary and we joined with Mission to the World, Ray and I scarcely prayed together once a week. Over the years we saw the intense battle and the many casualties lying bleeding on the sidelines. If nothing else, we have realized more than anything that we need intense, focused intercession for conversions, for new converts to stay in the faith, for healthy churches to be planted, for national pastors and elders and missionaries to stay strong in the faith in the face of opposition, for unity and love between believers, for the children of believers to stay in the faith. All the good theology and Bible teaching alone fall on deaf ears. We need the Holy Spirit to be at work. This is true everywhere, but especially in areas where the Satan has a foothold, where the Gospel has not yet taken hold.

It is for this reason that we are excited to raise up more intercessors for our ministry. If there is to be fruit in secular countries such as Uruguay, it will not happen without serious intercession. If we as missionaries are to stay the course in the midst of many trials and difficulties, it will be because of a work of the Holy Spirit. We usually think of missionaries as being on the front lines of the battle and the churches back home being the support. I have recently read the book “Territorial Spirits and World Evangelisation” by Chuck Lowe. Although the book is primarily a response against the unbiblical teaching of what is called “strategic level spiritual warfare”, in chapter 9 he lays out a powerful case of the Biblical, historical Christian view of spiritual warfare. He takes much of the case he lays out from a missionary to China in the early 20th century, James Fraser, who worked among the Lisu people of the Yunnan province. Fraser turns the typical analogy of missionaries being on the frontlines on its head: he says that he is like the intelligence officer, supplying detailed information regarding the local situation, and the intercessors back home would be like the field officers, leading the battle against the forces of evil.

Fraser is also quoted as saying, toward the end of his years of ministry, “I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second and third place, and teaching the fourth.” I don’t think this is any way to be taken as giving God’s Word a lesser role, instead it is about realizing the vital role that sustained prayer needs to have in our lives, and how the ministry of the Word needs to be bathed in deep prayer, imploring our Sovereign God to be changing hearts and lives. Would you be willing to devote yourself to increased prayer, both for your family, your church, and the world? There is so much need. There are secular nations such as Uruguay and the countries of Europe, where the Gospel falls on hard soil.

There are the many countries of Latin America and even Africa who have seen a revival in the past 50 years, but now are in danger of losing ground to secularism and are hungry for solid, Biblical teaching. There are countries in parts of Asia and the Middle East where Christians face persecution. We can easily be overwhelmed by the need. I love the example we’ve seen in some of the churches we have been visiting. One church we visited has a prayer meeting every Sunday night before the worship service, and devotes a good, solid period of time in praying for the needs their missionaries have shared. In many others, the Pastor takes time during the worship service each Sunday during the pastoral prayer to lead the congregation in prayer for their missionaries. Still other churches print out a list of missionary prayer requests so members can put them in their Bible and being praying for them regularly. As missionaries we do our part in sending out regular prayer requests. We have our prayer letter, but also we have a small group of prayer supporters with whom we share more specific, personal requests on a regular basis. If you would like to be part of this, let us know and we will add you to the list.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see mission prayer meetings in the churches be full? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see churches that need to add more prayer meetings to their schedules to meet the demand? Wouldn’t it be wonderful it we were passionate about seeing God’s kingdom come, both in our own family, in our town and throughout the world? This will take nothing less than a revival. Would you join us in praying for a revival?

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