We’ve all been there: those days when we think it can’t get any worse. We’re out of coffee. The stinky P.E. outfit didn’t make it into the washer. Thanks to the dog, the white pants have muddy paw prints. It’s raining.
Maybe it’s worse. Your child is diagnosed with cancer. A parent needs hospice care. Without warning or explanation, you lost your job, your spouse walked out or your teen rebelled (in a really stupid way).
In other words, all hell breaks loose. You may or may not categorize these difficulties as “spiritual warfare.” But, for Christian workers serving in hard-to-reach places around the globe, both minor inconveniences and devastating life events may be the result of spiritual oppression and attack. They are often the enemy’s attempt to distract Christian workers from sharing God’s good news among the nations.
Recently, a friend who works with a team among a hard-to-reach people group in Asia posted on his Facebook page: “We are under intense spiritual warfare right now and would covet your prayers.”
In the span of 24 hours, a visiting volunteer had gotten word that his father died unexpectedly. The volunteer needed to return quickly to the U.S. A toddler, the child of a team member, suffered a serious accident and required emergency medical care. Yet another couple was unexpectedly en route to the U.S. with their 10-year-old son. The boy was diagnosed a few days before with leukemia.
In the span of 24 hours, all hell broke loose.
Confronting hell on earth isn’t easy, but if the best defense is a good offense, then the best offense against spiritual warfare is prayer. Here are four ways to pray for Christian workers (and yourself) when facing oppression:
1. Pray for peace.
Unexpected news brings unexpected chaos. Disorder, disillusionment and muddled thinking may rule the day. Under normal circumstances, it is difficult for anyone to manage the myriad of details that follow unexpectedly bad news. It is especially difficult when those details must be worked in a cross-cultural setting with the potential for miscommunication and misunderstanding. As you pray for Christian workers dealing with bad news, pray, as Paul did, that the “peace of God that surpasses every thought will guard (their) hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7, HCSB). Pray for clear thinking, effective communication and strong support to manage the details. Pray for peace.
2. Pray for courage.
Chaos often leads to uncertainty. Uncertainty may lead to fear. Fear can lead to mental paralysis or irrational decisions. It is easy to lose courage when all hell breaks loose. The Israelites lost courage more than once. In Exodus 14 with the Egyptians in pursuit, the Israelites struggled with paralysis and irrationality. “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness,” they ranted to Moses. But Moses encouraged them. “Do not be afraid,” he urged. “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again” (Exodus 14:13, HCSB). Pray that Christian workers will have courage when all hell breaks loose. Pray that God will conquer the enemies of exhaustion, disease, fear, helplessness, uncertainty and despair. Pray that the enemies they see today they will never see again.
3. Pray for endurance.
Christian workers are not super heroes. They tire, and they may sometimes despair. The struggle of living cross-culturally coupled with the heavy burden of sharing Christ in a dark place requires tenacity and perseverance. The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4, ESV). Pray that Christian workers will look to Jesus through His Word as they endure bouts of spiritual warfare. Pray that they will see themselves as “prisoners of hope” who reside in the fortress of God’s great love (Zechariah 9:12).
4. Pray for help.
Jesus told Peter that the “gates of hell” would not prevail against the work of the church (Matthew 16:18). In this word picture, the gates of hell are stationary. They do not move. Yet, any Christian worker will tell you that spiritual attacks seem to intensify as the Gospel begins to spread, especially to those who have never heard the name of Jesus. As a result, spiritual warfare can be a positive sign that the church is gaining new ground against the enemy. As you see spiritual warfare increasing in your community and around the world, pray all the more for God to send reinforcements (Daniel 10:10-14). Jesus encouraged his disciples to ask God for more workers (Luke 10:2, Matt. 9:38). Pray that God will send help to Christian workers facing difficult circumstances. Thank Him that “the gates of hell” will not prevail against the work God has given to the church.