Praying Down Powers and Principalities

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English poet and hymn-writer William Cowper once wrote, "Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees." Indeed, the enemy of our souls knows all too well about the power of the praying saints. Even more, he is full aware of what can happen when praying believers engage in spiritual warfare and effect change in the heavenly realm through intercession.

The problem isn't that the enemy is unaware of this type of prayer, however; it's that so many people—including believers—misunderstand it.

How often have you seen overzealous believers approach spiritual warfare with the idea that they are demon-busters out looking for the next satanic stronghold to bring down? They focus almost entirely on the demonic realm and get excited at the mere mention of binding evil spirits, casting out devils and pulling down strongholds.

There's a problem with this, however. In most cases spiritual warfare is not to be carried out by directly confronting the powers and principalities over cities and nations. The New Testament model for spiritual warfare is to direct our prayers to God, proclaim His name and promises, and do His works as the primary way to wrestle with the disembodied evil spirits in the heavenly places. These evil spirits are called principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age and spiritual hosts of wickedness (Eph. 6:12). Of course, there are exceptions to this general rule, in which case we address our proclamations directly to the enemy. On specific occasions the Spirit may lead someone to speak directly in intercession to a demonic principality. But this is not the primary prayer model presented by the New Testament apostles.

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Jesus and the apostles spoke directly to the demons that dwelt in a demonized person—in other words, to "embodied" demonic spirits—but what they did is not the same as speaking to "disembodied" demonic principalities that dwell in heavenly places. We do wrestle with them (Eph. 6:12), but usually by praying to the Father, not by speaking to them directly. The prophet Daniel dislodged the powerful demonic principality of Persia (Dan. 10:12-13) as he fasted and prayed, focusing on the God of Israel (Dan. 9:4-23), not on the demonic being itself.

Spiritual warfare prayer requires a three-pronged approach. First, we proclaim God's victory by agreeing with the supremacy of Jesus, His power, promises and will. We pray the prayers of the Bible, remind God of His promises and make prophetic decrees related to the certainty of God's supremacy and His kingdom purposes. Second, we confess sin and renounce the works of darkness (i.e., we break our agreement with the enemy). In this way, we resist Satan: "Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Third, we do the works of the kingdom, acting in the opposite spirit of the evil characteristics that permeate a specific city or region.

3 Types of Strongholds

Spiritual warfare has often been a key focus for many segments of the body of Christ—including within many charismatic and Pentecostal streams. In those pockets, you'll often hear of spiritual "strongholds," as based on 2 Corinthians 10:4-5: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God." But what exactly is a stronghold?

A stronghold is a collection of ideas that are in agreement with Satan's lies and accusations against the truth of God (v. 5). They are lies about God, who He is and what He says He will do, and when we receive them, they bind our hearts in darkness.

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