Spiritual Conflict — It’s our reality

There are at least two big reasons we shouldn’t ignore the subject of spiritual conflict (also called spiritual warfare):

  1. If we want to see spiritual changes and even some physical ones, we need to be aware of what is going on spiritually. The advancing of God’s Kingdom is foremost a spiritual assault on the domain of darkness to bring liberty to captives (see Colossians 1:13, Luke 4:18).
  2. Many people who lack a personal relationship with Christ already recognize spiritual conflict. Their beliefs and actions often reflect what they believe will help them avoid becoming victims of evil. We must be ready to share and demonstrate Christ’s decisive victory and eternal authority over evil spirits.

In short, spiritual conflict is our current reality.

If you feel uneasy or intimidated or overwhelmed by the topic of spiritual conflict, please take a look at 2 Kings 6:8-23. This Scripture story provides much insight into the spiritual realm. Remember that the God who did amazing things in the days of Elisha is the same God today. You can trust Him to be your leader, your teacher and your helper.

Here are some prayer prompts drawn from the story (which can be adapted to specific contexts):

  • Pray for sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s warnings so as to ruin the plans of evil spirits (v. 12)
  • Pray against fear and pray for reminders of God’s presence (v. 16)
  • Ask God to open our eyes to see spiritual reality (v. 17)
  • Pray for the Lord of hosts to surround His people (v. 17)
  • Pray for those who are living as enemies of God to be temporarily blinded so that they may clearly see the Creator (v. 18, see also Acts 9)
  • Pray for strength to love our enemies, as God loved us while we were still His enemies (v. 22-23)
  • Pray for the Prince of Peace to reign in all hearts and bring reconciliation (v. 23)

It’s Epiphany!

In some traditions, Epiphany (January 6) commemorates the wise men (Magi) finding and worshiping Jesus. The story found in Matthew 2 is a sign of the fulfillment of all nations worshiping the Messiah (see Psalm 72 for example).

Here are a few ways to pray from the story of the wise men:

  1. Ask God to connect the wisdom of various cultures to the Truth. How did the wise men know the star meant the king of the Jews had been born? This was something arranged by God. There are individuals and people groups who God has been preparing to encounter Christ in unique ways.
  2. Pray that diaspora brothers and sisters will help re-focus those who have been distracted. Herod, the chief priests and scribes knew the prophecies but they did not seem to pay attention until the wise men stirred them up. Today, immigrants vibrantly walking with God are moving into many places where churches have been losing vitality. Pray that these churches will listen to their brothers and sisters.
  3. Pray that God will speak through dreams and visions. We don’t know what happened to the wise men when they returned to their country, but we do know that they listened when God spoke to them in a dream. There are countless testimonies of people — even ones who were staunchly opposed to Christianity — starting to follow Jesus after a dream or vision.
  4. Pray that God will give us the courage and determination to joyfully bring Him the honor He deserves among the nations. The wise men dedicated their time, energy and resources to journey to meet the new King. When they found Jesus, who had been born in a manger and was being raised by a village carpenter, they could not contain their joy. How much more might we — who know of His life on earth, His death & resurrection and His Spirit — joyfully dedicate ourselves!

Happy Epiphany!

The Bride (Day 28)

When a woman gets engaged, she begins to prepare for her wedding. Often times, the fiancee will make special efforts to look more beautiful at her wedding than she has ever appeared before. In many cultures, the woman and her family will work together to make or purchase special clothes, decorations, household items and gifts. They will send out invitations to relatives, friends and neighbors and arrange for as much feasting as they can afford. Whatever manner of preparations, the woman does not forget the man who is her groom.

May the Bride of Christ be ready for her Bridegroom’s return.

 

Pray

“Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.” (Isaiah 60:5) As more Christ-followers are sent forth and go, and as more people groups come to Christ, they bring the riches of their cultures and languages. Our King, make Your Bride more beautiful and radiant as Your glory is revealed among more of the world.

“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:22-23) As the Church works together to meet the opportunity and challenge of the movement of peoples from everywhere to everywhere, Christ-followers from different backgrounds can display His work of reconciliation through their mutual love and partnership. Our King, make Your Bride one as You are made known among more of the world.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8) As Christ emptied Himself and became a migrant, taking on flesh, so the Church too must make ourselves nothing to bring His salvation to the lost and broken world. Our King, make Your Bride more like You in humility and in love, so that we may know You more.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Ask God how else to pray.

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Japanese Brazilians (Day 27)

After the first immigrants arrived as coffee plantation workers over a century ago, Brazil now has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Certain areas of Sao Paulo seem like they could be in Tokyo, with signs in Japanese, Shinto shrines along the streets and many restaurants and markets catering to Japanese taste buds. The 1.5 million or so Japanese Brazilians are increasingly assimilating into mainstream Brazilian culture, with greater numbers marrying non-Japanese people, speaking Portuguese at home and joining the Catholic church.

A couple decades ago, many Brazilians, mostly of Japanese descent, moved to Japan due to its favorable economic conditions and immigration policy. Some arrived speaking only Portuguese while others discovered that they had been influenced by Brazil more than they had realized. Japanese people often assume that these immigrants, because of their physical appearance, know how to speak Japanese and will behave according to Japan’s mainstream culture. In these circumstances, interactions can quickly become frustrating. The difficulty of adapting to life in Japan has led some of these immigrants to return to Brazil.

The Japanese are the second largest unreached people group in the world. Brazil has one of the largest number of missionaries. It is not by accident that these two countries are so strongly connected.

 

Pray

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1a): Father, help Japanese Brazilians in Brazil and in Japan know Your love. Let them find the rest and assurance of being Your children.

“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23): Lord of the harvest, prepare the hearts of Japanese people in Brazil and in Japan to hear Your Word and understand it. Let the word of Your kingdom spread quickly and bear much fruit.

Ask God how else to pray.

 

Act

An example of Japanese Brazilian cuisine is sushi rice with Brazilian grilled meat. Find examples of fusion cuisine near you and learn more about the cultural traditions involved.

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The Kazakhs (Day 26)

The Kazakhs are one of the largest Muslim people groups in Central Asia and have historically been an influential nomadic group in the region. Most Kazakh people today live in Kazakhstan and the surrounding countries, including a significant number in western China. Since the 16th century, most Kazakhs have identified as Muslim while continuing to hold some traditional animist beliefs and to consult shamans.

Under Russian rule for most of the 1800s, Kazakhs were forced to leave their nomadic lifestyle and move into cities. They were also forbidden from practicing Islam. Policies which encouraged “Russification” continued under the Soviet Union. Since the breakup of the USSR, Kazakhs have been trying to re-establish their cultural identity and the use of the Kazakh language. There has also been a resurgence of Islam as people try to return to their heritage.

Many Kazakhs identify Christianity as a foreign religion, being that of their previous Russian conquerors. Nevertheless, God is on the move among Kazakhs. People are learning the Word in their own language and seeing Christ meet their needs.  There is a growing house church movement among Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, particularly among young people, but recent government suppression has made growth difficult.

 

Pray

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” (John 10:14-16a): Our Shepherd, You know the Kazakhs in their inner beings. Speak to the Kazakhs, that they may hear Your voice and reclaim their identity as Your beloved.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2): Our Father, thank You for Kazakhs’ deep sense of hospitality. Send Your angels and Your ambassadors to every Kazakh home. Let each family have a chance to welcome Jesus into their hearts.

Ask God how else to pray.

 

Act

Invite the next stranger who comes to your door to enjoy some refreshments.

You can order the entire prayer guide in the paperback or Kindle edition.

Gujaratis in Kenya (Day 25)

For hundreds of years, merchants from Gujarat in western India have lived and traded in cities along Kenya’s coast. In the late 1800s, much larger numbers of Gujaratis arrived as British indentured laborers. Today, the small Gujarati community in Kenya has great economic influence as business owners, which has led to resentment.

The terrorist attack of a shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013 happened in the heart of the Kenyan-Indian community. A nearby Gujarati Jain center became the relief and rescue operations hub. More than a third of the victims who died were Gujarati.

A major festival for Gujarati Hindus is Navratri, nine days in late September or early October. Each night, people gather to play the garba or dandiya raas, circular dances which can be simple enough to be performed by large groups of people. Sometimes the dances surround an image or idol of a god, goddess or guru.

Most Gujaratis follow one of the Swaminarayan Hindu sects, which is often evidenced by their dietary restrictions: no meat, eggs, alcohol, onions or garlic. It is taught that by abstaining from such things, one can have a purer mind for meditation and worship.

 

Pray

“And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:21-22): Our High Priest and King, only You can give us clean hearts. Let many Gujaratis learn of Your work and confidently draw near to You.

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14): Holy Spirit, call forth more of Your people in Kenya to reach out to Gujaratis. Open the hearts of Gujarati business owners to pay attention to Truth.

Ask God how else to pray.

 

Act

Take a sweet (eggless) treat to a local Gujarati business owner as part of your Christmas celebrations.

You can order the entire prayer guide in the paperback or Kindle edition.

Turks in Germany (Day 24)

In most Turkish homes and workplaces is at least one nazar boncuk – a round amulet of the image of a pale blue or golden eye centered against deep blue glass. Many Turkish people believe the nazar boncuk, also called “Allah’s eye” or “evil eye,” will protect them against curses and evil spirits (jinn).

One Turkish man awoke to find his nazar boncuk shattered on the floor. Believing that someone was trying to curse him and that the nazar boncuk broke to block the curse, he quickly went to the market to buy another nazar boncuk.

The vast majority of the 3 million Turks in Germany are Muslim. They do not have confidence that God will protect them, so the nazar boncuk is a common way for them to deal with their fears.

Besides fearing curses and jinn, Turks in Germany also fear a loss of Turkish identity. They tend to live in densely Turkish clusters within cities, which helps strengthen cultural ties but which makes ministry from “outsiders” more challenging. They are also reported to be more resistant to changing religions, possibly because of the common belief that to be Turkish is to be Muslim.

 

Pray

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8b): Lord Jesus, thank You for destroying the works of the devil and breaking the power of the curse. Let Turks in Germany put their trust in You to protect them against all evil and shatter the strongholds in their lives.

“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard.’” (Acts 22:14-15): God of Abraham, let Turks in Germany see the Righteous One and hear His voice. May they, like Saul of Tarsus, be Your witnesses among the nations.

Ask God how else to pray.

 

Act

Go to a local market or store and see what items are being used like a nazar boncuk.

You can order the entire prayer guide in the paperback or Kindle edition.

International Students (Day 23)

In God’s sovereign plan, He continues to stimulate the desire for higher education through the ‘study abroad’ experience.  Currently there are 5 million international students and scholars, and it is projected that 8 million future leaders and influencers will be international students by 2025.

A Christian family in the USA extended genuine friendship to a student from Saudi Arabia. They did not know that the seeds they planted and watered in prayer would bear everlasting fruit two decades later, until the former student called them to gratefully share his testimony.  Today he is teaching others to love the more than 80,000 Saudi students in the States.

China sends the largest number of students abroad, followed by India. Many of these choose to study in the USA, Australia, UK & Korea. The cultural importance of families in China and India may make these students’ separation from their relatives extremely difficult. What if Christ-followers welcomed these students into their own families, in effect giving them another set of aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and grandparents? Imagine the impact for God’s Kingdom on these two populous nations of growing global influence if every Chinese and Indian studying abroad experienced the hospitality of Christ through the Church!

 

Pray

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34): Our Lord, give your Church compassion to see, welcome and befriend the international student sojourners among us. Teach us to love them as ourselves.

“The king answered and said to Daniel, ‘Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.’” (Daniel 2:47): Revealer of mysteries, call forth students who follow You to become student missionaries – whether by intentionally studying in another country or intentionally relating to international students at home. Use them to help others recognize You as the Lord of kings. Expand the international student ministry movement.

Ask God how else to pray.

 

Act

Invite an international student at a nearby campus to your home for a Christmas meal.

You can order the entire prayer guide in the paperback or Kindle edition.

On the Road to Emmaus (Day 22)

(Please see Luke 24:13-35)

Cleopas was walking with a friend on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Their hearts were heavy as they discussed all that had happened. The crowds had welcomed Jesus as he entered Jerusalem with palm branches and shouts of praise last week. But a few days later, Jesus had been arrested in the middle of the night and crucified. And then that very morning, people had found an empty tomb and seen a vision of angels who said that Jesus was alive.

As Cleopas and his friend were talking as they journeyed, another man joined them. When they had explained what they had been discussing to the man, he said, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then this man proceeded to interpret all the Scriptures regarding the Messiah.

The evening approached as the three travelers neared Emmaus. Cleopas and his friend invited their new companion to stay with them. As the man blessed the bread and broke it, the eyes of Cleopas and his friend were opened to recognize that the man was Jesus. Jesus vanished. Despite the late hour, the two men hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the others that they had seen Jesus.

 

Pray

Jesus Messiah, You are alive and risen indeed. When You speak, You bring to light what has been hidden. When You walk with us, our confusion is turned into understanding. When You are in our midst, our sadness is turned into joy. Give us the boldness and urgency we need to tell others of our journey with You.

Our Risen Lord, our world is full of travelers. From commuters to tourists, pilots to deckhands, food deliverers to CEOS, astronauts to shepherds, draw near to the ones who are brokenhearted, confused and longing for redemption. Reveal Yourself through Scripture, dreams and visions and the breaking of bread with fellow travelers.

Ask God how else to pray.

You can order the entire prayer guide in the paperback or Kindle edition.

The Fulani/Fulbe (Day 21)

Kidnapping for ransom. Armed robbery. Gang rape. Maiming. Destruction of farm lands. Arson of church buildings. Murder by machetes and assault rifles. These horrific acts of violence have been allegedly carried out by some Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria.

The Fulani (also known as Fulbe) are an unreached people group cluster of around 35 million people who live primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Traditionally nomadic but with many now semi-nomadic, their homelands stretch across the Sahel from the west coast of Africa to Sudan. Nearly half of all Fulani people live in Nigeria.

The Fulani were the first people south of the Sahara Desert to become Muslims and played a major role in spreading Islam in West Africa. They are still seen as highly influential today. Decreasing availability of fertile land has increased pressure on their traditional lifestyle.

Although the vast majority of Fulani people continue to follow Islam, in many countries, there are reports of increased openness among the Fulani to the good news of Jesus Christ. The ongoing work of radio broadcasts, audio resources and Bible storying sets facilitates the spread of God’s Word from among these mostly oral learners, perhaps even from Fulani to other sub-Saharan Africans.

 

Pray

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11): Good Shepherd, rescue the Fulani from the enemy who seeks to destroy them. Let them know You as their good shepherd so that they may have abundant life.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4): We tear down every barrier that is preventing the Fulani from following Christ and ask for unconditional love for the Fulani to fill the hearts of Christ-followers across West and Central Africa. King of kings, give grace, insight and special equipping to those working among the Fulani.

Ask God how else to pray.

 

Act

Proverbs are an important part of traditional Fulani cultures. Think of a proverb you would like to share with a Fulani person if you had the opportunity.

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