"Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house." Matthew 12:29
World Impact has a powerful vision to see "The empowered urban poor advancing the kingdom of God in every city through the local church." One of the most effective ways we can see this vision fulfilled is to launch and facilitate church planting movements. This is the rapid expansion of the gospel that results in many churches being planted. Overseas, these movements often plant hundreds if not thousands of churches within a few short years.
Herein lies the great conflict. While our cities are in great turmoil and desperation, we fully expect incredible leaders for the Kingdom of God to be raised up from these neighborhoods. In the last six months, our cities have received incredibly negative press. This week alone, we have watched riots and anger filling the streets and the news in Baltimore. While there are many issues and layers to the problem, if we look with spiritual eyes and peel back the surface, we will see that there are deep and powerful strongholds in place. Note how the text above says there is a "strongman" who must be bound. Ephesians 6:12 is clear that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Furthermore 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says that "we are not waging war against the flesh. For the weapons of warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds."
If we want to see the Kingdom of God advance in the city with great power, then we are going to need to learn to fight with spiritual weapons. The enemy will not just let us walk in and simply proclaim the gospel and see healing and deliverances. We must first "bind the strong man" in order to "plunder his house." I believe that this is primarily done through prayer. God has ordained prayer to be one of the most powerful weapons we have in accessing the authority available in heaven and seeing it unleashed in our cities. Jesus, through his victory on the cross, has already won the victory. Through prayer we are merely declaring this victory over the powers of darkness.
Paul Billheimer writes on prayer in his book Destined for the Throne: "[Prayer] is God's way of giving the Church on-the-job training in overcoming the forces hostile to God. This world is a laboratory in which those destined for the throne are learning, by actual practice in the prayer closet, how to overcome Satan and his hierarchy. God designed the program of prayer as an apprenticeship for an eternity of reigning with Christ. Here we are learning how to use the weapons of prayer and faith in overcoming and enforcing Christ's victory so dearly bought."
Why is it so hard then to tap into these truths and this power? Why is prayer so hard for us? Every church planter and missionary I know speaks of the importance of prayer. Yet it is very hard to sustain a constant prayer movement alongside church planting. There are probably many reasons for this, but one is that it just doesn't feel like we are accomplishing a lot while we pray. Actions like sharing the gospel, preaching, working on a Bible study lesson, or spending time with people are measurable. Something we can feel good about. But prayer is hard work. It's slow and requires waiting on God. There are times when it's so dynamic and we see powerful results, but other times it is just praying and praying and waiting for the right moment for God to break through. The temptation is to rely on our strategies, marketing ability, and our human effort to accomplish the work of God. This balance is so tricky because these seem to work. Furthermore, it's tempting to equate our numbers in church with spiritual success.
But numbers and programs don't equate with success. True success will be measured by the ministry of Jesus—where we see the power of God in preaching, the lost coming to Christ, healing, and deliverances as commonplace. When we see the ministry of Jesus being reproduced in our churches, then we will clearly see the power of God. Until that day, we must humble ourselves and seek the face of God for power and breakthrough. Let's not compromise what the Lord says in his Word and how we are to minister. Jesus equipped and sent out his disciples to do the works he did, and those works begin with prayer. (Matthew10:1,7, 28:18-20, John 14:12-14)
Lastly, here are a few practical ways to implement more prayer in our church plants and churches.
- Let God Arise! - Consider starting a Let God Arise! (LGA) regular time of prayer. Rev. Dr. Don Davis and TUMI created LGA in January of 2000. It was birthed out of Dr. Davis’s heart and passion for revival to touch our cities. Here is a link for the heart of LGA and how to use it in a prayer time. You can visit letgodarise.com to see many more ideas and resources on it.
- Prayer Walks - Consider doing regular prayer walks in your neighborhood. Prayer walks are an effective way to pray and look at your community with spiritual eyes. They are also a great way to get to know new people in your neighborhood especially as you are launching your church plant.
- 24/7 Prayer - Houses of prayer and 24/7 prayer networks are springing up all over the world. While it is hard to sustain continual 24/7 prayer, consider doing a weekend of 24/7 prayer or join other ministries in your city that are doing it. Click here for a search of resources available to think through this kind of prayer.
- Brooklyn Tabernacle - Check out any of their resources. Jim Cymbala has led the way for prayer in his church for over 35 years. He has great books and resources on prayer. Brooklyn Tabernacle is located in the heart of Brooklyn and they have seen the power of God demonstrated in tangible ways in their services.
Let's humble ourselves as people of God and cry out for a powerful movement in our cities. Let's have concerts of prayer and praise and repeatedly ask God to bind the strong man and pour out his Spirit on us in fresh ways. Let's not stop until we see true revival in our midst and the explosive growth of the church and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.