Spiritual Warfare with Territorial Spirits
by David Dunlap
The spiritual warfare "Prayer Intercessor"
"This city is overrun with demons...there are demons in every house and on
every street...souls will never be saved until this city is taken back by the
power of prayer, house by house, street by street!"
These Christians were exhorted to take part in a week-long prayer vigil, and
to pray and fast around the clock. Some of the faithful walked along every
street in nearby neighbourhoods, commanding the demons in every house to leave
in the Name of Jesus. At the end of the week, words of prophecy were spoken in
the church, encouraging the believers that their efforts had been successful
and the demons in these neighborhoods were routed. Now, many souls would be
saved. But can such prayer exorcise a city of demons? Is such a practice even
biblical? This hypothetical, but all too real, scenario has been repeated
numerous times in churches throughout North America.
What is Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare?
This technique of spiritual warfare with
"territorial spirits" may be the fastest growing method in evangelism today.
This popular method has crossed denominational boundaries and is practiced by
Charismatic and non-Charismatic believers alike. Its impact on the mission
field has been dramatic. And its inroads at the homefront are unrivaled. This
doctrine, which is also called "Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare" (SLSW), is
the popular charismatic method of casting out demons from geographical
locations, so that, we are told, the gospel can go forth unhindered, saving
thousands of lost souls. John Dawson, the President of the charismatic missions
organization, Youth With A Mission, and author of Taking Cities for Christ,
"For the last 10 years I have lived in the black community in Los Angeles. My
neighbors and I have common enemies. Spirits of despair, hopelessness,
depression, discouragement, and rejection torment this community...Several
years ago my staff and I went on a prayer walk around our neighborhood. We
stood in front of every house, rebuked Satan in Jesus' name, and prayed for a
revelation of Jesus in the life of each family."
(Winning the Battle for Your Neighborhood, Charisma Magazine, April 1990; p.
Leaders of SLSW teach that there are three
levels of demonic control on earth. Firstly, there are "Ground-Level" demons,
which possess people. Secondly, there are "Occult-Level" demons, which
empower witches, shamans, and magicians. Finally, the "Strategic-Level"
demons, which are the most powerful of the three, are said to rule over
certain regions or territories and to direct the efforts of the hordes of
"ground-level" demons. Their main purpose is to hinder people from coming to
Christ. Proponents teach that the traditional methods of evangelism are
time-bound, out of step with current cultural trends, and will be unfruitful
unless this new warfare praying technique is practiced.
The History of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare
How did this unbiblical method gain such a
strong foothold so quickly? In the early 1980's, there were a number of
city-wide gospel campaigns in Latin America. Some of the evangelists
attributed their success to days spent in prayer, wrestling against the powers
of darkness. Thus, this movement was born. But life was infused into the
movement in the early 1990's, when Charismatic leader Peter C. Wagner, of the
Fuller Seminary School of World Missions, linked himself with the movement.
Since then, he has been one of its most vocal spokesmen and its most prolific
writer. Peter Wagner has attributed astonishing claims to the use of SLSW
prayer: 10 million Japanese will come to Christ by the year 2000; it helped
to bring down the Berlin Wall; it has opened Albania to the gospel; it deposed
dictator Manuel Noriega; it lowered the crime rate in Los Angeles; and it broke
the power of demons over Japan (Breaking Strongholds in Your City, Ventura, CA,
Regal ,1993, p. 25). Author Frank Peretti stirred the imaginations of believers
with his two early books: 'This Present Darkness' (1986) and 'Piercing the
Darkness' (1989). These fictional books demonstrated, in graphic and
sensational detail, the battle of believers with territorial spirits. By these
efforts, coupled with the zeal of many others, this movement has been
tremendously successful in making inroads into the mainstream of the
evangelical church. A large and growing number of evangelical organizations,
such as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Bill Bright's Campus
Crusade for Christ, currently practice its techniques and are supportive of the
goals of SLSW.
The Methods of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare
How is it that proponents of SLSW go about
breaking demonic territorial dominion? According to the movement's leaders, a
number of detailed steps are required. Firstly, seek the name of the ruling
spirit and identify its territory. For example, SLSW leaders state that the
names of the six worldwide ruling demons directly under Satan are Damian,
Asmodeo, Menguelesh, Arios, Beelzebub and Nosferasteus. The territorial spirits
controlling Costa Rica are Shiebo, Quiebo, Ameneo, Mephistopheles, Nostradamus
and Azazel. Those in the United States are Ralphes, Anoritho, Manchester,
Apolloyon, and Deviltook. (C. Peter Wagner, Wrestling with Dark Angels ,
Ventura, CA : Regal, 1990, p. 85) Secondly, seek to identify the function of
demons in a particular area. Thirdly, determine which course of action should
be pursued. If demons occupy a neighborhood, then a "Prayer Walk" is required.
If demons control a city, then a "Praise March" is necessary. If demons
exercise power over a region, then a "Prayer Expedition" is demanded; and if
demons rule in a nation, then a "Prayer Journey" should be carried out.
"Identification Repentance" is the practice of discovering the sin and guilt
which give the demon a foothold in an area, andrepenting of that sin to break
the demon's grip. Every year thousands of SLSW intercessors walk all the known
routes of the first Crusades, which left Cologne, Germany, on Easter of 1096
AD. The purpose is to loosen the demonic stranglehold ofdemons in this area by
repenting and apologizing to Muslims and Jews for the atrocities committed by
the Christians at that time. Another technique used is "Spiritual Mapping",
which is the process of discovering the exact location of the demon's domain.
Peter Wagner exhorts the SLSW faithful,
"Spying out the land is essential when warring for a city...Christians should
walk or drive every major freeway, avenue, and road of their cities, praying
and coming against demonic strongholds over every neighborhood... Even if you
don't see instant results, keep the trumpets blowing...Always remember, God is
not slack concerning His promise; the walls will come down!"
(Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits- C. Peter
Wagner, Ventura, CA; Regal , p. 98)
These elaborate and specious techniques were
virtually unknown to the Apostle Paul, and we fail to find the slightest trace
of them in the New Testament. However, thousands of undiscerning Christians are
giving themselves over to an unbiblical method and, as its short history has
shown, an unfruitful method. Who can estimate the money, time, and the
resources that have been lost? Yes, anecdotal evidence and sensational
accounts abound; however, when SLSW leaders are pressed for verifiable proof,
they cannot point to a city or village or nation that has been freed from
Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare and Daniel 10
What do the Scriptures say concerning
Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare? For the Scripture must be our standard in
determining the soundness of any doctrine. Let us look at the most commonly
cited proof text of SLSW leaders, Daniel 10:13, 20, which sets forth the
battle between the prince of Persia and Michael the archangel. The prince of
Persia is said to be an example of a territorial spirit which can be defeated
through the techniques of SLSW. Peter Wagner writes:
"This story leaves not doubt that territorial spirits greatly influence human
life in all its sociopolitical aspects."
(Warfare Prayer, Ventura:Regal, 1992, p. 66)
What is the account in Daniel 10 teaching?
Daniel, indeed, does speak of a demonic
"prince of Persia"
"prince of Greece"
(Dan. 10:13, 20). These "princes" are not merely infernal militia fighting
side by side against the people of God, but they are also adversaries, battling
each other (Dan. 11:2). The thrust of Daniel 10 more properly is a prophetic
look at the history of the Middle East. Persia will fall before Greece and
Greece will split into four smaller kingdoms (Dan. 11-12). Daniel never prays
against the demon princes, nor seeks to cast them from their regions. A
careful examination of this passage will not yield support to territorial
demonic possession. On the contrary, Daniel 10 soundly refutes the detailed
and sensational practices of SLSW. It may be helpful to notice the following
in this passage:
The battle was fought in heaven, and not on earth.
The battle did not involve any humans; rather, two angels and one demon.
The battle was directed by God in heaven and by Michael, not by men on earth
Daniel was not asked to bind a demon.
Daniel was not even asked to pray.
Biblical Principles in Spiritual Warfare
In summary, we learn from Scripture that
Satan's minions are highly organized (Eph. 6:12), but nowhere does the Bible
say that Satan has assigned them to every geo-political unit. Nowhere does the
Bible give an example of a believer rebuking or confronting geographical
demons. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we are to command demons to give
up territory. Yes, Satan is a formidable adversary (1 Pet 5:8), yet the Lord
Jesus Christ has already conquered him on the cross (Col 2:15), and will one
day consign him to hell forever (Rev. 20:1-10). We must not pass over quickly
the important charges of Jude 8-10 and 2 Peter 2:10-12, which rebuke those who
verbally abuse spirits. Indeed, we are called to turn them over to God. The
New Testament never encourages the Christian to take the offensive against
demonic strongholds. Paul and the other apostles never engaged in this
practice. In rare cases, where demons were cast out, it was the result of
demons taking the offensive against the apostles (Acts 16:16). In the
meantime, we are called to resist Satan through our spiritual armor (Eph
6:10-18), standing firm in the power of His might, and praying always with all
Thomas Ice, Robert Dean,
A Holy Rebellion-Strategy For Spiritual Warfare,
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR 1995
Territorial Spirits and World Evangelisation?
Christian Focus Publications, GB, 1998
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1998
Donald Grey Barnhouse,
The Invisible War,
Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1995
"Do you know the prince of this world has been judged? He is no lord, no prince
any more. Your have a different stronger Lord, Christ who has overcome and
"Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare seems uncomfortably closer to contemporary
animism than to any biblical understanding of demonolgy"
Vice Principal at London Bible College
"SLSW's negative consequences are numerous and serious. It induces guilt and
promotes self doubt. It consumes enormous amounts of money, time, and
personnel. It encourages missionaries to take time away from God-given duties
in the vain hope of an easier, but ultimately futile, technique."
Singapore Bible College
Territorial Spirits and World Evangelisation?
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