For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. [Eph. 6:12 NKJV]
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, and against the worldly governors, the princes of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness, which are in the high places. [Eph. 6:12, 1599 Geneva Bible]
Strategic level spiritual warfare is the big leagues of prayer ministry, dedicated to bringing down principalities and world powers, those higher level demonic entities who claim sin-ridden territories of the earth as their own. These are the beings that accompany–if in fact they don’t cause!–collective evil. So this is not a ministry for the weak of heart.
This kind of ministry used to get a lot of respect. Today it has deteriorated to amost, you know, a niche. Indeed, some well respected clergy are even warning against it. Let’s see how this happened. In the early days, for example, G. Peter Wagner compiled handbooks like Breaking Strongholds in Your City (1997) and Warfare Prayer (1997) to teach prayer warriors how to intercede against these powerful spiritual enemies holding sway above various dark beleaguered cities. Wagner has some impressive stories to tell. He is still alive, a giant in the field, and at one time I read his books hungrily.
I think many people did, back in the day–but of late I do not think people do as much reading as they do attacking, launching out unprepared. And that is part of the problem today. People do not study up. What did Paul say, after all: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”[2 Tim. 2:15 KJV]. Nor do they pray the way Wagner directs and models, if they are going to imitate his ministry and his successes. Fasting and prayer are essential in any encounter with the devil. Jesus told us so.
However, until recently I would have said that stuff is way out of my league. It is not altar ministry stuff. Not my ministry, not at all. Then something happened that drew me into it. If you know the way I write, read on (and on), and sooner or later we might get to that event… It’s the point of the story and well worth it.
But first, a little more essential background: what are these principalities and worldly governors, these so called territorial demons that have supposedly carved up the earth amongst themselves? Ephesians 6:12 has always been a very important scripture for me. Hearing it for the first time, at a Women’s Retreat the first year I became a Christian, the battle I was fighting came to make sense to me. Out of it grew my husband’s deliverance and then my ministry. But my ministry as I said is altar level, where personal deliverance happens. Strategic level spiritual warfare I considered to be for greater warriors than I, men like Wagner, who had the anointing and perseverance to walk around dangerous cities all hours of the day and night interceding for the people.
If we are going to understand it, let’s go to the source. But what is this source? Look at the scriptures above.
Let’s compare the New King James Version (circa. 1611) [where we war against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age] with the passage from the 1599 Geneva Bible [against principalities, against powers, and against the worldly governors, the princes of the darkness of this world]. That is a startling change, is it not? Thus, in the brief passage of years between the Geneva translation and the King James Bible, the view of territorial spirits changed. Imputation rather than spiritual certainty led to lack of awareness of a world divided by governing malevolent entities. As a result, the battle against these dark princes has been confusing.
Daniel and Territorial Rulers
Without knowing about territorial rulers, how else can we understand the story of what happened to the answer to Daniel’s prayer, one of the first Biblical lessons on these warring entities? Daniel, beloved of God, had fasted and prayed for three weeks. Though his prayers had reached heaven immediately, the answer was blocked. The angel appointed to carry God’s reply was held up by demon princes intent on preventing the important vision from getting through. This angel told Daniel:
“The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come. . . And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come.” [Dan. 10:13, 20]
You know that you are getting a pretty important message from God when a war in heaven tries to keep it from you. Without a doubt, the visions themselves, when they did get through (found in the books of Daniel 9-12), were definitely worth the battle. They are among the Bible’s most colorful, complex, and also debatable. Until the day of their fulfillment, preachers, scholars, end-time profiteers, and even video game-makers will continue to dispute their meanings. So we will stay tuned…
“Archangel Michael” by Guido Reni (1575–1642)
Understandably, this ongoing battle over symbolic meaning overshadows the complexity of the historical context. But as a history teacher, how can I ignore the history? History is essential to understanding why Daniel was where he was and why he prayed the way he did. Also, for the point we are making here, we should not be ignorant of lesson it teaches about Strategic Spiritual Warfare.
First and most important, why doesn’t anybody notice that Daniel 9 and 10 are backwards in chronology? Daniel 9 (which begins In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes [Daniel 9:1]) should be read after Daniel 10 (which begins In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia [Dan 10:1]), because King Cyrus came before King Darius.
Let’s look at the story of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (present day Iraq) conquered Judah and sent the ruling families of Jews into exile around 609 BC, among them Daniel. Through his righteous behavior and the miracle of the fiery furnace, Daniel rose to prominence in captivity, and, long story short, led the king to the worship of the Most High God. Another important miracle occurred that made him equally valuable to that king’s son. Meanwhile Jerusalem was completely destroyed, and the last of the Hebrew exiles arrived in Babylon around 586 BC.
Many books of the Old Testament relate to this Captivity: warnings against it, the brutal destruction of the two kingdoms, lamentations over the loss, and finally, upon the joyous release of the captives, well, are the lessons learned? We could only hope.
Daniel mostly did ok in Babylon–apart from a little serious testing, fire, lions, etc. But faith works wonders–which is why we remember Daniel at all. Oh, yes, and the mysterious End Time Prophecies, but needless to say, he couldn’t have died young and left us those.
Anyway, Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered Babylon in 539 BC; the next year Cyrus issued a proclamation ending the Babylonian Captivity, proclaiming also that the Temple should be rebuilt. Many Jews began returning to their country at this time, but Daniel did not go with them. Was it that he liked his position at the court? Was it that he was 90 years of age and feeling it? Or was his ministry in Babylon as yet unfulfilled? Read the book yourself to get the rest.
According to the book of Ezra, the returned exiles, with support from their Babylonian relatives, would begin the construction of the Second Temple in the period 521–516 BC (remember how in BC, time appears to be going backwards, although apparently people of the time do not know this).
Daniel began to pray and fast when a dread settled on him about the rebuilding of the temple [Ezra 4]. Certain valuable items, plundered from the Temple when the Jerusalem fell, were stored in the Babylonian treasury and had not yet been returned. Cyrus’s son was ruling in his absence of his father, while Cyrus, who made war in Asia Minor, needed money. However, the prayer worked amazingly well: not only was Cyrus killed in battle in 530 BC, but both his sons were killed in 522 BC. The new king of Persia, Darius, was a whole different type of ruler, and (also, long story short) work on the Temple continued [Zech. 4:6-10; 6:9-14]. So that was some prayer. Daniel was indeed a prayer warrior.
Repenting for the Nation
Nevertheless, Daniel’s most fervent prayer began in the first year of the reign of King Darius, after the death of Cyrus. It showed that Daniel, since his earlier visions, had read the Scripture of Truth with new eyes [Dan.10:21]. He was overcome with conviction for his people, in the realization that the destruction of their land was no random conquest of a heathen king. Nebuchadnezzar was an instrument in the Hand of God, whose people had betrayed Him, filling His land and His Holy temple with abominations. Read the book of Ezekiel to get some of the flavor of that anger.
Daniel realized they had disobeyed the Lord and has deserved their fate, the destruction of their land, exile, the whole nine yards and then some. He realized the people needed God like never before. His prayer should be a model of intercession for the nation:
- He began by magnifying the Lord, recounting His righteousness and His blessings.
- Next, in fasting, sackcloth, and ashes, he listed the nation’s sins and his own sins. In this way, he acknowledged to the Lord that His punishment upon His chosen people was righteous and true.
- At the end, Daniel cried out for mercy, begging for forgiveness for the people whom the Lord had called by His Name [Dan . 9:1-19].
Days and nights Daniel spent in intercession, repenting of his own and his country’s sins. Unbelievably, this righteous servant of the Lord took his nation’s sins upon himself and repented—heart and soul–on their behalf.
We cannot imagine such a thing, repenting for our nation, although sometimes we call upon our leaders to repent. But here is Daniel, no stranger to prophecies or angelic visits, making it his appointed mission to fall upon his knees, day after day, night after night, in sackcloth and ashes, to cry out, to intercede for his nation. Wow. At the end, another angelic breakthrough came. The substance of this is another story.
However, this passage of scripture is of vital importance right now for us in our time for just one reason:
If we want God’s emissaries to get through principalities and powers and worldly governors to provide assistance to us today, we, God’s servants on this earth, must learn to pray. We need specific prayer, on a strategic level. We need to pray as Daniel prayed.
Teach us, Oh Lord of heaven and earth, to pray as Daniel prayed. Oh Mighty and Merciful God, too long have we strayed, wrapped in the bondages of self and useless idolatry. We throw off all distractions, now, and the sins that so easily beset. Oh Lord, we turn our hearts to you. Forgive us, Lord for our waywardness, pettiness, and idiocy. In the fire of Your spirit, cleanse us. Teach us to honor You again, Most Holy Lord, and to keep Your commandments. Give us strength to endure. Point us in the way that we should go, to care for the poor, the fatherless, the widows, the strangers upon our shores. And heal our broken, ravaged land. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.