Articles on Prayer Teams
by Stan Perisho
WARNING!! In prayer team ministry it is extremely important to keep the emphasis on seeking the direction of the Spirit and that can get lost on printed pages. If folks just follow the steps little of benefit will occur. There must be a deep sense of seeking and trusting the Lord. This is one of those areas where the best learning occurs by observation and involvement not reading. It is essential to be willing to wait for the Lord to speak.
Stan Perisho and his wife Shirlene grew up in Northwest Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and met while they were students at George Fox College. Since Stan's graduation in 1961 they have pastored Churches in Northwest, Southwest and Rocky Mountain Yearly Meetings. In 1987 they established Sabbath Ministries to minister to the needs of pastors and in 1989 Stan also became superintendent of Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting. In the fall of 1992 they led a prayer team to Mexico City for the purpose of praying for the work of the mission. Since then they have returned with a team each fall. Stan has led prayer seminars and workshops in churches, yearly meetings and pastors' conferences, and Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting has found that prayer teams can make a significant difference in both local churches and mission work.
God has called us today to a new level of prayer in order to break down the barriers which Satan has raised up against people in our world. 2 Cor. 4:4 tells us "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ." It does not say may
not, or might not, or not very well, it states they cannot see it.
Those who are lost "cannot" see the truth of Christ so that they may come to Him. In Ephesians 6 we are told that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." Our battle is not against human philosophies, ideas, selfishness, or psychological theories, it is against the very realm of Satan, the enemy of all mankind. We do not wrestle in our work for the salvation of our neighbor, against our neighbor's misunderstanding or lack of understanding of scripture but against the devil who has blinded our neighbor to the truth.
Satan is a liar, always was and always will be. That is his very nature and he goes about "seeking whom he may destroy." He lies to us to make us think he wants us to be happy, or free, or prosperous and then having us in his authority he seeks to destroy us.
In Acts 26:17-18 the apostle Paul tells us what Jesus told him in his encounter on the road to Damascus. "I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." This passage clearly indicates that there is much more to play in the work of freeing people from the bondage of sin than convincing them that God's way is the best way or leading them through an intellectual assessment of options. We are to break them free from Satan's bondage. We are to remove them from under the power of Satan. The Greek word used for power in this passage is the word "exousin" which is defined as power or authority. People are under the authority of Satan and that authority must be broken. The order seems important to me. Please note it with me. "(1) To open their eyes and (2) turn them from darkness to light, and (3) from the power of Satan to God, (4) so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me." In most cases we have been leading people to salvation but leaving them with some established bondages in their lives. When that happens, we have neglected to help people to be fully delivered from the power of Satan.
2 Cor. 10:3-4 states "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God."
God has called us, the church, as He called the apostle Paul to free people from the authority of Satan so that they may receive forgiveness of their sins. He has given us the weapons to accomplish that wonderful task and He gives us the privilege of being His representatives in the breaking of the bondage of the enemy. In Luke 9:1 we read, "When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure all diseases." In Luke 10:19 Jesus says to the 72 "I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy." He goes on to warn them not to rejoice in their authority over Satan but to rejoice that "your names are written in heaven." We are not to glory in the authority He has given us but we are to use that authority as a tool to bring people to know Christ as their savior and lord.
Our job as the children of God is to lead people to salvation in Christ and HE has given us the tools to accomplish that work. We must never confuse the two and exalt the tools instead of the work as the 72 did in Luke 10. The 17th verse says "The 72 returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'" Oh that we might need to worry about such a problem. Some modern movements in the church have been guilty of exalting the tools over the primary purpose of salvation and we must be careful to avoid that mistake. On the other hand, we must also be very careful that we do not allow the fear of excess to keep us from using the tools that Jesus has provided and commanded us to use. Satan knows that Jesus has given us the weapons needed to free people from his grasp, so his only hope is to convince us not to use them for their intended purpose. The tools of deliverance, binding and loosing, confession of sin, healing of memories, physical healing are all means for freeing people from the power of Satan so that they may receive forgiveness of sin and claim the inheritance of the saints. We must keep the priority focus on people's salvation and use the tools as needed in the process.
Jesus has given us the authority to break the control of Satan in our world and we wield that authority through prayer. There have been many definitions of "Strongholds" in recent books so let me try my hand at one which I think best describes what scripture is referring to. A stronghold is a part of people's lives, communities, or society in which Satan is allowed some degree of authority which prevents people from understanding or responding to the full truth of the Gospel so that they can receive Christ and be freed from the bondage of the enemy. Our first job in ministry to individuals and communities is to pray down the barriers which Satan has raised up to interfere with their hearing and understanding the truth of the Gospel. This then makes it possible for them to hear and understand truth. As Peter Wagner says "it brings them to ground zero." It takes away the advantage Satan has over them. Until he finds Christ, everyone is under the authority of Satan and that authority must be broken through prayer. Paul, in telling us about the armor we are to wear in our spiritual "wrestling match" in Ephesians 6:18 says "and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
There are some very good books in Christian bookstores today which give invaluable instruction regarding breaking down the barriers or strongholds the enemy has raised up around us. I urge you to get some of them. Perhaps several could agree together to each get one and place them in your church library so that they are available to others. Dick Eastman's book Touching Heaven through Prayer is good. John Dawson's Tearing Down the Strongholds in Your Cities is helpful and Peter Wagner's Breaking Strongholds In Your City is a very excellent compilation of the writing of several leaders in the prayer movement today. Cindy Jacobs also has a very readable book entitled Possessing the Gates of the Enemy in which she gives accounts of experiences in intercession. I urge you to read all of these and others but if you are to only purchase one it seems to me that Wagner's Breaking Strongholds in your City is the most helpful on the subject.
There is another area of the task of the church which I would like address. In John 11:38-44 we have the account of the death and resurrection of Lazarus. After hearing that Lazarus has died Jesus travels to the tomb and tells them to roll away the stone. Martha protests that it has been to long and the smell would be too bad but Jesus persists and they roll the stone back. Jesus commands Lazarus to "come forth" and we are told that he came out of the tomb "bound hand and foot with the grave clothes." Can you see him shuffling out because he has no room to move his legs because of the tightly wrapped strips of cloth in which he had been buried. I have puzzled for years as to why he didn't come out as did Jesus at his resurrection, completely free from the bondage of the grave wrappings. You remember Jesus' "grave clothes" were found neatly folded in the tomb. Lazarus was raised to life with those wrappings still binding him. The next thing Jesus said to Lazarus friends who had gathered was "release him and let him go." If this is, as it seems reasonable to expect, a parable of spiritual restoration to life through salvation then is not the next step for the church after a person's salvation to "take off the grave clothes" in which Satan has held them bound. After salvation the church must release folks from those enemy bondages so that they may indeed be free.
God has given us all the tools needed to free people from the bondages under which Satan has held them but the church must set them free. Too often we have taken the attitude that they must come out of their spiritual grave with the grave clothes already dropped away when we need to accept the responsibility, under God's direction and with much attention to grace, for the removing of the bondages that have been established in their lives.
God has given us the authority to demolish the strongholds so that people may see and receive Christ and He has also given us the authority to break the bondages in which Satan has held people bound that would hinder their walk with the Lord. The spiritual battle in which we are engaged for people must be waged before and after they come to Christ so that they may, as Paul says "enter into the company of those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus."
May God direct us as we invade the territory of the enemy in the authority which Christ has given us so that men and women, boys and girls, may come to know Christ as their own personal savior. God bless you in your work for Christ. The handout headed Tearing down the barriers in your community will be helpful as you take your stand against the enemy and tear down the barriers he has raised up in your community.
There are important things to remember in entering the battle against Satan in our world. The following are suggested as steps in the process.
Basic encounter outline:
- Begin each prayer time with worship. It can either be singing or praying or both but should exalt the Lord and give praise to Him. Worship until you feel led to begin prayer.
- At least in the initial session ask God to show you if there are any barriers in your own life that might hinder you from hearing His voice clearly. If there are, confess them to Him and others as he directs.
- Pray for protection over you and your family. The enemy will attempt to discourage you from this kind of battle by threatening those close to you. Satan does not waste time on those who are no threat to him.
- Ask God by His Spirit to show you what He sees in your community. Ask, "what are the barriers Satan has raised up in this community which keep people from hearing and understanding the truth of Christ." These could be seen in life attitudes or patterns of living or community events which seem consistent over a period of time or may simply be shown to you as you pray and may be things you have never noticed before. There may have been things in the history of the community that will suddenly have a new connection you never before noticed.
- Pray down these barriers. Pray in the name of Christ and take authority over these strongholds. Let me illustrate. These are not formulas or catch phrases but represent the ingredients which may be used in th is kind of prayer. It is most important to be sensitive to the Spirit and not establish a formula or format.
"In the name of Jesus and by the authority of Jesus given to us by His blood shed on the Cross of Calvary I take authority over you Satan and all your demon representatives. I bind you in the name of Jesus and break your hold on this community. I command you in the name of Jesus to release the captives you have held. I order you to unstop their spiritual ears and uncover their spiritual eyes. I break the power of the lies you have used to enslave them and remove your power over them. I stand against the stronghold of__________ and break your power over all those you have held by it."
Remember Jesus has given His church authority over the forces of our enemy Satan. We have no reason to be afraid of him though we must respect his power. He is called by Jesus "the prince of the power of the air." We must pray in the leading and by the prompting of the Holy Spirit if we are going to be effective. Don't be afraid to pray as He directs.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to open the eyes and ears of the folks that have been released so that they will understand and receive the truth. God is a gentleman and does not take over a person's will. He does not enslave them as Satan does. He does give us authority to break the barriers but does not force them to accept Him. We can pray away the disadvantage but cannot force them to accept Christ. "As many as received Him to them gave he the power to become the sons of God."
- Pray that God will send witnesses to share His love with those who are ready to hear the truth. Be willing to be one of those witnesses.
- Close with a time of worship and thanksgiving.
- Get ready for the joy of discipling these new believers. Remember the word for this stage is Grace. We are to bring people to receive Christ and must be careful to accept them with an attitude of love and grace. We must be careful not to put on them as new Christians all the convictions we have gained after many years of Christian life.
- We always begin each session with a time of Worship and Adoration. We seek to exalt the Lord and raise His name as we begin. This should not be cut short.
- We follow that with a time of cleansing of the team members. This especially in the first session of a team weekend and during following sessions as the Lord directs. We have found that if we are to be effective in this kind of ministry every member of the team must be walking in a current unhindered relationship with the Lord. Any sin the Lord reveals must be confessed and cared for or the prayer team's effect will be stifled or greatly diminished and that person will be subject to personal attack.
- When we are confident that all is clear we begin to pray for the needs of the situation. These may be known before or revealed by the Spirit at the time but all must be directed by the Spirit. Often the known needs are not the real needs of the situation. Like in counseling the surface need is often a symptom and not the case of the problem. As the Lord directs we find that folks become more open to stating, or preferably, praying what the Lord is showing them. If it is of the Lord it will be confirmed by others and that process increases the boldness to hear more carefully in the future. The process of being willing to share what God is saying and allow it to be checked by the team builds faith in all parties involved and increases the effectiveness of the work. Each matter must be brought to a consensus of conclusion. It is essential that careful sensitivity and obedience to the Lord is kept in these sessions. It must also be understood that these are relatively confidential times. Things of sensitive nature may be revealed and must be dealt with carefully.
- When all hearts are clear regarding what God is saying about the needs and the barriers have been torn down completely we return to a time of celebration and thanksgiving for what God has done and what He has promised to do in the days ahead.
- Usually in at least one of the time slots of a weekend we do some prayer walking in the area to pray for the families in the community and to sense what the barriers are to the gospel. We gather back together after the prayer walk to compare what we sensed and to pray against those strongholds which God has revealed. I will enclose a Prayer card.
- Where possible I find it is good to offer a time for local folks to be prayed with/for. We invite them to come regardless of the kind of need so that the team can have a time of prayer with them. This is usually greatly appreciated. These patterns may be repeated as the Lord directs but it is most important that folks come with a sense of seeking God and His leading rather than to carry out an agenda. There must always be that sense of knowing that only God can let us know what is needed in each situation. What a mighty God we have.
It is helpful to have at least one person who understands the dynamic of such ministry in each team. It is important to remember that this is not an agenda experience but a seeking of the Lord if it is to be of maximum effect. There must be constant sensitivity to the Spirit so that all steps are concluded or the effect will be greatly diminished.
There is much talk of "Spiritual Warfare" today and too often the definitions of what is being talked about is unclear. There is a sense in which all prayer is spiritual warfare however there is need for clarification. Let me suggest a clarifying definition that has been helpful to me in thinking of and talking about spiritual warfare prayer.
Nothing I say is intended to cast any prayer in a disparaging light, but to challenge us to a new depth and experience of God that will increase our effectiveness for the sake of the kingdom.
Spiritual warfare is praying in such a depth of relationship to God that it directly confronts Satan and his kingdom. Prayer is the tool God has given us for the defeat of the enemy of our souls. It effects salvation, physical healing, deliverance, breaking of bondage's, binding the power of Satan, tearing down territorial strongholds and in general defeating Satan's work in our world. It is not just deliverance and praying to bind the power of Satan but living in such a close personal relationship to God that we can sense His heart and pray accordingly. If one seeks to enter spiritual warfare without a close personal relationship with God they are in real danger from Satan's attack. This does not mean one must be perfect but one must be sure there is no known sin in the life.
It is not just another set of words but it does involve different words for it confronts the enemy directly in the authority of Jesus. It means speaking directly to Satan and accepting the authority Jesus has given rather than asking Jesus to do it. Instead of praying "Jesus will you bind Satan" we pray "Satan, in the name and by the authority of Jesus death on the cross, I bind you and command you..." This is not a magic set of words but an accepting of Jesus authority according to Matt. 28:18-20.
Ephesians 6:10-13 is talking about prayer at the upper levels of demon authority. This is different than the way I prayed most of my life. This is confrontation with the spiritual powers of Satan over our world.
Prayer is not getting God to do what I want but finding out what God wants. Satan will try to scare you out of Spiritual Warfare. The first evidence of effectiveness in the battle against Satan is his retaliation. If we are no threat to his kingdom he will leave us alone. When we become a threat he tries to scare us into withdrawal.
- The Believer's Guide To Spiritual Warfare, by Thomas White
- The Bondage Breaker, by Neil Anderson
- By My Spirit, by Jonathan Goforth
- Engaging The Enemy, by C. Peter Wagner
- Warfare Prayer, by C. Peter Wagner
- Breaking The Strongholds in Your City, by C. Peter Wagner
- Love On It's Knees, by Dick Eastman
- The Jericho Hour, by Dick Eastman
- Possessing The Gates Of The Enemy, by Cindy Jacobs
- Something Happens When Churches Pray, by Warren Wiersbe
- What God Does When Men Pray, by William C. Peel
- What Happens When Women Pray, by Evelyn Christenson
- The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence
There are many other great books by these and many other authors which are worthy reading on prayer but perhaps these will give you a start. Stan Perisho