By Eunice Danielson
Eunice has been involved in church planting movements in China and Central Asia and currently lives among the unreached.
Close your eyes and picture a pitch-black room. Now allow yourself to visualize a tiny spark of fire igniting one lone candle, then another and another and another. Until the darkness in the room recedes into shadows and light begins to overtake the darkness.
This is a picture of what can happen when we pray. There are many places in the earth that are very dark, there is not even a small light—no witness of the truth, very few believers, no church.
Our enemy is holding these regions, cities, countries or perhaps people groups with an iron grip under his control through false ideologies and generational or cultural sin. Satan has lied to whole nations and blinded their eyes so that they do not recognize Jesus— Son of God—Light of the World.
And yet there is hope! Light can begin to shine in these dark areas of the world. God wants to use your prayers, like a match, lighting that candle—perhaps a tiny spark at first, but igniting with the prayers of others into a mighty fire that has the potential to change nations!
You might ask the question, “Can my prayers really make a difference?” or “Why does an All-Sovereign God need me to pray?” but the fact is that even though God can do anything He wants, He has chosen to work through humans to enforce His will on the earth.
Matthew 16:18-19 tells us that God has given us keys—to bind and to loose, to lock and unlock—things in the earth. Wow! Where ever I am in my secret place of prayer, I have an enormous key in my hand that has the potential to open ancient gates that have held people in bondage for thousands of years!
People that live in these very dark lands; under the power and control of the enemy can be set free through MY prayers! God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel and said,
“I sought for a man …to stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.” (Ezekiel 22:30-31 NKJV)
How sad! He is still searching for that man (or woman) today! He wants you and me to stand in the gap for the darkest places of the earth so that they will not be destroyed but will be illuminated by His Great Light! I don’t profess to be an expert on this subject but I have learned a few things over the years.
More than twenty years ago I moved to North-west China to live and work amongst an unreached Muslim Turkic people group. At that time, the number of believers in this people group could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
With the joint chains of Islam and Communism binding this ethnic people group, compounded by spiritual strongholds of hopelessness, division and strife, this truly was a dark land. If I had only known then, some of the principals I am sharing with you now, I could have been much more effective in my prayers!
The fact is that inadvertently I would come under the canopy of darkness covering these people and I would personally be influenced by these spiritual forces. For example, I would fight depression and hopelessness, having no idea of the reason for these thoughts.
I would try to pray and intercede for the people but it was like I was shooting arrows at the ceiling and my prayers had no power to penetrate the darkness. I have since learned that I have a position of authority in Jesus—I am seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6).
This means that I am not fighting from a position of defeat “under” that spiritual canopy of darkness, but I am “above” the darkness and my prayers are have the authority to punch holes in that dark canopy, allowing God’s light to shine through the darkness and illuminate the people.
Since that time, I have lived in Central Asia and have worked with many Turkic and Persian people groups.
I have had the privilege to witness how in keeping with the above illustration, Christians all around the world have prayed and light has begun to crack open the darkness which covers these people groups and this part of the world.
Literally thousands have come to Christ, hundreds of churches have been planted, national leaders raised up and they are now sending missionaries to other surrounding nations. How does this work practically? Let me give you some keys to help you understand how to pray effectively for these dark places and peoples of the earth.
1. Discern the forces of darkness or “spiritual strongholds” keeping the people in chains
In the same way that the devil gains access to our personal lives through an “open door”, an area of sin in our lives or through the power he gains when we believe his lies, the enemy also gains access to a city, people group or nation through areas of sin in their history or the lies that the people believe.
We need to pray and also do historical research, asking God to show us specifically what “open doors” exist in the nation or geographical area for which we are praying. What lies do the people believe about themselves?
What are key areas of sin that were committed in previous generations and are now prevalent in the lives of people today? I mentioned above that the people group I worked with in China was under the control of hopelessness, division and strife”. When these strongholds are identified then we know what we are fighting in prayer. We can then move onto the next step…
2. Recognize your position of authority
As I mentioned above, we are to pray with an understanding of our position of authority in Christ Jesus. When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them authority to “rule” on the earth. (Genesis 1:26) Picture God coming to Adam and Eve with a big set of keys, handing them the keys and saying, “Here—these keys represent the authority that I am giving you to rule on the earth.”
However, then the devil comes along in the form of a snake and Adam and Eve unwittingly are deceived into handing the keys over to him. BUT the good news is…Jesus came, he died on the cross and rose from the dead, winning over the devil.
In my mind’s eye, I can just picture Him marching up to the gates of hell, holding out His hand and demanding, “Devil, you are defeated! Give me back the keys!” Satan had no choice but to place the keys of authority to the earth back in His hands.
But He did not keep the keys to Himself. Matthew 16:18-19 tells us that Jesus gave the keys to us—the Church—now we have the authority to enforce God’s will on the earth through our prayers!
3. Persist in prayer—never give up!
This is one of the most important points I have to make in this article. I think if we understand this and nothing else, we have won more than half of the battle. It’s easy to get excited about praying for the darkest places and most unreached peoples of the earth.
When we begin to pray it feels like an adventure—we are going out to battle—to win and to conquer lost peoples of the earth! However, after praying for some time and perhaps not seeing immediate answers to our prayers, we begin to feel discouraged.
The task seems insurmountable and our passion wanes. This is NOT the time to give up! This is the time to keep on pressing through in our prayers!
Daniel is a good example. In Daniel chapter 10, he had to pray for 21 days until the angel appeared to him. In verse 12, we find that Daniel’s prayers were heard on the first day, but that there was a battle going on in the heavenlies and it took 21 days for the breakthrough!
In Daniel 9:23, we also read,
“At the beginning of your prayers, the word went forth…”
God hears our prayers right from the beginning and many times He sends out the answer. His light begins to shine but darkness opposes the light.
There is an unseen battle raging in an invisible sphere and only our persistent prayers will help win that battle. What if Daniel had stopped praying on the 15th day or the 19th day or even on the morning of the 21st day? He may have never received his answer.
How many times do we quit right before the light is about to burst through the darkness—right before our answer comes? Remember, the answer’s on the way! Don’t give up!
4. Fasting and Prayer
Once when Jesus’ disciples did not have the power to cast a demon out of a boy with epilepsy, they came to Jesus and asked Him why they did not receive the answer to their prayers. His reply was,
“This kind does not go out except by fasting and prayer.”
There are times when we face deep demonic darkness and it is vital for us to add fasting to our prayers. Isaiah 58:6 describes the results of fasting.
“To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and break every enslaving yoke.”
Fasting looses the ropes of sin that are wrapped around people and keeping them in bondage. It lifts the blinders from their eyes so that they can see the light and understand the truth. In the early days of our church planting effort amongst the Turkic people group I referred to earlier, my team and I dedicated extended seasons to fasting and prayer.
I am convinced that the breakthrough we experienced with miracles, healings, and scores of people, including whole extended families, coming into the Kingdom of God was directly related to our times of fasting and prayer.
There are many ways of fasting; water only, juice fasts, “Daniel” fasts with vegetables only, or giving up certain types of foods or entertainment that you enjoy.
Whatever the type of fast, I believe that if we want to see God’s light shine in these very dark regions of the earth, we must hear these words of Jesus, “This kind (of breakthrough) does not come except by fasting and prayer”!
So, if prayer is so powerful, if God has given us power and authority in our prayers to see amazing things happen in our world today, if through our prayers we can see God’s light shine through the darkness in the blackest corners of the earth, why don’t we pray?
There are many things that keep all of us from praying like we know we should—apathy, selfishness and busyness, just to name a few.
I am pretty sure, however, that Satan, our enemy, who is holding all of these millions of people in darkness, understands the potential in our prayers even more than we do!
He will use any means possible to keep us from praying! Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, faced the greatest battle of all time and He needed to break through in prayer. His disciples had the opportunity to join Him in this head-on challenge with the powers of darkness.
But where do we find them? Sleeping! We think this is unimaginable! How could they? And yet we stand on the brink of the last frontier of missions. Never before in the history of the world have the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:14 been as possible as they are today!
“This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world for a witness to ALL nations and then shall the end come.”
We are called to take part in this final battle of the ages and where are we often found? Sleeping! Or on the internet or watching TV or playing video games! What about the nations?
What about all of those people who are dying every day of hunger or in suicide bomb or terrorist attacks before they have a chance to hear about Jesus? The darkness in their world is overwhelming. They are waiting for the light to shine.
You have a match in your hand to light a candle, to ignite a flame that will begin to illuminate the darkness in these black corners of the earth. Will you take up the challenge? Will you get on your knees and pray?!