Spiritual Warfare With Territorial Spirits

The spiritual warfare “Prayer Intercessor” exclaimed, “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, explains,

“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. 60-61)

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 demonic control!

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” and a “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: 1. The battle was fought in heaven, and not on earth. 2. The battle did not involve any humans; rather, two angels and one demon. 3. The battle was directed by God in heaven and by Michael, not by men on earth 4. Daniel was not asked to bind a demon. 5. 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 prayer.

Further Reading:
Thomas Ice, Robert Dean, A Holy Rebellion-Strategy For Spiritual Warfare, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR 1995
Chuck Lowe, Territorial Spirits and World Evangelisation? Christian Focus Publications, GB, 1998
Dave Hunt, Occult Invasion, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1998
Donald Grey Barnhouse, The Invisible War, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1995