Spiritual warfare–offensive or defensive?

It’s 1981, and race riots are spreading across London. One of the riots is centered on the East End where we live. The  fear in the air is palpable. Listening to the radio, where a reporter is on the ground, we realize that the riot is coming our way–rapidly.

I glance out of our living room window. The Indian owner of the little corner shop across the road is nailing boards across his windows. His store is a likely target. A couple of doors down, a boy who can’t be more than 12 or 14, is gathering together a stash of weapons, mostly broken bricks and rocks and putting them in a pile behind a wall. Both are ready for whatever is coming.

The phone rings. It’s the other couple with whom we started the church. “This is our territory they’re encroaching on. It belongs to God. We have to stop what’s going on.”

So we conduct spiritual warfare. We use the spiritual authority Christ won for us in his death on the cross to tell the enemy that these streets belong to us and he has to leave. The riot ends just before the very street that we regard as marking the beginning of “our territory.”

This is clearly defensive warfare. It’s interesting that of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6, all but the sword are for defense.

Fast forward a few years. The unemployment rates are at a high in the area–more than 20%. Several of the people in our network of home groups have been unemployed for months with no prospect of any jobs on the horizon. One Sunday morning when we all come together, we decide to pray about it. The Lord leads us into a prophetic type of warfare.

We put all those who are unemployed in the center of the room while we enact the battle of Jericho around them. Everyone marches silently round them six times. On the seventh time round, we raise the roof with our praise. Within a few weeks, all but one of them have jobs.

This was offensive warfare. (I’m not aware that we’ve ever repeated that prophetic act since then and I’m certainly not suggesting this is any kind of formula. As always, you have to listen to Jesus and do what he tells you.) In Matthew 16:16-20, Jesus says to Peter about his declaration that Jesus is the Christ, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

In this analogy, gates are defensive and the church is going to breach them. It reminds me of a battering ram. As the Lord leads us to hammer repeatedly against the forces of darkness, eventually they give way before us. We are on the offensive.

Have you seen anything similar?

Photo Credit: sludgegulper (Creative Commons)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • andy

    The key, as always, is listening to Jesus, and then doing what He says. Sometimes He calls us to storm the gates, at others to batten down the hatches, sometimes to rest, but most often, to fight. Thank you for your post, it is a good reminder. It seems the ‘usual’ flow for us is that we do offensive warfare any time God asks us to step out into new territory, new ministry, or new areas. Once we’re established in that, He seems to call us to defensive warfare, with occasional forays into offense, as particular battles are revealed. We have learned to not go into offensive warfare without God’s specific direction, as the backlash is never worth it unless God is in it.

    • felicitydale

      Andy, this is a wise word. Thank you

  • Bruce

    Andy, Perfect word, this is exactly right, and have seen it both ways. I have been asked to pray for a sick or afflicted person, and have sensed that I was to directly address a spirit that was causing the affliction, and have seen the affliction leave.

    Sometimes I have sensed an attack on myself or someone close to me, and have put up a shield in the Spirit to stop the attack, and seen that work. I have found God very willing to speak and direct prayer, or a spiritual offensive, or something else. What I have found to be important is to let the Holy Spirit be in charge of what happens.

    One time my wife wanted me to pray for a friend with chronic fibromyalgia who had been suffering terribly. It was like, “OK, Mister Healing Prayer, do you thing.” I sensed God leading me to say to the woman, “I think that God wants to heal your heart.” She said that if God healed her heart, she would not care about anything else. Always, always, I try to let the Holy Spirit be in charge.

    • felicitydale

      Bruce, you have hit on the key. The Holy Spirit has to lead and guide us in everything we do.

  • http://www.revisitingscripture.com/ Thomas Schultz

    I have come to see the armor of God as being entirely defensive…against the attacks of the evil one on our faith. It has always bothered me to have people go through themotions of putting on the armor and then, apparently, going out to attack other people…or at least their beliefs. Not for nothing does the passage speak about STANDING and about wrestling with SPIRITUAL forces.

    • felicitydale

      I agree with you that the context of Ephesians 4 and the purpose of the armor is primarily defensive. But I still think there are times when, under the Lord’s leading, we go on the offensive. Think of the binding and loosing passages, for example. We’ve just gone through such a time and are seeing an incredible victory in a family member.

  • Pal Madden

    I think the first place we have to implement spiritual warfare is by breaking down the demonic strongholds that can remain in us long after we have placed out faith in Christ. I think this can only take place in environments that are extremely transparent, and filled with deep, agape, unconditional love so those there can freely, openly share their struggles, and so those looking in can discern how to wage the battle in an individual’s life. If it’s none done in our individual lives, first, it makes taking on the bigger obstacles, like those you mentioned in your post, more difficult.

    I think one of the greatest strongholds the enemy has is in centralized, top down structures where people are placed under the control and domination of one man, or a small few vs bottoms up church life where all are equally empowered. These top down structures place God’s people in a blinded prison, and keeps them from being empowered to reach their greatest potential for the kingdom of God.

    I think we need to stand together to draw a line, and wage spiritual warfare against the enemy using these church systems to hem people in, bind them up, and keep them from entering into the freedom Christ set us free for.

    • felicitydale

      Revival almost always begins at a grass-roots level and I agree with your assessment that we need environments where there is deep and unconditional love expressed. At a personal level, I’m hesitant to take on warfare against principalities and powers behind systems and nations except as they affect the areas that lie within my/our sphere of authority and influence.

  • Bill

    Imparted to us (Overcomers) is only one offensive weapon…the Sword of the Spirit which is His word to us. If we have it in mind to be in a defensive posture only we’ll not make advances/progress. There is a time for battle and some things just won’t change for the better without some fasting to go along with prayers and intercessions. My dos centavos :}

    • Felicity Dale

      Bill, you are right, although I think I would put praise as an offensive weapon too. Ditto binding and loosing. But I totally agree with you about the importance of fasting.

  • Trying

    A sister and I have been “Jericho” prayer walking around a brothel near my home for about a year and a half now. We begin each time with praying for each other, our husbands and children. I feel it has made a huge difference in both our families. We are preparing ourselves for the battle He is about to wage on that place.

    • felicitydale

      That’s great. I know that in India, they see temples demolished and all kinds of similar things happen through prayer walking. Keep us in touch.