Prayer Gone Awry |

McMahon, T.A.

When does prayer cease to be a good thing? When it deviates from the clear teaching of God's Word. Tragically, just as biblical teaching regarding faith has been twisted by popular "faith" preachers, so too what the Scriptures say about prayer is being corrupted by many evangelical leaders at the forefront of the national and international prayer movement. Prayer, like faith, is so important to a Christian's walk that distorting it can make praying an exercise in futility at best, a demonic delusion at worst.

The Bible teaches us everything we need to know about prayer; and if a doctrine or practice regarding prayer is not found in, or is imposed upon, the Scriptures, we can be sure it's not from the Lord—no matter how right it may seem. There are three basic questions we must ask to help us discern the truth or error of any spiritual teaching: 1) Is it taught directly in God's Word? 2) Is it presented indirectly, especially by way of example in lives of believers found in the Scriptures? 3) Can the doctrine, even when not directly stated (e.g., the Trinity), be clearly and substantially supported by the Scriptures? A no or an unconvincing or wishful yes to these questions is a strong indicator that the teaching should be rejected as unbiblical.

Based upon the whole counsel of God's Word concerning prayer, we can also make specific judgments as to whether or not a doctrine conforms to God's way. For example, does it make prayer a technique or methodology? Does it require certain works, rituals, or game plans in order to be successful? If that's the case, we have denied the critical personal-relationship aspect of prayer and rendered God a law-bound entity which must answer our prayers because we have followed certain rules or procedures.

Incredibly, what may be the fastest growing technique-driven prayer among evangelicals today is known as "strategic-level intercession." According to its promoters it involves newer varieties of prayer such as "spiritual warfare," "territorial spirits," "prophetic acts," "spiritual mapping," "warfare prayer," "tearing down strongholds," "identificational repentance," and "remitting the sins of nations."1 Explanations of these prayer systems are found in advocate C. Peter Wagner's book, Confronting the Powers, along with definitions of other methods, including "four ways of praying in the community": praise marches, prayerwalks, prayer journeys, and more wide-ranging prayer expeditions. These, the author notes, "were virtually unknown to the majority of Christians before the 1990s...."2 Certainly, they were not known by God's prophets and apostles! (See TBC, May '97 / June '97 .)

The rationale for these new approaches to prayer sounds appealing: Satan and his adversaries are obstructing the preaching and acceptance of the salvation message and must be confronted directly and removed from their positions of power so that the gospel can flow freely. That premise fails to meet the biblical criteria presented above. Nevertheless, Peter Wagner, recognized leader in this movement and a professor at Fuller Seminary School of World Mission, insists that it must be of God because the Lord commanded him to "take leadership in the area of territorial spirits."3 He is presently Coordinator of the International Spiritual Warfare Network (ISWN) and the ad 2000 United Prayer Track.

In order to show just how far from the Bible and saneness this popular movement has strayed, we present the following excerpts (in italics) from a 12/1/97 ISWN memorandum.4

THE RECONCILIATION WALK. Thousands of intercessors are doing this prayer expedition, walking all the known routes of the First Crusade, which left Cologne, Germany...on Easter 1096. The one agenda item of this massive prayer initiative is repentance--apologizing to Muslims and Jews for the atrocities committed against them by our Christian ancestors.

This is unbiblical. Even if some true Christians participated in the Crusades along with the Catholic mercenaries and assorted indulgence seekers, it was their sin to confess then. For a nonparticipant to confess someone else's sin is a charade. While expressing godly sorrow for something which took place nearly a thousand years ago could demonstrate a Christian's sincere compassion toward a Muslim or Jew, it has nothing to do with biblical repentance.

The Reconciliation Walk is one of the highest profile acts of identificational repentance in our decade, following the principles laid out in John Dawson's Healing America's Wounds. What happens, theologically speaking, is that massive corporate repentance such as this, on the pattern of 2 Chronicles:7:14, is one of the most effective means of tearing down the strongholds of the enemy (2 Cor:10:4-5).

This has nothing to do with 2 Chronicles:7:14, which involved national Israel's confession of sin to God. The true church is not a nation, it has no ancestral line, and it has no connection to the historic sins of pseudo-Christians. This type of repentance, therefore, encompasses believing in and promoting a lie, which is what 2 Corinthians:10:5 declares constitutes a stronghold of Satan.

Satan has used the wounds inflicted in the Crusades as a primary stronghold to blind the minds of Muslims and Jews to the gospel for centuries. In my opinion, the Reconciliation Walk is the most promising action ever taken to open the Muslim world to the love of Christ and to the full blessing of God.

This is folly, not biblical truth which sets humans free. Very few Muslims or Jews will ever hear of this "repentance"and those who do could take it as proof that they are right and that Christianity is wrong. Daniel did not "identify" with the sins of his people against, and apologize to, the Gentile nations for the purpose of their conversion. He confessed his and Israel's sins to God (Dn 9).

OPERATION QUEEN'S PALACE...Spiritual warfare on all levels was a key to Paul's success.

Paul knew nothing of Wagner's concept of three-level spiritual warfare (ground level, occult level and strategic level). Paul's winning souls involved none of the strategies which Wagner, Dawson, Otis, et al. propose. You find no complex game plans or hidden "keys" to success in the apostles' ministry (Col:2:8; 1 Tim:4:1; Eph:6:10-20). Paul prayed continuously, and obediently preached the gospel whenever and wherever God gave him the opportunity. That simple, Spirit-filled, persevering approach enabled him to turn "the world upside down" (Acts:17:6).

The ruling ["territorial"] spirit over Ephesus and Asia Minor was Diana of the Ephesians....According to Acts 19, when Paul went to Ephesus he cast many demons out of individuals and he saw a people movement among magicians. This eroded Diana's authority so much that she began to lose her power and she could no longer keep her territory in darkness.

You have to read all of this into the Scriptures; Diana's territorial power simply isn't in the plain text.

While we were in Turkey, Doris [his wife] and I...knew that the power of the Queen of Heaven had to be broken in order for the gospel to spread in Turkey. Doris sensed this very strongly when we prayed near the altar of Diana. The evil power is still there, and it is very strong.

Wagner theorizes that the Queen of Heaven may be more than a regional demon posing as Diana, and that it is also the power that draws Roman Catholics to worship Mary and her various apparitions around the world. The problem here is not that Wagner is wrong (paganism's Diana and Catholicism's Mary are obviously demonic manifestations); it is his reliance on a false spiritual method of both discernment and deliverance. Catholics can only be saved through the gospel, not by assaults against the demonic Queen of Heaven.

THE VISION FOR OPERATION QUEEN'S PALACE. Cindy Jacobs....said, "For several years we have been doing battle against the Queen of Heaven in many parts of the world. The time has come for a frontal assault. [What does this mean, and where is it found in Scripture?] Why not call together the Spiritual Warfare Network intercessors from the nations of the world for a massive prayer initiative right where one of her centers of power lies?" It turned out to be one of those electric moments. Instantly Doris, Cindy and I knew that it was God's will, and Operation Queen's Palace was born....Acts:19:34 says that for two hours the idol worshippers of Ephesus cried out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" I believe [God] showed us that Christians, in that very place, would one day cry out, "Great is Jesus of Nazareth!" for four hours. Ephesus was once the center of world Christianity. It is time to take that land back for the kingdom.

Take the land back for the kingdom?? Since when did the body of Christ become a land baron? Did the early church battle over territories? Wagner and his cohorts have confused the erroneous temporal teachings and land-conquering practices of the Roman Catholic Church, the kingdom/dominion/reconstruction evangelicals, Islam, etc., with the spiritual kingdom of God (Jn:18:36).

THE CELEBRATION. Each [Operation Queen's Palace] team of intercessors will accomplish their prayer acts, wherever they might be, in time to arrive at Ephesus on the same day....careful not to disobey any Turkish political overtones. We will not be speeches, no preaching, no teaching; just prayer, praise, worship, and overt warfare prayer because the prayer and prophetic intercession will have previously been accomplished....

Can any of this be found in Paul's approach to saving souls? Plead with those drawn into the melodrama of this massive, costly, fruitless activity, to read Acts and Paul's epistles for themselves!

PRAYER THROUGHOUT THE COURT OF THE QUEEN. I have a hypothesis...that the Queen of Heaven is the demonic principality to whom Satan has delegated the primary responsibility of...blind[ing] the minds of unbelievers to the gospel (see 2 Cor:4:3-4). If this hypothesis is correct, Operation Queen's Palace...could be the most significant action ever taken to push back the forces of darkness....[What about the Cross?!]

Since defeating Satan's demons is not the biblical prerequisite for spreading the gospel, this futile approach only plays into the hands of the adversary.

The spiritual warfare during the last week of September 1999 will be worldwide, ...massive,...precisely targeted,...synchronized, and...unprecedented....God has been training us for seven or eight years in this kind of spiritual warfare, and now is the time for a frontal attack.

Frontal attack? Chapter and verse, please! "Now is the time"? Is this why neither Jesus, the apostles, nor the early church ever engaged in this approach? It grieves us deeply that so many sincere Christians have become involved. It is both incredible and sad that the wilder, more irrational the testimonies, the greater the attraction and seduction--to which the following testifies:

THE ROLE OF OPERATION ICE CASTLE. Ana the coordinator of the Spiritual Warfare Network for Southern Mexico....a proven, world-class leader in the field of prophetic intercession....a woman of God who has a remarkable gift of discernment, who hears accurately from God, and who has the courage to implement what she senses God is telling her to do, even at the literal risk of her physical life. Converted years ago as a high priestess of voodoo, Ana has known the powers of the invisible world in a deeply personal way....

While in prayer in her [AD2000 prayer] tower, the Holy Spirit clearly showed her that a principal stronghold over the 10/40 Window [a designated mission area]was located on Mt. Everest in Nepal, and that she was to lead a team of intercessors in a frontal attack on this power of darkness, who was none other than the Queen of Heaven.

Ana, her husband, and Rony Chavez led a team of 11 who operated out of the base camp at the foot of Mt. Everest at 18,000 feet....From Ana's report: "God spoke to us that He was going to release judgment upon the iniquity and over the false religious systems of the world. He said that he was going to bring down the foundations of 'Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of Harlots.' [Really, by sending a prayer team to climb Mt. Everest?]

"[O]n September 22, 1997, an incredible climbing anointing came over the team, and God led us through the Ice Fall, the most difficult, dangerous, and technically exacting part of the Everest ascent, with no guide but Him and no help other than from His angels. After many hours of crossing crevasses and climbing ice walls, we were about to reach the point where we had located the seat of the Queen of Heaven ...[when] a huge avalanche broke loose above us, sending megatons of ice and snow crashing our way. At the last moment a huge crevasse in front of us swallowed up the avalanche [and] saved our lives...We continued toward our goal, and...took the [Queen's] throne that the Lord had showed us....That evening God spoke...: 'Go out from this mountain...because I am going to destroy everything.' The next day ...all three mountain slopes which surrounded [the] Base Camp...simultaneously collapsed in the greatest avalanche ever seen on Everest."

"Climbing anointing"? No guide but Him and no help other than His angels? All of that to enable eleven (presumably novice) mountaineering prayer warriors to reach an ice-laden, extremely high-altitude physical throne of a spiritual entity, in order to pray to destroy its center of power? What spiritual powers did God destroy with "the greatest avalanche ever seen on Everest"? Is this what it takes to fulfill the Great Commission?

A significant prophecy came from one of the home-based intercessors praying for Operation Ice Castle. Before hearing any reports, she said that in prayer God had showed her that the teams in Nepal were up against a dragon (confirmed), that their prayer assault was sending arrows into the dragon....[who] did not have strength to do anything about it. I cannot help but wonder if the weakened state of the dragon (the Queen of Heaven? Satan himself?) might be due to the massive and aggressive praying for the 10/40 Window throughout this decade. [Satan, the dragon, is weakened? In fact, his kingdom grows!]

The Scriptures know nothing of these "newer varieties of prayer." In addition to this "aggressive praying" by the masses being utterly without merit, with all of its strategic-level spiritual warfare methods and techniques, it is a denial of Christ's complete victory over spiritual powers on the cross. We are told "to stand" in the armor of God against Satan's schemes, not "attack" him with fleshly schemes (Eph 6). If we open ourselves to these kinds of delusions, where will it take us?

Let us all heed God's words: "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein..." (Jer:6:16). TBC


  1. C. Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers (Regal Books, 1996), 130.
  2. Ibid., 21.
  3. Ibid., 20.
  4. ISWN, Box 63060, Colorado Springs CO 80962.