In most African churches today, warfare prayers have assumed a dimension that does not indicate that worshipers have come in contact with Jesus Christ and His teachings. Most often, it is difficult to distinguish between the prayers of Christians and incantation of herbalists or witch doctors.
It is disheartening to hear Christians praying for their human enemies to die, for people who have offended them to run mad, and for poverty to visit the household of their perceived enemies. The most worrisome aspect of this trend is that worshipers come out before the congregation to testify how they prayed and somebody died and the entire congregation celebrates.
Many of the proponents of this dangerous prayer argue that if Christians do not pray their enemies to death, definitely the enemies will eliminate them through their witchcraft powers. Pastors usually cite Exodus 22:18: "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live". They also make reference to some portions of the book of Psalms where David prayed against his enemies.
The Old Testament scriptures that support Christians dealing with their physical enemies without mercy are incongruous with the teaching of Christ and the New Testament’s teaching on spiritual warfare. Jesus is of the opinion that we should love our enemies and show them kindness (Mathew 5:44). Apostle Paul told us that our weapons of warfare are not carnal. He also identifies who our real enemies are: “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens" (Ephesians 6:12).
The early Christians had many enemies who persecuted them. Did they pray against them? After Peter and John were released by the council with a warning never to speak in the name of Jesus again, they came back and gave the report to the church and they all lifted their voice to God with one accord and prayed. We are going to look at the prayer points and see whether it is in harmony with the prayers in our African churches today.
"When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. Sovereign Lord, they said, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:24:30 NIV).
A critical analysis of the prayer reveals the hearts of the disciples who have denied themselves and carried their crosses to follow Jesus. They first extolled God and reminded Him of His wonderful creation. They equally referred to God's word as written in the book of Psalms. Then they presented their adversaries before God and all their threats and persecutions, asking God to give them the boldness to continue preaching the Gospel. They pleaded with God to stretch out His hand to heal and perform signs and wonders, as His presence in their ministry will inevitably strengthen them and give them boldness to continue speaking in the name of Christ. They did not pray against their persecutors.
Had the disciples killed Apostle Paul with prayers, who would have evangelized the gentile nations? Who would have written the epistles of the New Testament? They had good reasons to pray against Paul and others who conspired and killed Stephen, but they did not. Even Stephen in his dying state did not pray against them. Rather, he prayed that God should forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. Jesus prayed the same kind of prayer for those who crucified Him. Where are we basing these wicked prayer points against enemies that are prevalent in our churches today?