Beware of Prayer—New Apostles and Prophets on the National Day of Prayer

Holly Pivec is my co-author for two recent books, God’s Super-Apostles and A New Apostolic Reformation? Today she writes a column I’d like to share here. It’s about the upcoming National Day of Prayer and three worrisome emphases within the New Apostolic Reformation: the practice of “warfare prayer,” the practice of prayer “declarations,” and the doctrine of a Seven Mountain Mandate. Holly’s words are a call for caution and discernment. We commend the designation of special occasions for prayer. But we also stress the need for a biblically-grounded theology of prayer. And we encourage awareness of efforts by NAR leaders to infiltrate the ranks of traditional evangelical churches and organizations.

“The ‘NAR-tional’ Day of Prayer?”

Churches across the United States are gearing up for the National Day of Prayer. More than 40,000 prayer gatherings are expected to be held on May 7 in observance of this annual event. But has the National Day of Prayer been hijacked by the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)?

The official promotional video, being played in Sunday morning worship services, gives no hint of NAR influence. But the influence can be seen if you look closely at the National Day of Prayer literature. The following NAR teachings and practices are being promoted.

Warfare Prayer

One NAR practice being promoted is “warfare” prayer. The National Day of Prayer website features an article titled “What is Prayer?” which is excerpted from a book titled The Front Line: A Prayer Warrior’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare written by John Bornschein, vice chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. This book is promoted heavily in the National Day of Prayer literature. Included in the article’s list of the types of prayer “the Holy Spirit wants to lead us into” is a form of prayer known in the NAR as “warfare” prayer.

What’s “warfare” prayer? It involves verbally addressing demonic spirits and issuing direct commands to them. The National Day of Prayer website describes it as “prayer directed against the powers of darkness. … We pronounce against them the written judgment by reading the Scriptures of judgment against them (Psalm 149:9), we command them to be bound or to leave their positions of influence or authority in the name of Jesus (Matthew 16:19; Mark 16:17).” Yet nowhere in Scripture is prayer ever directed to demonic spirits. Prayer is always directed to God. They seem to be confusing “prayer” and “exorcism.”

Of course, Scripture does indicate that Christians have been given authority to cast out demons from individuals. Yet it gives no hint that they’ve been given authority to cast out demons from cities and nations. Those familiar with NAR teachings about “strategic-level spiritual warfare” will recognize immediately how warfare prayer relates. The idea of commanding demonic spirits to “leave their positions of influence or authority” seems to be a not-so-veiled reference to NAR teachings about the necessity of casting out evil, powerful “territorial spirits” that are believed to exert rule over specific geographical regions, such as cities and nations.

But the Bible gives no support for the teaching that territorial spirits must be cast out before a city or nation can be reached with the gospel. There’s not a single example in Scripture of God’s people seeking to cast out a territorial spirit or engage such spirits in any way. Nor is there any teaching about the need for such engagement. Contrary to NAR teachings, Scripture indicates that rebuking such high-ranking spirits may actually be dangerous (Jude 1:8-10; 2 Peter 2:10-12). Why, then, would the National Day of Prayer Task Force ever be compelled to promote “warfare” prayer?

Faith ‘Declarations’

Another NAR practice that’s being promoted by the National Day of Prayer is that of making faith “declarations.” A declaration is not asking God to do something, which is how prayer typically has been viewed by evangelicals. Rather it involves declaring that such-and-such a thing, that is believed to be the will of God, will happen. It’s believed that Christians have been given the power, through their spoken words, to bring a desired reality into existence–much as God had creative power to speak the universe into existence.

Literature circulated to churches in Alaska, by the National Day of Prayer Alaska state coordinator, invites believers to gather at noon on May 7 “in one voice of victory declaring Jesus as King and Lord over Alaska and America.” It urges Alaskans to plan to “go someplace where you can easily make a loud declaration … and boldly proclaim into the atmosphere across our state and into the lower 48 [states] that Jesus is King and Lord over this great land.” My hunch is that similar directives have been issued in other states.

Some will wonder what can possibly be bad about declaring Jesus to be King and Lord. Certainly, there’s no problem with simply stating that Jesus is King and Lord because he already is–whether or not anyone states that fact. The problem is found in the notion that–simply by speaking these words–a new reality will somehow magically be created. That’s not the traditional, and biblical, view of prayer as petitionary. I’m pretty sure it’s not what most churches have in mind when they encourage their members to take part in the National Day of Prayer.

Seven Mountain Mandate

A third possible NAR influence could be found in the striking resemblance of the “7×7 campaign” to the “Seven Mountain Mandate.” The National Day of Prayer website encourages people to get involved in the event by downloading free prayer guides for each of the “seven centers of influence.” Clicking on the link provided takes people to the website of Pray for America (a project of the National Day of Prayer Task Force) and a description of a 7×7 campaign to pray for the “seven centers of power, seven days a week.”

Again, those familiar with NAR teachings will naturally wonder how closely the National Day of Prayer focus on the “seven centers of influence” resembles the “Seven Mountain Mandate” that supposedly has been revealed by God to NAR prophets as a strategy for the church to take sociopolitical control of nations. If there’s no connection, then the National Day of Prayer Task Force would do well to clarify its view and clearly distinguish it from NAR teaching.

Have you seen signs of NAR influence in your local National Day of Prayer events?

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Coincidences of Life – Ender’s Game and a UPS Truck

UPS Truck . . . without a driver

This afternoon I was waiting at a red light (northbound on Palm at Central in Brea, CA, if the coordinates matter) and listening to the audio-book for the sci-fi novel Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. Just as the light turned green, one character said to the other, “I drive a truck for the United Parcel Service.”

This struck me as odd, showing up in a work of science fiction. But stranger still, as I shifted my motorcycle into second, a UPS truck passed me in the intersection going south.

Was it a coincidence? Of course it was. It was quite literally the coinciding of an auditory reference from one source and a visual reference from another source to the same company, UPS. These sensory experiences occurred simultaneously. They each conveyed information, and the information conveyed referred to the same thing. I heard a guy say through my headset, “I drive a truck for the United Parcel Service” just as I waved to a guy driving a truck for the United Parcel Service. (Well, actually, I didn’t wave.)


Sort of.

The Merriam -Webster Dictionary defines “uncanny” in this way: “seeming to have a supernatural character or origin,” or “being beyond what is normal or expected: suggesting superhuman or supernatural powers.”

The concurrence of two causally unrelated references to the same informational content attracts our attention. It is so incredibly unlikely that this would happen, it seems almost to have been planned. Was it planned? And if so, who arranged it? It might take superhuman or supernatural powers to make it happen just so. What other explanation could there be?

“Coincidence,” we say, with palpable matter-of-factness. But of course it’s a coincidence. Saying so merely reports an observation of fact. The real question is, what kind of coincidence is it? What is the explanation for this coincidence?

We do explain coincidences in various ways. Sometimes we say, “It was just a coincidence.” By this we mean that there’s nothing more to it than that, a mere coincidence, with no deep explanation. There is no intelligible cause, and no intelligent agent, involved. There is no meaningful answer to the question, “Why did this happen?”

But the question does present itself. It does to me, anyway. Trivial coincidences like this happen in my experience with remarkable frequency. I say “trivial” because I infer no special significance when they happen. And yet it is both remarkable each time it happens and remarkable that it happens as often as it does.

Why is it remarkable if the coincidence is trivial? It’s remarkable because the concurrence is so improbable. The degree of improbability varies depending on the specific character of the information presented. But the improbability of the concurrence does not, as such, warrant attribution of some special significance.

Why not?

The answer, I think, is two-fold. First, we can think of no special reason why the elements in our experience have occurred together. (Note: No one else in the intersection, I believe, actually heard or thought of the words “United Parcel Service” at that moment.) Second, we can identify no  causal mechanism that would ensure that they did occur together. In other words, there is no apparent point in their concurrence, and no obvious causal account of their concurrence. If we thought their concurrence served some purpose, we would naturally be curious about the cause. And if nothing else will serve, we might say that the cause was superhuman and personal. Given a general reluctance to attribute causes to occult entities, we require that a coincidence be specially significant. Also, if the concurrence was caused for our benefit, then we should find some benefit in their concurrence. That is, if we who experience the coincidence were meant to experience it, then there was some reason why it happened and why it happened in our experience. And this suggests that we should be capable of discerning that purpose.

What purpose could possibly have been served by the coincidence I experienced on my way home this afternoon? Nothing comes to mind. “It’s just a coincidence.”

But wait, now that I think that thought, I recall that there was a UPS package for me when I arrived home not two minutes later. Was the coincidence a warning, then? It certainly didn’t have that effect on me when it happened. In fact, when it happened, my thought was, This is something I could blog about. And in retrospect it doesn’t seem that a warning was required. The contents of the package were innocuous. Some clothing I had ordered. I don’t know if it matters, but the package wasn’t waiting on the front porch, as if it had just been delivered by the very same UPS truck. It had been carried in by another member of my household who wasn’t home. (I know she wasn’t home because no one was home. And I know it was a she because I’m the only he in the household. Aren’t you impressed with my awesome powers of deduction?)

I suppose now I might take care trying on the clothing that was delivered. But I can’t seriously entertain the notion that I’m in some kind of danger.

If there was a message, it was totally lost on me.

Could there be some other purpose, completely unrelated to my goals or interests, so that the purpose might be achieved quite apart from my cognizance of it?

(c) 2009 Katherine Gehl Donovan

Sure. A minor demon might have been taunting some innocent angel with her powers of manipulation, claiming to be able to cause me to hear “I drive a truck for the United Parcel Service” and, at the same precise moment, cause me to see a guy driving a truck for the United Parcel Service.

In that event, would it really matter whether I recognized the concurrence of the appearance of a UPS truck just as I was hearing that bit of fictional dialogue? I can imagine a neophyte angel thinking, How did you do that? What if the line I’ve quoted from the story isn’t actually in the novel?

And what if there wasn’t really a UPS truck crossing the intersection in the opposite direction? Maybe the demon’s game was to present me with visual and auditory data that did not correspond with objects matching the data. Who knows what minor demons are capable of?

The point is, if there was a purpose in the coincidence, I have no idea what it was, and this makes it less likely that, if there was a purpose, realization of that purpose depended on my discerning that purpose.

Now, what do I actually believe? Do I believe there was a purpose in the coincidence? I do not. But this is imprecise. Not believing that there was a purpose is not the same as believing there was no purpose. I might simply be agnostic about whether the coincidence served some purpose.

So am I agnostic? No. I believe that no purpose was served.

I should have a reason for believing this, shouldn’t I?

My chief reason for believing that no purpose was served by the event is that attributing a reason does not comport with my worldview. Or rather, my worldview provides no basis for attributing a reason for the coincidence.

What we make of coincidences often is a matter of worldview commitments. Some coincidences do, for me, invite an inference to the agency of some superhuman or supernatural agent. Apparent answers to prayer, for example.

Here’s a question for fellow theists who believe that God exists and is a personal being who created the universe and sustains it in existence, others like me who affirm a doctrine of meticulous divine providence:

How do you decided whether this or that ‘coincidence’ is the occurrence of an event serving some special purpose intended by a superhuman or supernatural being?

Bonus Question: Is the angel/demon image posted here too provocative? Is it poor judgment to use it here?

Top 10 Reasons for Motorcycling

The other day, Barry Corey—President of Biola University—caught me leaving my office holding a motorcycle helmet. He asked me about it and I gave him the first answer that came to mind: “I walk to work, and it’s gotten more dangerous than it used to be.” (Biola is in La Mirada, which is in Los Angeles County.)

The truth is, I don’t walk to work and I do ride a motorcycle. Oh, and La Mirada is a pretty safe place.

But why ride a motorcycle?

Here are ten of my own reasons:

  1. Parking. Shopping the Brea Mall at Christmas, attending the Biola University commencement, and showing up late for work can be sources of panic because open parking spaces are nonexistent. With a motorcycle this is not a problem. Many parking structures now have specially reserved parking for motorcycles. And here’s the real kicker: they are often located immediately adjacent to the handicap parking! How ironic is that?
  2. Praying. Motorbiking improves your prayer life. It adjusts your priorities, so that praying becomes serious business. Instead of praying for a space in the mall parking structure, you learn to pray for survival.
  3. Vanity. No, I don’t mean the vanity displayed by so many motorbikers who look and ride like the biker’s version of the runway model. I’m talking about the vanity of life, the Ecclesiastes kind of vanity. Riding can reinforce the counterbalancing impressions of power to pursue your dream and confronting the fragility and brevity of life, both at the same time. This is biblical.
  4. Adrenalin. Chemical Structure of AdrenalinAlso called epinephrone, adrenalin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is instantly activated in situations perceived as dangerous, creating a feeling of euphoria—an “adrenalin rush.”
  5. No seatbelts. This is one of the first things that struck me (I know, bad choice of words) when I took up motorcycling.
  6. Antinomianism. I’m not talking theology here. I mean something more general, namely, antinomianism as opposed to hyper-legalism. Some traffic laws simply don’t apply to motorcycles and their riders. For example, there is no seatbelt law, riders are legally entitled to split lanes, and there is practically no danger of being pulled over for violating the cell phone law that requires using a headset. Question: How many times have you seen a motorcycle cop ticketing a biker?
  7. No qeues at stop lights. First, because of the gear ratio on a motorcycle, there’s a greater chance of being the first at a stop light (if, indeed, you aren’t able to streak across the intersection just in time—legally, of course). And if you come upon a ten-car backup in three lanes at a traffic signal, you can use the special lane reserved for bikers, approximately four feet wide, and lined by parked vehicles (otherwise known as “cages”), waiting interminably for the opportunity to cross the intersection. Yesterday, a driver actually moved over slightly to allow me room to slip between cars and trucks. (Tip: to take full advantage of this benefit, the smaller the bike, the better. A Honda 250 Rebel is ideal.)
  8. Greater head protection in case of accidents. How many drivers wear helmets in their cars? Now, how many bikers where helmets? I rest my case.helmet-law-map
  9. Fraternity. The most notable symbol of this is the wave. Bikers, when passing each other going opposite directions, give each other a wave. If you want to understand this better, check out the five-minute YouTube video by Mordeth13 here.
  10. Joie de livre. This is a French concept perfected by Harley Davidson, Triumph, and Ducati.

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