When a strongman, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. - Luke 11:21-22 (NKJV)
As you read the previous scripture, what picture leaps to your mind? What or who is the strongman spoken of in this passage? For some, this question elicits the image of a huge, foreboding creature with its wings spread over a city. Others think of someone like Hitler who threatens the peace of nations and people groups. Which is right? Is the strongman a ruler of darkness, as mentioned in Ephesians 6:12, or is it an actual person who through some dark, charismatic influence is able to control governments, laws, and the thinking of people? Is it possible that both concepts are accurate to a degree?
For a clearer understanding, let’s examine two passages where strongmen are addressed in the Bible. Ezekiel 28 begins with an address to the prince of Tyre. God is evidently speaking through the prophet Ezekiel of judgement on the prince of Tyre. However, in verse 12, the king of Tyre is addressed as having supernatural attributes. In Isaiah 14, the king of Babylon is addressed in terms of judgement as a physical being through verse 12, where the text reads, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning.”
In the same passage, there appears to be a physical ruler being addressed as well as the supernatural being who stands behind the human structure. This could be explained as the law of double reference—when a visible person is addressed, but certain statements also refer to an invisible entity who is using the visible creature as a tool.1
How Do We Overcome?
If, indeed, the strongman can be represented by a person, such as the king of Babylon, who is a tool of an unseen power of darkness, how do we “overcome” the strongman?
The Bible says he is disarmed when someone who is stronger overcomes him. Few Christians would disagree that God, who is the King of the Universe, has power that far surpasses any influence of the evil one. There is clearly no contest! One of the mightiest ways God displays His strength, however, is through a Church that prevails through prayer. So, if Satan has been able to set up his thrones and dominion through wicked rulers, it’s because the church has not been overpowering the strongman in intercession.
Dr. Peter Wagner gives us insight on scriptural overcoming in his book, Warfare Prayer. He explains that the Greek word for overcome is nikao, meaning “to conquer,” and it is a prominent warfare term.2
A fascinating instance of how intercessors in one nation conquered their strongman comes from Panama. Different Panamanians have described to me the agony of the years under the harsh dictatorship of Manuel Noriega. They shared about the sound of helicopters in the night that flew over the jungles and dropped black garbage bags containing the remains of those who posed real or imaginary threats to his dictatorship. It was a well-known fact that Noriega consorted with occult leaders and practiced voodoo and other forms of magic.3 The empowerment he received from these dark forces protected him for a season. He indeed seemed to be an invincible strongman.
However, there was one army in the nation whose leaders understood that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but are mighty for pulling down strongholds and strongmen!
Various Christian leaders organized a prayer army. This army focused its spiritual weapons through prayer in a unique way—all-night prayer vigils by bus! The intercessors would pray throughout the whole nation once a month in this manner: While a leader led the prayer through radio broadcast, those interceding on the buses agreed together with those who had to stay at home with their families. The strongman’s troops never suspected they were being undermined in such a “painless” way. Most of you know the end of the story—prayer worked! Eventually Noriega was deposed and sent to prison in the United States.
Of course, Noriega was not the real enemy; he was simply being used as a tool of Satan over the nation. However, as long as he was in power and yielding himself as an instrument, the law of double reference indicates that he also represented a spiritual strongman.
Daniel 9 Prayer
There are various ways to pray which are useful in dealing with strongmen. In Daniel 9, as he was engaged in 21 days of prayer and fasting for his nation, Daniel systematically confessed and repented for the sins and iniquities of his people while they were being held captive in Babylon. We do not know if Daniel knew he was wrestling against the power of the strongman, the prince of Persia, before an angel came and told him. However, we do know that the answer to his prayer was sent right away, but a demonic ruler tried to interfere (see Daniel 10).
We learn from Daniel’s experience that persistent prayer, fasting, and repentance can be powerful tools for overcoming strongmen.
1 Timothy Prayer
Another insight for dealing with strongmen is given in 1 Timothy 2:1-2. We are first exhorted to simply pray for all people—petitioning God for their needs, interceding for their situations, and even offering up prayers of thanks for them. Essentially, Paul is challenging Timothy to be continually alert in intercession, to surround people with prayer. This weakens the ability of strongmen to be able to deceive and attack people.
Many years ago, in Toronto, Canada, each of 25,000 Christians meeting for city prayer received a page of the phone book to pray over, which resulted in intercession for just about everyone in the city. This kind of intense bombardment breaks the power of the strongman off of a city’s people (see 2 Cor. 4:4).
Perhaps prayer groups or churches in your city could come together to pray for the people who live there. Or maybe God would have you simply begin praying for all the people in your workplace, your business, your child’s class at school, etc. You could even walk around your neighborhood and pray over each home as you pass it.
A second instruction given in 1 Timothy 2:2 is to pray especially for kings and all who are in authority. Remember the above story about Noriega—strongmen who stand behind human structures particularly target leaders. I have heard more than one person remark on how a certain governmental leader went into his position with the best of intentions and the purest of hearts only to be corrupted and compromised.
The invisible strongmen want this to happen for one main reason, and 1 Timothy 2:2-4 explains it—God wants us to live quiet and peaceable lives in godliness and reverence because He desires all men to be saved. It takes strategic spiritual warfare for this goal to be accomplished. All of our leaders—whether we like them or not—need to be continually protected by the prayers of God’s people.
Result: Revival Breaks Forth
Once the power of the strongman is broken off of an area, it clears the atmosphere for God to move freely, and tremendous revival breaks forth. I am convinced, if we were to study the awakenings, renewals and revivals of the past, we would see that before the move of God happened, strategic intercession took place. It is simply an incredible experience to witness in an area where the power of the strongman has been broken. People are receptive, hungry and open. They have had the blindness removed from their eyes, and the light of Jesus Christ falls abundantly upon them in the transforming power of salvation.
Kinzer, Stephen. “Panama Journal; In the Country of the Occult, Power to the Spirits.” The New York Times. 19 June 1987. Web. 20 July 2015. www.nytimes.com/1987/06/19/world/panama-journal-in-the-country-of-the-occult-power-to-the-spirits.html
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