George Floyd’s blood speaks to me. I have responded to it with grief, anguish, and anger. His death reminds me of the pervading presence and power of racism in our nation. But, it also has left me feeling helpless and powerless. Yet, there is a blood that speaks a better word (Heb. 12:24). That blood has strengthened me and also reminded me that striving violently for peace in our nation—though not physically, and not against flesh and blood—requires an increase of power (Eph. 6).
Increase in power
Racism has its roots in demonic strongholds that aren’t easily bound. They are primarily spiritual. These beliefs have been subliminally thread into the fabric of our society and persons over the span of centuries. To assume that racism can be eradicated from our society by mere political ascendency, legislation, or by modest enhancements to the great American experiment is to assume too much about the power held in the visible realm.
It is the power within the invisible realm that must be obtained and vigorously exercised. Increased faith is the power we need. Specifically, we need an increase in Christian faith, because that faith has an assured hope and a conviction in the promises of a renewed place and people (i.e,. new creation)—a place of shalom, where justice reigns and people forever perpetuate righteousness and much more. That faith hopes and trusts in the promise that it will one day see the person from which it emanates. He is the object of this faith—the Prince of Peace, Jesus—and that faith is always striving to see a renewed place and a renewed people, which he brings about.
Faith is not static or stoic. Christian faith is a gift of power dispensed from God to overcome evil. And the power of faith is intended to grow. As followers of Jesus, we grow in faith to overcome trials and wage war against darkness (1 John 5:4). As we grow in Christ-likeness, faith grows more vibrant—even in the midst of death. True faith, in fact, grows more aggressive toward the powers of death.
Nevertheless, in the Gospels, the disciples were given power to heal the sick and cast out demons. Yet, there was an instance that the power they had been given was met with a power they could not overcome—a demon possessed boy (Mark 9:14-29). When Jesus arrives at the scene, he rebukes the demon and casts him out. Then the disciples ask him privately why they couldn’t cast out the demon, which they had done before (c.f. Luke 10:19-21). Jesus responds with a rebuke, “Because of your little faith . . . this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:20-21).” Jesus makes clear that some principalities are more potent than others. As Mark’s Gospel mentions, “this kind [of demon]” requires another level of power. Their faith was required to increase in power in order to combat a greater power. Abraham Kuyper in his work Pro Rege describes it this way:
The disciples did have faith, but not enough power had sprouted from it. Just like the mustard seed, their faith, which in germ was very small, had to develop into an unbelievable power and become like a tree whose branches the birds could nestle. The emphasis is thus on the surprising power, exceeding all expectations, that develops out of the germ of faith. The disciples did not come up short in power because they did not have even a grain of faith. They certainly had that. Rather, it was because the growth of the stalk from the germ of their faith had not been strong enough.
Kuyper makes the point that the plant of faith in the disciples had to increase in order for them to supplant stronger principalities. The account with the disciples is not an unfamiliar or novel scenario in the Scriptures. Daniel prayed and fasted for three weeks, and it contributed to the power to overcome the prince of Persia in Daniel 10. Jesus is led into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights to pray and fast before his encounter with the prince of darkness. And while the disciples were given a specific task, Jesus' words to them are applicable to us as well.
Scripture gives us vivid examples of how to combat higher powers in spiritual warfare. The power we wield as Christians is not limited to some spiritual elite, but extends to all believers (1 Pet. 2:9). And it is accessed by those who are regimented in prayer and fasting. When we wage war in the spiritual realm, we must realize that there are levels to this. There is depth and height that we must climb in order to engage in this form of warfare. In our time, the mere germ of faith is not enough to conquer the giant of racism. There is another level of regimented spiritual warfare we must engage in.
Set aside time for prayer and fasting
Christians in our nation are looking to wage heavenly war on racism and injustice. For that, I am grateful. It is important that we organize our efforts in a regimented fashion. Having a discipline of prayer and fasting against these strongholds in our nation is a good first step. It is also prudent to admit that it is hard to stay present in this battle when it is not always seen with our eyes, depending on our context. So, I think it’s safe to say that we will need habitual practices in our churches, families, and individual lives to stay continually engaged in the battle. Not in a legalistic way, but in a focused and intentional manner. As we’ve seen over the last few weeks, the issues before us require a great deal of seriousness and strategy.
Here is one suggestion: Set aside a time with your churches, family, or yourself in each month to pray and fast against the stronghold of racism. Pastors, your church will need to find a creative way to make this rhythm and practice fit your church calendar, context, and people. Depending on your context, it may be imprudent to just start doing this on a whim. You’ll need to carefully and pastorally think through how to implement this practice. The same idea applies to the family. Husbands and wives, your family may need to find a way to start the conversation before creating the rhythm. In the meantime, you can begin privately establishing the rhythm and inquire for God’s wisdom for your family until you can carefully cultivate understanding and prepare your family to go in that direction. But perhaps right now while your heart is engaged, pick a date and set aside a specific time to pray and fast for this issue. Maybe grab some friends to join in. It’s simple, but not simplistic. There are complexities and obstacles that will arise in an attempt to plan and implement this. Do the work carefully and prudently.
Finally, I would encourage you to note specific things to pray and fast about related to racism and injustice in America. It may seem strange to set aside a time in the month to pray and fast against these issues, but doing so while asking God to address specific injustices will provide more motivation. Racism—and slavery along with it—is our nation’s original sin. It is backed by demonic forces and cannot be easily overcome. Developing a regimented practice of prayer and fasting against these strongholds is the best first step in waging warfare against them. So, gear up (1 Pet. 1:13). It’s time to go to war (2 Cor. 10:4).