The images found on news reports haunt me: enemy soldiers attacking not only military installations but also civilian targets such as hospitals, churches, and homes; families displaced and separated; children injured and dying; people without access to food and water. In some areas the populace flood the streets, locking arms in solidarity to declare, “We will not be moved—even if we have to die.” What courage amid confusion! What determination amid destruction!
Indeed, the kingdom of heaven (and of earth) suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. It seems, however, that national television’s familiar practice of audience exposure to brutal attacks whether recently or through the years slowly benumbs our senses, and in time tragedies becomes more “normal.” But the reality of current events calls for focused contemplation.
The brutal attack that we witness in the physical realm replicates what’s happening in the spiritual realm. The enemy is viciously attacking our churches. We repeatedly hear of the “bombings”: large numbers of young adults have left the church (worldwide numbers as high as 62 percent have been cited by church leaders),1 and even older adults are wrestling with the challenge of “belonging.”2 North American Division membership has been declining since 2017,3 and experienced only minimal growth in 2022.4 People are wounded and hurting in the pews, and sometimes our response seems to be one of nonchalance. Why might this be so? It’s because we’re in a war zone, and because we’ve let the enemy be the only one who has a battle plan to win.
During my devotions one morning the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “If you’re experiencing spiritual warfare, you must be ready to respond as a valiant soldier.” God has assured us, in 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4 that “though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” Yes, we do have to fight, but Matthew 18:19 assures us that “if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
I got even more excited when I read Isaiah 49:25: “I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children.” Is God willing to be the commanding officer who guarantees victory? Yes, He is, says Isaiah 55:11: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void. . . . It shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
As I read those passages, hope was ignited in my heart, giving birth to a strong conviction that with God’s help I can fight the spiritual battle to help connect my children and other loved ones to Christ.
Some spiritual wars can be won only by following Jesus’ example of prayer, fasting, and the Word (see Matt. 4:1-11; also 17:14-21). Isaiah 58:5-8 explains, however, that “fasting” doesn’t mean simply abstaining from food. The true fast that God requires involves a sacrifice of time, energy, effort, and resources. Prayer and self-denial is only half the equation. Sacrificial involvement is the other half.
What would prayer and fasting look like if we want to retain and regain our children, young adults, and other loved ones who have walked away from the church? How can we connect them with Jesus? If physical warfare gives us insight into what happens in spiritual warfare, then it would make sense to study the military strategies involved in physical warfare, to learn from soldiers on the battlefield.
Sometimes in warfare soldiers have dug long, deep trenches, where they both sheltered from and attacked the enemy. Anyone exposed to enemy fire could seek refuge in them and launch their firepower against them.
This same strategy can be used in a spiritual sense as we wrestle against principalities and powers and rulers of darkness (see Eph. 6:12). Some of our loved ones are already bruised and injured, but we still can win if we all get down in the deep spiritual trenches together, bending our knees in prayer and using the firepower of the Word of God against the enemy. With a mustard-seed faith, and with prayer and fasting, nothing is impossible.
My phone beeped in the middle of my conversation with God. A familiar name was listed with a phone number requesting a return call. I held my breath in disbelief. It was from a young man I’d adopted as my son more than 25 years ago, when he was just a teenager beginning college. After graduation I continued my commitment to pray for him every Friday, even though I’d not heard from him in more than 20 years. When I returned his call, my son shared that he’d been incarcerated, sentenced to seven years in prison for drug trafficking. God had intervened, however, and he had been released after serving only three years.
“I want to say ‘Thank you’ for praying for me,” he said. “It was rough in prison, and at times I felt as if I would lose my mind. But every time that feeling surfaced, I would turn my face to the wall, close my eyes, and envision you praying for me. That mental image preserved my sanity for the three years I was in prison!”
It was Friday, and I’d just prayed for him. God confirmed by my son’s call that He still answers prayer. This was all the confirmation I needed to officially organize a new prayer-and-fasting movement called Trenches.
I invited my sisters, along with two Adventist friends and three non-Adventist friends, to join me in my “trench” to pray for our children and grandchildren. We outlined a prayer schedule where we would all be praying for the same child on the same day, utilizing promises from the Word of God (supernatural resources) to meet the needs of each child. Not complicated; just coordinated.
Every day we would pray individually according to the schedule,5 and once per week we would assemble to pray collectively for all the children. SOS prayer requests for any emergency would be added to the schedule during the week. We would pray and fast for three weeks.
We experienced dramatic results. Everyone without exception received an answer from God; some received multiple answers. Some answers were huge—reduced seizures, complete healing , academic success, hugs and apologies, a job opportunity, a real estate purchase, COVID deliverance, an internship, a successful childbirth, wisdom/ discernment, and so on. These happened not because we were such great prayer warriors, but because God was confirming that He still hears and answers prayers. I believe that God also wanted to convince the recipients that He loved them and was working on their behalf.
Some of the young adults whom we interceded for started new specialized trenches with their friends. The best result, though, is that we experienced unified trench evangelism—people coming together to connect with God and to utilize His Word to defeat our common enemy.
In 21 days of prayer and fasting huge prayers can be answered, and God’s words can win. As spiritual soldiers we’re fully persuaded that what God has promised, He’s more than able to perform.
Our prayer team encourages everyone to enlist in the spiritual army, to commit to digging deep prayer trenches, and to intercede for your loved ones, claiming God’s promises. God indeed is mighty to save!
1 https://www.adventistresearch.info/wp-content/uploads/ NR2017TED_2.pdf; see also https://www.adventistresearch.info/ research-reports/presentations-by-astr-staff/ reports-by-astr-staff-organized-by-topics/.
3 https://www.adventiststatistics.org/view_Summary. asp?FieldInstID=5720
5 Use this link to see a sample schedule: [Designer, please include a link here to the sample schedule.].
Brenda Langford Billingy is a retired associate ministerial director of the North American Division.