The United Prayer Track of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement was established in 1991 with the mandate of mobilizing and enabling the numerous prayer movements which God has been raising up on all continents and throughout all branches of biblical Christianity to focus their prayer ministries at least in part on accomplishing the task of establishing a Church for every people and making the Gospel available for every person by the year AD 2000.
With such a mandate, the United Prayer Track has been called to fill a specific niche within the broad and growing prayer movement of today's world. The definition of what this niche consists of begins with a recognition, with praise and honor to Almighty God, of a widespread interest in and enthusiasm for prayer throughout the universal Body of Christ unprecedented at least in living memory, if not in the history of the church.
In a spirit of humility and submission to God, the worldwide prayer movement can be thought of as a spiritual jewel with many facets, all of which glorify the Triune God in many different ways. The role of the United Prayer Track should be seen as only one of the facets.
The essence of all prayer is a personal relationship with God made possible through the redemption purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross and enjoyed by those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
In one sense, all prayer can be seen as an end in itself, the end of establishing and deepening relationships with God the Father. In fact, such a relationship of intimacy with the Father, which involves both speaking to and hearing from God, is nothing short of a prerequisite for all effective prayer in every facet of the prayer movement. It is an end in itself, because it pleases God.
When understood from this point of view, it is clear that prayer must not be regarded as a way through which human beings can manipulate God. To imagine that it is would quickly debase Christian prayer to the level of magic or sorcery. Rather, prayer serves to tune us in as individuals and groups to the will, purpose, and timing of God. We also recognize that the fulfillment of God's purpose for particular circumstances in history is, more often than some imagine, contingent, by His own design, on the effectiveness of believing prayer.
Through the centuries the saints of God have enjoyed the privilege of prayer as a way of deepening their personal holiness and spirituality. For many, nothing more was required. Countless classics of Christian literature on prayer have emphasized this contemplative "practicing the presence of God." Many have felt that their primary service to God consisted of a lifetime of personal waiting upon Him and bringing Him pleasure through praise and worship.
While commending this type of prayer wherever it may be found in the worldwide prayer movement, the United Prayer Track's specific mandate goes beyond this. Recognizing the primacy of prayer as a relationship with the Father, the United Prayer Track joins other facets of the prayer movement which sense that intercessory prayer is their chief calling. We feel that we have been called to stand in the gap between God and particularly those unsaved people who have yet to restore their fellowship with the Father through Jesus Christ. In doing this we affirm that powerful praise and worship are a vital part of effective intercession.
There is such a great breadth to intercessory prayer that some are uncomfortable with categorizing its many facets. Others, however, feel that such categorization helps produce clarity but only with the proviso that the intimate and ongoing relationships between all forms of communication with God are acknowledged at all times. For example there are many ministries of intercessory prayer which should be practiced by all Christians but which are, in fact, beyond the mandate of the United Prayer Track. Husbands should pray for their wives and vice versa; parents should intercede for their children; believers should pray for their pastors and their churches; citizens should pray for those who rule over them; just to name a few of some of the more obvious ministries of intercession. In today's prayer movement, many prayer leaders are called to specialize in one or more of these ministries, while affirming their relationship in the Spirit to those called to other prayer assignments. Valuable contributions to the literature on prayer are being made in all these and many other practices of prayer.
The intercessory prayer ministry of the United Prayer Track is centered on prayer which will enable the lost to be saved, the unevangelized to be evangelized, the unreached to be reached, the unchurched to be churched. This is not seen as an elitist or an exclusive mandate, but it is a primary assignment for us. Many outside the United Prayer Track also pray for the lost to be saved. Many within the United Prayer Track also pray that families will not break up and for safer streets in our cities. Nevertheless, the activities of the United Prayer Track as a component of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement are designed to mobilize the kinds of prayer which will specifically help open the way for the reality of a Church for every people and the Gospel for every person by the year 2000. Other equally valued segments of the Body of Christ are engaged in mobilizing intercessory prayer for any number of other worthy purposes and we applaud them all as part of our mutual desire that God's Kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
A goal of the United Prayer Track is to mobilize as much of the universal Body of Christ as possible to pray effectively for world evangelization. We recognize, however, that many churches in their present state cannot make a significant contribution to this united effort because they have left their first love and find themselves in a relatively powerless state. Because of this, prayer for what has been called revival or church renewal or awakening is essential. A desperate need of the hour is for massive spiritual revival within the churches throughout the nations. God's people themselves must be awakened to the urgent need to pray for the lost. To fill this need, powerful facets of the worldwide prayer ministry focus on intercession for church renewal. This type of prayer is made on behalf of the people of God. The United Prayer Track embraces this anointed ministry of prayer and indeed could not fulfill its own mandate properly without it.
At the same time there are many churches on all continents which, while not perfect, are indeed alive, adhering faithfully to their first love, impassioned for reaching the lost, hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches, and experienced in vital prayer for evangelism. Likewise, God has raised up large numbers of prayer ministries, related in differing degrees to local churches, which have sensed a special calling and anointing to pray for lost people to be saved. It is such churches and prayer ministries which naturally provide the initial candidates for active components of the United Prayer Track. Others may if so directed by God join when the prayers for church renewal are answered and a passion for praying for the lost restored in those churches.
Because spiritual power being released throughout the whole Body of Christ is so important, strategic level prayer for evangelism (see No. 12) must never be carried out apart from uniting in revival praying, because, to the degree God wins the battle inside the church and removes strongholds there, to that degree will all other prayer for the 10/40 Window ultimately prevail.
It should be noted that the United Prayer Track does not assume the responsibility of stimulating prayer or creating new prayer ministries. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our task is rather to identify those prayer ministries targeted to world evangelization which God has already raised up and interconnect them in a way which will enhance the possibilities of each of them becoming all that God wants them to be. As such, we desire to provide a worldwide network of information and resources on prayer for the entire Body of Christ, serving also to broker the various prayer ministries throughout the network.
The prayer ministries associated with the United Prayer Track exhibit differing degrees of emphasis on prayer for the lost. For some prayer evangelism may be only one of many good emphases. Others may be burdened chiefly, if not exclusively, for prayer for the unevangelized or the unreached. Some will be in between or will vary their emphases from time to time according to need or in obedience to divine guidance. Prayer summits, solemn assemblies, national days of prayer, and a network of prayer rooms are a few of the many examples of prayer ministries for which evangelism is an important, but not necessarily a primary focus. Examples of movements more exclusively targeting prayer for the lost are YWAM Cardinal Points, Generals of Intercession, Every Home for Christ "Jericho Chapters," Campus Crusade World Prayer Strategy and others. There are roles in the United Prayer Track for all these and many more, regardless of the degree of emphasis.
Some of the prayer ministries associated with the United Prayer Track, notably but not exclusively, the International Fellowship of Intercessors, Generals of Intercession, and Youth With a Mission, began in the decade of the 1980s to practice a type of prayer for the lost called by some "strategic-level intercession." Especially since the Lausanne II Congress in Manila in 1989 this ministry under additional identificational labels such as "territorial spirits," "strategic-level spiritual warfare," and "warfare prayer" began spreading through broader segments of the Body of Christ. It took organizational form with the creation of the International Spiritual Warfare Network in 1990.
Two fundamental biblical premises underlie the various approaches to spiritual warfare as it applies to evangelizing the lost. They can best be stated by quoting relevant biblical texts:
When the United Prayer Track was formed in 1991, the leadership of the AD 2000 and Beyond Movement agreed that the first and potentially largest sub-network associated with the United Prayer Track would be the pre-existing Spiritual Warfare Network (SWN). Since then many meetings of the SWN have been held on national, regional and international levels, surfacing some issues associated with strategic-level intercession on which there seems to be quite broad consensus and others on which there remain varying shades of opinion. In a statement of the philosophy of prayer of the United Prayer Track, these issues should be recognized.
To begin, it should be pointed out that there is virtually no disagreement among those in the AD 2000 Movement on the importance of spiritual warfare as an essential part of the task of world evangelization. The AD 2000 Movement has officially reaffirmed the Lausanne Covenant. In it, Article 12, Spiritual Conflict, states in part: "We believe that we are engaged in constant spiritual warfare with the principalities and powers of evil who are seeking to overthrow the Church and to frustrate its task of evangelization."
In the work of the Spiritual Warfare Network a somewhat arbitrary but nevertheless useful distinction has surfaced between three levels of spiritual warfare: (1) ground-level spiritual warfare dealing with demonic deliverance of individuals; (2) occult-level spiritual warfare dealing with the powers of darkness operative through such as New Age, Satanism, Eastern Religions, witchcraft and the like; and (3) strategic-level spiritual warfare in which territorial principalities and powers are confronted. Since all three operate together in the unseen realms of darkness, it must be kept in mind that they are interrelated and that spiritual warfare on any one of the levels can affect the demonic forces on all levels.
One of the most prominent unresolved issues among members of the Spiritual Warfare Network is on which, if any, of the three levels we are given biblical authority for intentional ministry. Some feel that because the principal biblical examples we have of spiritual warfare involve casting demons out of individuals, we should not advocate engaging spiritual forces which may be occupying buildings or animals or human social networks or churches or physical objects such as trees or mountains or idols. For them it is not advisable to do strategic-level warfare and name, rebuke or otherwise address so-called territorial spirits. Others prefer to give a literal interpretation to such sayings of Jesus as "Behold, I give you the authority...over all the power of the enemy" (Lk. 10:19) and do confrontive spiritual warfare on all levels.
It is recognized that several types of encounter with the Enemy are described in the Bible: (1) the "power encounter" illustrated by Paul's confrontation with the sorcerer Bar-Jesus in Cyprus (see Acts 13:6-12); (2) the "truth encounter" illustrated by Paul's preaching justification by faith in Antioch of Pisidia (see Acts 13:38-39); and (3) another less recognized encounter which some call the "allegiance encounter" illustrated by the Lystrans attributing the powers of Zeus and Hermes to Barnabas and Paul (see Acts 14:11-18). Many believers who profess to be Christians have not made the radical break with spirit forces that the Bible demands, maintaining a degree of allegiance with the Enemy.
Among SWN members there are differing points of view as to how to keep the three of these in balance. All agree, however, that we must avoid overstressing one to the detriment of the others. Some have suggested, for example, that those who stress the power encounter may not be remembering that it is the truth which sets us free. Others suggest that relying too heavily on the truth encounter may shirk the responsibility of wrestling with principalities and powers. Practically speaking, some would interpret positive results in specific attempts at evangelism as a result of all or any one of the various approaches. Admonitions from all sides help to avoid potential excesses all around.
Members of the Spiritual Warfare Network attempt to identify inherent dangers in strategic-level spiritual warfare and suggest antidotes to them. They realize that it is possible to become preoccupied with the demonic and exalt the Enemy; that some could naively adopt negative aspects of an animistic world view; that technique and methodology can substitute for the power of the Holy Spirit; that Satan would like to seduce the church and lead it astray. All realize that mistakes can and will be made in engaging the Enemy on any level, and we agree that they should be corrected whenever they happen.
Some are concerned that as yet few precedents for strategic-level spiritual warfare for evangelistic purposes have been uncovered either in the history of missions or in the history of dogma. While recognizing this, others argue that it would not be contrary to the nature of God to do a new thing and provide relatively new spiritual approaches particularly for the unprecedented challenges to evangelism presented by the powers of darkness dominating the 10/40 Window. All are agreed that ongoing efforts need to be made to clarify biblical and historical concerns.
One of these relatively new spiritual approaches is spiritual mapping. By creating a Division of Spiritual Mapping, the United Prayer Track is committed to an attempt to provide the best possible spiritual intelligence information in order to help target the prayers of God's people for the lost. Paul seems to indicate that such a thing would be helpful when he says, in the context of resolving personal relationships, "Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor. 2:11). Satan uses his evil devices in many ways. Spiritual mapping attempts to expose the devices Satan has used to prevent evangelization and allows God's people to aim their spiritual weapons against them more accurately. The challenge before us is to do our spiritual mapping in a responsible, balanced way using agreed upon field methodologies with full accountability to the Body of Christ.
When we arrive at behavioral issues we find that our range of AD 2000 constituents including such as liturgical, traditional evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic, postdenominational, Third Wave, and others requires all of us to make adjustments which will not be offensive to the rest. The United Prayer Track has developed a statement attempting to set forth agreed upon standards for interdenominational prayer events. The following four items are taken from that statement.
As our overall track philosophy, we are using a statement developed by Every Home for Christ with the permission of Dick Eastman:
Remember that the moment two or more of us unite in prayer we become a symphony. As such:
We want all those who participate to be themselves. We must not quench the Spirit. There are no restrictions at all on prayer styles in prayer groups of like tradition. Yet some of these styles may not be appropriate in groups of mixed traditions.
Here are some of the specific areas in which wisdom, caution, spiritual discernment, and good manners need to be used:
Body language is an important part of prayer. Raising hands, kneeling, and lying prostrate on the floor are not usually issues. Some pray with eyes closed and some with eyes open, some raise their chins, others lower their chins. Clapping, dancing, falling in the Spirit, unrestrained laughing, and roaring are not as widely accepted, however, and special caution should be used by those accustomed to them. Blowing, hissing, and physically "travailing" should be avoided. At the same time, spiritual travail in prayer, at times with "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26), may be expected.
We encourage hearing from God and using the prophetic gifts. Prudence in communicating words from God in an interdenominational meeting will avoid such phrases as "thus saith the Lord" or using the first person for God. Prophecies can be prayed back to God: "God, we hear you saying..." or expressed to the group with statements like "I think God may be saying to us..." and expecting others to agree if it is a true word.
In all cases, care must be taken that prophetic gifts are not publicly used apart from the covering, permission and spiritual authority of the person designated to preside over the particular session. Prudence dictates that, particularly when the prophetic word has directional content (as opposed, for instance, to devotional content), explicit permission be sought from the presider before the word is given.
It is no secret that the most sensitive issue is tongues. The AD 2000 Movement seeks to balance 1 Cor. 14:39 "do not forbid to speak with tongues" with the next verse "let all things be done decently and in order" (I Cor. 14:40). In our interdenominational Prayer Track meetings we feel that individuals may use tongues in a whisper or even in a louder voice when all are praying aloud in a concert and no one person's voice stands out above the others. But we feel it is not prudent to use tongues when one is audibly leading the whole group in prayer. We also need to agree that we will not use messages from God in tongues with interpretation.
A grassroots, networking structure like the United Prayer Track has both strengths and weaknesses. It stands or falls on personal relationships rather than on bureaucratic controls. Therefore good will is an essential personal characteristic for all who participate. This is a day in which we are seeing a visible spiritual unity of the Body of Christ which is unprecedented both in quantity and quality. We are bold enough to believe that it is an answer to Jesus' prayer "that they all may be one that the world might believe" (John 17:21).