“God, why are hearts hard here? Why are people generally not open to hearing the gospel?”
When my husband and I began our ministry in a Muslim-majority neighborhood in the US, we talked to other missionaries about the spiritual climate. They all agreed there was a consistent hardness; people were almost never open to hearing the good news of Jesus. When we heard this, we asked God why. Why were people who had been investing here for 5–7 years not seeing fruit?
As we prayed, God began to give us answers—things we wouldn’t have known on our own. The first thing he showed me was the presence of witchcraft affecting the area, which surprised me because I had not seen much visible evidence of this. The second thing he revealed was a spiritual attack coming against ministries in the neighborhood, which was creating disunity, twisting ministry efforts, and making these efforts fruitless.
In the face of these things, I felt a specific burden to pray. I sensed the Lord saying, “Daughter, you can do other things, but don’t forget prayer. There’s an assignment here that I’m giving you, and you need to focus on it.” Instead of just praying when I didn’t have other things to do, I actually built my whole schedule around my times of prayer.
A month into this focused prayer journey, God gave me the phrase “confrontational praise.” I knew he was asking me to not just pray in my room but to go to specific places and confront what was happening in the spiritual realm through worship and praise.
So I took my guitar and a friend to a park where many Muslim friends hang out. I had no idea what I was doing, and felt like I was about to embarrass myself so much! But we started singing anyway, closing our eyes to focus on God rather than the onlookers in the park, and just worshipping, worshipping, worshipping. I felt God’s presence strongly.
And then I saw this little old Guatemalan woman watching us. Of course, everyone in the park was looking at us! But she came over to us and shared that she prayed every day for this city and for the world. That day, God had told her, “Go to this park, and you will find people there that are worshipping me.” That was definitely us! For me, it was a powerful confirmation from the Lord that this new step I’d taken in prayer was going to have an impact.
My husband and I prayer-walked different areas of the neighborhood regularly, and we discovered that there was, in fact, a strong occult presence, just like God had shown us. There was even a shop run by a second generation witch! I continued to walk out the “confrontational praise” strategy God had given, praying and worshipping in the neighborhood around the palm reader’s shop and witchcraft store.
A month later, the palm reading shop shut down.
During one of our prayer walks, my husband decided to talk to the witch. As they were talking, God gave him three insights about physical issues that she was dealing with. He asked her about it, and discovered they were all true. “Well, can I pray for you?” he asked.
“Oh no, that’s OK, no,” she quickly responded.
“That’s fine,” he replied, “but sometimes when we pray for people they get healed. They feel better.”
“OK, you can pray for me.”
We prayed and she felt physically better in all three places! She didn’t have pain there anymore!
I spoke to the witch on a later prayer walk, and she told me she was closing her shop. I asked her what had happened. “Why are you closing your shop?”
“You know,” she said, “the energy here has changed. This just isn’t a good place [to run a shop]. I want to open up a shop somewhere else.”
As we declared the truth of who God was through our worship and prayers in that place, God was pushing back the darkness of the occult! He was breaking the stronghold!
God let us see that our prayer and the breakthrough we were seeing were connected. A lot of times we can pray, and we see good things happen, but we don’t know for sure that it was connected to the prayer. We have a hope, but not conviction. Those couple of interactions we had with the witch and the things she shared, gave us a conviction that this focused prayer and confrontation was impacting the spiritual realm.
Right across from where the witch’s shop used to be, there was an empty storefront. My husband and I started dreaming about opening a House of Prayer there. What would it look like to establish a place of God’s presence in the heart of that darkness—for the sake of the harvest? We prayed and dreamed about it for a couple of months, and got so much confirmation from God! And we realized he was leading us to not just open a House of Prayer, but also a community center that could be a tangible demonstration of God’s love for the Muslim immigrants and refugees in the area.
We approached the landlord of the empty storefront to see how much it would cost to lease it. God quickly brought the funds together to rent the unit. We started thinking we could really do this!
But then we hit a season of resistance. The landlord started questioning what we’d use the unit for. “I don’t want a church here. Are you going to evangelize? I don’t want that.” He next refused to let us rent one unit, saying we’d have to rent two—something that was out of our reach financially.
At this point, I felt the Lord leading me to do a fast. I felt like there was going to be a breakthrough—that God was going to do more than we had imagined—but that there had to be some intentional engagement with fasting.
On the third day of my fast, I got an unexpected phone call, from a man I’d only met once. “The Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to pray for you guys,” he said. “I know you work with Muslims, and I feel like I’m just supposed to partner with you in some way. What situation are you in? What do you need?”
I explained the trouble the leasing agency was giving us. “We can’t afford a double space. We’re just kind of stuck.”
“For the next year I want to pay for the second space,” he said. “Our church wants to come behind you and I’m personally going to put up the funds for this.” His family also ran the largest food drive in the area. He wanted to channel food through our center as a way to bless more families.
I was floored. First, this breakthrough was a direct answer to prayer. Second, God was giving us more space to bless more people. And third, we’d had a dream about feeding people, but no way to do it. God was opening that way!
We signed the lease in September, and the House of Prayer has been up and running in this space for two months now! Every morning, believers come together to pray and worship. Once a week, there is a gathering there of ten different mission teams and churches to pray over the area. Believers and missionaries in the neighborhood are being unified to pray and work together to reach the Muslim community.
I see the House of Prayer meetings being the antidote to whatever that disunifying spiritual attack was. There’s a sense of unity and a spirit of prayer upon our community as we come together. We’re going to reach the Muslim community as a body, not as CRM / Novo or any other single mission organization.
The community center has been open for a month, and so far we have a food bank and after-school tutoring for kids. A Sudanese community center, which operates in a neighboring space, really blessed what we’re doing. They asked us to share our vision at one of their meetings. We talked about kids, and our desire to help them have a good future in America. The response was so positive! “We trust you. We trust what you’re saying. We want to be part of this.” About half of the people coming to our center now are Sudanese families.
We pray daily for the women and kids that come to our center. There are just so many layers— fear, abuse, culture, Islam. There’s a lot that needs to be opened up by the Holy Spirit.
I’m reminded of God’s word to me, “You can do other things, but don’t forget prayer.” As I’ve prayed over the past year, God has done so much more than I ever imagined. I think there’s a journey ahead of us of really seeing regional breakthrough as we continue to pray.
We’re just getting started.
This story illustrates the significance of the strategic prayer that our staff engages in around the world—work that we believe is absolutely necessary for gospel movements. You can support the expansion of our global prayer initiatives in the coming year by giving to our Gospel Movement Fund.
For more details about the impact of our work this year, check out our 2018 Annual Ministry Report.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This story comes to us from an anonymous CRM / Novo couple who live in the US. In addition to their ministry in a Muslim-majority neighborhood, they are members of the Prime prayer initiative within CRM / Novo.