“You are never going to believe this,” my wife declared as she entered the house after chatting with our neighbor. “John is a satanist.”
John (not his real name) was a neighbor in our townhome community. Her revelation left me stammering. “Really? He flat-out told you that? Satan as in, like, the Devil?” I peppered her with questions.
Yes, yes, and yes—like the Devil, she told me. We were both stunned. We felt a strong call to love our neighbors and build relationships with them, but a relationship with an ally to our spiritual Enemy? That felt different.
The Bible minces no words about who the Enemy is, what he wants, and why we should never underestimate him (1 Pet. 5:8–9). When the law was given to God’s people, pagan and occult practices were all forbidden (Lev. 19:31). In the Gospels and Acts, we see the disciples offering swift discipline to those profiting off the occult (Acts 8; 13). Our Enemy is formidable.
We emailed the director of healing and prayer ministry at our church, who has a background in working with people engaged in the occult. Her recommendation was simple: pray for him and his family, be open to relationships, and be on guard.
That’s good, biblical advice if you live next to someone involved in openly pagan practices. But it’s also good counsel for those who work next to, or regularly pass by, businesses dedicated to the occult or other activities directly opposed to our faith. Since that’s a more likely scenario, let’s unpack her advice in that context.
Pray for them as often as you can (1 Thess. 5:17). Every time you check in or out of work and pass their store, pray for the folks coming in and out of the doors. Pray for those running the business, for their employees, and for the customers. All people are made in the image of God. They need God’s grace and salvation. They’re trying to make a living or provide for their needs in a way that seems best to them.
Paul’s passage about putting on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10–18) is instructive here, especially when prayer is coupled with a deep and abiding dependence on God’s strength—and not your own—to fight the battle. Pray for things only God can accomplish. Pray for their salvation, for them to see through the illusion of control and power that the Enemy has over them, for them to encounter the true power of Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Pray for things only God can accomplish.
It helps to remember we were once all misguided in our beliefs. We may not have engaged in occult practices or operated a business that profits off the occult, but, like the Ephesians, we were all children of wrath at one point (Eph. 2:1–3). You and I needed (and still need) God’s forgiveness and grace. So do they.
We don’t see Jesus running away from or refusing to talk to those in the throes of demon possession. Instead, Jesus asks for names (Luke 8:30). He teaches the restored (v. 35). He gives back family relationships (9:42) and invites the formerly possessed into relationship with him (8:2).
This may sound counterintuitive, but as you pray for the people running or working at the business, ask the Lord for opportunities to engage. The body of Christ is fundamentally communal. The people who run that business need to meet Jesus, and they may meet him through you. I can almost guarantee that if you pray for opportunities to cross paths with and meet the people in that store, you’ll receive them. And remember: the battle belongs to the Lord, not to you.
A sensible precaution is to avoid patronizing the business or becoming overly fascinated with what they’re selling. As you engage with the folks next door, create a distinction between learning about the people (which may include why they started that business) and nurturing a curiosity about their products and services that may lead you into temptation.
Finally, be sensitive to when the Holy Spirit is leading you to engage and when to keep your distance. You’ll probably experience moments where the Spirit is saying, “Danger!” It’s wise to listen to how the Spirit is moving you in these moments, knowing that sometimes the appropriate response to the Enemy is a rebuke (Matt. 4:1–11).
Follow Where God Leads
The advice from my church director to pray, engage, and be cautious is wise whether you live near a satanist or work near an occult business, a Planned Parenthood, a casino, or any other business at odds with God’s plan for our thriving.
You don’t have to stand outside the business and decry the immorality and sin, because, Christ have mercy, we too are sinners. In humility, pray for them and be open to showing Christ’s love.
This is how we kept on with our neighbor John. We didn’t shy away from knowing him but shared chitchat with him and his kids. And we prayed relentlessly for the family. We don’t know if any of this changed his perspective, but maybe that wasn’t our part to play in his story. It might not be yours either. Pray and engage, and see where God leads.
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