When Under Attack: Praying for Maiduguri

They awoke to the sound of explosions. Repelled by the Nigerian army, Boko Haram’s suicide bombers aimed for soft targets: the people of Ajilari Cross area in Maiduguri city, the capitol of Borno State, Nigeria. The aftermath of such an attack was horrendous; amidst “body parts on [homes]” and “people running helter-skelter,” as two survivors put it [1], emergency services and the Nigerian government took in the severely wounded– and there was no end to those who were severely frightened and confused.

Sadly, this was not the first suicide bombing that Maiduguri had experienced. It had been one in a long line of many suicide bombings, which started in mid-May. Since that initial spate of suicide bombings in May, over 300 men, women, and children in Maiduguri have fatally fallen at the hands of BH suicide bombers, with hundreds more injured. It has not been until recently that Nigeria’s army and government have become more diligent in protecting Maiduguri’s citizens, shooting down suicide bombers before they detonated their explosives in large crowds. While lowering the death toll, the amount of fear and instability in Maiduguri has stayed consistently high, with those in the city scared about when the next bomb will go off.

Though we’re still talking about a city that, for many reading, is a world away with its differences, the city of Maiduguri is like many of the cities we live in. With a population of over 600,000 people counted in 1991, and a growth rate of 12.0%, it is estimated that Maiduguri reached a population of over 1 million people in 2009 (source). Maiduguri is, as one can imagine, a city with compact, small homes and roads in historic Yerwa, newer developments dated to the 1970’s and fringe settlements farther from the inner city of Yerwa, and more rural, undeveloped land in the outermost parts of the city [2]. While the city may be home to many different religions, islam is “the religion of most of the inhabitants of [Borno] state,” the state Maiduguri inhabits (source). This city is the biggest and most developed city in Borno state, while being the 7th largest city in Nigeria. But for being such a “fortified city,” this city is in major need of help, both spiritually and physically.

Every single person in this hugely populated city faces a battle– and it’s not just one of spent bullets. Whether knowingly or not, all people have a spiritual enemy– who, not unlike Boko Haram, is “looking for every opportunity to hit back” (source). This is why Paul soberly warns Christians to “put on the whole armor of God, that [one] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV). The fight is real, but it shouldn’t be overemphasized fanatically, as it sometimes is. Christ has sealed His children with His Holy Spirit, making it completely impossible to be “possessed” by an evil spirit, or the devil himself (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 John 4:4; John 14:16). If Christ’s Holy Spirit lives in and forever seals the Christian, there is no room for any other spirit to live in them.

While a Christian cannot be inhabited by an evil spirit, they can be harassed by one. Often times, the enemy will use tricky schemes to attack and harm unsuspecting Christians. It is important, therefore, to remind oneself and other Christians that 1) there is a real enemy, and 2) there a real God, who is not equal with the enemy, but completely in control over the enemy (as proven in Job 1:1-12). It is because of these two facts that Christians can engage in spiritual warfare, without becoming hysterical, afraid, or feeling insufficient (after all, Christians have been given a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind– not fear [ 2 Timothy 1:7]). The apostle Paul expounds on the spiritual protection Christians have in Ephesians 6:13-18.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”

The same book of Ephesians tells the Christian to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). What does this mean, exactly? It means that, as a Christian, one can put on a “new self” that glorifies and relies on Jesus Christ. Every facet of the Christian’s spiritual armor, therefore, exemplifies and relies completely upon Jesus Christ.

1) The belt of truth, which holds a place for a sword and holds the armor together, is Christ, as Jesus Himself is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). 2) The breastplate of righteousness protects the vital organs from attacks, especially the heart; this is of the utmost importance, as Christians are called to “Above all else, guard [their] hearts, for everything [one does] flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Thankfully, this breastplate is not made of a person’s own righteousness (our own righteous acts are like dirty rags [Isaiah 54:6]); instead, it is made of Christ’s righteousness, which is put on Christians when they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:8-9). 3) The shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace are the shoes one wears into battle, “being prepared to give an answer and reason for the hope we have” in the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The Gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). At the core, Jesus is the Gospel, or good news. 4) The shield of faith, as Paul describes, extinguish[es] all the flaming darts of the evil one,” saving the Christian from unforeseen attacks. At the time Paul wrote this, Roman soldiers’ shields covered their entire bodies length-and-width wise, and when coupled together, created impenetrable walls. Faith in Christ and remembering His sovereign faithfulness makes the believer to stand firm against the enemy’s lies. 5) The helmet of salvation combats the enemy’s lies on a different level. satan is the father of lies– and as such, is constantly whispering lies into people’s minds. They are lies that, if left unchecked, leave people in deep bondage. Christ Himself is the helmet of salvation (Acts 4:10-12), and the defense against the enemy’s many lies; this is why Paul tells us one must “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6, ESV). While Paul is talking about bringing others to Christ by the Holy Spirit’s power in this passage, there is application for our own minds. In the words of John Piper, “if anything is out of sync with Paul’s teaching, we should let it be destroyed.” Ultimately, one can find if any thought or idea is “out of sync” with Paul’s teaching by asking the Holy Spirit to speak to them through His Word, the bible– also known as 6) the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Truly, “Paul’s teaching” in the Bible is truly God’s Word– God wrote it through men, by His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). The bible describes itself this way. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). With such an amazing weapon in a person’s spiritual arsenal, one cannot afford to not make regular use of it, by reading it and “meditat[ing] on it, day and night” (Joshua 1:8). What’s more, God’s Word proclaims that Jesus is the Word Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 14, ESV). In all, Christians must clothe themselves with Christ constantly if one ever wants victory over the enemy.

Maiduguri city, as big and prominent as it may be, is not immune from Boko Haram’s attacks. In fact, it is because of Maiduguri’s prominence that so many of Boko Haram’s attacks have been aimed there. If one is unaware of the enemy’s attacks (and therefore, unprepared), it can leave a whole city in ruins. This is why we must pray for Maiduguri and its people– because, underneath it all, the battle Maiduguri is facing from this radical islamic group is not just physical– it is deeply spiritual.


Do you know Jesus?

When writing about the “breastplate of righteousness,” the piece of armor that protects the heart, one thing becomes clear: only Jesus and His righteousness can truly protect and guard the heart.

When talking about the heart, the bible says something contrary to much of what today’s society thinks: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). Yet, despite our evil, sinful hearts, Jesus died for our sins– so that we would never have to go through this life, or the spiritual battle, alone.

Learn more about the God who wants to be not only our spiritual armor, but our Savior– and how He accomplished both– by clicking here.



Please pray for…

The people, particularly the churches, in Maiduguri, Nigeria. 

The Nigerian army, and their fight against Boko Haram, physically.

The victims of each suicide bombing and attack, as well as their families.

The government, and President Buhari— that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and would be given wisdom in this fight.

The men of Boko Haram— that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, too.

Boko Haram’s captives— that we would not lose hope in finding them, and that President Buhari would be moved by Jesus to find the captives, including the Chibok girls. Read, sign, and share the petition to do this very thing, here.


[1] Source
[2] Source: Waziri, Muhammad. Spatial Pattern of Maiduguri City. Researchers’ Guide. No 123 Mangwarori Street, Sabon Titin Mandawari, Kano City, Kano State: ADAMU JOJI PUBLISHERS, 2009. Academia. 21 October 2015. Page 12. 

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True Doctrine: Keeping the Truth of Christ in Christmas

Over the holiday season, there was much news to be had. #BringBackOurGirls protesters took to the streets of Abuja city, calling for residents and the president to both remember the Chibok girls and to advocate for their rescue/release. Though they were barricaded from entering Jonathan’s presidential villa, these protesters succeeded in making their voices heard early Christmas morning.

Continue reading

Called to Be Free: Lifting the Veil of Islam

As discussed in this article, the Chibok girls’ abduction has become a symbol of fundamentalist Islam’s fear of educating women. This fear stems from the fact that educated women are harder to control– and in a religion like Islam, where it’s success is based upon how much oppressive control it has on it’s people– the idea of women being less dependent upon the controlling men in their lives is hugely threatening. Continue reading

“Hephzibah”: In Search of True Identity

A pastor once told my Young Adult’s group something along the lines of the sentiment “You can only come to know who you truly are when you come to know who Christ truly is.” 

At the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. I have seemingly always known Christ as my Lord and Savior, having been raised in the church, but I had made God out to be a God who was angry with me, a God who either was pleased because “I did good” or was displeased because I disobeyed or “didn’t do enough.” Due to this, I suffered from some seriously low self-esteem, OCD-like attitudes, and being overly critical of myself and others. Because I didn’t see God for who He’s shown Himself to be through His Word– that is, as the God who is quick to forgive, slow to anger, and abounding in grace and mercy, as stated in Exodus 34:6— I beat myself up for things that the Lord only wanted me to accept His grace and goodness in.

Needless to say, how a person views God affects every aspect of how they view themselves, other people, and the world around them. A distorted, non-biblical view of God can have huge consequences. Reading about the recent attack by female suicide bombers in Maiduguri, Nigeria, this could be no closer to the truth. On November 25th, 2014, 2 young women entered a busy marketplace in Maiduguri, screaming, and detonated their bombs, killing 30 people while injuring countless others. This attack is not an isolated incident; at least 2 other attacks of the same kind, involving female suicide bombers, have occurred since the 267 young girls from Chibok, Nigeria, were kidnapped in April. And with reports that three teenage girls from Colorado, USA tried traveling to Turkey to join ISIS, the concept of a self-identity in sight of God’s identity is an ever more pressing idea that needs to be brought to light.

What could make young, teenage girls want to join such horrific terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS? Many experts have stated that these groups portray themselves as a brotherhood fighting a holy war, creating a false sense of family; the idea of belonging to something greater can be, and has been, alluring for many young girls who feel like outcasts in their own communities. Looking for Truth, for love, for acceptance, and for identity, these young girls fall into the trap that the enemy uses frequently: trying to find belonging in the world outside of Christ. Because many of these young girls are Muslim to begin with, it can be all too easy for them join extremist groups that offer a completely fake version of the truth, love, and acceptance that they– and truly, all of us– are craving.

Jesus didn’t claim to only point to the way, the truth, or the life; He claimed to BE the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Only Jesus can offer us true identity in Him; how He sees us is THE most important thing in the universe. The apostle Paul declares this truth in Galatians:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” 
Galatians 1:10, NIV

When Christ is the one whom we’re living for, we know who we are in Him, stated in 1 Peter: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9, NIV). As people, we can try to form our own identity, but there can never be a true sense of self, of being loved, and of acceptance from God until we accept Christ Jesus as our Personal Lord and Savior.

Because of this, my heart goes out to these young men and women being told by the enemy that ISIS and Boko Haram offer something only Christ can offer. It’s heart-wrenching to know that what all these people want can be simply found in Christ, but that He may be the last person and place they come to for it. It’s sickening to know that what they think is a hug is actually a punch in the gut, a slap in the face; that what many think will bring them life is the very thing that will bring them death. This applies to more than Muslim girls trying to join ISIS or the Boko Haram; this same concept applies to any and all people trying to find belonging outside of Christ.

When the Lord first put the Chibok girls upon my heart, He showed me through Isaiah 62:4 that He saw them as “Hephzibah”– the ones He delights in. Though we may forget their plight, He never will; though they may be shrouded in the darkness of black hijabs, forced to be married off, being harmed and injured in every evil way imaginable, they are not what they are going through, but are dearly loved by God. These men and women in the Boko Haram are just as loved as those in captivity. Coming to know Christ, these men and women can be transformed from hateful, death-filled supporters of Boko Haram and ISIS to beloved children of God, walking in Love, instead of the heartless, destructive paths they’ve been walking in (Ephesians 5:1-2). If only these young women knew Christ, they’d know that they are delighted in and very loved– not because of anything they’ve done, but because of what Christ did.


Pray with me today that the young women and girls who’ve voluntarily joined ISIS and Boko Haram (BH) would see ISIS and the BH for the evil, demonic power they really are. Pray that these people would come to see who God truly is, through the lens of Christ. Pray that they’d see the darkness separated from the light as they come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
Pray for our sisters in captivity, that the Lord would use them to bring others to Him by the power of His Holy Spirit; pray also that the Lord would soften the hearts of the Boko Haram leaders, and would place in them hearts of flesh as they come to know His great love– for it’s His great kindness alone that brings others to repentance (Romans 2:4, NIV). Pray not only for the girls seeking ISIS and BH as a place of belonging, but pray for all of those who are searching for meaning and belonging outside of Christ. Ask the Lord to put people on your heart to pray for and reach out to, to show the love and acceptance of Christ to. The world is looking for identity, and it is only truly found in Jesus’ arms.

Because in Christ Jesus, we are all named Hephzibah: Delighted In. Let us rejoice in this today, praying that more and more all over the Earth would take on this identity as well.