Discarding Evil Spirits
by Matthew Cramer
This posting is the fourth and final part in a series about the Devil and evil entities. It assumes the reader is well acquainted with the first three parts — Satan And His Minions, How Satan Gets To Us, and Weapons For Warfare.
GETTING TO THIS PLACE
In the first three parts, we see that Satan and his minions are real. Enemies of God, they work to keep us from receiving the full inheritance God has planned for us — life with Him in eternity. Adam and Eve abrogated that inheritance — and Jesus, by His death on The Cross, paid the price to redeem it for us.
We’re in the midst of a spiritual battle where evil spirits attack (tempt) us through our minds, wills, pride and flesh (appetites, emotions and desires), using accusations, lies and deceptions. They want to murder the spiritual life in us, so we’ll choose life without God.
The defensive and offensive weapons we use in this day-to-day conflict are acquired through Baptism; a deepening discipleship with Jesus; the Church, who provides the Magisterium and the Sacraments, especially Eucharist and Penance; and using Jesus’ authority, delegated to us as disciples, to send the attackers away.
Thus far, the specifics of warfare have been addressed to Oppression, the typical combat we all experience. Discussion of the more serious levels, Obsession and Possession, was deferred to this installment for more detailed presentation.
Anyone with even minor experience dealing with evil spirits may notice the title, Discarding Evil Spirits, is different from what one might expect. Spiritual warfare at more advanced levels of involvement is typically called Deliverance. Because there are important distinctions in this area between Catholic teaching, and what is practiced in most other areas of Christendom, I have chosen Discarding Evil Spirits.
As a faithful, practicing Catholic, I want to codify a process of dealing with evil spirits in a way that affirms, respects and maintains the integrity of Church teaching; and, at the same time, incorporates what we have learned from our own successful experiences in healing ministry, and the practices of others. I hope to clarify and refine conceptual understandings so as not to see the distinctions in opposition to one another, but rather opportunities to increase our understanding and improve our practices.
I have often, with joy, described the early days of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (circa 1970), as “wild and wooly”. Prayer meetings started up everywhere. The Holy Spirit poured out in incredibly powerful and generous ways. People were amazed and excited with the newfound experience of a relationship with Jesus.
They wanted to learn more about God, more about the Scriptures, explore their “gifts”, and deepen their relationship with Jesus. They wanted to serve, help others, evangelize, worship together in praise and song, intercede for their families and loved ones, and apply their new or renewed faith to every aspect of their lives.
Many needed “inner healing” of past hurts, offenses and traumas. Others sought physical healing and freedom from sinful habits, addictions and occult bondage. The sheer quantity of needs was huge, almost overwhelming.
Ruth Ann and I were drawn into healing ministry because we counseled individuals and held prayer meetings in Sacramento. Each week, when the meeting was over, individuals took turns on the “hot seat” (a round hassock) seeking prayer ministry. Others would gather and petition Our Lord to heal in whatever way seemed necessary. There were many, many healings: spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. (See Surprise! Jesus At Work, The Last Chance Monster, The Zombie, and The Loveless Executive, for examples.)
It wasn’t long before we noticed that, in some instances, prayer seemed to agitate the individual, rather than heal him. Others kept coming back for prayer, claiming their will wasn’t strong enough to resist certain habits. And, the number of more complex cases was increasing. It seemed clear we needed instruction and training in prayer ministry to handle the additional challenges.
So, we began a quest to make the personal counseling and prayer meeting’s ministry more effective. We devoured every book or pamphlet we could find on the subject of healing; we attended seminars and conferences around the country; and we invited a “healing team” from San Francisco, led by Jesuit priests, to train us and other leaders in the Northern California area.
We approached the issue of dealing with evil spirits cautiously; mindful of Church teaching that only a priest appointed by the local bishop was authorized to use The Rite of Exorcism. Still, in other areas of Christendom, laymen and pastors with recognized spiritual authority were practicing “deliverance” with apparent success.
“At first, many Catholics in the Renewal discovered the practice of deliverance among Christians of other traditions, many of whom were members of the Pentecostal or Free Churches. As a result, the books that they read at the time — and are still reading — mainly stem from these circles. …In the Catholic Church this field had lain fallow for quite a while and our own pastoral practice gave us few guidelines adapted to our time. We have to admit that on our side there was little guidance in this sphere…” (Suenens, Cardinal Léon-Joseph. Renewal and the Powers of Darkness. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1983; § 39)
Short of a clear-cut case for The Rite of Exorcism, “deliverance” was the “only game in town” for dealing with evil spirits. In view of the escalating cases Our Lord seemed to be sending us, and with our “spiritual discernment radar” engaged, we carefully explored deliverance in depth.
We read all we could, attended seminars and breakout sessions at conferences, observed many deliverance sessions, and submitted ourselves to deliverance, as well. In some cases, we learned more by “what-not-to-do’s”, rather than “what-to-do’s”.
Aside from some techniques with which we were not comfortable, we found the process seemed to work. People claimed to be set free and were noticeably relieved. This occurred both in the ministries we observed, and in ourselves. So we began, timidly at first, to use deliverance in our ministry to others. It worked there as well — confirmed by members of the prayer group and those who had come to live with us at Christo Rey (See The Zombie; and the case of Bill and Janet, in the Trauma section of How Satan Gets To Us).
As the years went by, our confidence in the deliverance process grew; we made some refinements based on our experiences, and promptings from Our Lord. We shared notes and observations with a long-time priest-friend, the Retreat Master at a Franciscan retreat house near San Diego who asked us to minister with him, both regionally and nationally. The relationship proved very helpful over the years, as we were able to confirm and discern with one another, leadings and conclusions believed to come from The Lord.
While we were comfortable with the effectiveness of deliverance as we practiced it, there still remained seeming differences with Catholic teaching that we could not ignore. Thus, over the years, we were burdened by the Holy Spirit to continue seeking resolution through prayer, research, analysis, reflection, and discernment.
IT’S ALL ABOUT AUTHORITY AND POWER
Most would agree that, as a human being created with free will, I have the personal authority to pick and choose, affirm or deny, accept or reject, include or exclude, and so on, as I see fit. In addition, if I accept, I can later reject; if I affirm, I can later deny; and the rest.
This natural authority is subject, of course, to limitations by the Natural Law, written on my heart — including admonitions of love, justice, and other laws established by God; and laws promulgated by our secular society. Even so, if I chose to disobey those injunctions and laws, I am still free to do so.
Significantly, I have no control over the consequences of my free exercise of authority. God’s laws, the laws of nature, and the laws of society have established those results ahead of time. Thus, it makes good sense that I exercise authority over my person, wisely. But let’s move on.
I have the authority to invite a vacuum cleaner salesman into my home for a demonstration. He has his own authority, whether or not to accept. As the demonstration proceeds, I might decide I want to stop, and I have the authority to command the salesman to stop and leave. The salesman has his own authority to obey, or to refuse my command. If his scruples do not honor simple etiquette and secular laws, he might well refuse to obey and continue to press for the sale.
Both authorities operate at the same level, neither one trumps the other, and the issue quickly moves to one of power. If I am bigger, stronger than he, and well trained in the martial arts, I can achieve obedience to my command by physically removing him from the premises. However, if he is more powerful than me, I must rely on a higher authority, more powerful than the salesman, to enforce my command. So I call the Police, representatives of a higher, more powerful, authority.
In the day-to-day warfare of spiritual life, “salesmen” frequently ring my doorbell. Unfortunately, evil spirits are smarter and more powerful than I. Some of their wares are easily rejected, but others are quite attractive. If I weaken, and allow them to come into my mind, I may not ultimately buy their product, but I still have to get rid of them. They are there by way of my initial openness, no matter how deceived it may have been. Every sale and accepted invitation is final, and they do not honor returns. The power behind my personal authority is no match for them.
My authority does not extend beyond my person, unless a higher authority has delegated its expansion to me. So what am I to do? Short of a formal, Rite of Exorcism — which is neither available, nor intended for day-to-day needs — where is the higher and more powerful authority I need to back me up in this struggle?
It is absurd to think that Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross for us, sent us the Holy Spirit, established the Church, the Sacraments, Tradition and the Magisterium to support us, also left us out-classed in our everyday encounters with spiritual warfare. The answer, of course, is . . . He didn’t!
JESUS DELEGATES HIS AUTHORITY
Early in His ministry, Jesus empowered the Twelve Apostles to heal and cast out demons, and sent them out to announce, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
“… he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. …These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, …”go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. (Mt 10:1,5-8)
Later, He empowered seventy others and sent them out with similar instructions.
“The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Lk 10:17-20)
Then, after His death and resurrection, Jesus tells the apostles to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”; adding this:
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mk 16:17,18)
These scriptures define a progressive and expansive delegation of Our Lord’s authority from the initial twelve apostles (disciples) — to the seventy — and finally, after His defeat of Satan, to all who believe.
IT’S ALSO ABOUT WILL
Catholic teaching about the Rite of Exorcism stipulates that only a priest, appointed by the local Bishop, is authorized to exorcise evil spirits. Yet our experiences, and those of other Christians in the midst of day-to-day spiritual warfare, reveal that using Jesus’ authority, in His Name, is an effective weapon — just as the scriptures indicate. A growing number of Christian authors, some of whom are priests, confirm.
These realities are not contradictions, or in conflict with one another. Rather, they define both ends of a spectrum for the use of Jesus’ authority. At one end, we have the day-to-day warfare all believers encounter, and their need for superior authority to overcome spiritual attacks. It’s true we must have a good defense as outlined in Weapons For Warfare; but at the end of the day, we also need a good offense.
At the other end of this spectrum, we have Exorcism. The Rite clearly indicates a more significant conflict in which the full power and authority of Jesus through an ordained minister of the Church is needed to achieve victory.
So what is the element that establishes positions along this spectrum? Our experience is, it’s the strength of the believer’s will. The stronger the relationship with evil spirits, the weaker is one’s will to reject them.
Every parent knows that children quickly acquire an uncanny ability to sense when a parent’s command is fully backed by the parent’s will, and when it is not. If the parent is not firmly committed in his will, to administer proper consequences for disobedience, the child senses the weakness of will and believes himself free to be as unresponsive as he chooses.
No one knows how young, loveable, immature and innocent children acquire such laser sharp discernment about the parent’s strength of will. I suppose trial and error is part of the child’s learning, and maybe even some unconscious, unsolicited coaching from spirits attacking the family. Whatever the process, a list of families where children seem to “rule the roost” might be quite long, and no parent escapes the struggle.
The analogy’s point is not about the children or consequences. It concerns the damage to our will because of Adam and Eve’s sin. It’s very hard for us to summon up our existence and give a confident command without some holding back; based on doubts about our position, fears of going too far, and so on. Yet a confident command is precisely what we must give when we use Jesus’ authority in spiritual warfare.
Any policeman will tell you that using the authority of a higher power takes some getting used to. They’ll also say you can get carried away and overstep your position. The spirits can easily tell whether our commands in the name of Jesus, have the full investment of our will.
The status of the believers’ will, plays a significant role in spiritual warfare. It’s not that we have to be perfect. We will never be as confident as Jesus, but we can be sure He will back up any minor trepidation. The successes of the twelve and the seventy quoted above, even though Satan’s defeat on the Cross had not yet taken place, demonstrate this fact.
While a significant amount of waffling undercuts our use of Jesus’ authority, there’s every reason to learn how to use it.
“If Jesus ever gave us a command He could not enable us to fulfill, He would be a liar; and if we make our inability a barrier to obedience, it means we are telling God there is something He has not taken into account. Every element of self-reliance must be slain by the power of God. Complete weakness and dependence will always be the occasion for the Spirit of God to manifest His power.” (Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost For His Highest. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1935; reading for May 5th.)
Weapons For Warfare identified three levels of involvement with evil spirits: Oppression, Obsession, and Possession. A quick review of these sections reveals how the condition of the believer’s will, varies from one level to the next.
THE MINISTER’S ROLE
Besides our talks, training seminars and conference engagements, Ruth Ann and I have personally ministered to a large number of individuals over the years. In the early days, the model used for any healing ministry was “gift-oriented” — patterned after Jesus’ ministries in the Scriptures, and the gifts outlined in 1Corinthians 12. If someone was reputed to have the gift of healing (healing of memories, physical, mental and emotional healing) people would come singly or in groups to be healed.
The model was successful and is still being followed today by national ministries whose principal has a “hot hand”. In addition, the accumulating experience of successful group ministry to individuals in prayer meetings, and by ad-hoc teams at conferences that tend to use the same model, led to the rise of team ministries and healing retreats around the country.
Deliverance needs soon arose, and were incorporated into the “gift-oriented” model for healing. With this addition however, the minister not only had to have the “gift of healing”, but sufficient authority to evict evil spirits. Laying hands on someone and asking the Lord to heal him is one thing. Evicting evil spirits from someone else’s life is quite another.
Ruth Ann and I used this “gift-oriented” model with good results for quite a while. Our Lord seemed to use us more for unraveling complex cases of inner healing, freedom from addictions and deliverance. Still, we witnessed significant physical healings, as well.
Eventually, we sought alternative approaches because three significant aspects of the gift-oriented model for deliverance had increased our concern:
- The individual seeking deliverance takes a non-participative, “open” minded, submissive posture. The Church has a long tradition of protecting what I call the “free will barrier” of the individual. With the exception of extreme cases, no one should give up possession of his free will; nor allow a human being or an evil spirit to muck around in his mind. It’s just too dangerous.
With a mind submissively open, all control is lost over what’s planted there. This opens the individual to faulty discernment, wrong advice and other inputs from the minister, or an entity, that normal discernment might otherwise detect. That’s why believers are cautioned away from hypnotism, induced trances, Transcendental Meditation, and New Age meditations.
- It’s easy for the focus of deliverance to shift toward the minister and away from Jesus. Someone who exercises power over evil spirits can be very impressive, captivating, and lead to significant dependence on the minister.
It may be unintentional by both parties, but if attachment happens, serious consequences can result. In the late 1970’s, the popular leader of a Catholic healing ministry left the Church. Many people called Charismatic Renewal leaders to ask if their healings, previously received at the hands of this leader, were still valid. Who did they think healed them; Jesus — or the minister?
- Even after a successful deliverance, the individual leaves no more empowered than when the ministry began. He may be free, at least for a time, but he is in no better position to help himself, than when he sought ministry.
DISCARDING EVIL SPIRITS
The results of our experience, research and reflections form the basis of a revised deliverance model, I call — Discarding Evil Spirits. We have successfully practiced this model for many years. The process shares core understandings about evil spirits and deliverance practices across Christendom; along with significant changes that warrant the new title.
In the Discard model, the individual needing deliverance becomes the minister, and the person in charge of the ministry, takes an advisory, supportive role.
The term “discard” describes the action of someone playing cards. It’s his hand. He’s in charge of which cards he keeps, and which ones he discards. When he sees a card he doesn’t want to keep, he selects it, and discards it. He remains in charge throughout.
The Discard model requires more time to instruct and coach, but we have found it most effective. We teach the individual that Jesus delegated His authority; how a disciple uses authority in His name; that it’s a command, not a prayer; having a firm intention of will is essential; plus other issues discussed above and in earlier postings of this series.
We coach the individual in the elements of a spiritual warfare command, as presented in Weapons For Warfare. We explain that he will be the minister, and we will support him, to make sure nothing gets out of hand. After sufficient coaching, we lead him to exercise the Discard command.
Those in management or supervision already have experience exercising authority, and seem to embrace the process quickly. They often make up their own command. In that case, we watch to make sure all the elements are included — interrupting, to advise, if they leave something out.
Others are too timid, initially, to handle the process by themselves. When that happens, we walk them through a command and they speak it along with us. In all cases, however, we make every effort to ensure that each individual has accepted personal responsibility for discarding the spirit with whom he has been cooperating. It is certainly Jesus’ authority, but the individual must exercise it himself.
Every Discard command is unique to the situation at hand. It includes all the necessary elements, but is not written down and repeated like a formula. The actual words are tailored to the specific circumstances, so the individual remains personally invested in the process.
As the individual issues the command, we support him by issuing a similar command using whatever authority we have as a brother or sister in The Lord. We do not take authority over the individual, his mind, nor do we take a primary role in discarding the spirit. If an evil spirit is discerned not to have left, we lead the individual back into the fray until he has gained freedom.
Sometimes, it takes several repetitions for a timid individual to summon sufficient will to confront the evil spirit and issue firm commands. But the additional coaching, instruction, and time spent, is worth the results as he experiences freedom and empowerment in the New Life.
A review of this section in Weapons For Warfare is recommended before continuing.
When a person has reached this level of involvement, significant changes beyond day-to-day spiritual warfare have occurred. There are roots that support and nourish the obsession that must also be addressed, in addition to the specific relationship with the evil spirit.
It’s true that, using the “gift oriented” model, an individual with sufficient spiritual authority might be successful in delivering someone from an evil spirit. But, unless the roots are also dealt with, the odds of return to the obsession remain high. Some typical roots are:
- Unforgiveness — If a person harbors unforgiveness for an offense or trauma related to an insult, rejection, ridicule, gross neglect, sexual or physical abuse, and so on — related spirits of fear, anger, shame, lust, addiction, etc. can use that unforgiveness as a lever that allows them to hang on during the discard process, or return afterwards. (See more on this in Forgive ….. Or Not!)
- Serious Sin — The knowledge of being right with God is a major factor enabling and nurturing the confidence necessary to use Jesus’ authority, and issue a firm Discard command. For Catholics, the Sacrament of Penance is particularly helpful and essential for lasting freedom from an evil spirit. Many of the sacrament’s benefits are discussed in Weapons For Warfare. For other Christians, some form of confession and seeking God’s forgiveness is helpful: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (Jas 5:16)
- Repentance — The relationship between the individual and an evil spirit at the level of obsession, is much deeper than in day-to-day warfare. It is not sufficient to have an attitude of off-hand rejection of the spirit. Instead, the individual’s attitude must be one of total, unwavering, even hostile rejection. This more severe attitude is communicated by a firm decision to not only stop obsessive practices, but to initiate countervailing efforts to radically change direction — towards Our Lord.
- Inner Vow — Occasionally, especially during the early years, a person will suffer such a significant emotional trauma, he makes a formal vow, promise, or pact with himself, to permanently avoid behaviors that would risk such hurts again. (See The Zombie)
Inner Vows cripple at least a part of an individual’s relationship skills, and cause distortions in other skills. Our Lord’s command is that we be open to the full expression of agápe love without agenda or withholding. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn 15:12)
Significant Inner Vows can block the healing of memories or a Discard. The vow must be formally renounced, then broken in the Name of Jesus, with the same determination and repentant attitudes described above. Vows, however, are simply renounced, broken, rendered null and void. There is no need to cast them out or send them somewhere.
- Occult Practices — The consequences of occult involvement come in two-parts: a unique relationship with evil, and enticements from occult spirits to nurture that relationship. We like to say an occult relationship is the equivalent of giving Satan permission to back a truckload of evil up to your mind, and dump it in, whenever he wants.
Involvement usually begins with seemingly innocent and harmless contacts, such as: Fortune Telling; the early stages of New Age meditations in Yoga and Transcendental Meditation; or Ouija Board and Table Tipping. Soon, however, we are tempted to go deeper with the promised rewards of special powers and knowledge, mysterious and hidden, available only to the select few who are “in the know”.
All of that is a lie, of course. None of it comes from God. Even if some unique experiences happen, they only serve to draw us closer to evil. That is why an occult relationship is an abomination before God. Substantial involvement is a serious sin. (See How Satan Gets to Usfor more detail.) It is pointless to debate how innocent one may have been in these contacts. They are all deadly. Guilt is not the issue here, infection is.
The occult relationship should be broken — firmly, with nothing held back, in embracing a manner similar to breaking a vow — before dealing with the spirits. The individual must seek forgiveness (the Sacrament of Penance as applicable), renounce occult involvement, repent as described above, take authority over the relationship in the Name of Jesus, and break it in the Name of Jesus.
Once the occult relationship is broken, the occult spirits are then discarded using the discard command described below.
THE DISCARD PROCESS
When a tree stump is removed, the worker first digs deep around it and cuts as many feeder roots as possible. After the stump has been loosened, a chain is attached and a powerful machine hooked up to pull it out. The taproots (those that go straight down, deep), are exposed as the stump tips over, and cut last, releasing the stump to be dragged away. A similar technique is used to deal with obsession.
We have found it best to handle the forgiveness of others first. This is often a difficult and painful process. But, it is necessary to enable reception of The Lord’s forgiveness for our own mistakes, and clear the way to exercise Our Lord’s authority. (See important detail on unforgiveness in Forgive ….. Or Not!)
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt 6:14,15)
Next, deal with any serious sin. We have ministered with several priests over the years and can testify to the wonderful blessings of the Sacrament of Penance, whether it’s received before or after personal ministry. At a minimum, go before The Lord, confess your sin, recite the Act Of Contrition, and have a “firm purpose of amendment”. Seek the Sacrament as soon as possible.
Then, break any destructive inner vows and all occult relationships. The words used to break an inner vow might go something like this:
Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that I have made a vow to never love again, and it has affected my relationships with others. I ask your forgiveness for making this vow, and my actions in following it. I choose now to cooperate with your Love for others, in its place. So, in the Name of Jesus, I renounce my vow to never love again in my life. In the Name of Jesus, I break this vow; any hold it has in my life; and I render it torn asunder.
Breaking an occult relationship could go something like this:
Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that I have cooperated with occult practices in my life. I ask your forgiveness for this serious offense against you. I choose now to trust in, and seek, your Love for me in their place. In the Name of Jesus, I renounce any and all relationships I have with the occult. In the Name of Jesus, I break these relationships, any hold they have in my life, and I render them null and void for all time.
These examples are offered to show how the necessary elements might be put together: confession, forgiveness, repentance, and the exercise of Jesus’ authority in His name. Notice how repentance is not treated alone, as an independent issue — but integrated within the process.
The examples are real, but not a formula to be recited blindly. An individual can make up his own words, as he is lead by the Lord. The effectiveness of the command is not in the precision and efficacy of the content, but rather in the individual’s commitment of will, and inclusion of the necessary elements.
Having dealt with the major “feeder roots”, any evil spirits discerned to be involved with the obsession, are now discarded. It is best to deal with each spirit separately. The Discard command is similar to the Spiritual Warfare command discussed in Weapons For Warfare. Reviewing those details before continuing further is helpful.
While the Discard (deliverance) command is similar to the Spiritual Warfare command, there are a few, important changes because obsession is a more serious condition:
- Confession and seeking forgiveness from The Lord for cooperating with the evil spirit is added.
- The choosing part of repentance is more specifically related to the spirit at hand. For example: one might choose forgiveness in place of anger; respect in place of sexual lust, obedience to the Lord in place of occult, or humility in place of pride. The choices of alternative directions need not be exact opposites in some legalistic sense; just the beginning of a change in direction, substantially away from the relationship.
- The ending is stiffened to express more intentional finality in the obsessive relationship’s demise.
The Discard command is a confrontation between the individual and the evil spirit with whom he has been cooperating. It is a helpful confidence builder, for the individual to place himself in the Lord’s presence when confronting the spirit. Nevertheless, while it’s Jesus’ authority being used, it’s the individual who must use it.
An example of the Discard command for a spirit of fear is shown below. Notice how the first part is between the individual and Our Lord. In the second part, the individual must turn and directly address the spirit.
Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that I have cooperated with fear in my life for a long time. I ask your forgiveness for that cooperation, and my lack of trust in you.
You spirit of fear in my life, I renounce you and I choose to trust in the Lord’s love for me, in your place. And now, in the Name of Jesus, I take authority over you, fear in my life, and I break any hold you have on me. In the Name of Jesus, I command you to depart from me, to leave me peaceably, and go to where Jesus sends you. In the Name of Jesus, I close the door on you in my life, forever.
If there is some doubt that the spirit has left, the individual can repeat the command, a number of times if necessary. The command directs the spirit to leave peaceably to preclude any histrionics from the spirit (Ruth Ann says peacefully because she’s not from the west, as am I). Some people experience a sense of peace, or having a burden lifted. But many others experience nothing.
A long as the individual’s will was firmly engaged in the command, and Jesus’ authority was used in His name, one can be confident the spirit has left, and the relationship is broken. Our trust is in Jesus and His authority, not how we feel (see In The Name Of Jesus).
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first…” (Mt 12:43-45)
Once the relationships, the “feeder roots”, and the spirits have been dealt with, it is still necessary for the individual to reinforce his defenses and correct any weaknesses that made him so vulnerable in the first place. (See Weapons For Warfare for more detail.)
We recommend the individual recite the Discard command every day for a short time following the Discard process. This does not suggest the original command was ineffective, but rather, helps the individual strengthen his will, and his determination to have nothing more to do with the obsession and its spirits. When a broken bone is mending, muscles degenerate and must be restored through exercise, long after the bone has healed.
Attacks from spirits of fear and doubt may increase for a time, trying to convince the individual that the obsession’s spirits never left, or have come back. Those attacks are just that, attacks; they can be handled by the Warfare command.
The individual should ask Our Lord to heal any memories that contributed to the obsession. In addition, related values must be adjusted, paradigms shifted, and habits broken. These take time and effort, but are necessary to close the door on the obsession permanently. The Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist are most helpful, especially daily Mass if practical. One can also pray for the graces of repentance.
If the individual should weaken, and allow the obsession to resume, the Sacrament of Penance is a good starting point for recovery, followed by the Eucharist and a repeat of the Discard process.
It bears repeating — no one can ever be so under the influence of evil spirits that they possess him, and that Jesus is unable to free him. The range of Obsession is quite large, running from simple to substantial. Most relationships with evil fall into that category and can be handled as presented earlier.
Nevertheless, it is possible for a person to become so deeply given-over to a relationship with evil, he is unable to summon the will to free himself through the Discard process defined above. When an individual reaches this very serious level of involvement — unfortunately labeled Possession — significant, spiritual horsepower is required to free him.
An individual can arrive at this point from many different directions. The saints, of course, are a special case as outlined in Weapons For Warfare. For others, involvement with evil has usually taken place for quite some time.
Factors of involvement that occur regularly, may include: Participation in the occult, committing idolatry, having stubborn and/or blind pride, experiencing a major trauma (mental or physical), using non-Christian meditating, using weak or no discernment, and participation in New Age Energy practices.
In our many years of ministry, we’ve encountered only two or three cases that we discerned to be so serious, that they required formal Exorcism. In each case we referred the individual to the local Bishop. One was sent back to us for further ministry; the Bishop handled the others.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Any time an issue is analyzed or discussed, it’s necessary to remove it from its normal context so a proper focus can be achieved without distractions. Then, when the review is completed, the issue is returned to its normal context, so the benefit of any learning can be realized in one’s day-to-day activities, without overwhelming other issues.
I was taught my multiplication tables in the fourth grade. For a while, multiplication tables dominated my young life until I mastered them. Since then, I hardly think about them at all. But I use that tool almost every day. It’s part of my normal life.
In writing this series, my intention has been to address what I sense is a glaring deficiency in our approach to everyday life. We are confronted, in an average week, with many issues: work, family, church, civic duties, culture, politics, world affairs, and others. All these issues are important to our wellbeing, and we deal with them openly and deliberately on a regular basis. Much is written about them; wisdom and recipes for success abound, available to one and all.
However, the Church and Scriptures tell us that, along with everything else, we are dunked into the midst of a spiritual battle. God creates us out of His love for us. Our destiny and inheritance is to live in Heaven with Him for eternity. But, Satan and his minions work to frustrate Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s plan by tempting us away from our rightful inheritance.
Thus, day-by-day, we are immersed in a spiritual war. The risks are horrendous, far more significant even than the loss of freedom and life — nothing less than spending all of eternity away from God.
Here we have an odd and intriguing dichotomy. Our place in eternity is at risk, and the enemies are more powerful and resourceful than are we. Is there a worse threat? Yet, there is a dearth of everyday knowledge about the warfare. Our level of awareness, and the expertise we manifest in the fight, is almost non-existent.
Where are classes to teach and train us in spiritual warfare? Where are magazine articles and books we can use to equip ourselves for the struggle? When was the last time you heard a sermon about evil, temptation, or spiritual warfare? Who are the wise ones to give us advice, show us how to defeat the enemy, and reclaim lost territory?
Few seem willing to approach this subject. Fewer still are willing to research and study these issues, write about them, and bring them into the light. Why do we treat spiritual warfare as a non-issue, and exile it to the bottom of the spiritual food chain? Is this not aiding and abetting the enemy?
To be sure, the struggle is fought in the unseen spirit realm. But that is no excuse. Jesus Christ has placed strategies and tactics for His believers at our disposal. We aren’t condemned to just take it; to suffer temptations, deceptions, threats and harangues from evil spirits anytime it strikes their fancy; or to remain bound in Obsessions for the rest of our lives. Should we be immersed in this battle, unaware, and unarmed? I think not. Hence, I find motivation for this series.
Our primary focus must always remain with what’s positive, what’s good, what brings life — we must always keep our eyes on Jesus. It’s not that we must see an evil spirit behind every bush, waiting to jump out at us; or in every negative situation in our lives. Still, the enemy is powerful and the stakes are without equal. I am convinced that proficiency in spiritual warfare must be a normal and well-used part of our everyday spiritual lives, just as multiplication tables are in our secular lives. (Well okay, they use calculators now, but you get the point.)
There are those who say the presence of signs and wonders, cited earlier in Mark 16, were limited to the Patristic period in church history. The rationale is: since the Church is fully developed in the Sacraments, Tradition, and the Magisterium; and since medical science has developed so successfully; signs and wonders in the Church, are no longer needed on a day-to-day basis.
But, if one considers the condition of the Church and secular society in the Western world today; the increasing onslaught and successful attacks on Christian values; and the signs and wonders being poured out by the Holy Spirit in several renewal movements — I conclude Our Lord is sending us a strong message: Signs and wonders are still available and increasingly necessary for the good of our spiritual life, and the Church.
Let us not forget these two injunctions from the New Testament:
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.” (1Pe 5:8)
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:11,12)