Let us remind ourselves that one must not over estimate Satan’s power. He has only the amount of control over our lives that we freely give to him. Yet, neither must one underestimate it. He is always active in everyone’s life, but he is most often quite subtle and tries to remain below our level of conscious awareness. If we become aware of temptations or other demonic influence and we attempt to resist, we must realize that demons are effective at getting us to try to fight them by ourselves. Alone, we will always lose.
Demonic temptations most often succeed because they are made to appear to be our own thoughts and emotions. The more often and the more deeply we consent to temptations, the deeper the claim demons think they have on us. Once we give demons enough of a claim over us, they will endeavor to make us believe we cannot live without them (even if we don’t realize that is what is happening). All the while they will be attempting to destroy us. When someone finally decides to resist demonic influence, demons are often convinced they can succeed in getting us back to the same place they once had us and they will pull out all the stops in order to resist our efforts to gain our freedom.
Demonic influence over a human person can be on a continuous spectrum of increasingly deep levels of control over him. It begins with common temptation, to which everyone is subjected. For those who continuously and fully consent to such temptations, demonic influence can increase to obsession. Obsession describes a state of demonic influence in which a person suffers from persistent, intense and often irresistible thoughts and associated feelings. Demonic obsession can be a major factor in what are identified as personality disorders, which we discussed in an earlier chapter. Demonic influence can escalate to oppression in which a person experiences darkness, which some describe as living in a world of gray despair. Those suffering from oppression will often experience feelings of emotional and spiritual “heaviness” which give rise to feelings of despair. Oppression can also exhibit bodily manifestations of demonic activity, such as scratches, bruises or unexplained illnesses.
Continuous, complete consent to oppression can lead to the very rare and greatest degree of demonic influence, possession. Possession is the state in which a demon (or demons) suppress the person and his conscious awareness in order to take control over a person’s body. Possessed persons can exhibit super-human strength, knowledge of things the person has no way of knowing (e.g. foreign languages, details of past events, etc.), and can even perform acts that seem to defy the laws of physics (e.g. levitation). Possession must be diagnosed and addressed only by a Catholic bishop or his designated priest exorcist. Lesser degrees of demonic influence can be addressed by prayer, surrender to Christ, the Sacraments (especially confession), and prayers of deliverance.
In praying for deliverance from any demonic influence, we must begin with repentance and full submission to Jesus Christ. First identify the sinful habits which have us bound and try to identify any/all root causes. They may go deep with many intermediate roots, so be prepared for this to be a gradual process of ever deepening discovery. The deeper and more fully we identify the root sins, we repent of any consent to all demonic temptations and sins, and submit to Jesus, the more efficaciously will we permit Him to free us from our bondage. Doing this in the Sacrament of Confession should be our starting point.
Our next step will be to forgive immediately, out loud, anyone whom we have not forgiven. If we identify someone as having inflicted harm on us or played any other part in giving us wounds that led to our spiritual bondage, we must especially forgive him. Refusal to forgive will inevitably keep us bound.
Third, we must renounce, out loud, all of the demonic spirits which have bound us. Forgiving and renouncing out loud is important for two reasons. When we hear ourselves say something, we commit ourselves to it more fully. In addition, we can ensure that the demons know that we are freeing ourselves (they cannot read our minds).
Demonic spirits can specialize in the way they attempt to influence us. The spirits correspond with the sinful and destructive behaviors to which we are bound. It is likewise important that our renunciation be clearly done not with our own wills alone, but with Jesus’ authority. Therefore, we should say “In the name of Jesus Christ, I renounce the spirit(s) of ______.” The demons that afflict us and bind us usually begin with fear and then extend to other personal and relationship destructive temptations. In your discernment, you should become aware of the specific spirits that have you bound. However, following are some common spirits to consider. Of course, we should begin with renouncing Satan and his minions. His regular minions include the spirit of fear, pride, anger, resentment, envy, un-forgiveness, vengeance, rage, bitterness, fixation, doubt, insecurity, incessant need for affirmation, fear of abandonment, need for control, victimhood, hopelessness, despair, lust, selfishness, mistrust, suspicion, rebellion against authority, projection of one’s own wounds/thoughts/sins on another, arrogance, laziness, lukewarm-ness, etc. We should end our prayer of deliverance by affirming our sonship in the Father, through Christ. The best pray expressing this is the Our Father. A good resource for deliverance prayer is the book, Resisting the Devil by Neal Lozano.
Deliverance and surrender are life-long processes that will overcome all fear and spiritual bondage, because it is surrender to God in love. We must patiently and firmly commit ourselves to taking one step at a time, realizing all mountains are climbed this way. A deep life of prayer will make the spiritual life effective and more fruitful.