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"Therefore submit to God; resist the devil and he will take flight." James 4:7
Satan is real. He is a fallen angel (Rv 12:7ff) bent on seducing us, destroying us, and leading us to hell. Although we humans are very weak and stupid compared to Satan, we have authority over him by the power of Jesus (see Mt 10:1). In fact, Jesus has already irreversibly defeated Satan. "The strife is o'er, the battle done." All that remains is to place Jesus' enemies beneath His feet (Heb 10:13).
How could we ever lose a war we've already won? The devil's only hope is to confuse us so much that we don't know that he exists, that a war is going on, that he is the enemy, and that Jesus has already won. It seems impossible to convince anyone that they've lost after they've already won. But the devil is a master-liar (Jn 8:44). The following twenty questions and answers will help dispel many of his confusions by exposing them to the light of God's truth.
1) How can you tell there is really a devil?
We know there is a devil because of God's word and our personal experience. The principal areas of the world which do not clearly recognize the devil's existence are Europe and the U.S.A., and only in the last two centuries has the existence of the devil been doubted, even in the Western world. This blind spot of the Western world is due to the rationalism stemming from the Enlightenment. Rationalism attempts to deify reason and subjects everything to it, even God's revelation.
2) Aren't people the problem and not the devil?
Although the devil cannot perpetrate his evil works without our sins opening the door, "our battle is not against human forces"; rather, it is against the tactics of the devil (Eph 6:12). Because of the devil, the evil in the world is much greater than the cumulative effects of mankind's sins. The devil is our ultimate enemy.
3) Isn't all this talk about the devil negative and depressing?
To the contrary, talk of spiritual warfare is not depressing but can be victorious. In our battle against the devil, we have already won through Jesus' death and resurrection. In Jesus' name, we can attack the gates of hell and they cannot prevail against us (Mt 16:18). The war is over; we are merely mopping up by putting Jesus' enemies at His feet (Heb 10:13).
4) Even if you believe in the devil, how can you tell whether he's the cause of a particular problem?
We should not assume a person needs deliverance from an evil spirit. We assume everyone needs repentance and healing. If a person has been open to God's grace in these two areas, but has not been freed, possibly the devil needs to be dealt with. Someone with the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits would be able to confirm this (1 Cor 12:10).
5) If the devil is at work, how do you get rid of him?
If we are committed to Jesus and repentant of sin, we can simply command the devil in the name of Jesus to leave. Because we have authority over him, the devil must leave. We do not have to repeat ourselves, even if the devil delays. He must leave.
Giving a direct command to the devil is the way most demons are cast out. However, there are some demons who can be thrown out only by prayer and fasting (Mt 17:21). Our authority over Satan can also be expressed by praising the Lord, calling on the name of Jesus, "pleading the blood" of Jesus, reading aloud the Bible, or being in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The devil can't stand these things and must leave.
6) Can everyone cast out the devil?
All Christians have authority over the devil (Mt 10:1; Mk 16:17), but there are some members of Christ's body who have a special gift of deliverance. Also, some situations are better dealt with by a group of people who form a deliverance team. In the few situations where the devil is not only oppressing people but possessing them, only a priest appointed by the bishop can lead the deliverance team.
7) Do all priests have the spiritual gift of deliverance?
Yes, this gift is given with their ordination. But other people also have this gift. If we belong to a Christian community, its leaders may be able to discern whether we have this gift.
8) Must people harassed or obsessed by the devil desire to be delivered?
If they are Christians, they usually must want to be set free. Many people have a perverse fondness for their demons. They must renounce these demons, go to Confession, and repent especially of the sin that opened the door to the devil's activity. In contrast, unbelievers can often be delivered before repentance. But repentance and salvation must be accepted shortly after the deliverance or something worse will happen to the person (see Lk 11:26; Jn 5:14).
9) Can you do anything for people who are not willing to repent and not willing to accept Jesus as Savior, Lord, and God?
Most of the time, we can bind the devil temporarily to minimize his destructive works (Mt 16:19). But eventually the person must open up to the Lord's will.
10) Does Satan have influence only on individuals?
No, just as there are guardian angels not only for individuals but also for cities, countries, and churches, so there are "guardian devils" for cities, countries, etc (Dn 10:13). We likewise have authority over these more influential demons to demolish their strongholds, sophistries, and proud pretensions (2 Cor 10:4-5).
11) Some people claim holy water drives out the devil. Is that true or superstitious?
We can use holy water to deliver people from the devil. Holy water is a tangible expression of our faith. Crucifixes, the name of Jesus, the St. Michael prayer, and various blessings (for example, the St. Blase blessing) are simple, traditional ways of exercising our authority over the devil by faith in Jesus as Lord.
12) Aren't some people paranoid about the devil?
A few people do give the devil too much attention, but most people in our secular humanistic culture naively and carelessly expose themselves to demonic influences. Horoscopes, fortune telling, palm reading, tarot cards, ouija boards, transcendental meditation, mind-control, yoga, the new age movement, Dungeons and Dragons, some rock music, and even Jungian psychology can be doorways for the devil to enter lives. The devil has a myriad ways to deceive every kind of person. The devil makes sure these things often seem harmless so that he can mislead us. Even things which have no direct connection with the occult are open doors for the devil. The use of hypnosis, alcohol, and drugs leaves a person's mind unguarded; the devil, being a robber (see Jn 10:10), takes advantage of this condition. Therefore, "stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your faith" (1 Pt 5:8-9).
13) Isn't there only a very small minority involved in demonic activities?
Few people directly worship the devil. Most people, however, worship themselves and the figments of their imagination. Eventually, the devil takes the worship of self and turns it into worship of him. The Lord says: "What am I saying that meat offered to an idol is really offered to that idol, or that an idol is a reality? No, I mean that the Gentiles sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to become sharers with demons" (1 Cor 10:19-20).
14) Some fanatical Christians think Halloween is demonic, but isn't it only an amusement for kids?
Halloween can be the way the devil enters a life. Music and movies which deal with Satan or the occult are also extremely dangerous. The devil is a fallen angel of advanced intelligence who rages against human beings (Rv 12:12). He is vicious, and is no one to play games with.
15) Can we lose our authority over the devil?
If we are not under the authority of Jesus, we are not in authority over the devil. But as long as we are totally committed to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, repentant, and forgiven of our sins, we are in authority over the evil one.
16) How long does it usually take to deal with the devil?
We can quickly crush Satan under our feet (Rm 16:20), because we have Jesus' authority when we command the devil to leave. We should ignore any conniptions the devil may be perpetrating to make us doubt our authority in Jesus (see Mk 9:20). Although we can deal with the devil instantaneously, we need to take time, even a long time, to work with those delivered from the evil one, to lead them to repentance, salvation, life in the Spirit, and healing. Too often we lengthen deliverance and shorten the follow-up, when we should do just the reverse.
17) Don't you need to identify the demon before casting him out?
Sometimes, but this is often not necessary. We have authority over demons whether or not we know their names.
18) Most demonic activity seems to have sexual connotations. Is there a connection?
Yes, sexual temptation is one of the first battles against the evil one (Eph 6:14). If we lose this battle, we are on the road to defeat, until we repent. In particular, unnatural sexual relations such as homosexual relations and oral sex are open doors for the devil. He revels in the unnatural (see Jude 7). Also, a long-term exposure to pornography often opens a person to the demonic realm.
19) When I look at the world, Satan seems to be more influential than God. Are you sure Jesus has already conquered him?
Yes, "despite the increase of sin, grace has far surpassed it" (Rm 5:20). The Lord is on the offensive, and Satan is playing defense. The Holy Spirit is renewing the face of the earth, working especially in family life and the world's young people. Satan is intensely active in these areas because the Lord has chosen them as key movements in the present unfolding of His plan of salvation.
20) What if I feel overwhelmed by all this talk of Satanic bondage and sexual perversions?
Fix your eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2). "God protects the one begotten by Him, and so the evil one cannot touch him" (1 Jn 5:18). Be aware of the devil, but don't give him too much attention. Be under Jesus' lordship in a practical way by being in submission to parents, husbands, pastors, and leaders. Under Jesus' authority, we are protected and victorious. Alleluia!
Now that we are more clear about Satan's works, let's reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises. We do this at Baptism and at Easter Sunday Mass each year in every Catholic church in the world. However, because of our sins and our refusal to repent, we can give the devil the opportunity to harass, obsess, and even possess us. Therefore, it may be necessary to renounce Satan and all his works more often and more specifically.
The following series of commands is based on Scripture and can be used to drive out demons.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirit of the occult and divination (1 Sm 28:7-8; Dt 18:9-12; Acts 16:16). I renounce your works of zodiac signs, witchcraft, clairvoyance, horoscopes, reincarnation, fortune-telling, hypnosis, yoga, transcendental meditation, mind-control, ouija boards, superstitions, and all other occult practices.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, Satan, and your works of unforgiveness, jealousy, anger, resentment, bitterness, vengeance, and violence. I renounce any sickness and pain you are causing.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirit of fear (2 Tm 1:7), worry, anxiety, and timidity. I renounce the fear of death (Heb 2:15).
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirit of pride (Prv 16:18). I renounce your works of secular humanism, sensuality, pleasure-seeking, intellectual pride, and doubt.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirits of infirmity, suicide, despair, and depression (Lk 13:11). Even in those who are not repentant, I bind you for an extended time.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirit of bondage (Rm 8:15). I renounce all your works of addiction and compulsion: especially smoking, alcoholism, gambling, overeating, and masturbation. I renounce addictions to caffeine, nicotine, salt, and sugar. I renounce TV-slavery and addictions to prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirit of harlotry and sexual lust (Hos 4:12). I break the bonds from sexual relations outside of marriage (1 Cor 6:15). I renounce you, evil spirits which have entered through homosexual relations. I renounce unnatural sexual relations and pornography of any kind. I renounce the works you are doing through artificial birth control.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirit of listlessness and apathy (Is 61:3). I renounce laziness, procrastination, and time-wasting.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, spirits of lying, confusion, and dizziness (2 Chr 18:22; Is 19:14). I renounce all your empty promises of greed. I will not lust for money and I will not work for perishable food (Jn 6:27).
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, deaf and mute spirit (Mk 9:25-26). I renounce your works of spiritual paralysis, self-hatred, and false guilt.
In Jesus' name, I renounce you, all evil spirits. I renounce all your works and all your empty promises. In Jesus' name, I cast you out, never to return. Satan, I disarm you (Lk 11:22) and take back what you have stolen (Jn 10:10; Lk 11:22). I destroy your strongholds, demolish your lies, bring down your proud pretensions, and make every thought subject to Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor 10:4-5). Satan, I destroy all your works (1 Jn 3:8). I make all these commands in Jesus' name (Mk 16:17).
In conclusion, keep your eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2). Use your authority over Satan. Because of sin and worldliness, Satan has taken control of many countries, cities, groups, and individuals in our society. There is a critical need to deal with his demons. Let the Holy Spirit be your Guide in using this series of commands.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Robert L. Hagedorn, August 22, 1999
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 27, 1999
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
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