Praying with Authority
Authority over evil comes from knowing, loving, and serving the Lord. A good example of our authority in Christ comes from Luke 9:1–2 when Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. The power and authority that Jesus gave to the apostles can be compared to the power given to the priesthood. According to the Catechism in section 1548, every priest receives power to drive out demons, cure the sick, and preach the Good News through the laying on of hands at his ordination.
We also see in the Gospel of Luke 10:17–19 that Jesus sent forth seventy more disciples with the same mission. When this group returned from their first missionary assignment, they proclaimed with great joy, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.”
The power to take authority over evil has already been given to the Lord’s disciples. It was first given to the twelve apostles when they were sent forth in Luke 9:1–2, and then it was given to the rest of the Lord’s followers in Luke 10:17–19 when the seventy were sent forth. This power comes from the Holy Spirit, who is imparted to each believer at Baptism and Confirmation.
Once the power of the Holy Spirit dwells within a person’s heart, all that individual needs to do is start putting that power into action. When a demonic spirit tempts you with vengeful or lustful thoughts, you can take those thoughts captive by invoking the name of Jesus. Once you learn how to take authority over your own thoughts and behaviors, the Holy Spirit will show you how to use the same power to drive evil out of your home, environment, and workplace.
When a demonic spirit of infirmity attacks your health, it will be necessary to take authority over that spirit by using a two-part prayer. In the first part of the prayer, you can ask the Lord to set you free the same way the apostles did after they brought Jesus a small boy who was sick. In Matthew 17:18, Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
In the second part of the prayer, you will need to pray like Saint Paul. In Acts 16:16–18, Paul and his companions met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination that brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
Saint Paul had been praying to the Lord for several days, but the demon left the girl only when he took authority over the situation by saying, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ.” There’s a difference between asking God to make a demon go away, and commanding it to leave in the name, power, and authority of Christ.
In order to move with the same power as Saint Paul, it will be necessary to start using both forms of prayer. After you ask God for his assistance, start using the power and authority that has been given to all disciples. Speak the words out loud, “I command you demonic spirits of infirmity to get out of my body. I break all agreements with you in the name of Jesus.”
Command Versus Petition
Once a prayer warrior starts moving with the power of Christ, it will be necessary to discern when it is appropriate to use the prayer of command and when it is necessary to use a prayer of petition. According to John 12:31, Satan is the ruler of this world. The devil and his vast army of fallen angels have the God-given right to test people’s hearts by tempting them to sin. If a prayer warrior tried to take authority over the entire world and command all evil into the lake of fire, then his command would not be effective, because evil has the right to prowl around looking for the ruin of souls.
Saint Paul had the right to cast a spirit of divination out of the slave girl because she was interfering with his ministry. Saint Paul could have commanded all demonic spirits of divination to be cast into the lake of fire, but his command would not have been effective, because Saint Paul didn’t have authority over the entire world. The devil has the right to tempt psychics in every generation, and when one of them accepts a spirit of divination, then that spirit has the right to enter and remain in that person’s life.
Saint Paul only had authority over his own life, sphere of influence, and ministry assignments. Once the slave girl crossed the line and started interfering with his ability to proclaim the Gospel message, then Paul was able to use his authority in Christ to cast the demonic spirit out of the girl. If the slave girl had kept to herself and was minding her own business, then Paul would not have had the right or the ability to cast an evil spirit out of her.
In the same way, a modern-day prayer warrior can take authority over evil only when it has violated his own sphere of influence. When evil attacks a person’s health, livelihood, and ministry endeavors, he can take authority over the attack by commanding the evil spirit to depart in Jesus’ name. When the demonic influence is outside of a prayer warrior’s sphere of influence, then he cannot take authority over it by using a command, but only by praying for God’s intervention through a petition.
Possession Versus Oppression
Another area of discernment for Catholic prayer warriors is the difference between performing a major exorcism and helping an individual who is being attacked or oppressed by evil. A good example of demonic possession comes from Mark 5:2–8 when Jesus entered the country of the Gerasenes. When he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”
In this situation, the man who was possessed by a legion of demons had supernatural power to rip apart chains. The demons had control over the man’s behaviors and could even speak to Jesus using the man’s voice. Because a legion of demons was in full control, the man would be classified as possessed and would need to undergo a major exorcism by the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism in section 1673, The solemn exorcism, called a major exorcism, can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop.
The other type of demonic attack is called oppression. A good example of demonic oppression comes from Luke 13:11–13. When Jesus was teaching in the synagogue, there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God.
Afterward the Pharisees started arguing with Jesus about healing on the sabbath. He responded to them in Luke 13:15–16 by saying, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
In this situation, the woman was not possessed by evil, she had been under demonic oppression for the past eighteen years. If the crippled woman came to a prayer team for deliverance, the best approach in helping her would be to pray for God’s discernment to discover the source of her infirmity. Maybe somewhere in her past the crippled woman committed the sin of idolatry by channeling messages from spirit guides or by participating in some other form of divination. If this were the case, then demonic spirits would have the right to enter her body and remain there until those agreements were broken.
The proper way to minister to a woman in this situation would be to teach her about the devil’s deadly devices and to help her understand her authority in Christ. After the crippled woman had denounced the sin of divination and accepted the Lord’s forgiveness, she could command the evil spirits out of her body in the name of Jesus. Because the crippled woman made the vows and agreements with demonic spirits, it would only be appropriate that she be the one to denounce them and to ask Jesus to take up residence in her heart.
Although the good prayer warrior could intercede on this woman’s behalf, it is always best to allow other people the right and responsibility to do their own spiritual work with the Lord. Instead of trying to bind up and destroy demonic spirits in other people’s lives, it is always better to teach other people how to drive the devil out of their own sphere of influence.
More information on the proper way to use your authority in Christ can be found in the healing and deliverance books.
The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition copyright © 1993 and 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America, © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Used with permission.