The devil seeks to keep us in darkness and fear. Understanding spiritual warfare shows us that the Lord is in control and that he is ready to help us.
For decades, we tried canceling the devil, refraining from talking much about him, or bothering much with him at all. Catholics thought they could get by without exorcisms, relegating them to the superstitious past. Demonic attacks seemed to belong in Hollywood films, not in the average parish. However, that decision backfired, with the need for exorcisms now spiking worldwide. Catholics are rediscovering the nature of spiritual warfare, not only in formal exorcisms but also in the prayers of deliverance recited by laity.
The need for a formal, major exorcism is rare. Everyone, however, needs deliverance and protection from the enemy's influence. During our observance o St. Michael's Lent, the 40 days leading up to Michaelmas Day on Sept. 29, Exodus, where I work, offered a series of talks called Spiritual Warfare 101. Every day, we're immersed in a spiritual battle, mostly unaware of the enemy's tactics to tempt us. He aims to push all of our buttons -- making suggestions, building on our tendencies, and straining relationships. We can and should push back, renouncing any evil influences we have allowed into our lives and commanding evil spirits to depart from us.
The basics of spiritual warfare are actually quite simple: stop committing mortal sin and avoid the occult, both of which open our lives to the influence of the enemy. Instead, go to confession, pray every day, and live a sacramental life. Beyond that, we can offer prayers of deliverance to command demons to depart from us, sending them to Jesus to be judged by him. I have found the book "Deliverance Prayers for Use by the Laity" (Sensus Traditionis Press, 2016) particularly helpful. I recommend it heartily, but it's important to spend time learning the different kinds of prayers it offers. For instance, general deliverance prayers ask God "to make powerless, banish, and drive out every diabolical power, presence, and machination" (38). There are more specific binding prayers against particular spirits when they can be identified, such as praying against a spirit of anger or another source of affliction (18). Once spirits have been commanded to depart, it is also important to pray for a perimeter of protection to be established around the house and family, invoking Our Lady, St. Michael, and the other angels and saints (39) and to pray against retaliation (40).
In addition, TAN Books has published a helpful guide that assists in understanding the nature of spiritual warfare and can guide us toward liberation from demonic influence: Dan Schneider's "The Liber Christo Method: A Field Manual for Spiritual Combat" (2023). The Liber Christo method came together through the work of Father Chad Ripperger and his associates, as they guided those requesting assistance to go through a basic protocol for prayer and getting one's life in order, offering a more comprehensive approach to seeking spiritual freedom. It begins with renouncing spiritual evil, breaking off the source of demonic influence. The second chapter then presents the pivotal importance of forgiveness and the need for conversion. Next, it explains how we must be built up with what feeds us: the regular practice of the sacraments, especially confession, and a life of virtue. The fourth chapter moves more directly into spiritual warfare, laying out the rules of engagement, which follow from authority. We have authority in Christ over our own lives and our dependents, but we need to make sure we offer prayers of command only for those over whom we have authority. In its final chapter, the book lays out the enemy's tactics and how to respond to them in prayer. I found this book to be the best accessible overview of the nature of spiritual warfare and how to enter into it comprehensively.
The devil seeks to keep us in darkness and fear. Understanding spiritual warfare shows us that the Lord is in control and that he is ready to help us. He wants us to be free, and, as his disciples, he has given us the means to fight back against the enemy and even to achieve victory over him. To do so, we must break from anything that leads us into enemy territory and stay rooted in a Christian way of life. The deeper our conversion from sin into a life of grace, the more we will begin to understand our weaknesses and how the enemy exploits them. This will enable us to strengthen our defenses and push back in prayer when we recognize an attack coming.
Catholics have been waking up to the reality of the spiritual war raging around us. We have tools at hand to train us for battle so that we can enter the fight with a greater understanding of the enemy's tactics and how to fight back in prayer, relying on the victory of the true king who conquered all evil through his death and resurrection.
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