What is a Deliverance Prayer?

Deliverance is any prayer to God, the angels, or the saints asking to be freed from the power of the Evil One and the kingdom of darkness. Technically, we pray deliverance every single time we say the Our Father. The authority to pray deliverance is derived directly from one’s Baptism. It cannot be taken away. If you have been baptized ”in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” you possess a general authority against demons.

Deliverance is also a term which is used to describe specific ministries or prayer sessions which are conducted with intent to expel demons. In this case, deliverance is a series of private prayers by a trained deliverance counselor (like myself) over those who suffer from some form of demonic activity. After the victim of such demonic activity has willingly participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a Catholic priest, these kinds of prayers are said over the afflicted person by a deliverance counselor (or even by the afflicted person himself, if he knows how to do it) in order to break the bonds that any evil spirits may have over him. This act brings about a greater freedom for the person than if the prayers had not been said.

In fact, if you think about the process that adults undergo to become Catholic through RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), you see a parallel structure that exists between deliverance and initiation into Christianity. First, the candidate goes to Confession. Then, when he is at the Easter Vigil, he is Baptized, he renounces the Devil publicly, and then he is prayed over by the priest, in the form of a minor exorcism. So the legal rights of the Devil over the initiated person are broken when he confesses his sins to God and is forgiven, then he renounces the Devil verbally, and the priest casts the Devil out with a prayer of deliverance. 

This is basically the same step-by-step process we follow in the Deliverance-Day packet you can download from this site.

It's also important to note that this is why it is so critical that we, as Christians, attend Confession regularly and pray the acts of penance assigned to us by the priest. The Sacrament breaks any hold the Devil might have over us after we have willingly chosen to sin, and when we perform the assigned acts of penance, which usually include the Our Father or the Hail Mary, these prayers drive out the demons attached to us as a result of our sin.

According to Fr. Fortea, an exorcist in Madrid, who spoke on the subject of deliverance prayers and the Rite of Exorcism: “God, in His wisdom, has not desired to place too many conditions on the most essential Christian practices for them to be valid (i.e. baptism or exorcism).” In other words, Christians of all kinds technically have this authority over demons because of the primary reason the Kingdom of God was inaugurated by Christ: to expel demons from our lives, freeing us from sin and demonic bondage, so that we can know and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and become baptized and enter His Church.

In fact, in many cases, Catholic exorcists rely on deliverance counselors or prayer groups to alleviate their heavy caseloads. This is because an exorcist is first a priest. He still must perform all the duties required of him by his office. The exorcist appointment is a secondary function, so you can see that, as busy as priests are, they cannot always handle every minor case that comes their way. The Devil often tries to wear the exorcist down through such busyness, so when a particular case is not as severe as full possession, it is often a blessing for the exorcist to direct the client towards a local deliverance counselor, who can handle the less severe cases of demonic activity.

Spiritual Warfare: Evidence & Official Church Teachings

Maybe you are still skeptical of this whole idea of spiritual warfare and whether it concerns you or not. I want to briefly demonstrate a tiny fraction of the available evidence in Sacred Scripture, the writings of the Patristic Fathers from the earliest days of Christianity, the writings of Church Councils, the writings and speeches of the popes, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church that spiritual warfare is real and you, as a believer, are engaged in it—whether you want to be or not.

Evidence from the Bible:

·      “Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” —Luke 10:19-20

·      “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” —Ephesians 6:12

·      “For, although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh, for the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.” —2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Evidence from Patristic writings:

·      “As we do battle and fight in the contest of faith, God, His angels, and Christ watch us. How exalted is the glory, how great the joy of engaging in a contest with God presiding, of receiving a crown with Christ as judge.” –St. Cyprian of Carthage (Bishop in 249 A.D.)

·      “For the rest, what else is waged daily in the world but a battle against the devil, but a struggle with continual onsets against his darts and weapons.” –St. Cyprian (Bishop in 249 A.D.)

·      “As to the Devil, he as being an Apostate Angel, hath that power only, which he discloses in the beginning—to seduce and withdraw man’s mind unto transgression of God’s commandments, and gradually to blind the hearts of such as make it their business to serve him, to the forgetting of the true God, and the worshipping of Satan himself as God.” –St. Irenaeus (second Bishop of Lyon in the 2nd century)

·      “Their business is to corrupt mankind; thus, the spirit of evil was from the very beginning bent upon man’s destruction. The demons, therefore, inflict…upon the soul sudden and extraordinary outbursts of violence.” –St. Tertullian (written late 2nd and early 3rd century)

Evidence from modern papal documents, writings, and speeches:

·      “It is a departure from the picture provided by biblical Church teaching to refuse to acknowledge the devil’s existence; to regard him as a self-sustaining principle who, unlike other creatures, does not owe his origin to God; or to explain the devil as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual, fanciful personification of the unknown causes of our misfortunes.” –Pope Paul VI

·      “We cannot simply regard the devil as a symbol for evil…those who suggest that we can no longer believe in such things have not thought very deeply about the 20th century.” —Pope Benedict XVI

·      "I believe that the Devil exists" and "his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe that he doesn’t…” —Pope Francis

Evidence from the lives of the Saints:

·      “Christianity is warfare and Christians are spiritual soldiers.” —Saint Robert Southwell

·      “I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations, on the contrary, prepare for great battles. Fight like a knight, so that I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone.” —Our Lord to Saint Faustina Kowalska

·      “It is a bigger miracle to eject passion from your own body than it is to eject an evil spirit from another’s body. It is a bigger miracle to be patient and refrain from anger than it is to control the demons which fly through the air.” —Saint John Cassian

·      “I have sent him [the devil] in this life to tempt and molest my creatures that they may conquer, proving their virtue and receiving from me the glory of victory.” —Our Lord to Saint Catherine of Siena

·      “Let us always keep before our eyes the fact that here on earth we are on a battlefield and that in paradise we shall receive the crown of victory.”—Saint Padre Pio

·      “The entrances to Heaven are open and death is subdued by life in the holy battle.” —Saint Agnes of Montepulciano

·      “Be ever looking for the enemy, but do not breed a war, for this is not the attitude of a soldier but of a [rebel].” —Saint John Chrysostom

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

·      “This dramatic situation of the whole world, which is in the power of the evil one, makes man's life a battle: The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 409

·      "Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy… called 'Satan' or the 'Devil'… Scripture witnesses to [the Devil’s] disastrous influence…who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. 'The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.' In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God." —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 391 & 394

·      “Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1673

Can Catholics Say Deliverance Prayers?

Well…can they? This is a very good question. There are two kinds of exorcism that have been defined by the Church: minor (or simple) exorcisms and major (or solemn) exorcisms.

In 1673 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a major exorcism is defined as one that “can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop.” This is in reference to the Rite of Exorcism, which is a sacramental of the Church. The Rite of Exorcism may only be performed by a priest who has been appointed and given faculties (or written permission) by the local bishop. This priest is called an exorcist. 

Minor exorcisms, on the other hand, do not require a priest to perform them, nor do they require written permission from the bishop. On the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Web site, it gives two examples of these: minor exorcisms performed during a person’s Baptism, and special prayers that may be used by the faithful (or laymen). These special prayers are called deliverance prayers.

Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist in the Diocese of Rome who practiced and mastered spiritual warfare directly under the oversight of several popes, wrote in his excellent book, An Exorcist Explains the Demonic, “After exorcism, the most effective means in the struggle against the demon are prayers of deliverance and healing…. Do not be surprised if I speak of laymen. In the Gospel of Mark, before ascending to heaven, Jesus says: ‘And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons’ (Mark 16:17). Jesus gave this power first to the twelve apostles and then to the seventy-two disciples. This fact indicates that He intended to extend it to those who believe in Him. This is the scriptural foundation for carrying out prayers of deliverance and healing. Whoever it is [praying deliverance]…matters little. What matters is faith. The power to drive out demons comes directly from Jesus. No one can deny it or take it away.”

Furthermore, the only reference in canon law concerning exorcisms reads:

“Can.  1172 §1. No one can perform exorcisms legitimately upon the possessed unless he has obtained special and express permission from the local ordinary.”

Notice that exorcisms cannot be performed “upon the possessed” unless “express” (or written) permission has been gained from the bishop. This wording is very important to our work as deliverance counselors. There are many different degrees of extraordinary diabolical influence that we may encounter in the world. Possession is the most severe of them. And we, as Catholic laymen, must only abide by two restrictions, according to this canon law statute:

·      We may not perform a major (or solemn) exorcism. The Rite of Exorcism is, therefore, forbidden.

·      We may not perform any kind of exorcism upon those who are possessed.

Furthermore, because we are acting without written permission from our bishop, this only leaves us the option of performing minor exorcisms (also called “deliverance prayers”) upon those individuals who are afflicted to a lesser degree by evil spirits.

This is one of the reasons why laymen refer to minor exorcisms as “deliverance prayers,” so as not to create confusion about what forms of “exorcism” they can or cannot perform.

So, who can say prayers of deliverance? Any believer in the state of grace and spiritually prepared for such an undertaking can perform a minor exorcism (or a prayer of deliverance). In fact, many saints performed minor exorcisms, such as St. Catherine of Sienna, Blessed Catherine Anne Emmerich, Luisa Piccarreta, and others. It is not just a practice that we, as Catholic Christians, can participate in, but it is a work of mercy that we are called to perform by Christ, who gave us the authority to help those truly poor and afflicted in spirit.

What is Spiritual Warfare?

Before we can answer this question properly, it is imperative that we first understand who Jesus Christ is, as well as the Divine Mission which God the Father gave to his "only begotten Son". By understanding the nature of the Kingdom of God and its relationship to the demonic kingdom, we begin to understand the foundational principles of spiritual warfare, and it is only in this context that we can truly define the term "spiritual warfare" and learn how these daily battles must be fought by the faithful of Christ's Church.

The Kingdom of God

The primary purpose of Jesus Christ on the Earth was to inaugurate the Kingdom of God. The Sacred Scriptures, in Luke 4:43, tell us: "But [Jesus] said to them, 'To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.'" It is quite clear here that the Messiah understood His mission with clarity and Divine resolve. He was to announce the arrival of His Father's kingdom to the whole world. 

We are given again more insight into this mysterious kingdom in Luke 17:20-21, where it reads: "Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, [Jesus] said in reply, 'The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.'” Christ Himself, as this dialogue suggests, brings the Kingdom of God to us.

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict wrote that "the Kingdom is not a thing, it is not a geographical dominion like worldly kingdoms. It is a person; it is he. On this interpretation, the term ‘Kingdom of God’ is itself a veiled Christology. By the way in which he speaks of the Kingdom of God, Jesus leads men to realize the overwhelming fact that in him God himself is present among them, that he is God’s presence.” In other words, the Kingdom of God comes to us through the direct Presence of Jesus Christ, the Pope mirroring the Gospel of Luke's message above.

Furthermore, we discover that, when this kingdom comes, it has a profound spiritual impact on those who are touched by it. As the writer of Mark 2:12 describes of those who personally witnessed the authority and miraculous power of Jesus's ministry: "They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this.'"

What is the Kingdom of God?

So, what is the Kingdom of God? It is obvious from the Gospels that it is not an earthly dominion, one whose boundaries can be found on a map. Christ hints in John 18:36: “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

Again, Pope Benedict helps us understand this principle even more. "Those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God pray without any doubt for the Kingdom of God that they contain in themselves, and they pray that this Kingdom might bear fruit and attain its fullness. For every holy man it is God who reigns … So if we want God to reign in us, then sin must not be allowed in any way to reign in our mortal body … Then let God stroll at leisure in us as in a spiritual paradise and rule in us alone with his Christ." 

The Kingdom of God, the Pope instructs, comes to dwell within us! It re-makes us so that "whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are new creations when Christ comes to rest within us, when He has established His Kingdom in our hearts. This is when He begins to fashion us in the image of His likeness, that we might bear the light and love of Christ to the whole world.

How are Members of the Kingdom Identified?

In Matthew 13:37-43, Jesus is approached by His disciples, who have just listened to Him preach the famous Parable of the Sower, in which He describes a man sowing seed in a field. Some of the seed is eaten by birds before it can take root in the ground, while other seed prematurely grows without a good foundation as they fall upon hard, rocky ground, and this causes them to wither and die when the sun comes up as they cannot be nourished by water. A third kind of seed also falls along the field, and the "thorns of life," so to speak, spring up around it as it blooms, choking the plant and depriving it of vital nutrients, which can ultimately kill it. And finally, the fourth and final kind of seed, Christ describes, falls on good soil, is watered, and springs up to a full and abundant life.

The disciples, who are confused by this parable, ask their Teacher to explain it. Christ responds: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. Now the field is the world. And the good seeds are the sons of the Kingdom. But the weeds are the sons of wickedness. So the enemy who sowed them is the devil. And truly, the harvest is the consummation of the age; while the reapers are the angels. Therefore, just as weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the consummation of the age. The Son of Man shall send out his angels, and they shall gather from his Kingdom all who lead astray and those who work iniquity. And he shall cast them into the furnace of fire….”

Here we have a clear line in the sand, drawn by Christ Himself, which helps us identify those who are members of the mystical Kingdom of God based on their good works. Christians are the "good seeds" which grow into healthy, fruitful plants, and it is by the very fruits produced during their season here on the Earth (their good works, in other words) which Christ will specifically use to judge them at the end of all things.

But in this very same passage there is also, troublingly, another kingdom mentioned. 

The Kingdom of Darkness

Just before His crucifixion and Passion, Jesus prayed to the Father, "I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them" (John 17:9-10). Now why would Christ not pray for the world?

Romans 5:12-14 helps us to understand: "Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned—for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come."

The world is full of sin and death. Christ does not pray for it because it is evil, filled to the brim with unrepentant sinners. And it is a world that is made in the likeness of its god. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, the passage reads: “…the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

And who is this god? Who is the ruler of this world full of death and evil?

Christ explains who. "The father from whom you are is the devil, and the desires of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his very nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8: 44).

The Devil is the ruler of this world, the god of this age, the voice which seduces us to wickedness and disobedience. In the Gospel of Luke 4:5-6, it reads: “Then [the Devil] took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, ‘I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.’”

The Church teaches us that the Devil is a fallen angel named Satan. He rules a kingdom of darkness that possesses a certain amount of power and influence over the Earth. In Catechism 391 & 394, it reads: "Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy… called 'Satan' or the 'Devil'… Scripture witnesses to [the Devil’s] disastrous influence…who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father. 'The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.' In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God." 

The Devil, as the Catechism shows us, is diametrically opposed to Christ's mission on the Earth, because Christ's mission on the Earth, His purpose in bringing to it the Kingdom of God, is to "destroy the works of the Devil"--in other words, all that the Evil One has worked towards throughout history, starting with his rebellion in Heaven and his seduction of man, which has led the whole world astray. Christ has come to destroy Satan's kingdom. "The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it" (Revelation 12:9). Satan's kingdom of darkness, which consists of his fellow rebel angels, called demons, and his human followers on the Earth, whom Christ refers to as the "sons of wickedness," seek to oppose in every way the Kingdom of God.

But why does this cosmic battle of good and evil involve us?

You see, sin and death entered the world through Adam and Eve's first sin, and all of mankind has been enslaved by the kingdom of darkness because of their willful decision to follow the "god" and ruler of an unrepentant world. Jesus once said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). What does Christ mean by this, that the human condition is now one of slavery?

In Romans 6:17, it reads: “But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were entrusted.”

The writer of Romans, St. Paul, explains that those who are members of the Kingdom of God have been set free from slavery and bondage to sin, to death, and to the power of Satan and his demonic kingdom! The work of Christ, the work of the Kingdom of God, then, is to destroy the works of the Devil, in particular by setting those who have been enslaved to the Evil One free from their condition.

Christ said, "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Mathew 12:28). Notice here that Jesus tells the crowd listening to Him that it is, in fact, the authority Christ has to cast out demons which demonstrates the power of the Kingdom of God over the kingdom of darkness.

This is the ultimate purpose of the Kingdom of God: to drive out demons, to break the power of the Evil One over humanity, to convert human souls to the Truth and to the worship of the One True God, through his Christ, for the Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of the one who is in the world.

Further Proof: The Exodus of God’s People

For further proof of this, we turn to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament and the remarkable story of God's deliverance of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.

As the story tells us, the Israelites, who are God's people, have been enslaved by a tyrannical Egyptian king, the Pharaoh. But God sends a deliverer named Moses to set them free. He gives Moses great power and authority over the Egyptians, and the Prophet makes a fool of them time and time again through God's miraculous wonders. Biblical scholars have noted that the plagues God sends upon Egypt through Moses seem to correlate with the different pagan gods of the Egyptian pantheon, and while the magicians, who gain their power from these so-called "gods" (who are, in truth, demons in disguise), are able to copy some of Moses's initial miracles, they quickly find themselves outmatched, as God demonstrates quite handily that he and he alone is the Creator of the Universe. This is another interesting nod at the gap in power between the Kingdom of God and the demonic kingdom. Satan can act upon the world in a limited fashion, but in the end, he is still nothing more than a creature, and cannot even approach the power of God.

As the Ten Plagues continue to fall upon the Egyptian nation as punishment for the Pharaoh's disobedience to God and for the mistreatment of God's people, Moses is commanded to have each Hebrew family slay a lamb and mark the lintel of their doorway with its blood. Through this sacrifice, the people are spared from God's wrath that very night when the angel of death passes over each of their homes. But the Egyptians remain unprotected when this final plague strikes, and the firstborn of every Egyptian household is struck dead as a result, including the Pharaoh's son.

In his grief, shame, and humiliating defeat, the Pharaoh frees the Hebrews at last.

But a few days after this, the Pharaoh's heart is again hardened. He gathers his armies and pursues after the Hebrews, trapping them along the edge of the Red Sea. God rises up and defends his people, destroys Pharaoh's armies, and the Hebrews escape forever to enter the land promised to their forefather Abraham centuries before.

Typology for Christ and the Spiritual Battle

This story is very similar to the current condition of the world in the grip of the cosmic spiritual battle between the Kingdom of God and the demonic kingdom. In fact, it is actually a “type” (or symbol) pre-figuring the victory of Christ.

The entire human race, who were made in the image of God at their creation (Genesis 1:27), are God's people, symbolized by the Hebrews in the Exodus story. But they have been enslaved by an oppressive tyrant, who causes them only great suffering. This tyrant is none other than Satan, the ruler of the kingdom of darkness. But God sends a deliverer, who is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He performs many miracles, including demonic exorcisms, to show the world His authority over Satan, and finally, at the end of His ministry, just before Jesus entered into His Passion and Crucifixion, He demonstrates to the entire world His power over death itself, the most horrific of Satan's works, for when the Devil tempted Adam and Eve and succeeded in convincing them to sin, death was the ultimate result.

Then Christ becomes the sacrifice which protects us from the Second Death, which is eternal damnation (Revelation 21:8). John the Baptist identifies Jesus as such when he declares: "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (John 1:29). Through His Crucifixion and death at the hands of the Romans, Jesus becomes the sacrificial Lamb of God, much like those lambs which were slaughtered by the Hebrews. It is Jesus's Precious Blood, shed for our sins and for our freedom from bondage to the Evil One, which saves us from eternal death, or damnation. The "angel of death," so to speak, can no longer touch us. We are freed by this redemptive act, and are no longer enslaved to sin and death. We have the chance to attain everlasting life and freedom to be with and know God in an intimate relationship again, as we once did long ago in the Garden of Eden.

But, like the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, who pursued the Hebrews after they fled his kingdom and gained their freedom, Satan has also turned back after us, despite his grand defeat and humiliation at Christ's Resurrection. The Devil seeks to re-enslave us again. And he can!—but only if we choose to sin and place his yoke about our own necks again with our own free will, as some of the faithless Hebrews proposed to do when they saw Pharaoh's huge armies descending upon them, and they forgot what God had done for them.

Christians, despite their choice to pursue a life of righteousness and obedience to God, despite even their Baptism, can turn away from that choice at any time and become enslaved to sin and Satan again. This is because of their free will. As the writer of James declares: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). Notice that he is referring to baptized Christians here. He is saying that they can, in fact, become enemies of God again by befriending the world through their actions. 

And as St. Paul wrote to the Christians in Galatia: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Again, St. Paul is warning these Christians, who are already baptized, that they will not inherit the kingdom of God if they keep sinning, thereby enslaving themselves to Satan and the demonic kingdom.

Spiritual Warfare Defined

With this background in mind, that of a Greater Kingdom of Christ expelling the demonic forces of the lesser kingdom of Satan from the lives of men, we now come to a proper definition of spiritual warfare. 

You, like every other person in history, have been born in the midst of a battle over your soul. Every day, whether you realize it or not, you are locked in a struggle to reject sin, death, and Satan in order that you might be able to receive the message of salvation preached by Christ and His Apostles, who are now, through apostolic succession up and into the modern era, the college of bishops under the leadership of the Pope (in other words, the Roman Catholic Church).

A Papal Homily on Spiritual Warfare

On Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in the Chapel of St. Martha, Pope Francis gave a homily covering Ephesians 6, which is a passage of Scripture focused on spiritual warfare. He clearly labels in his speech that the greatest threat we, as Christians, face is the literal Devil. Below are a few important excerpts from his homily and my commentary on them.

From the Homily of Pope Francis

"From whom do I have to defend myself? What must I do? Paul tells us to put on God's full armor, meaning that God acts as a defense, helping us to resist Satan's temptations. Is this clear? No spiritual life, no Christian life is possible without resisting temptations, without putting on God's armor which gives us strength and protects us."

Pope Francis points out that our greatest defense is God. When we wear God's armor, when we put on Christ, we are strengthened and protected in the battle raging around us.

The Pope continues: "Saint Paul underlines that our battle is not against little things but against the principalities and the ruling forces, in other words against the devil and his followers. But in this generation, like so many others, people have been led to believe that the devil is a myth, a figure, an idea, the idea of evil."

Here the Holy Father slaps in the face any notion that the Devil isn't real. And he directly identifies that we, as Catholics, are struggling against the demonic kingdom.

"But the devil exists and we must fight against him," the Pope goes on to say. "Paul tells us this, it's not me saying it! The Word of God is telling us this.  But we're not all convinced of this. And then Paul describes God's armor and which are the different types that make up this great armor of God. And he says: 'So stand your ground, with truth a belt around your waist.' The truth is God's armor."

Again, we see how Christ is our Eternal Argument. He is Truth. And if we wear Him around us, like a belt, He protects us against the Devil's wiles. The Holy Father also admonishes us to not be afraid and stand our ground. While it isn't our job to actively seek out a fight with the Devil, we are to stand and resist him when he approaches us, and we defeat him, not by our own power, but by Christ who defends us.

"Life is a military endeavor. Christian life is a battle, a beautiful battle, because when God emerges victorious in every step of our life, this gives us joy, a great happiness: the joy that the Lord is the victor within us, with his free gift of salvation.  But we're all a bit lazy, aren't we, in this battle and we allow ourselves to get carried away by our passions, by various temptations. That's because we're sinners, all of us! But don't get discouraged. Have courage and strength because the Lord is with us."

Notice how the Pope describes our spiritual life. It's a "military endeavor," and we are its soldiers. He even uses the word "beautiful" when referring to the battle we each face. Why is it beautiful? Because we are not alone in the trenches. Christ is right there with us! And He uses the tribulations of the battle to shape us into His likeness, to prune away our defects so that we can become all that God wants us to be.

"There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others say: 'But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness'. They do not read this, no? It is true that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter, as if to say: 'All of these [people] were not possessed; they were mentally ill'. No! The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil."

The scourges of modernism and the elevation of reason and science above theology, as the Pope tells us here, have even infected the priesthood, especially among the younger seminarians. We as faithful Catholics are to resist these patently false ideas, that the Devil isn't real, that demons are medieval. But this doesn't mean that science and reason are at odds with our faith. The Church is clear on this in the Catechism. They go hand in hand, and never contradict each other.

The Pope also makes clear that Christ defeating Satan and his demonic kingdom is a central theme of the Bible. It starts with it. It ends with it. We need to take it seriously.

"There is always the temptation to want to diminish the figure of Jesus, as if he were 'a healer at most' and so as not to take him 'so seriously'. Do not confuse the truth. Jesus fights the devil: first criterion. Second criterion: he who is not with Jesus is against Jesus. There are no attitudes in the middle. Third criterion: vigilance over our hearts because the devil is astute. He is never cast out forever. It will only be so on the last day. Vigilance, because his strategy is this: 'You became Christian. Advance in your faith. I will leave you. I will leave you tranquil. But then when you are used to not being so watchful and you feel secure, I will come back'. The Gospel today begins with the devil being cast out and ends with the devil coming back! St. Peter would say: 'It is like a fierce lion that circles us'. It is like that. 'But, Father, you a little ancient. You are frightening us with these things' No, not me! It is the Gospel! And these are not lies: it is the Word of the Lord! Let us ask the Lord for the grace to take these things seriously. He came to fight for our salvation. He won against the devil! Please, let us not do business with the devil! He seeks to return home, to take possession of us. Do not relativize; be vigilant! And always with Jesus!"

In the U.S. Army, there is something called a "stand-to" which is a term that means "to stand ready for an attack," because an enemy is very likely to attack at dusk or dawn. Similarly, Christians must be prepared for the coming attack from our spiritual enemies. We do this by putting on Christ as our argument. We do this by preparing for the battles which are sure to come. No believer is exempt. And he who does not prepare remains vulnerable to attack.

Fighting & Winning Spiritual Battles

In his wonderful book, Interview with an Exorcist, José Antonio Fortea, a Spanish exorcist and priest, wrote the following concerning the fall of Satan and the heavenly battle between the angels that occurred at the dawn of history: “How can purely spiritual beings fight among themselves? What weapons do they use? Angels are spirits, so their battles must be purely intellectual. The only weapons that they can use are intellectual arguments. The angels gave reasons to the rebels for why they should return to obedience to God. The rebel angels countered with their reasons to support their position and spread their rebellion among the faithful angels. In this epic angelic battle, some who were inclined to rebel returned to obedience, while some of the faithful angels were seduced by the evil arguments of the rebels.”

Now, stop and think about that for a moment: Angels (and therefore, fallen angels, or demons) are not physical creatures. They do not have bodies. They are entirely spiritual beings. So, because they are not tangible, they do not use earthly weapons, like guns or knives, to fight their battles. Instead they use intellectual arguments to defeat enemy angels. And they also use them to defeat you and me.

The Image of the White Rider

When I was a 12-year-old boy, I used to read the Bible into the late hours of the night, and there was a description in the book of Revelation which always both confused and fascinated me. It's the image of Christ as the White Rider on a white horse in chapter 19:11, 14-15: “Then I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was [called] 'Faithful and True.' He judges and wages war in righteousness…The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations.”

What really got me every time I would read this passage is that a big sword was sticking out of Jesus's mouth. I tried picturing this to the best of my ability at that age, but not only did the imagery that I ultimately came up with look rather silly in my mind, but it just didn't make any sense. I knew there was some deeper meaning behind this illustration. But I wasn't smart enough or wise enough to figure it out.

Twenty-three years later, with Fr. Fortea's help, I finally understand.

The sword coming out of the White Rider's mouth is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:12-17 says: "Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

See, the sword is the Word of God. It isn't an actual sword. It is an argument

In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, St. Paul writes: “For, although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh, for the weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses. We destroy arguments and every pretension raising itself against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.”

Notice that St. Paul describes spiritual warfare as a war of words! This is the key to winning the battles we fight in spiritual warfare. We must destroy the arguments of demons, who with their wicked reasoning whisper to us nothing more than seductive lies that are not founded on the Truth. They do this, like Satan did in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, in order to persuade us to disobey God, which leads to our sin and death and eternal ruin. And this battle, it should be noted, always takes place entirely in our minds.

How to Win Our Spiritual Battles

So how do we win an argument with a demon, who is far more intelligent than we are? The clue to this answer lies in the Gospels. At the beginning of John, the text reads: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Earlier we read how the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, what most Christians would refer to as Sacred Scripture. Well, here we see that Jesus Christ is Himself the Word of God.

In other words, Christ Himself is our Eternal Argument! Out of His mouth, he dismantles and destroys the flawed arguments of the Evil One. He strikes down Satan's arguments and the wicked arguments of the world. We put on Christ like a garment, like a suit of armor that protects us from the snares of the Devil. How do we put on Christ? By living the good, Catholic life: partaking of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist as often as our station in life allows us to; praying every day; doing charitable works; almsgiving; fasting; reading sacred writings or other holy texts; studying the lives of the saints; volunteering at the local parish. The more we put on Christ, the more He defends us against the wiles of the Devil, and we keep our minds far from sin and disobedience.

It is just like King David when he battled Goliath: "...I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty." We must rely on the name of Jesus Christ, and when we do, He wins our arguments against the demonic for us.

And that's not all. Acts 2:1-4 says: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

This event, known as Pentecost, was the Holy Spirit's descent from Heaven that He might be received by all the faithful on the Earth. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to proclaim to demons and to the fallen world the Eternal Argument of Christ, which is the Truth, and which cannot be defeated by the father of lies.

Our Victory in Christ

And this is really the heart and secret to victory in spiritual warfare: a quiet dependence on the Lord, a silent humility and obedience to Him in all things, a tireless resistance against temptation and a determined avoidance of all sin, great or small. This is how we win our spiritual battles and receive the crown of glory.

As St. Peter wrote in his First Epistle, 5:8-10: "Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little."

And if we, as sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God, do all these things as St. Peter counsels, then God, through Sacred Scripture, guarantees us this: "Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).