There is a fierce battle going on.
And it isn’t being covered by CNN or Fox News. It’s not thousands of miles away. And as awful and tragic as the current war in Ukraine truly is, the consequences of this fierce battle are infinitely more costly, more important than any worldly conflict in all of human history. Because this battle has eternal consequences.
I’m talking about spiritual warfare.
And this war is happening in each and every one of our souls right now. There could be some sort of enemy tactic trying to make you not listen to this right now! Who knows? The battle is happening right now, though…
Christ battled Satan in the desert, enduring temptation after temptation. And so too, each one of us is currently battling spiritual forces that want to disrupt, destroy, discourage, manipulate, and pester us until we abandon our truest identity in God. Until we give up. Until we lose hope. This sort of temptation is normal. It’s just the way it is.
But my question for you this morning is this:
Are you actively fighting in this battle? You might not be having many wins… but are you FIGHTING this battle? Are you taking up arms against your enemy, who is prowling about looking for someone to devour?
Because if you aren’t even in the fight, then I hate to break it to you, but you are losing this battle.
But here’s the good news: God is here to save us. And we are in this together as a Church. We are God’s children, and He wants to deliver us. This is what God is all about. This Lent, He desires to give all of us deeper freedom from all of the influences of all evil spirits that are breaking us down and keeping us from the one thing that matters: Intimacy with God.
All our readings today deal with deliverance from evil.
Our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy recounted the way in which God delivered His people from the oppressive hands of Pharaoh. The ancient Church fathers always compared Pharaoh to Satan: Both Pharaoh and the Devil seek only to enslave, manipulate, kill and destroy.
But thankfully, the Lord does not leave His people enslaved and broken down in Egypt. As the Scriptures say:
“He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders.”
He strikes down and destroys Pharaoh and his chariots in the Red Sea, washing them all away — setting the Israelites free to go and enjoy the Promised Land!
The Church has always seen in this story a powerful foreshadowing of Jesus delivering us from the clutches of the Devil — Freeing us from slavery to sin and disobedience through the cleansing waters of baptism.
Our psalm today is also all about God’s powerful deliverance from evil forces. Specifically, it speaks about the authority that we do have as Christians over the power of the Devil: “You shall tread upon the asp and the viper; you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.”
We are not defenseless against temptation. So have confidence! Because we can tread upon the serpent. We can trample the dragon.
Well, not on our own strength! Our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans gives us the key:
“Everyone,” he says “who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The name of Jesus is powerful. It drives out demons. The Name of the Lord — Jesus — is itself a prayer that terrifies and disarms Hell.
So use it. Call on Jesus. Say His name. Don’t be embarrassed by it. And please don’t try to fight the Devil without it. Because you’ll lose.
But don’t give up. Because this fierce battle is a daily fight.
St. Faustina once said, concerning spiritual warfare: “I begin my day with battle and end it with battle. As soon as I conquer one obstacle, ten more appear to take its place.” — I find that very relatable! “But I am not worried, because I know that this is the time of struggle, not peace.”
Let that sink in… this is the time for struggle, not peace.
We’re all struggling in different ways. But you don’t have to struggle by sheer will power alone. In fact, if you try to win that way — by gritting your teeth and white-knuckling it — you will lose this fierce battle. We need God’s grace. We can’t do this without His help.
I recently learned a very simple and very powerful prayer method for deliverance, adapted from a book that someone share with me, “Unbound.”
There are five basic steps to this prayer for deliverance, and I’ll teach it to you this morning so that you can “call on the name of the Lord” and receive deliverance.
The steps are Forgive me, Forgive them, Renounce, Claim, and Bless.
So, the first step is to ask Jesus for forgiveness for a particular sin, a particular destructive pattern or spirit, that you’ve identified in your life. So let’s take, for example sinful anxiety, which I think somehow or another, we all might struggle with. You might begin by praying something like:
“Jesus, please forgive me for any sinful anxiety in my life. Anything that I’m unduly worrying about.”
The second step is to ask the Lord to forgive anyone in our lives who may have contributed to this sinful pattern, praying something along the lines of this:
“Jesus, please forgive anybody who helped instill this spirit of anxiety in me. Forgive them for leading me down this path…”
The third step is to renounce the evil spirit directly, in the powerful name of our Lord, calling on Jesus. And so we pray:
“In the name of Jesus, I renounce the spirit of sinful anxiety. I reject it!”
The fourth step is to then command that spirit (again, in the name of Jesus) to leave… to go away! Again claiming the power of the Name of the Lord, praying something like:
“In the name of Jesus, I command this spirit of sinful anxiety to leave right now. Right now.”
The fifth and final step is also crucial, because after asking Jesus to drive out a destructive spirit, we want to then invite His blessings to come and rush into us, and fill us with goodness. So you could pray something like:
“Jesus, please bless me with trust and with a conviction of your powerful presence in my life. Let me never be controlled by fear. Give me freedom to love You.”
Forgive, Forgive, Renounce, Command, and Bless.
You can repeat this five step process over and over, with different sins and faults, whenever you discern something new that needs to be healed in your heart. Try praying it for things like bitterness, or hopelessness, or lust, or pride, or stubbornness, or envy, or distrust — ANYTHING.
I’ve recently begun to incorporate this into my daily prayer, and it has been very liberating. And I have a long way to go in healing and deliverance. But I pray it will be helpful for you as well.
Now, I could go on and on about all of this topic, and if you want to hear more, I’m more than happy to share. But at this point, I will resist that temptation — and leave you with a word of encouragement:
God wants you to win this battle.
He wants you to win more than you want to win!
In fact — the Lord has already won! And so this Lent, take the first step of claiming that victory in His Name.