Exorcisms: Are We Doing Them Right?

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I recently read a book, “The Day Satan Called” by Bill Scott. It’s a true story of his experience with a demon possessed girl who called his radio station and the supernatural, unbelievable chaos that ensued in the year and a half following.

Reading the book and hearing this man describe what he had gone through brought back to my mind an encounter I had about fifteen years ago.

One evening I received a phone call from a close friend of mine. His voice over the line was trembling. He sounded out of breath, almost like he had just run a marathon. “Scott, I need you to get over here, my friend has a demon!” Without even really thinking about it, I hung up the phone, threw on my shoes and  jacket and drove about a mile down the road to my friend’s house. I remember walking up to the front door being excited. I had never cast a demon out of someone before. This was going to be a night to remember (boy, was I right about that! Unfortunately not in the way I thought.) My friend answered and walked me over to his room. There I was, Bible in hand, chest puffed out, ready to confront the forces of darkness.

Nothing in the world could have prepared me for what I saw next. It was literally like something you’d see in a bad horror movie. First I noticed that it looked like a tornado had blown through. The room was in total shambles. This wouldn’t have been so surprising if i hadn’t visited multiple times before and knew what his room normally looked like. My eyes quickly glanced around and I saw blood smears in different spots on the walls. You hear rumors from other Christians about their encounters with demons and they always describe a thick, almost tangible presence of evil. Let me tell you—-there is no better way to describe it than that. Then I saw him. A man 1crouched down in the corner like some kind of animal. His eyes were blood shot, his hands were bleeding, and he was foaming from the mouth. He cocked his head my direction and with a grin on his face, spoke in a sinister voice, “Hi, Scott!” Where he was located at in the room, to his left were two rolling closet doors made of mirror. After he called my name he sprang from his crouched position, slamming his head into one of those doors and the whole thing shattered. Then he crawled closer, with a smirk on his face, staring me right in the eye. I was still trying to process what I was seeing when suddenly he jumped forward and knocked me back. At that moment I was filled with a level of fear I had never experienced before and without even thinking I ran out of there.

What ensued after that was a long, grueling, battle with the devil. Part of the time he was hopping all over the room. Other times he’d be on the floor in contorted positions. The evil spirits in him laughed at us and gave different names of demons that were present. They claimed they had been there since this man’s childhood and had no intention of leaving. Every time we thought we were gaining ground he would smile and say “There’s still more of us!”

After about four hours, he lay passed out on the floor in a deep sleep, almost as if he were dead. It was exhausting. I thought it was all over, but soon realized once I got back home that at least one spirit had followed me. As I got ready for bed I was hearing audible voices in the room. Fortunately, this must have been a last-ditch effort on their part because they quickly left once I began praying.

 

Why Are Exorcisms So Hard?

 

That event in my life has always bothered me. Both me, my friend, and two other friends I had called over had commanded the demons to leave multiple times in Jesus’ name. Yet they continued to laugh, making a mockery of us and of God. To make matters worse, in the days ahead it began to become clear to us they had either never left, or there were more that still needed to be cast out.

Why did it happen like that? I went into the situation expecting to see the same results Jesus had seen and instead fell flat on my face.

Even apparent, “experts” on spiritual warfare will tell you how long these battles can last, and how often their successes are short lived. And don’t even get me started on the Catholic Church. Those guys are always getting beat up and thrown around like rag dolls by the devil. I heard a statistic a while back that priests who handle exorcisms have a significantly shorter life span than those who don’t.

Looking into the reasons for this, I’ve been unsatisfied by the answers I received.

Why does such a seemingly easy practice in the Scriptures translate to so much difficulty for believers today?

 

An Enlightening Moment in my Research

One day as I was surfing the Internet I began to come across websites of pagan religions that spoke about demon possession. I was a bit surprised because I had always been taught that this was something exclusive to Christianity (at least the recognition of it was.) What was even more amazing to me was these people had stories of casting demons out as well! Unbelievers, casting out demons? Turns out it isn’t such a wild idea and dates back even before Christianity. But here is what really concerned me: the stories I read about and the methods these pagans used to expel devils were extremely similar to the methods Christians use. They spoke about finding out the name of the demon, reasons for why it was there and it often took hours, weeks, and even months before seeing success.

This I found really bizarre!

But it prompted me to search the Bible for an explanation. What I soon realized is the idea that only Christians can expel demons really isn’t present. I know the story of the Seven Sons of Sceva. But I’m not sure if we should use that as a universal template to arrive at a doctrine.

For years I had been puzzled by this until one day I was reading the passage from Mark 16 about believers casting out demons. Jesus said, “And these signs will follow them that believe: in my NAME they will cast out devils . . .”

 

Are We Doing It Like Jesus?

 

In the Greek, Name isn’t just a title given to identify a person. Christians have sort of unconsciously used it like a lucky rabbit’s foot, tacking it on to the end of their prayers in the hopes of getting results. But  in the original language, it carries much stronger ramifications. One of which is authority, and like manner.

See, when you cast a demon out, or pray for the sick in Jesus’ Name, you’re not just adding that word like its a some sort of proper grammar to end religious sentences with. It means you are taking upon yourself the authority of Jesus Christ, and doing it in His manner. In other words, you’re doing it like He would if it were Him physically present. This would explain the existence of pagan exorcisms.  Jesus was not saying casting out demons would be a unique trait of the believer, but the ability to do it in His Name, or, in the same manner He expelled them.

This is where the title of the article comes in. If we are not casting demons out in the manner that Jesus did, are we really doing it in the Name of Jesus? I understand we are verbally speaking His Name but if we are not seeing the same results, are we really using His authority?

 

In Conclusion?

 

Now, to clarify, I am not implying that Christians have some kind of evil spirit they are substituting for the Name of Jesus in these situations. Nor that God isn’t involved when it takes hours upon hours to expel a demon. But could it be that just like you could take a pill and make a headache go away after a while, or go through radiation therapy for months and overcome cancer, so some methods to rid a person of demonic possession are more—— normal? It isn’t that the practice is wrong or ineffective, it’s just not God’s best.

This is what I think could be happening in regards to spiritual warfare. Most of us are not truly using the authority of Jesus Christ. If we were, I don’t see how anyone could argue we should be getting better results. I have a feeling that we have sort of just been going with what others have told us, and settled for spiritual engagements which leave us exhausted, spiritually drained, and with questionable results.

This is definitely not a conclusion. This is a theory, a hypothesis, if you will, that I’m submitting for scrutiny, or confirmation. I definitely want to hear what others have to say on the subject.

8 thoughts on “Exorcisms: Are We Doing Them Right?

  1. Good post mate.
    Within the greek construct of the Gospels, its worth noting, that when ever Jesus confronted a demon, sometimes it was an instant expelling and other times there was a process involving the deliverance. The same goes with his healing.

    Now into the nitty gritty’s. I don’t get involved with power encounters with demons any longer. I normally don’t talk to them nor am I interested in talking to them. If they manifest, I get the person to recover and exercise a level of self control. I ask the person if they want to be delivered from that power. It’s no use trying to cast a demon out of anyone if they don’t want it gone.

    If they agree they want it gone, we find out where it gained its access. Normally its through sin, forgiveness, occult practice. When that is fully repented of, and confessed, forgiveness offered, then the person tells the demon they are no longer welcome and they must go… this is echoed by the commands of those involved in the prayer ministry.

    I say normally, because I have been in situations where the Holy Spirit fell in a church service, where people manifested and God told me to cast the demon out. And its left.

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    1. Craig, I have heard of that approach. But I have not heard anything about the Greek indicating a process. Interesting. Any references for that that you had in mind?

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      1. Two narrative examples come to mind where the deliverance was a process of time. The first is the story of the possessed boy, whom the disciples couldn’t cast the demon out. A previous pastor who was into deliverance ministry, explained that the greek construct of the passage, indicates that Jesus delivered the boy over a period of time. How long that time was, we don’t know.

        The second story is when Paul delivers the slave girl of the demon. I find it interesting that it took him a number of troubled days before telling the demon to leave. I suspect, but, have no proof of my suspicion, that Paul was praying about that girl during that time, before commanding it to leave.

        The second story, is in stark contrast to my method above and is a true power encounter against the powers of darkness, and one that I believe was prompted by a word of knowledge and a gift of faith to do so.

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      2. Hmmm. I wonder what reference that pastor was using when he spoke about the Greek construct in that instance in the Gospels. That is the first I have heard of it. So you believe “power encounters” to be when it happens immediately and there is a manifestation of some of the gifts? Interesting.

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  2. Great post, SJ. Your research explains a few things. Also a top reply by Craig on getting the affected person to renounce the demonic influences with prayer support. This is a much better way, and solid prayer is important.

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    1. We actually did get the person to renounce things. Albeit, the demon had bitten down on his tongue so he could not speak. But he was able to make the confessions after a while. Still . . . Not exactly the biblical example of an exorcism, I don’t think.

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      1. That’s very good. Reading back, I need to apologize for my wording. Wasn’t meaning that Craig’s way is “much better” than your way, but that getting the possessed/oppressed person to be involved is much better than the opposite of praying on his/her behalf, because the evil spirit has been given a foothold (at least) by the affected person.

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