Deliverance and Healing

By Fr. Richard McAlear, O.M.I.

One of the gifts of the Charismatic Renewal has been a rediscovery of ministries that have been long neglected, if not forgotten.  The openness to charisms has brought about new possibilities for ministry in the Church, ministries sorely needed today.  Healing and deliverance are two such works that have been given new life in our time.

Many of us are familiar with the ministry of healing.  Deliverance may be less understood or known.  Deliverance deals with the powers of evil and seeks to free those who are bound by evil in some way.  It is not so much a prayer as a ministry of authority, taking up the command of Jesus to “set the captive free” and “to cast out demons.”  In the most extreme cases, which are quite rare, the person is actually possessed.  In most cases it is a matter of the person being harassed and tormented by evil spirits.  Jesus gave his authority to the Church to cast out these evil entities and set the person free.

Christ sent out the disciples to proclaim the kingdom and to accomplish two other important ministries that would continue and expand his work—healing and deliverance.  “He gave them authority to cure diseases and to cast out evil spirits” (Lk 10:17).

Thankfully, the Charismatic Renewal has brought back to the consciousness of the church a new awareness of these ministries.  Healing and deliverance need to be placed side by side because they support on another.  There can be no deliverance without healing, and healing will often involve deliverance.  It is important to note that deliverance must be linked to healing.  If it is not, it runs the risk of being seen as isolated spiritual warfare with ongoing battles and struggles carried out in a virtual vacuum.  People who are in bondage to evil spirits are also wounded and hurting and therefore in need of healing.  In fact, spiritual bondage is almost always rooted in some deep woundedness that needs to be touched with healing love.  Ministry must center on people and not demons.  The goal is human wholeness involving all the dimensions of the person—the will, the mind, the soul, the body.

There are several reasons why the Renewal has brought about a revival and renewed interest in these ancient ministries.  Here I focus on just three reasons that would lay a groundwork for understanding deliverance.  Without this foundation there could be no embrace of this ministry.

First and foremost the Renewal explicitly exalts and proclaims the living Lordship of Jesus Christ, raised from the dead and exalted to the right hand of the Father.   More than being a teacher, moral guide, miracle worker or example of human potential, Jesus Christ is Lord.  The catchphrase for the whole Renewal has always been the cry that “Jesus is Lord.”  He reigns over all, is above all and is supreme over every spirit, power, sovereignty, domination and over any name that could possibly be named—in this world or in the world to come.  Before him every knee will bend, on earth, in the heavens and even in the netherworld itself.  Everyone and everything must acknowledge that Jesus is Lord of lords and King of kings.  His very name makes hell tremble.

Knowing the superiority of his power and authority opens the way to praying for healing and deliverance.  There is no other basis for deliverance and healing ministry other than an explicit faith in Jesus as Lord.

Secondly, there is in the Charismatic Renewal a great awareness of the sufferings that afflict people, the spiritual bondages that they labor under and the heartaches they carry within.  This awareness flows from the gifts of compassion and love.  Jesus had a profound compassion for the multitudes.  He was moved by pity and deep compassion because of their sorrows and sufferings.  That is what brought him to teach and to heal.  He was moved to action by this compassion.  The birth of the ministry of healing and deliverance is based on the same motive and the same deep compassion to alleviate suffering, break spiritual bondage and touch hurting people.

Many people feel burdened for the sufferings of people; the Renewal adds to that burden an awareness of the gifts of the Spirit—the power and the charisms that can touch the wounded and bring healing.  The ministries of healing and deliverance flow from compassion, a deep concern for the suffering of people, and the desire to bring the power of the Spirit to bear, freeing people from their bondages.  There is a combination of compassionate love, faith in the Lordship of Jesus Christ and an awareness of the power exercised in the charisms that allows an effective ministry to the wounded and those broken by the dark spirits of evil that afflict so many.

Finally, because the Charismatic Renewal focuses on the gifts of the Spirit and has a practical awareness of their power, it is also aware that it is “not every spirit that you can trust (1 Jn 4:1).  Everything spiritual is not authentically compatible with the Gospel.  There are occult powers evil spirits and dangerous spiritual practices that need to be avoided.  No matter how harmless they seem or how much good they promise, discernment will distinguish the good from the false, the spirits that promise life and the Spirit that gives life (Jn 10:10).  It is impossible to underestimate the need to discern what is of God and will truly glorify Jesus Christ from what is false and deceitful.  People can be looking for spiritual experiences and end up in bondage to evil.  The Renewal warns of the dangers that can lead to bondage and deliverance sets the captive free from bondage.

Jesus came to give life.  When evil spirits afflict someone they kill and destroy life.  Deliverance uses the authority of Jesus Christ to set the captive free and lead those in bondage out of the darkness into the light of true liberty.  This ministry of authority is completed with the ministry of healing that restores life and hope to the poor and wounded soul.  So the work of Jesus continues and God is glorified.

Reprinted with permission Pentecost Today.

Oct/Nov/Dec 2011