Here’s the deal. I kind of really don’t want to write this post. The reason? Demons. No, I don’t mean that demons are literally making me not want to write this post… trying to sabotage me by flying shrieking around my head or jamming my computer keys. What I mean is this: the theme of this article concerns an experience I had with an evil spirit, and when a person (in this case, ME) talks about such supernatural beings, that person (again, ME) is automatically subject to whatever preconceived stereotype the audience (YOU) has concerning “people who talk about demons.”
Regardless of what you personally believe about demons, we both know the truth of the matter is this: popular people don’t talk about demons. Popular bloggers don’t blog about demons. Pretty sure no one’s gonna argue with me on that point, you’re probably figuratively pursing your lips and nodding your head in agreement. Accordingly, here’s a sample of the argument I had with myself prior to writing this piece:
Don’t do it! They’ll think you’re crazy! Until now, you might have managed to catch some people’s attention because they like your writing style, find your sarcasm entertaining, or you’ve talked about things with which they can identify. But if you write about this… you’ll alienate your readers and lose any credibility you’ve managed to establish! They’ll give you the inner side-eye with the slight eyebrow lift, and write you off as one of those ‘woo woo,’ mystical, charismatic types. That would be THE WORST!
Yet in spite of my fears and the unpopular nature of the subject matter in our western society, the truth is, according to the Bible demons are real:
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
They do play a significant role in this world and our experiences, and remaining silent on the topic doesn’t do anyone a favor. So I reminded myself that the ultimate goal of my writing isn’t to be popular or drum up followers by my own spectacularness (not a real word, I know), but to tell of the mighty works of God in my life… with pleasure no less. I committed myself to telling the unvarnished truth of my story, and this is a crucial part.
So strap on your seatbelts my friends, because we’re about to go there.
My Journey From Darkness to Light
This story takes place about a month after I gave my life to the Lord after discovering I might not have really been a true believer after all, and subsequently had been struggling to understand the nature of salvation. In light of these experiences and my new standing in Christ, I couldn’t help but wonder… was there even more freedom to be had? Were there areas of bondage in my life of which I was unaware, previously inaccessible due to my lack of true belief, but from which I could now be freed?
Without going into the particulars, through a conversation with a trusted, Godly friend, prayer, and a spiritual dream I had one day, God showed me that yes, there were things holding me back from experiencing the freedom God offers, specifically, things of a demonic nature that were preventing me from fully submitting myself to the Lordship of Christ.
That’s how I found myself in a small room in our church office, sitting across from one of my pastors as she led me in what our church calls a “freedom prayer.”
“Freedom prayer, you say? That sounds scary and weird.” (At least, that’s what I would say). So let me take a moment to demystify the term and put you at ease, because I know we Christians can get a little… unusual at times, especially in charismatic denominations. While these “freedom prayers” are certainly powerful, there is nothing actually scary or weird about them. Simply put, the term “freedom prayer” describes pursuing personal, inner freedom by praying in a way where you ask Jesus questions, and you listen for His answer.
The questions themselves are designed to reveal various lies we believe about ourselves or God, areas of unforgiveness, etc., as well as the truth according to Jesus. Through this process of identifying lies and replacing them with truth, we find freedom:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
(Of course, we test everything against scripture to determine whether what we are hearing is actually from God, as the Bible instructs us to do here and here, for example. Fear not, I’m not advocating extra-Biblical revelations).
Some examples of questions to ask are “Jesus, what do you want to talk to me about right now? What do you want to say about this situation? Is there a lie I’m believing that is preventing me from___? What is the truth? What emotion was I feeling when ___ happened? What do you want to give me in exchange for these feelings?
Mind-bogglingly simple, isn’t it? To approach prayer as a two-sided conversation, an interaction that is actively, presently occurring between two beings rather than a one-sided monologue where we kind of toss upward all our requests to God, hoping one will catch a breeze and find its way to Him, and maybe one day He’ll deign to answer us… somehow. (At least that’s how I typically experienced prayer).
As you can see, praying in this way is something you can do by yourself on your own, or with someone else. Our church offers “freedom sessions” in which people who have received training in the format or elements of freedom prayers lead the prayer by suggesting questions for the person to ask Jesus, and agree with them in prayer.
Do I think freedom prayers or freedom sessions are the only way to hear God speak or become free? Absolutely not. In fact, I don’t think the amazing outcomes people experience as a result of these prayers are really even about the “freedom prayer” itself. Praying a certain way or following a certain procedure isn’t akin to using a magical key guaranteed to unlock God’s healing power.
Rather, I believe the truth is simply this: God is so eager to talk with us, in His love and grace He will use whatever vehicle available, however clumsy, formal, or humanly contrived. Freedom prayers are simply one such vehicle, admittedly a particularly effective one because of the attitude of openness, expectation and eagerness by which the person approaches God.
Anyways, hopefully now you are more at ease with the whole idea of freedom prayers, and you have a basic understanding of what exactly was taking place in this freedom session I was having. Turns out there were several things Jesus wanted to talk with me about that day, but there was one major, stinging takeaway: I had been a Pharisee. Two things happened in that prayer to convince me of this uncomfortable truth; this article will talk about the first, which relates to the presence of an evil spirit in my life.
Now that your curiosity has been adequately titillated and piqued, let’s get back to the prayer, shall we?
My Freedom Prayer: Freedom from Spiritual Blindness
My pastor and I had been praying for a while, and at one particular point, I began to feel extremely anxious. The following thoughts swarmed my mind and hindered my ability to focus on anything else: “This isn’t working. You should just politely end the prayer and leave. If you don’t, you could be here forever, with nothing happening! You’re wasting her time. This is hopeless. God’s not going to do anything for you. There’s no freedom to be had. Give up!”
I started envisioning getting up and
running like a bat out of hell walking out, feeling relief at being out of that environment of expectation and pressure for something to happen, for God to show up for me. I could just chalk it up as another loss, another time I tried to seek God for something and nothing happened.
Thankfully, rather than giving into these impulses, I told my pastor about the thoughts I was hearing, the feelings of anxiety and just wanting to escape from this wretched prayer! She instructed me to picture Jesus’s presence in my mind, as is a typical part of these prayers. Up until that point, I had somewhat easily been able to hold a mental image of Jesus. But in that moment, everything went utterly and completely dark. Like a heavy, black shroud had been dropped over my mind’s eye. I could picture nothing but unquenchable, empty blackness. A panic rose inside of me. I couldn’t see Jesus anymore!
The pastor directed me to ask Jesus if He was present. I heard “Yes, I’m here. You just can’t see me.” The panic subsided.
Perceiving that what was happening within me was evidence of a demonic presence, she had me ask Jesus to reveal the name of the spirit. The word that floated up to the surface of the darkness and fixed itself in my mind was “Blindness.” Ah. Spiritual Blindness.
Although I can’t remember her next instructions exactly, it was something along the lines of breaking agreement with the spirit of Spiritual Blindness, and declaring that Jesus was my Lord.
Here’s where things get a little bizarre (or more bizarre, depending on your perception of everything else to this point). As I went to repeat what she had instructed me to say, suddenly, I literally felt what I can best and inadequately describe as a swirling sensation rise up from my chest to my head. My hands reactively flew to my face, covering my eyes… and I could not get those words out. I. COULD. NOT. SPEAK. I had never experienced something like that before.
After a few infinitely long seconds, I gasped, “I can’t!” “Yes. You can,” my pastor reassured me. Sure enough, I then repeated the words of breaking agreement with a spirit of Spiritual Blindness, and confessing Jesus as Lord. Instantly, the presence I had felt dissipated and vanished.
And just like that, in a calm and undramatic manner, without any foaming at the mouth, writhing on the floor, guttural exclamations or being doused with holy water and “screamed free” by a priest, I was liberated from the oppression of an evil spirit of Spiritual Blindness, to whose very presence and influence I had ironically been blind. It was simultaneously such a simple thing, and an incredibly powerful thing, occurring in the presence of Jesus and by His authority as we prayed. That day, I experienced what Jesus declared in Luke 4:18:
…[The Lord] has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…
As I was about to discover, this state of being spiritually blind was preventing me from seeing something vitally important about myself and my relationship with Jesus, which I’ll talk about next time in “Confessions of a Former Pharisee [Part 2]: My Outfit Sucks.”
And as for you, why not take a few moments right now, today, or just sometime this week, close your eyes and simply ask Jesus “What do you want to talk with me about?,” and listen for His answer.
So there you have it. What did you think about the whole “freedom prayer” method of praying? Other than that I have no idea what kind of discussion question to throw out there for this one. As always though, I’d love to hear your thoughts!