Deliverance is a form of spiritual warfare that includes Exorcism of Demons, prayer, cleansing, and healing. Deliverance is practiced chiefly by Protestant denominations, especially Pentecostal and charismatic. Practices of deliverance began in the early years of Christianity, when the apostles and all true believers cast out Demons and healed by a laying on of hands. Over time, the practices became more restricted in favour of formal rites performed by priests. Deliverance declined with the advance of psychiatry and psychology but underwent a revival in the 20th century with the growth of Pentecostal and charismatic denominations.
The Demonic realm is assumed to operate under a set of rules and to function as a hierarchy with lower-level Demons reporting to higher-level Demons. When a human being violates the rules, such as by committing a sin, Demons then have “legal rights” to assault that person, causing a progression of problems from Infestation to Oppression to Possession. Evil acts committed in a place, as well as Curses against people and places, also give Demons legal rights.
Interference includes temptations to sin, physical attacks, obstructions, emotional oppression, and personality changes. Full and true possessions are considered to be rare. Demonization is a term used instead of possession.
Different types of Demons are recognized.
• Demons with unusual names such as Pazuzu and Beelzebub are high in the hierarchy and represent the true Demons of Hell. These spirits are in a minority of afflicting Demons.
• Other Demons take their names from sins such as Envy and Murder. They take advantage of people’s weaknesses and foment paranoia.
• Some Demons enter on the wake of trauma, especially psychological or emotional.
• Ancestral spirits, who may be genuine restless dead spirits or low-level Demons masquerading as the dead, are encountered most often in hauntings and through spirit communications such as mediumship or devices.
Prayers are used to expel Demons, but there are no formal rites of exorcism such as those performed in Catholicism only by priests (see Rituale Romanum). The cause of Demonization must be closed off through repentance and inner healing.
There are symptoms that denote when a deliverance is needed.
• Tormented persons are aware of spirits, such as through voices in their heads urging them to do violent or evil deeds or commit suicide and unusual and extreme nightmares.
• Others observe signs of Demonization, such as bodily contortions, unusual changes in voice, severe changes in facial expressions, unpleasant smells, and marked cold.
Widespread belief among Pentecostals, charismatics, and others holds that only pagans, not Christians, are ever in need of deliverance.
Deliverance usually is done by clergy but can be done by others as well, such as mediums and healers and laypersons. Such individuals have been given a chrism, or gift, of discernment by the Holy Spirit, which enables them to perceive whether or not a person is afflicted by evil spirits and to know the identity of the spirits.
The identity is helpful in determining the origin or entry point of the Demon and in knowing how the Demon is affecting the victim. Deliverance prayers are performed for spiritual protection, light infestation and oppression, and severe Demonization. Serious cases are best handled by experienced clergy or trained laypersons who are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Tools include blessed water, oil, and salt.
- MacNutt, Francis. Deliverance from Evil Spirits: A Practical Manual. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Chosen Books, 1995.