Faith not feelings
Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
In 2003, I traveled to Nigeria for the first time to visit friends we had met in the United States. The focus of the trip was to spend time with a Catholic prayer ministry run by a Dominican Brother and visit the Dominican community. I had recently recovered from an infection that had made me quite sick, and had to take a batch of vaccines to travel to Africa. The yellow fever vaccine made me sick for several days. One of the first nights in Lagos, I participated in an all-night prayer vigil with the prayer team. I had never seen anything like it! Radical prayer of fire for hours:
As the night went on, however, I began to experience heaviness in my legs and fatigue set in. Over the following several days, I had difficulty sleeping, started to experience stress, anxiety and fear, and was generally not doing well. Things calmed down towards the end of the trip as I rested and recovered. I returned to the United States and life continued as normal.
It was only years later, after working with the prayer ministry and learning about intercession, healing and deliverance prayer that I came to understand my experience in Nigeria. What I realized is that, while the prayers said over me on my retreat in Omaha had bound up and chained demonic influences to sin and addiction, I had not gone through deliverance at that time. There remained vestiges of the demonic influences, whether you call them spiritual infection, deposits, spiritual baggage, hooks, lines or tentacles. There may have still been open doors in the spirit to attacks by demonic entities or ancestral issues. On top of all that, there were the physical realities of having been through difficult illness before the trip and the effects of jet lag.
Despite all the variables, I have concluded that participating in the night vigil and being exposed to serious fire of the Holy Spirit had confronted the residue of the enemy in my life and I had experienced negativity as a result. The anxiety and fear I experienced was not entirely me—the enemy was projecting those emotions on me because they were experiencing fear at the confrontation with the power of Almighty God. The physical discomfort I experienced was not entirely fatigue from having been sick and international travel—it was also discomfort at the enemy’s baggage in my spirit being destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, no one had explained any of this to me before the experience.
As the years passed and I was cleansed by the Holy Spirit and set free, I also learned that it can be difficult to distinguish self-deliverance and spiritual warfare from intercession for others.
Those who are in Christ can be asked by God to intercede for others in the spirit and body. This experience can involve us having to carry and battle with the sins of the other person, to help win graces with Jesus for the other person to overcome and be set free. We may be confronted by unusual temptations. We must resist with God’s grace in order to help the other person carry their cross in the spirit.
We may also experience emotions that are unusual for us or out of context. The Lord may allow this burden to lead us to pray for those suffering from these emotions. The exorcist Msgr. Stephen Rosetti makes reference to this phenomenon on his blog about his exorcism ministry.
This type of intercession can also be referred to as the life of reparation.1 The classic spiritual treatise The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life contains this concise summary of this kind of intercession:
The suffering makes one think of that of a life-saver, who, in a storm, struggles heroically to save from death those who are on the point of drowning. Spiritual life-savers . . . struggle not only for hours and months, but sometimes for years in order to snatch souls from eternal death; and, in a way, these reparative souls must resist the temptations of the souls they seek to save that they may come efficaciously to their assistance.2
The reality of spiritual warfare can be troubling to some. So why am I telling you about this? It is neither to cause fear over demonic influence nor to cause presumption about being a “suffering soul” for Christ. Rather, it is to alleviate fear and to provide confidence in the Lord.
We must remain calm under all circumstances. Faith is our guide, not our feelings. My first experience in Nigeria with intense Holy Ghost fire produced unpleasant feelings, including fear. My faith and reason told me, however, that I was with faith-filled Christian ministers of the Gospel. I made a decision in my will to stay the course and, over the long-term, the Lord took care of the underlying issues that had caused me discomfort.
As we approach the beginning of the new Church year at Advent, let me renew the call to examine ourselves spiritually and to take concrete steps in the coming year to improve our spiritual life.
If things seem stable in your spiritual life, continue to be faithful to daily prayer. Read the Bible. Devote time to orthodox spiritual reading. It is not time to relax when everything seems to be going well—it is time to build a foundation on the rock that is Jesus Christ.3 Seek the wisdom that is from above, not the wisdom of the world.4
If, on the other hand, you are encountering a situation in your life that is producing negativity, whether that be anxiety, fear, or despair, take it to the Lord in prayer. Do not jump to conclusions. Remain calm. Consult a trusted spiritual advisor or friend. Pray that the Holy Spirit would show you how to pray about your situation. You can also ask Our Lady of Sorrows, who stood at the foot of the cross, to intercede for you and give you insight into the problem.5
Do not be afraid of sudden panic, or of the [storm] of the wicked, when it comes; for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from getting caught.6
When we are confronted by the storms of this world, that is the time to exercise great faith and confidence in the Lord Jesus.
This Advent, let us earnestly seek a deeper relationship with our Blessed Lord. He is our Saviour! Jesus told us, “in the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”7
I am close to completing the proofreading of my second book — Power Tools for Prayer: Effective Intercession for Ourselves — which will address Scriptural tools on prayer for healing and deliverance for ourselves. Please say a prayer for me that I can finish it! In the meantime, here are some resources for prayers for self-deliverance:
Rev. Bro. Augustine Momoh, OP, Release Me, O Lord Jesus (booklet with prayer for self-deliverance, also available in Kindle and Audio Book formats).
Fr. Chad A. Ripperger, PhD, Deliverance Prayers: For Use By The Laity (book).
St. Michael Center for Spiritual Renewal, Deliverance Prayers for the Laity (website).
Neal Lozano, Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance (book).
Eric A. Welter is an employment lawyer and trial attorney with a long-time devotion to intercessory prayer. He is a Catholic Christian who has been involved with intercessory and healing prayer ministry for over twenty years. The Abound in Hope Ministry website is https://www.aboundinhope.org/ministry.
Abound in Hope is a free publication. Paid subscriptions support the work of Abound in Hope Ministry.
Garrigou-Lagrange, Vol. 2, The Three Ages of the Spiritual Life: Prelude of Eternal Life, at 497-510.
Id. at 509.
Matthew 7:24-27. Bible quotations are from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, unless otherwise noted.