|DELIVERANCE: SETTING PLACES FREE
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Jan 16 2009 08:00AM
Two Christian groups call us to consider the larger dimensions of deliverance - two groups in little contact with each
other. We need to merge both views in a larger unity in our work to establish Christianity in the world and to destroy the
kingdom of Satan.
The first group comprises those who regard deliverance prayer as far more than prayer for individuals; they see it as
prayer against evil principalities and powers that control entire cities, regions and nations.
The second group comprises those who see evil not so much as evil spirits, but as evil so deeply embedded in nations,
societies and cultures that it blinds people to the evil that operates in their lives. These evils are so enormous (as in
Hitler's Germany) that they may be called demonic, and their lies must be exposed in order to set the entrapped
Group 1: Those Who Battle Territorial Spirits
This enthusiastic group of Christians, in touch with one another and sharing what they learn through writing and holding
large conferences, has rediscovered an ancient Christian belief in the reality of demonic control over cities, countries
and regions. Not only are they working to discover the kinds of evil and the names of demons that affect large areas,
but they are actively praying to break those demonic strongholds.
It all began in the late '70s when returning missionaries brought back stories of exorcism from countries in the
developing world and how they had learned by desperate necessity to pray for deliverance.
For years evangelicals had shunned charismatic manifestations such as healing and deliverance, but now they began
to investigate these phenomena. Eventually some evangelical leaders and authors (like Dr. Charles Kraft of Fuller
Seminary) accepted the manifest power of the Spirit as essential for Christian revival. They termed themselves the
"third wave" of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century (the first two being the Pentecostals and the charismatics).
First Wagner learned about the possibility of individuals' needing deliverance. Then, because of his keen interest in
missions (he was a professor of church growth and author of more than thirty books on missions), he discovered a
further need to identify stronger spirits that influenced entire regions and societies and prevented the Gospel from
The area of prayer experience is new, and those exploring it are honest enough to admit they are still finding their way,
even while they do serious research. More than research, though, they actively engage in spiritual warfare. (They are
good examples of theology as a critical reflection on religious experience.)
This spiritual warfare is based on a belief that...
people groups, neighborhoods and other significant social networks of human beings throughout the world. Their
major assignment is to prevent God from being glorified in their territory, which they do through directing the
activity of lower ranking demons. (C. Peter Wagner, chapter on "Territorial Spirits," Wrestling with Dark Angels.)
The scriptural foundation for this lies in the apostle Paul's statement about our wrestling against "the rulers, against the
authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"
(Ephesians 6:12). "It would seem reasonable," writes Peter Wagner, "that the principle could be applied to a nation or a
city or a people group as well as a house." (ibid., p. 78)
Then there is the fascinating story in Daniel 10 in which a lesser angel was sent by God to help Daniel, but was delayed
for 21 days by "the prince of the Persian kingdom," whom he could not get past until Michael came to his rescue.
Obviously no human prince would have been able to hinder the angel of God from his mission. (Incidentally, the
archangel Michael is traditionally the angel God assigns to battle Satan, while Raphael brings healing and Gabriel
announces good news. These traditional roles of archangels cover the same three aspects of ministry that Jesus
assigned to the disciples: announcing the Good News, casting out evil spirits and healing the sick.)
Then, too, we read about the pagan gods of the tribes bordering on Israel, which seem to have been demonic forces
ruling over those cultures and leading them to perform abominable acts such as sacrificing infants to Molech (see
Leviticus 18:21; II Kings 23:10; etc.) For that reason God called on the Israelites to stay separate or else destroy those
Those engaged in territorial warfare map out the spiritual dimensions of the cities or regions they are going to pray for.
Then they study the history of the area to discover the primary sins and demonic powers to which the places have been
dedicated; and they identify, through discernment, the principalities that rule over these areas. Getting involved in this
kind of prayer, in contrast to simply praying for demonized individuals, is major spiritual warfare.
For this reason, those who pray for regions have learned not to engage in this ministry until..
themselves and everyone under their authority.
Without these three provisos, there is considerable danger. Wagner describes how one of his students reported two
tragic incidents involving Presbyterian ministers in Ghana, where various evil spirits had ruled for generations. One
minister ordered a tree to be chopped down that had been enshrined by satanic priests. On the day that the last
branch of the tree was cut off, the pastor collapsed and died. The second minister ordered a fetish shrine to be
destroyed. When it happened, he suffered a stroke.
How can you prove that these calamities occurred because the satanic strongholds were destroyed? You cannot. But
so much of this happens that I believe it is no coincidence. So when groups pray to break demonic holds over cities
and countries, many intercessors are needed, following on much discerning prayer as to whether they should even
attempt to get involved in deliverance prayer for the region.
Having offered this caution, let me balance it by mentioning the victories that have taken place through this kind of
spiritual warfare. Since this aspect of evangelization is relatively new, we need to read as much as we can and network
with others engaged in this work to discover what is happening. Much of what is taking place in this kind of deliverance
ministry, regrettably, is unknown to mainline churches and their ministers. This may be why missionaries have achieved
so little success in countries like Japan, where fewer than one percent of the people are Christians.
Wagner cites many examples of apparently successful regional deliverance from demonic powers, as contrasted with
places where demonic principalities are still in control. The country of Argentina may afford the most illuminating
account of regional spiritual warfare.
In the days when Juan Peron ruled the country, he was apparently guided by a warlock ( a male witch) named Jose
Lopez Rega, a high priest in Macumba spiritism. Lopez Rega had great influence in the government and in the media,
where people testified on national TV how they had been blessed by Macumba. When Lopez Rega left the government,
he reputedly put a curse on Argentina, after which an extraordinarily harsh military regime took power and anyone
suspected of opposing the general "disappeared" or was routinely tortured.
Then in 1982, during the aftermath of the Falklands War, a remarkable change took place. The generals left office,
and at the same time a number of evangelical Christian leaders (like Omar Cabrera) began to challenge Satan and pray
against demonic strongholds from the public platform. Cabrera has been planting churches that now draw over
145,000 adherents. Whenever he moves into a new area to minister, he shuts himself away in a hotel to pray and fast.
After several days of personal cleansing preparation, he engages in about a week of spiritual conflict, although it
sometimes goes much longer - up to 45 days. At times Cabrera has "seen" territorial spirits. After learning their names,
he asks Jesus to break their power over the city where he is to speak.
Another Argentinean evangelist, Edgardo Silvoso, took a map and drew a circle with a hundred-mile radius around his
training center in Rosario, Argentina. In this circle there were 109 towns, but no evangelical churches. Then they
discovered that a warlock named Merigildo, who lived in one of the towns, exercised great power and had trained twelve
disciples. Silvoso invited a number of Christian leaders to gather in that town to pray and make dominion in the name of
Jesus Christ. Then they went to Merigildo's headquarters and announced that his power had been broken. Less than
three years later, 82 of the 109 towns had an evangelical church, with more planned.
Some people I (Francis MacNutt) respect who pray for deliverance question whether we should become involved in
deliverance on this scale. Even the archangel Michael, when disputing with Satan over the body of Moses, would not
get into a direct fight, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (Jude 1:9).
The evidence is anecdotal; you cannot prove that whole regions have been evangelized because the evangelists said
fervent prayers to free the region from demonic principalities. But I believe these Christian pioneers are discovering an
important dimension of intercession that needs to be taken seriously.
Group 2: Unmasking Societal Evil
The second group, perhaps best represented by Walter Wink, shows how invisible evil forces determine our human
existence. They see these evil forces - "principalities and powers" - not as personal evil spirits but as belief systems
with an energy of their own. This powerful hidden energy makes them like demons in their need to be exorcised from
our society so that we can truly live as Christians:
grew up along with us and, while leaving some of their smaller cousins to continue harassing individuals, swelled
to the gigantic proportions of our transnational corporations, military establishments, university systems, and
governmental bureaucracies (Walter Wink, Unmasking the Powers, Fortress Press 1989, p. 69).
In this view, we are all influenced unconsciously toward evil choices because of the evil embedded in the very
institutions in which we live. The function of the prophet is to bring these hidden evils into the light where we are free to
make a choice. This is, in some sense, an exorcism.
Because we are blind to what we have always accepted (like breathing in air), we think we are doing good when we may
actually be doing evil. The clearest example in recent times is Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler. Not only was Hitler in
some sense possessed, but the German nation was blinded and marched off to war with the blessing of most church
leaders. The majority of Germans were either Catholic or Lutheran, yet with a few exceptions (like Dietrich Bonhoefer
and Franz Jagerstatter, a Catholic farmer whose conscience told him he could not serve in the German Army, as a
result of which he was shot), most Christians fought as loyal soldiers and made no protest when the Jews were
slaughtered. This kind group thinking, with its power to blind people and influence them to do evil, is a massive force
that is in the broad sense of the term demonic. It tempts, deceives, drives us to bow down and worship the idols of this
While we find it easy to recognize the evils of the past and the sins of other nations, we tend to be blind to the present
evils that hold us in bondage. My friend Father Richard Rohr suggests that adults who want to return to college and
spend two years getting a graduate degree would learn more if they spend six months in the developing world, not as a
tourist but by living and working in a poor mission. Then, when they came back to their own country, they would see
old, familiar things in a new light.
After my (Frances MacNutt's) experience traveling extensively in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, I agree. Imagine that
you are spending time in Bolivia or India where a large percentage of the people are starving. You see them dying on
the streets; then you return to the United States where dieting to get rid of excess weight is a multi-billion dollar
business. Suddenly your values are challenged: What do we really worship? Do we live according to Jesus' demand
that we share what we have with the needy? Is gluttony an idol in my life?
Writes Walter Wink, "As members of a society of suicidally ravishing the environment and arming ourselves to oblivion,
we are perplexed at the high rate of suicides." I think any thoughtful student of evil in our world will agree that Wink's
three books are, in Morton Kelsey's words, "a must for anyone who would understand the seductive and destructive
aspects of evil which are so much a part of human life." (Morton Kelsey on the cover of the above-mentioned book by
The great value of this second school, which I (Frances MacNutt) believe has a prophetic vision, lies in its uncovering
the lies and evil that deceive us and lead us into acquiescing to evil unwittingly. Again Wink writes, "Martin Luther King
Jr.'s prophetic declaration in 1967 that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world is even truer
now than when it was uttered." (Wink, p. 51). These flawed human institutions are created by our own fallen human
nature, but I believe they are also molded and influenced by the demonic world. We need prophets who will confront
the evil in our institutions. (Instead they are usually punished or jailed for their stand). Jesus did this when He strode
into the Temple and turned over the tables of the moneychangers, in order to illustrate what had happened to true
worship in His day: It had turned into a den of thieves.
What is missing among those who take a stand for social justice and against institutional injustice is that they do not, for
the most part, recognize that demons and evil spirits really exist, and that, until we deal with them, we cannot
successfully destroy the kingdom of Satan.
Unfortunately, many of those who are keenly aware of aspects of societal evil ("institutional injustice," as Pope John
Paul II termed it) know little about deliverance from evil spirits, as distinct from simply unmasking evil forces or energies.
Their experience has been that certain Christians have used their belief in demons as a ploy to avoid taking personal
responsibility for evil ("The devil made me do it!").
reinforced the fatalism of people who believed that God had already planned everything. The church there is
trying to teach people that they can make their own history, that they can be responsible, that they need not
blame demons when their child's illness is worms caught because their family cannot afford to buy shoes for her.
What is really demonic so often is the way religion and popular superstition conspire together to mystify the true
causes of distress under a fog of demonology.
These critics have also seen the excesses of well-meaning but misguided exorcists:
attempt to cast out something essential to the self is like performing castration to deal with lust. Great harm is
done by well-intended, self appointed "exorcists," largely in neo-Pentecostal circles, by exorcising people who are
not genuinely possessed.
Why can't we have an either-or but a both-and situation, believing...
(including those that influence churches);
our human greed and selfishness become institutionalized and larger than life, beyond the ability of any one
individual to reform and, therefore, "demonic" in the sense of being an evil that has a kind of life of its own.
Both-And: An Example of Social Exorcism
Here I (Frances MacNutt) want to share with you a remarkable account of a social exorcism - a deliverance from evil
spirits worked by an unlikely source: a social activist from the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Its director, the
Rev. George McClain, had been continually frustrated by the refusal of the national United Methodist Board of Pensions
to get rid of its investments in South Africa, even though the United Methodist Church had called for divestment in order
to protest apartheid. In fact, George had been arrested, with 36 of his colleagues, for blockading the Board of
Pensions' offices in Evanston.
Then George sat in on several exorcisms that his wife, Tilda (also a minister), had conducted. George found all his
rationalistic ideas about evil ("The absence of good") "blown to pieces" as he came to realize that exorcism was a
reality, not just an "embarrassing aspect of the New Testament's witness."
He began to sense that the Board of Pensions, though its members were dedicated Christians, was held captive by evil
powers; and he gathered seven friends to pray for the Board's exorcism (at a distance, of course). In prayer they
discerned the names of the oppressing spirits - fear and intimidation being the principal ones. They held a Communion
service, then performed the exorcism:
"Spirit of fear and intimidation, in the name of Jesus Christ, we order you to depart from the Board of Pensions and go
So it went for several hours until they felt their prayer mission had been accomplished. At the end they felt exhausted.
Several weeks later came the first big surprise: The general secretary of the Board, their strongest opposition,
resigned unexpectedly. Three months later, when the Board met at the historic Seelback Hotel in Louisville, George
noticed a great change in their attitude when they met with him once again to hear his position on South Africa.
Afterward, while the Board was deliberating, George and 25 others held still another exorcism service in the chill
November wind outside the hotel.
Then came the announcements: A new, open-minded secretary had been elected, and the Board voted to pull their
investments out of South Africa. A change of attitude took place in the Social Action group, too (the group that George
headed). Instead of seeing the Board of Pensions as a faceless bureaucracy, they began to love, and even like them.
George realized that he, too, had been caught up in a spirit of fear and arrogance.
Since then several more social exorcism services have been held when there were church conflicts filled with "spiritual
poison." Each time, positive changes took place with some remarkable surprises.
So here we have a new discovery: the possibility of group exorcism, not to further our own desires but - only after true
discernment - whenever a group is held captive by the forces of evil.
A good example of the study of its own is contained in Dr. Scott Peck's masterly People of the Lie. He investigates, as
one example, the MyLai massacre in 1968 in which U.S. troops in Vietnam massacred about six hundred unarmed
How is it that approximately five hundred men, the majority of whom were undoubtedly not evil as individuals, could all
have participated in an act as monstrously evil as that of MyLai? Clearly to understand MyLai, our focus must not be
limited solely to individual evil and individual choice (p. 216).
Dr. Peck concludes that institutional evil affected not only those five hundred men but our entire nation during the time
of the Vietnam War, in which we engaged in massive lying (as in the MyLai cover-up) and violence.
It is not a question of human, institutional evil as contrasted with a struggle against territorial evil spirits. Situations can
involve both: enormous institutional evil compounded by the influence of evil spirits. Unfortunately, many conservative
Christians have little sense of social injustice (they tend, as Will Herberg observed, to idolize our nation), while social
justice activists have little understanding of the reality of evil spirits and the value of deliverance. Conservative
Christians often excoriate social activists as "bleeding-heart liberals" and call for a stronger military, while social activist
Christians scorn conservatives who seem to come down on the side of the wealthy and ignore how unjust structures
oppress the poor.
The truth about evil lies in the balance.
Deliverance From Evil Spirits, by Francis MacNutt, Copyright 1995, Chosen Books.
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