In the past few months I have received several emails from people asking different questions about the topic of deliverance prayer. It seems there is beginning to be a great need in this country for deliverance from the attacks of evil spirits. There is a substantial amount of bad information out there. The following are some helpful rules for deliverance prayer that are particularly important for the laity.
Keep this ministry in perspective. Deliverance is not thrilling, exciting, or "cool". It is not like the movies. It is something to be taken very seriously and only performed by the spiritually mature. (experienced prayer life, no unconfessed sin, progress against besetting sins, humility, regular sacramental participation, psychologically sound, calm, and discerning and most importantly called by God)
To stay safe just pray...no need to command. The question of laity or non exorcist priests commanding demons has been discussed extensively and you will get as many different opinions as the people you ask. I have a hard time with the statement that laity should never address a demon. That being said the safest route is definitely for laity and inexperienced clergy to direct their prayers to God alone. One of the most experienced exorcists in the world told me, "the rule is laity should never address a demon ever." Ask God to bind, cast out and reveal the demon. If you are familiar with the "Unbound" model this can be a safe practice as well.
Know when the problem should be forwarded on and have the humility to do so. I recently received an email from a member of a prayer group telling me of a deliverance situation where each time they pray the person goes into a trance and loses control of the body. This had been happening for 6 months. If a person you are praying with goes into a trance the problem needs to be forwarded on to diocesan level ministry. If there is even a possibility of possession or the progression in to possession it needs to be addressed by an experienced diocesan team that can discern whether its real and stop the progression. If you have an attachment to the case and you feel any semblance of a need to keep the case or be involved then you should not be in the ministry in the first place. For many years lay people have had to respond to the call to help the demonized but this is not so anymore. Diocese' are responding to the call to help those afflicted and lay people must put their gifts at the service and under the discretion of the diocese.
Understand that extraordinary demonic attacks are a complicated psychological issue as well as a spiritual issue. We cannot over simplify the battle. In Obsession and possession a severe psychological attack is taking place. When we pray for liberation we must remember the process can take a serious toll psychologically. Most deliverance teams are not equipped to deal with this issue.
Deliverance is more than just prayer. In the vast majority of cases we must evangelize, catechize, and love the person. We must look at the case pastorally. Liberation can be tricky without these things. Often times the victim will be "punished" for the prayers we say and if they don't understand the larger battle then they can feel helpless and turn away from true help.
Deliverance has preliminary requirements. In most cases all the prayers in the world will not liberate if the person is still holding on to the things that got them in this position in the first place. It could be relationships, unforgiveness, esoteric practices etc. It doesn't matter. After repeated warnings if the person doesn't separate themselves from these things it is not a good idea to continue the prayers. Its tough but you should just continue to pray for them from a distance.
"There are no emergencies with the Devil." This is an important point I learned from an experienced and theologically astute exorcist at a conference. Extraordinary diabolical activity is allowed by God. Every action the demons take is controlled by God. He is allowing this to happen. We see the horror of it and tend to think every situation is an emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately. This is a mistake. Proceed prayerfully and calmly.
Every Christian is called to pray for deliverance in their own life but not everyone has a special calling to the ministry of deliverance prayer. Discerning this call should be done continually in great humility and prudence. The special Charism of deliverance accompanies great holiness of life and spiritual maturity. Let the Lord call you into this ministry instead of jumping in and then discerning if you are to be involved. The most important thing to remember is that the most effective way to fight and weaken the kingdom of evil is to root sin from your life.
Please take a moment and pray for all those who are being extraordinarily attacked by evil spirits...
Oh Mary, Queen of Angels , humble Virgin, liberate us from evil. Hail Mary...
And those Exorcist Priests...
St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host protect those Priests called to this ministry. Hail Mary...
And those lay people who assist them in discernment and prayer...
Rushing Wind, Holy Spirit of God fill them to overflowing that there be no room for anything but you. Hail Mary...
Dave VanVickle is a Catholic speaker and writer focusing on the Universal Call to Holiness and Authentic Catholic Spirituality. He is currently employed as the Director of Evangelization at