Intercession: Meeting and Pleading in His Name
by Fr. Rufus Pereira
"When any two of you on earth
agree about something you are praying for,
my Father in heaven will do it for you.
For whenever two or three of you come together in my name,
I am there with you" (Mt 18:19,20).
The third National Catholic Charismatic Convention in October 1978 at St. Peter's Church grounds in Bandra, Mumbai, on the theme 'Behold, I make all things New', was followed by a three day Seminar on the Ministry of Healing in the hall of the same Church conducted by the same 12 member team from the USA, headed by Francis MacNutt. On arriving at the Church in the early morning of the first day of the Seminar, I was met by Sr. Mary Usha, SND, of Patna, who was very much involved in the ministry of Inner Healing. She told me that as she was praying over a teenage girl from Malad, Mumbai, the girl was apparently 'slain' in the spirit or, to use a more acceptable term, the girl began resting in the spirit. All her efforts however during the last 20 minutes to bring the girl back to consciousness had proved fruitless. She was now quite worried and asked me to help her. I managed to revive the girl but cautioned Sister to be first reasonably sure of the girl's problem or burden before praying for her again.
The next morning, the second day of the Healing Seminar, Sister Usha was waiting for me again at the entrance of St. Peter's Church. She admitted rather sheepishly that she had prayed again early that morning for the girl, who was then once more 'slain' in the spirit and was now in this 'unconscious' state for already an hour. All efforts to revive her had been in vain. Sister expressed her regret for not having taken my advice seriously, for she thought, as she put it, that she knew about the healing ministry as much as I did. After giving her gently a piece of my mind, I accompanied her to the sacristy of the church, where the girl was now laid upon a long table in the waiting room. As I was about to start bringing her back to consciousness, I noticed to my astonishment that her whole body was in a position that resembled in every detail the figure of a dancing deity that I had often see in calendar pictures. I asked her parents whether their daughter had been attending certain dancing classes or had been visiting certain shrines, but there seemed to be no indication of what could possibly be the cause or reason of this strange phenomenon.
Then it suddenly occurred to me that the 12 member team from the USA, that had come to speak and minister at the Convention, the Healing Seminar and the two priests' retreats in Mumbai and in Kerala, should observe this case that was weird even for me. They were indeed intrigued by what they saw, as I pointed out to them how even the veins of the hands and the eye lids of the girl resembled so closely the idol I had mentioned. I then explained how 'spirits' manifest themselves in different ways according to the various cultural and religious backgrounds. MacNutt took many photos and referred to this case on pages 116-118 in his well-known practical manual, 'Deliverance from Evil Spirits', published in 1995, and even reproduced the interview he had with me in Appendix 2, on pages 304-315 at the end of the book.
I then bid them pray for the girl's deliverance. They took turns one by one during the breaks throughout the day praying over her using various methods or approaches. Francis MacNutt himself prayed with the laying on of hands, while Fr. Matt Lynn, SJ, made use of the sacramental of blessed salt, which he always carried with him, and his twin brother, Dennis Lynn, preferred to use holy oil, which was always in his pocket. We from India also took turns praying for the girl's deliverance, beginning with Fr. Jim Borst, MHM, who used his crucifix with the crown of sharp thorns for this purpose, and ending with myself - but nothing happened!
It was now getting close to 6.00 pm, the time for all of us to go the grounds of Don Bosco, Matunga, for the Healing Service to be conducted by MacNutt and Team. I managed to bring the girl back to consciousness just in time, after so many hours of her being in an apparent trancelike state. I apologized to the girl's family for being apparently let down by the Catholic Church and the Charismatic Renewal and asked them to come and see me the next day. But they did not come back. I heard later that they had taken their daughter to a psychiatrist and I felt sad that we had failed them.
About two months later, I received a surprise visit by the same girl, accompanied by her mother and her uncle. They had in fact come to pray at Prathnalaya, i.e., the House of Prayer, which was run by Sisters, the Pious Disciples of Jesus Master. For when they heard that I was staying at the Clergy Home for old and retired priests next door, they dropped in just to pay me a courtesy Christmas visit. In answer to my query, they told me that their daughter was still under medical care. When I again apologized for our helplessness in not being able to have helped her, the mother requested me to pray for her daughter once more.
After what had happened twice during the Healing Seminar at St. Peter's Church two months earlier, I was hesitant to have a prayer made a third time over the girl, lest she would perhaps be 'slain' in the spirit a third time and remain in that state maybe for hours much to my embarrassment and the puzzlement of the old and sickly priests of the Clergy Home. Instead therefore of making a prayer of deliverance over her, I decided to make together with the family a prayer of intercession for her, asking the Lord to reveal to us by the power of the Spirit the root cause of the girl's problem, through a word of knowledge, and the way of dealing with it, through a word of wisdom. I specifically claimed the promise of Jesus, "When any two of you on earth agree about something you are praying for, my Father in heaven will do it for you", relying on his assurance, "For whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you" (Mt 18:19, 20).
For my part I started praying softly in tongues knowing too well from past experience that, "When we are weak, the Spirit is there to help us. For example, when we do not know what to pray, the spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. All our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit as the Spirit prays for God's people" (Rom 8:26), and being confident that "though there are some things that man cannot do, God can do anything" (Mk 10:27). Suddenly the girl cried out, opening wide her eyes, "I now remember something very clearly, which I feel I should tell you." Her mother had taken a job overseas, in Kuwait, since the family was in financial difficulties. She had entrusted this girl, her eldest daughter, who was then just 15 years old, with the responsibility of taking care of the house and of looking after her younger siblings. But whenever her mother would return home for her holiday break or work leave, she would keep on finding fault with the way her daughter managed the household affairs and brought up the younger children, instead of thanking and appreciating her for all that she had done even at the cost of her own studies and her own personal needs. That hurt her immensely and she often shed bitter tears in silent loneliness.
One day she went to a restaurant to buy some bread, taking along her little baby brother. As she entered the restaurant, she saw on the opposite wall a calendar picture of a baby representing a popular deity. She became fascinated by it, and gazed fixedly at it and said to herself, "I wish I could become like that baby; then I would not have to look after other children, but instead others would care for and look after me." At that moment, I believe, some alien entity seemed to have entered into her. One should be careful and not necessarily jump to a simplistic conclusion, e.g., that that 'deity' was connected with some demonic entity. Rather we can safely hold two fundamental principles of spiritual discernment and Christian living, when confronted with such peculiar and perplexing cases. Firstly, when we give to his children the honour which belongs only to God, their Father, and when we ascribe to creatures the power which belongs only to God, their Creator, we are opening ourselves to the Enemy, the father of lies, who has been a Liar from the very beginning, and closing ourselves to the God of Truth. Secondly, when we are so hurt and wounded that there is much resentment and unforgiveness in our hearts, we are making ourselves vulnerable to our Enemy, the father of hatred, who has been a Murderer from the very beginning, and shutting ourselves to the God of Love.
Once I heard all this, I helped her in a matter of a few moments of prayer together to open her mind to God's liberating truth and her heart to God's forgiving love, keeping her focus not on a living creature but on the Lord and Giver of Life. Her otherwise clenched fists unlocked into palms of joyful surrender, her otherwise tightly closed lips opened into the sweetest of smiles and her otherwise firmly shut eyes opened into glances of sparkling radiance. That was the end of her descent into the darkness of the Night and the beginning of her ascent into the light of the Dawn. Now all she asked and wanted was, in the words of that popular hymn, "to be like Jesus, not in a measure but in its fullness, all through life's journey from earth to glory."
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