Monday of Pentecost 3 – Prayer for the Week

Almighty and eternal God, Your Son Jesus triumphed over the prince of demons and freed us from bondage to sin. Help us to stand firm against every assault of Satan, and enable us always to do Your will; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Did you ever watch the film “The Exorcist”? It is a frightening film. In it a young person has been possessed by a demon. Did you know that the story is based on real events? In the middle of the 20th century, a family with a young son believed that he was possessed by a demon. They brought him to multiple religious centers looking for help for their child. One day they showed up at the steps of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. After meeting with the family and the child, the faculty agreed. He was possessed. They attempted an exorcism in the Chapel of the Apostles at what is now the base of the Luther Tower. It did not bring the family lasting relief. This family’s travail and struggle provided some of the central elements of that film.

Does that surprise you? It did me when I read the account of this event, buried deep in the library at Concordia Seminary. My Sunday School and Catechesis had always insisted that Jesus drove demons out in his ministry. Unlike some modern interpretations of the New Testament, I had not been taught that these accounts reflected a primitive understanding of mental illness or epilepsy. I believed that Jesus cast out real demons. But I had never been told that demons might still be a problem. They seemed to be a past reality, not a current reality.

This prayer asks God to help us stand firm against every assault of Satan. It assumes we have an enemy, a real enemy. He does not want what is good for us. He wants our suffering. We need God’s help against him. I thank God that I did not grow up in fear of Satan and demons. The people of Jesus day did. Many in the world still do. I was spared that. God answered this prayer for me and has continued to answer it for me. After reading that paper in the basement of the library at the seminary, I pray it a little differently.

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