I was listening to parts of last night's Coast to Coast, my favorite radio show. It was a strange repeat show featuring Kathleen Keating, a writer who mixes Biblical and contemporary prophecy into a fearful message that apparently is extremely popular. I could not bear to listen to it all, it was all so negative and toxic. But at one point, I was struck by yet another pundit making the assertion that if one wants to be delivered from spiritual tribulations or visions that all one needs to do is "Pray in the name of Jesus". Yet another Christian pundit making the incredible assertion that this "always" works ... "immediately".
Umn, no. It doesn't.
I am always shocked by this assertion. I am a child of a fundamentalist Pentecostal/Baptist family, "born again" since the age of six. As someone who suffered greatly from sleep paralysis and terrifying visions and dreams for two years after my initial psychic awakening, I prayed with great fervor and sincerity for Jesus to deliver me, night after night. Not once were these desperate prayers answered "immediately". Many times I would be frozen, beset by terrible visions, vibrating and paralyzed, literally mentally screaming for help in Jesus' name, only to eventually awaken, exhausted and terrified, certain only that the next night I'd be stuck in the same spot once again.
I am not the only (now former) Christian who has deeply and sincerely prayed for Deliverance without success over a period of years. My readers' emails regularly feature terrified pleas for help from people of any number of faiths who have prayed and prayed for deliverance without relief. Most are convinced they must be possessed or worse, and they feel so alone. Some have gone to their Church begging for help only to be turned away. I was profoundly insulted at the repeated suggestion by others at the time that I was possessed, not sincere, or worthy of God's compassion, or that I somehow had "asked' for this by listening to rock music or reading the wrong books. I finally got scared enough to confide these visions and dreams to my mother, who dragged me off to her Church the next day. I am sure she had no idea what the sermon would be ... it was "Visions and Dreams, God's Way of Communicating". It was only after this that I finally discovered someone at a "new age" book store, who took me seriously and offered guidance, that I was able to finally get these "Experiences" under control. I now teach some of those techniques through my book and web site.
It's irresponsible to tell people that any method of spiritual protection or deliverance will "always" work. Certainly the prayer method works a great deal of the time, perhaps even most of the time. My prayers were answered after all - just not as I expected, and not immediately. I think my methods are successful most of the time, but how am I to judge? Those who fail aren't likely to respond to someone who speaks with the authority of the Bible. If you admit your prayers in such desperate spiritual circumstances are not answered, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the victim. You must be possessed. You must be praying wrong. Are you living a "Godly" enough life? Nobody wants to simply question the automatic efficacy of such prayers.
I recall as a child being told that "demon-possessed" people could "never" resist the power of prayer in the name of Jesus. We were told often if we only had the stones to go pray over the "heathens" (especially psychics, and "witches") that they would immediately be struck dumb. Many years later, as I worked in psychic expos and other public places (and had thus become the worst kind of heathen an apostate psychic), I frequently encountered people who believed this. There was more than one occasion where some preacher or wannabee came to pray over me in the name of Jesus in some rather spectacular and usually attention-grabbing manner. It never managed to shut me up. In fact the only thing I noticed was the additional attention seemed to be good for business. One time, one poor fellow commanded the imaginary demons to "I command you to be silent and leave in the name of Jesus". I had noticed the local rent-a-cops coming up silently behind him (security at that place liked me, I think). I responded "I command you to be silent ... and leave in the name of Security." I think he turned white when he turned around to see the two hulking giants behind him, their arms crossed over their broad chests, handsome faces drawn in scowls. He'd drawn a small crowd, who burst into applause as he was escorted off the property. It turned into the best day I had for business all winter.
I just find it impossible to accept that God has some weird cosmic game that He's playing with us. If we don't all pony up to the collection plate and say the "right" prayers to the right deity, if we doubt, if we use our God-given intuition, we're all going to be hell roasted in a terrible apocalypse ... all for God's benefit? How does any of this abominable collection of ideas glorify God? How does fear glorify God? Why does God need to fulfill these abominable prophecies to prove His worth for worship? Isn't creating the entire, glorious Universe enough?
It seems blasphemous to me to suggest that God is glorified by fear. It sells books, puts bums in pews, and makes for great radio ratings, but God is glorified by love, not fear. Simply stepping outside of my fear was the most important thing that I did to stop my terrifying visions and dreams. Twenty years later, I almost never have sleep paralysis. When it happens it is rare, and only occasionally fearful, and I can almost always trace those moments to times of stress and change. Sometimes I still have visions and dreams, but they are never as terrifying as they were. Faith can be a wonderful and life-affirming thing. By all means, pray to Jesus for deliverance from unwanted psychic experiences if you are a Christian (heck, even if you are not). It can't hurt anything, and it may help. It probably will help. But don't bang on yourself, don't let fear take your heart if it does not help right away.