Early on in my marriage my wife and I, along with her daughter and son-in-law traveled to Oahu, Hawaii. We spent a portion of our time there in Waikiki, although we traveled to other parts of the island as well. One of the things that struck us was the sizeable homeless population and how incredibly prevalent it was there. In reality it was probably just more obvious there than in some other places in the U.S., but it still stood out in our minds. There are entire regions of the beach on part of the island made of of miles and miles of tents where the homeless live–families, some of whom have jobs but simply cannot afford to live in houses or apartments.
Out of all the homeless, there was one particular man in Waikiki who caught my attention. His name was Ryan. His hair was a bit unkempt and his clothes were not in the best of conditions, but at the risk of being politically incorrect, he was otherwise a beautiful specimen of a Hawaiian man. I mean, given a shave and a better set of clothes, he could be GQ material. At any rate, from what I could see his biggest problem was the voices–he held conversations with other “people” that only he could hear. From my estimation, Ryan’s voices were a series of demons who constantly bombarded him, with a possible occasional multiple personality thrown in there for good measure. It was sad, really, because he was a very nice man who was clearly bound in what would otherwise be considered a “mental health” problem.
Interestingly he seemed to be aware of his voices and how long his personality would remain under control. By this, I mean that when someone is under significant demonic influence (also referred to at times as ‘demonic possession’) it is possible for their personality to remain on top, or fot it to do what I call “go under” and have a demon’s personality be the one in full control of the body. This means the demon’s voice and words would be the ones coming through the voicebox, and the body’s movements would also be under the demon’s control. Subsequently, when I was speaking o him I would have about ten to fifteen seconds after saying his name before the demons would start to exert control again. One time he even said to me “I have to go now” and started to shuffle away right as the voices were starting to come back and take over again.
My wife and I ran into Ryan on a regular basis and I made an effort to talk to him each time, if nothing else than to greet him and wish him a good day. While we didn’t hold any deep conversations or develop a lasting relationship of any kind, I cared about this man and wanted him free. The night before we left the island to head back to the mainland, I was walking along the beach with my wife and we prayed we would see Ryan one more time. I wanted to pray for him.
Although it was dark, the street lights shone on the area well enough. We walked around for some time, to the point it seemed like we weren’t going to find him. We discovered him on the beach leaning against a palm tree and reading a bible from the light of a streetlamp. I let him know we were going to be heading out and that I wanted to pray for him if he didn’t mind. I was nervous this entire time, not sure if what I was doing was right, but I really wanted to pray for him and try to cast demons out of him. I was asking God this entire time to show me what He was doing. Before I prayed Ryan wanted to read me a bible passage. The verses Ryan read to me were a passage out of the gospel of Mark which answered my question straightaway.
“When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!’ For Jesus had said to him, ‘Come out of this man, you impure spirit!’
Then Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘My name is Legion,’ he replied, ‘for we are many.’ And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, ‘Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.’ He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.” Mark 5:2-13 NIV
I kid you not. Ryan read the above verses to me out-loud, answering my silent prayer to know whether what I was doing was right or not. And let me tell you, if anyone was in the running for the Legion-demonized Man Award, he was certainly an appropriate choice. He didn’t have the chain-ripping and self-cutting, but he still had a pretty serious case. I prayed a simple prayer for him and commanded all the demons to leave. It was short, simple, to the point, without hours of working with the man to ensure they all left. I prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit and for God to bless him, then Sunshine and I said goodbye and went back to our hostel for the night. I wasn’t really sure how much impact anything I did had, if any at all. Nonetheless, I was encouraged by the verse Ryan had shared and I knew that if nothing else, I had done my part.
The next day we packed and got ready to leave, but we all headed down to the beach for one last hurrah before flying out. To my surprise, Ryan walked up to me and greeted me. I was shocked. Every time I had connected with him before it was because I had walked over to him and directly addresses him. He had never once initiated a conversation with me until now. If I ever wondered whether our prayers have any effectiveness, whether to obey God in strange situations, or whether we have authority to cast out demons, this experience cemented those truths in my mind. We have far more authority over demons than we realize, and if the single un-sure not-highly-faith-filled prayer of a believer on a beach late at night was effective enough to cause a shift in someone’s mental state, how much more when we get purposeful about it. I thank God that he has given us authority over powers of darkness!