During my time as a parish priest in South Wales, I would sometimes meet people suffering from spiritual afflictions. To help find the root of the problem, I would work with them using an evangelical tool called "The Steps to Freedom in Christ".
On the plus side it was very comprehensive, starting with a long checklist of things the freedom seeker might want to pray about. On the negative side, the ministry sessions could easily take four or five hours, and the prayer model felt very laborious – with long declarations of the form “I renounce the lie X and I replace it with truth Y.”
Then, about five years ago, I discovered Neal Lozano’s book, "Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance". The more I read, the more intrigued I was….. it felt like the author was a Catholic but not flaunting the fact, and was instead trying to offer his teaching in language accessible to as many Christians as possible. I asked people to read the book before receiving prayer for freedom, but I knew I was still lacking something in how to apply it.
Last November, Neal’s son Matt led an Unbound Training Day for priests at Oscott Seminary. This gave me my first opportunity to see how experienced leaders used the Unbound prayer model. The Unbound model leads a person through 5 keys in their prayer. The 5 keys are: Repentance and Faith; Forgiveness; Renunciation; Taking Authority; and the Father's Blessing.
I found the ‘learning to listen’ note-taking sheet especially helpful. I was then able to assist with Unbound ministry at the lay leaders’ weekend in Brentwood. After several ministry sessions, I began to see how the Unbound model ‘flowed’ in a way the evangelical approach didn’t. It was must easier to ask the client ‘What do you want to repent/forgive/renounce today?’ than to work through checklists. Each time, once the client had been shown how to renounce things, I could then ask “Is there anything else you want to renounce?” and the person would be able to pray a fluent prayer to renounce extra stuff, without any laborious ‘replacement truths’. Meanwhile, I could make a note of relevant truths to bring into the Father’s blessing at the end of the session.
The Unbound model is simple, but very effective. The first time I led prayer – ministering to a young priest at the Oscott day – he left the session weeping tears of joy. I don’t know what particular issue had held him in such deep bondage, but I don’t need to know – it was enough to see that the Unbound model was powerful and effective in setting people free from their burdens. I’m looking forward to making good use of it in the years to come.
Fr Gareth Leyshon is a priest from Cardiff Archdiocese now ministering as a core member of the Sion Community for Evangelism, and assisting with the formation of Unbound local groups across England & Wales.