I've written about preaching and writing as a weapon to set people free, but what about prayer? Scripture is clear that prayer and the spiritual battle go hand in hand. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities...put on the full armor of God..and pray in the Spirit on all occasions." (Eph 6:1-6)
I began with preaching, because we have often made setting people free a very mystical issue, whereas scripturally, freedom is a more legal issue. I recently preached on Jesus' teaching on the 'unforgivable sin,' concluding by saying that this teaching was not directed to the disciples but to the scribes who rejected Jesus as Messiah, saying he was of Satan. My point was that the only sin that God could not forgive was the refusal to trust in Jesus as the forgiver of sins. A Christ follower came up to me afterwards saying that he had been kept in 'slavery' for years thinking he had somehow committed the unforgivable sin,and had realized this was not true. He asked if I could pray for him, and I found myself saying, 'No, God has set you free through preached truth. I don't have to pray for you this time." I wanted him to see that faith in the truth is what ultimately sets a person free. Interesting that in the Gospels Jesus didn't pray for people to get set free from demons. His mere presence was enough for them to release people. This mostly happened while he was preaching.
However, prayer is a powerful weapon if it is not seen as the 'silver bullet,'but rather helping a person once they have repented of sin and submitted to Jesus as Lord.
In Mark 3:20-30, Jesus talks about Satan as the strong man who has occupation of a house and possession of its goods. Jesus talks about himself as the robber who will bind the strong man and plunder his goods. The issue here is not us trying to 'bind the strong man ourselves,' but ultimately under whose possession we agree to be.
Jesus is the Stronger Man, who can bind Satan,the strong man and plunder his goods, because of his sinless life, substitutionary death and triumphant resurrection, but he cannot do this unless we agree to come under his possession. The point is, we will never live free unless we hand over ownership of our lives to Jesus, through repentance and submission.
Praying for people to be set free is like being a janitor in the house of their lives, but we cannot repent and submit for them. That is something they have to do themselves. And if they refuse to repent and submit, we can spring clean in prayer all we like, but the house will end up worse in the end if they do not settle it that Jesus has both occupation and possession of their lives. (Matt 12:44)But once they do, the renovation of the house can begin!
This is why I say freedom is more legal than mystical. As James said, "Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you."(James 4:7)