A few nights ago I fell asleep on the couch in my office. When I awoke, I could not move. A sense of dread came over me. I felt invisible hands tighten around my throat and I could not breathe. A voice in my head whispered, “I hate you. I have always hated you. I’ve tried to kill you so many times. Tonight’s the night. Tonight you die.
“Now a few friends of mine would immediately leap to “It was a demon! You were under attack!” But of course I know better. First of all, I’m pretty much a strict cessationist and I don’t mind who knows that. Second of all, I’ve dealt with sleep paralysis most of my life and I can easily recognize it when it happens now.
Despite that, when the invisible hands tightened around my throat and the malign voice whispered deadly threats, I prayed silently but seriously that God my Father intervene and save me.
And He did. No sooner had I finished the prayer than did the hands release me, the voice was silenced, and I drifted back to sleep again. God heard my cry and rescued me from my peril, of that I have no doubt. It’s what He does. Rescue people.
Now my certain friends become puzzled. “If you do not believe in ongoing demonic possession or oppression or sign gifts, and were sure it was just sleep paralysis, why then did you pray?”
To answer this, I quote one of my all time favorite hymns, Master the Tempest is Raging:
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will.
The stage of the hymn is set when the disciples are out at sea in a storm while Jesus is sleeping. They awaken Him, begging that He calm the storm and save them. Many scholars have debated whether the storm was just a storm or whether it was really sent by “the prince of the air,” that is the Devil.
To the hymn writer, though, the source of the storm is irrelevant. What matters is that no matter what it’s source, it cannot destroy the Creator and it must obey His will.
So was I attacked by a demon a few nights ago? I seriously doubt it. Was I in danger? Possibly, we really don’t know a lot about sleep paralysis. Much of it is in a person’s head, but there are physiological responses to the stimuli and it is possible that an episode of sleep paralysis could trigger a secondary health episode of far greater consequence.
But rest assured, demons, men, or whatever it was, my God can handle it.
And that’s why I prayed.