I’ve been thinking today about casting out demons, and taking out teeth. For my part, I have more experience in deliverance ministry than tooth extraction.

Rebuking evil spirits isn’t an everyday occurrence for me, and yet on a number of occasions I’ve been involved in that kind of thing – including an interesting situation on the telephone just a few weeks ago… but that’s another story… Anyway, whilst I have some experience of deliverance ministry, the best person at it was, of course, Jesus himself. The bible tells quite a number of stories of Jesus taking authority over demonic spirits and setting people free, because that’s a key part of his mission (Luke 4:16-21).

My experience of tooth extraction however is much more limited. To be honest, I have never extracted a tooth from anyone. (Given that I am not a dentist that will probably be a relief to readers!) However, I have been present when it’s happened. I recall when I was about 9 years old my dentist removed two of my teeth that were overcrowding things, in order to make room for my big teeth to come through – and very successful it was too.

There have of course been some examples of people who were successful in both specialities (deliverance and tooth extraction, that is). One of them was my Great Aunt Hilda, who was a renowned missionary in China up to the Communist Revolution of 1949. As well as helping locals come to Christ and be set free from all sorts of demonic strongholds, she famously acted as the local dentist, and was well-known for the ‘string tied to a door knob at one end and dodgy tooth at the other’ technique which, when the patient was held firmly in position and the door forcefully slammed, proved to be very successful. Great Aunt Hilda died when I was an infant, but is still remembered in the family as a formidable woman.

This morning I found myself in the dentist’s chair awaiting the extraction of a tooth that’s been giving me trouble for some time. I was a little nervous, but full of faith, as I have a fantastic dentist. (With a name like Apostolos, which is Greek for ‘apostle’ or ‘man on a mission’, how could I not feel reassured?) Apostolos was great and did all the right things. Still, after a quarter of an hour of tugging and with little or no progress I decided to join in as best I could. What could I do? Pray of course! So I started praying quietly and surprisingly found myself in deliverance mode. ‘Come out, in the name of Jesus! Come out!!’ was my silent prayer! But unfortunately neither my wonderful dentist or my deliverance prayers worked. After half an hour he had to give up. For some reason, unbeknown to either of us, that tooth was just not shifting. So now it’s on to the orthodontic surgeon at the hospital for more specialist treatment…

When I got home I thought about my funny ‘Come out in the name of Jesus!’ prayers and how the occasion when Jesus’ disciples were unsuccessful in removing a demon was rather like my failed prayers for the extraction of my tooth. Now what did Jesus say to the disciples? Some readers may recall his words, that the tough ones ‘only come out by prayer and fasting’ (Mark 9:29).

So that’s the answer. It makes me think that when I go back again to get this tooth removed that I should arrive well prayed and on an empty stomach. What do you think? Maybe I’m onto something significant here…?