One of the stories in Luke 8 that resonates most powerfully today is tale of the man possessed by a legion of demons (verses 26-39). He's out of control. They chain him and he breaks the chains. In the end Jesus casts the demons out into a herd of pigs and they're drowned in the lake, and the man is found 'clothed and in his right mind'.
At one level this is a parable of spiritual liberation. But it works on other levels, too. There are many people today who are enslaved by drugs, alcohol and pornography. These things possess them and they lack the willpower or the resources to free themselves. There are others who live chaotic, damaged lives; they might become dangers to society, or at least that's what people might think, so society responds by trying to control them with the modern equivalent of chains – electronic tags, or imprisonment. However necessary these short-term fixes are, that's all they are – and this story invites us to see a spiritual reality under the problems many wrestle with.
Many churches, and many Christians, are involved in sacrificial ministry to those whose lives are broken and damaged, and who go on to damage others. Many non-Christian workers are caring and devoted, too.
But it's worth remembering what we can bring to these situations that no-one else can: and that is prayer. In the eyes of the world prayer doesn't seem to achieve anything. But we see things differently: and Jesus says that under the skin of poverty, sickness, crime, brokenness there's a spiritual battle to be fought. Prayer changes things. There's a lot of grace in the world. But sometimes grace sparkles, and we know that God is real.
Follow Mark Woods on Twitter: @RevMarkWoods