Being able to detect the presence of demons is a key part of setting people free from their influence. And since demons like to remain in the darkness, influencing a person without being recognized, it is not always obvious when they are at work. How can we discern when these invisible enemies are at work?
I wrote recently about three ways that demons seek to influence people: torment, oppression, and bondage. Sometimes it is possible to discern the presence of an evil spirit by looking at these “symptoms” in a person’s life, as well as getting some background information about them. But I want to cover two supernatural ways in which we can detect the presence of demons.
1. The gift of discerning of spirits
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is called “discerning of spirits” (see 1 Corinthians 12:10). Discerning of spirits is the supernatural ability to perceive what is happening in the spiritual realm and judge between the Holy Spirit and demonic spirits.
This gift may function in recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit, like when John the Baptist “saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him” (John 1:32). It also may operate in making us aware of the presence of angels (see 2 Kings 6:14-17).
And discerning of spirits certainly operates is in exposing the presence of evil spirits. Some believers report “seeing” the presence of a demon as a creature, serpent, black spot, dark cloud, or other image. Others may feel or sense something indicating demonic presence. Sometimes it may come as an impression from the Holy Spirit about demonic presence or the specific name of a demon.
While on staff at a church, one Sunday morning I was praying for a woman whom I had never met. I prayed as I felt led by the Holy Spirit, and an intercessor who was standing behind her discerned a spirit of fear was present. When I addressed this spirit, the woman began to manifest a demon and was set free from its power.
2. A demonic manifestation
This is when an evil spirit comes to the surface and begins to make itself known in some way. It typically happens in what is referred to as a “power encounter”; where the kingdom of God collides with the kingdom of darkness, forcing demons to manifest so that they can be driven out. I have seen this happen during times when the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully through preaching, worship, or prayer.
In Mark 1:21-26, we see an example of this:
Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.
Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue, when all of the sudden a demon manifested in a man sitting in the congregation. It seems that the authority of Jesus’ teaching forced the evil spirit to come to the surface so it could be driven out. I have seen similar things happen at times when praying for people or teaching on the subject of deliverance.
I have found that the more experience you have with deliverance, the easier it becomes to discern the presence of evil spirits. I believe this is true of the supernatural discernment mentioned above, but also when it comes to observing natural signs and gaining information from the person you are ministering to.
As we grow in the Word, walk with the Holy Spirit, and gain experience in deliverance, our discernment will increase. And as our discernment sharpens, we will be more effective in setting people free from the influence of evil spirits.