Discerning the Presence of Evil Spirits

One of the primary keys to walking in effective deliverance ministry is being able to discern the presence of evil spirits. Demons prefer to dwell in the darkness; they enjoy being able to influence a person without being recognized. They desire to become intertwined with the personality of the person in whom they dwell so as to remain unnoticed. This being the case, it is not always obvious that a demon is at work in a person’s life.

I wrote previously about various doors that can be opened for evil spirits to gain access to a person. But how do you really know when a demon is present? How can you tell when a problem someone is facing or bondage in a person’s life is caused by an evil spirit? The answer: discernment.

Exposing the Enemy

For evil spirits to be cast out, they must first be exposed. Once they are brought into the light they can be dealt with. But as long as they remain hidden and undetected, they can continue their destructive work in and through the person they live in. Below are three common ways that the presence of evil spirits can be detected.

1. A demonic manifestation

This is when an evil spirit comes to the surface and begins to make itself known in some way. This typically occurs in what is sometimes 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. This type of occurrence will usually happen during a time when the Holy Spirit is 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.

2. The gift of discerning of spirits

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul lists nine gifts of the Holy Spirit that should be operating in the church and are available to believers. One of those gifts 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 work in being aware of the presence of angels, like when Elisha saw the army of angels surrounding him to protect him (see 2 Kings 6:14-17).

Another way that discerning of spirits operates is in exposing the presence of evil spirits. For example, 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 in Texas, one Sunday morning I was praying for a woman at the altar. She was a first-time visitor and I had never met her before. I prayed as I felt led by the Holy Spirit. An intercessor who was standing behind her discerned a spirit of fear, so I addressed this spirit. Immediately the woman began to manifest a demon. Not only was the spirit of fear cast out, but several other demons as well.

3. Natural information

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.

In a counseling session, it is a good practice to talk through potential open doors to find a possible demonic entry points. For example, if you counsel a person and find out that they have been involved in the occult, there is a good chance that an evil spirit needs to be cast out. If there has been physical, sexual, or verbal abuse, it is common for demons to have entered in through that door.

I recently prayed for a young lady who had spent some time heavily involved in paganism and witchcraft before becoming a believer. She was struggling with torment, anxiety, and fear on a regular basis. It did not take the gift of discerning of spirits or a demonic manifestation to determine that there was a need for deliverance. Sure enough, as me and another woman prayed over her demons began to manifest and be cast out.

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.

For more information on deliverance ministry, check out my book Can a Christian Have a Demon?


21 Responses to “Discerning the Presence of Evil Spirits”

  1. Appreciate your insights, and I’ve been pondering the same questions you asked at the end of your article. Looking forward to getting more teaching and training in this area.

  2. Thank you for this insight. We live in a world filled with these scenes. Please give more lessons regarding this subject, so we can know what to look for. Abundant Blessings!

  3. Hello Jake,
    I just came across your website today. I had dreams of deliverance before I clearly knew what deliverance was. I am a fairly new Christian and still have a lot to learn, but I think God wants me to know more about deliverance as I keep stumbling about deliverance topics last two months. I had very vivid and powerful dreams where I cast out demons out of children/people, close family members and even out of myself. This was in reality: one evening I felt a sharp pain in my stomach and I just knew (through the Holy Spirit) that it was an attack because I was fasting and praying for someone to be saved. I commanded the pain and everything that is not from God to leave me in Jesus name. In less than a minute i vomited really bad. After that I was completely ok, no pain and light as a feather. Finding your site today wasn’t a coincidence. Thank you for all the helpful information! I haven’t ministered to anyone yet, I think that is still coming. I’ve met people that I clearly knew had demons and in presence of some people hair on the top of my head stood up and I got chills. I am waiting for God’s next step in my life and deliverance ministry. I hope to learn more through your site.
    In HIS Love,

  4. Hi just read your post about evil spirit manifestations when the kingdom of heaven invades a place and this can expose a demon.

    I have been living in my three bedroom home for many months now.
    On the first few nights i had night encounters where i would suddenly be awoken with great fright and fear. This would lead to a very frightful and disorientating feeling as though being murdered or killed as i attempted to awake from sleep at the same time. I prayed over the home and room in which i lived after this occurred twice and i have not experienced it any more times then at least three ever since. That was months ago.

    I have felt and sensed a particular disliking in my spirit about something in the house but i have never really been able to put my finger on it and i have always prayed and anointed my room and commanded any unclean spirit to leave.

    Recently there has been significant release of Gods presence, love and power In my life and just tonight i seen a small and rather evil looking spirit, first i seen its face in my mind and then i seen its whole figure and once i awoke i found that it was in my room staring at me.
    I immediately took authority over this unclean spirit and commanded it to leave my room and house that i share with two other people. It left but i seen that it did not leave the house as I’ve commanded and stares at me from outside my room walls. I don’t feel its presence much at this moment after taking authority over it.

    I do believe that this is a direct result of Gods glory and presence being released in and through my life and thus conflicting with darkness.

    The spirit seems to look like a small female child or woman with long hair, unclean and vile in nature and seems to be angry. :) I feel that this is the same sprit that was disturbing my sleep when i first moved in and is the same unclean spirit that i feel sometimes uncomfortable around at random times like tonight when i approached my home i sensed a sinful/unclean/”something isn’t right” feeling in the spirit as i approached my front door and then this encounter occurred moments latter as i tried to sleep.

    Please pray and give insight…questions…



    • Stephen,

      It sounds like you are doing the right things by praying over the house and anointing it with oil. If there are evil spirits present, it is most likely because some dark things took place in that house at some point, such as murder or occult activity. I would ask the Lord if there is anything specific that needs to be exposed and prayed through to remove the access that the spirits may have. Then, hopefully it will not be an ongoing problem.


      • Hi Jake,
        just wondering, I was woken last night from a really dark and evil presence in my room. I tried to ignore it and went back to sleep then a the weirdest nightmare.
        I then woke in the morning after falling asleep for the second time and I haven’t felt like myself all day. Oh btw my dream consisted of laying on a lounge playing with my niece and the evil presence entered my dream and it felt like something reached through the back of the lounge and dug into my back.
        What advice do you have regarding this?

        • Jaquie, It sounds like you were coming under spiritual attack. The best thing to do is pray, quote Scripture, and command the evil presence to go in the name of Jesus.


  5. lolitha burney says:

    enjoyed reading your message all great insight and beautiful testimonies of deliverance…because demons are definitely on sight. i need more info and reading/prayers about it. i have a strong insight on recognizing evil spirits. I’m well endowed with that gift. I’m thankful to God for it. it goes into over drive (if you will)smile but no complaints. I’m blessed to have such a anointed gift.Abundant blessings to you!

  6. Darlene Arreola says:

    I have enjoyed reading as well. I have came across two women whom had some sort of demon attached. one I didn’t know until I was told and I felt I couldn’t help her because I was not praying all time time and not much in my word. I realized that I need to be ready to help people and I feel like this is what God wants to use me for. The second one I did notice abnormal behavior and I knew it wasn’t right. it turned out that she did have several demons and they were casted out but not from me. I still felt that I wasn’t strong enough to help her either. this whole discernment of the spirits has been heavy on my heart. I know God wants me to be ready so now I’m asking for the gift and am in prayer and in my word daily. I need to fast also because I am leaving the country on a mission trip and I feel like Im going to need my full armor of God over there. I did experience some things that I need help on. In my car the window went down by itself and on a another occasion my radio turned off and on then my bible-on-cd,cd started popping in and out. the next day I saw a face of a man through my review mirror in my back,as I took a double look it was gone. Why the car issues?

  7. Donna Klingenberg says:

    I looked up this subject because there are times, as a Christian, i have looked at someone and this horrible feeling of evil manifests from them. One proved very true, one is a political figure, another a new friend of a friend, etc. Do I keep my mouth shut about it and just pray? That’s what I am getting from your article. Thank you for a lesson I needed to learn.

  8. Thank you for this article I have recently became a Christian. I come from a past that I am not to proud of and found out that my family also have the same past. I have been feeling the presents of evil things and i have also had dreams of evil things and thought that it was just me. After reading this article it has really helped me to see that it is a gift from God and that he has a plan for me to use it. I recently brought a new friend to the Lord and he accepted Christ as his Lord and savior. May God bless you and your family

  9. Georgetta says:

    I have been a Christian for over 16 years now. I know the Bible says Discerning the Spirits is a spiritual gift, but it doesn’t feel that way. Seeing evil spirits is something that goes through out my whole family from generation to generation(parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and my daughter). Not only do I see them and hear them, I feel them. For example, Easter Morning around 4 am, I saw a 6 foot tall black shadow walk along the side of my bed. Then I felt a heavy weight on my left shoulder. It was holding me down. It started yelling in my ear, but I got really angry and started whaling at it over and over with my right hand. I could not speak – my vocals were frozen. I tried so hard to whisper the name of Jesus, but nothing would come out of my mouth. I’ve had other encounters where I felt the heat of it’s breath on my face, sounds of growling like a mad dog, and clawing at my hands. It mostly happens at night, but sometimes it comes in the light of day. Each time I feel paralyzed. I can not more or speak. Most of the time when I am finally set free, I run into another room and cry. this time I was mad!! But I know I cant fight them physically (with my fist) and I am trying really hard to pray and cast them out, but I feel like I’m loosing this battle. The more I want to do good – the worse they get. I’ve seen other people get set free from evil spirits (literally on the ground rolling, growling, cursing God one second then praising him the next) and I was not fearful. What does cause me to fear is the night encounters or when I am alone during the day. Jesus was not fearful when he encountered evil spirits, neither were the Apostles, so why is this so hard for me?! I know they can not hurt me without God’s permission. I know God has given us authority to cast them out. I know God says he does not give us a spirit of fear, so why am I so fearful! I’ve tried prayer, fasting, blessing my house and anointing it with oil, commanding them to leave and never return. I have post it notes with scripture all over the place. I’ve tried talking to my pastor and other members of my church, but they want no part of it. I sleep with my Bible either under my pillow or wrapped up in my arms. I don’t know what else to do? If you have any suggestions, please advise.

    • Georgetta,

      It sounds to me like you are not so much experiencing the gift of discerning spirits, but demonic torment. I know others who had similar experiences and have been totally set free. My guess would be that there is a history of occult activity in your family background that needs to be renounced. I would recommend going through this prayer for deliverance . You can do it on your own, or have someone you trust with you to pray with you. I would also recommend my book Can a Christian Have a Demon? to gain better understanding of the ministry of deliverance.

      I hope that helps!

      God Bless,


  10. Interesting reading here – and strangely comforting in a way, reading what other Christians have experienced. It’s the middle of the night, and I woke a while ago from a bad dream, wherein an evil presence manifested. I’ve had many such dreams over the years (decades really), and finally decided I would go on the internet and type the words “What is the evil presence that invades dreams?” just to see if others have similar experiences. Not surprised at all to read here that they do.

    In my case, I’m just dreaming about whatever. No particular scenario in common between all the different dreams. At some point, a palpable and acute (for lack of a better word) presence seems to just enter into the dream out of nowhere. It doesn’t seem to happen often. I think in the past it used to happen probably a dozen times in a year. My wife would always notice me trying to speak in my dream, with very heavily slurred speech, and would then wake me up and pray for me, as she sensed something evil was going on. These days, it doesn’t seem to happen so frequently – maybe a couple of times a year for the past couple of years.

    I’ve never really lost any sleep over the experiences (no pun intended, strangely enough), as I know that Christ is my covering, and probably in a manner similar to how little kids seem to just accept things as facts, without really questioning WHY they happen, I’ve always just rolled over and gone back to sleep after these evil dreams, and basically forget about them by morning. Nevertheless, this time my curiosity is such that I am up at this late hour typing these words instead of going back to sleep.

    More than half a lifetime ago, I was a Mormon. Back in those days, before I knew Christ (the real one, not the Mormon counterfeit) as my Savior, I had experienced several demonic encounters, including one or two inside of a Mormon temple during the performance of occult rituals. Shortly before going on a mission to South Korea in 1985, I was awakened in the night by demons, who were literally trying to pull my spirit out of my body through the top of my head. I was fully awake, and could feel and hear them speaking to me, telling me that they were going to destroy me, and that I would not escape from them. I was both absolutely terrified, and completely unable to move a muscle. I know that atheistic psychologists would probably just chalk it up to being a ‘night terror’ caused by some chemical imbalance. But I know better, for I was there. I had been asleep, but was now very much awake.

    In this experience, I (even as an unsaved Mormon) somehow managed to cry/scream out of my soul, in my mind, the words “Lord Jesus, please help me!” The very second that I cried out those words in my mind, my mouth was suddenly freed up to speak, and the words “Satan, in the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave!” came out of my mouth. The very instant that those words came out, the demons where literally wrenched away from me. I could actually feel their grasp being torn away. I really don’t know how to describe it better than that. It was really and truly a freaky thing. At the same time, my whole body became able to move again.

    I sat up in my bed, and turned and looked in the direction that I sensed the demons had been flung. This was in a room with zero light. No night light. No street light outside the window (I was on a farm). Nothing. Yet I could SEE those demons. I don’t know how, but I could see them. They were blacker than the blackness of the room, but I could see them, and they were looking at me with the most intense hatred that I have ever experienced. After what felt like perhaps 15 or 20 seconds, they faded away – just disappeared.

    I had other demonic encounters since – ALL of them before coming to faith in Christ, but NOTHING even remotely like that one. Nor would I wish to – it was absolute terror!

    So here I am, all these years (decades) later, and every so often I still have these evil episodes enter my dreams. Demonic activity in the lives of Christians, of any variety, is admittedly not something that I’ve really given much thought to. It’s not something that’s really ever come up in a Bible study. It’s not something I’ve ever heard talked about in a sermon, either on the radio or at church. But based on my own past experiences, I’ve never, ever discounted that such things are real. I just trust now that Christ’s blood covers me, and the demons must know it. Even so, the dreams…

    So it seems I need to learn more than I know. I have no desire to delve into the dark side of spiritual matters, as I believe the Bible cautions us to stay away from such things. But at the same time, I don’t think God intends for us to remain ignorant. And so here I landed, Jake Kail, at your web site. I guess I just felt like sharing my own experiences, after I read a few of the accounts on this blog page.

    Switching gears, there definitely does seem to be a lot more to the invisible spiritual realm than meets the eye. I know that my own wife is much more spiritually perceptive than I am. When we moved into our current home ten years ago, she was almost constantly picking up on what seemed to be demonic stuff manifesting in our home. I was entirely insensitive to any of it, but I never doubted that what she picked up on was real. We learned from neighbors that the people who lived here before we bought the house were really rough characters, and into all kinds of criminal activity. We need only look at all the physical scars on the walls in this house, and take stock of the many, many repairs we’ve done to an abused house, and it isn’t hard to imagine what it must have been like in this house.

    I have no doubt at all that a lot of evil took place here before we Christians moved in. About half a dozen years ago or more, we had a friend who is a strong Christian, come in here and basically (for lack of a better word) exorcise our house. He went through every room and prayed and anointed each doorway with oil, commanding evil to leave, and essentially dedicating the house to God’s service. Perhaps that may sound like something that I, as the head of the home, should have done. But as Forrest Gump’s Momma would have said, “ignorance is as ignorance does”.

    In other words, it never occurred to me to do what my wife had our friend do, and I wouldn’t have known how to proceed even if I had thought of it. But I do know that I’m very glad indeed that our friend did visit us. Indeed, since that event, my wife has finally had peace about this house, and finally stopped picking up on the presence of demons. For me, being the numbskull that I am, it hasn’t been much of a difference. But as I said, I do not discount on what my wife perceived, any more than I would discount my own experiences half a lifetime ago as a young man.

    Now… where was I going with all of this? I think I’ve lost track now. But I did want to share these experiences here, perhaps because I think I’ve finally found a place where the context seems appropriate to type this out for others to read. I’ve only mentioned them out loud on a few occasions in the company of close Christian friends. This is the first time that I believe I’ve ever really posted anything about it online.

    Anyway Jake, I don’t know you, and haven’t taken the time to look around your site and get your background, and I know my post is rather wordy. But I hope you don’t mind me posting this here, and I hope it isn’t inappropriate. Your thoughts, comments, or suggestions are welcomed, and I’ll try to keep an open mind. Or feel free to send me a private email if it seems merited. I think I saw something here about a book you wrote. Maybe I’ll order a copy of that.

    One last thought: don’t take this the wrong way please. Back when I first became a Christian, I used to hear this guy on the radio named Bob Larsen. When he wasn’t constantly berating his listening audience for donations for his radio program, he spent quite a bit of time talking about how he was always casting demons out of people. I always thought he was over the top and being sensationalistic. But having said that, I do know that in the eastern hemisphere, there is apparently a lot more overt demonic activity and attacks against Christians than what I understand we typically see in the ‘West’. Not sure whence the dichotomy, but it is apparently real nonetheless. I’m just mentioning this because I want to confess that I do have a natural skeptical bias against ‘deliverance ministries’, and a lot of the hoopla that I see associated with it, largely because there are a lot of charlatans on TV and the radio who really are just out there to make a buck, and use Christ’s name to do it. No idea where you fit into the picture, brother, as I just ‘landed’ here on this page. But I’ll take a look around and hopefully learn some things. Pardon my guard being up, and please don’t take it personally; it isn’t personal. I hope you’re the real deal.

    God bless!

    • Al,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story! I understand your concern with many “deliverance ministers” and don’t take offense to that at all. I have ministered to others who have had similar experiences of torment in their sleep, and have seen them set free.

      The whole topic of evil spirits and deliverance is surrounded with a lot of fear, misunderstanding, and confusion. Like you mentioned, it is not often talked about here in the West. God led me into deliverance ministry just over ten years ago, and I have been involved with it ever since. It is certainly not the only aspect of my ministry, but one that has been consistently a part of it.

      I have many article on the topic here on this website. Some things that might be helpful are this prayer for deliverance and this sermon on deliverance. My book Can a Christian Have a Demon? is a great foundational introduction to the topic as well.

      Hope that helps!

      God Bless,


  11. I have an ex who ive cared about for many years.He came out of the blue to see me afew days ago. I tried ministering to him. His intensions were not good ones. I felt the overwhelming presence of evil lingering even after he left. He says there is no God and he doesnt need to hear about God. Its heart breaking to know he is on the path to hell. My question is do demons surround sinners? Obviously im sure but just had a sense of them surrounding him and the lingering after he left was very disturbing. Thank you. D.

  12. john showalter says:

    Hey Jake, I just stumbled by your website by “coincidence”. Just want to say thank you. Personally, I feel calling in angels for assistance and playing UPLIFTING spiritual music helps in casting the darkies out, as well. They need healing, too. The brighter your light shines, the more darkies that people will attract. FEAR NOT! Blessings to you.

    • Thanks John, I am glad you are enjoying the articles! Yes, asking for God to send angels and playing anointed worship music can be very helpful in pushing out the darkness.

      God Bless,


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