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?


13 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

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