If the world is engulfed in spiritual warfare, how do we know when we’re confronting a demon that requires deliverance prayer, or simply confronting a “natural” by-product of the fallen world that requires medical or therapeutic attention?
A few years ago, a man from my church called me saying that he had been attacked by demons all weekend long. He was hearing evil voices, seeing evil apparitions, and “sensing” evil everywhere.
In many cases such a conversation might lead to a prayer team going to his house to engage in spiritual warfare, but in this situation I knew that this man struggled with mild schizophrenia and paranoia. When he took his medications, got good sleep and ate right, he was fine. When I inquired about these matters, he told me that the “attacks” began after he “felt God” telling him to “prove his faith by discontinuing his medication.” By the time he called me, he hadn’t slept or eaten in two days.
Once we were able to get the man back on his medication, eating right and sleeping right, he was “delivered.” We still prayed a warfare prayer over him, in case anything in the spirit realm was taking advantage of his “natural” infirmities. But it was obvious that this experience was primarily due to natural causes, not demons.
My response was based on my experience with this man. But what do you do in cases where you don’t know of any pre-existing mental illness? And what do you do in cases of physical infirmities, since sometimes—but not always—Jesus identified specific demons behind illnesses?
My answer is that, unless you happen to share a history with a person, or unless God gives you what the Bible calls “a word of knowledge” (1 Cor 12:8) about the particular situation, you can’t ordinarily know with any degree of certainty whether you’re dealing with a natural consequence of the fallen world that requires medical or therapeutic attention or with a demonic presence.
My advice, therefore, is for disciples to always shoot in both directions. Pray against anything in the spiritual realm that might be afflicting a person and, at the same time, encourage them to explore every possible medical or therapeutic remedy for their condition.
Even if a person’s condition is due to natural causes—a malfunction in the person’s body or brain chemistry, for example—this is ultimately an aspect of Satan’s oppressive hold on the world. Were the world not fallen and under Satan’s grip, this malady would not exist. So it makes sense to not only treat the infirmity on a natural level but to also revolt against the diabolic dimension of the illness.
So, whenever I pray for people who are suffering physical or mental afflictions, I include a prayer along these lines: “If there is anything in the spiritual realm influencing or causing this condition in any way, I take authority over it in Jesus’ name.”
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