The Gift of Discerning of Spirits
A common description for the gift of discerning of spirits is that it is a supernatural ability from the Holy Spirit to distinguish between spirits – divine, demonic, and human. It also enables us to discern the hidden motives of the heart. The prophet Elisha prayed an unusual prayer for his servant during a time of battle to open his eyes so that he may see. Elisha was not referring to his servant’s physical eyes, but to his spiritual ones. Elisha could see into the spiritual realm, which is the gift of discerning of spirits in operation, and he saw the true spiritual condition of that matter. The servant was fearful of what he saw in the natural, but the truth was that a fierce army of warlike angels had jam-packed the spiritual horizons, ready to fight on their behalf. It is important to point out that the gift of discerning of spirits is not just discerning of evil. It is a supernatural ability to discern both good and evil. The evil and the demonic just seem to stand out more once you have tasted of heavenly things and finally know the difference. The gift of discerning of spirits is multifaceted in its expression, but it works powerfully through our senses to reveal the spiritual realm.
The Holy Spirit anointed me with this gift well before I ever knew it and because it works through your senses, your senses begin to react and resonate to the ‘spirit” of your surroundings – whether good or bad- before your mind can even explain what you are reacting to. This can be quite disturbing until you know what is happening to you and why. This gift is something that requires time and diligence on the part of those who are gifted, so that they develop the emotional stamina and accuracy they need for operating in the gift effectively. The fruit of this gift is just as important as learning how the gift processes. Recognize that there is a continuous learning curve when it comes to the gift of discerning of spirits. Walking out this gift is like learning a new language; only it is a spiritual language that requires time, practice, and commitment for us to become fluent in it. Discerning the spiritual realm and doing it well is the mark of the mature believer.
Scriptures | 2 Corinthians 12:1-4 2 | Kings 6:17 | Hebrews 5:14 |
Holy Spirit, I pray you would open my spiritual eyes to the gift of discerning of spirits and teach me to process well, growing in maturity as I learn to steward this gift well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The Fundamentals of Distinguishing between Spirits
The gift of discerning of spirits flows the strongest and with the most impact when it is attached to purpose; only it is hard to discern what you don’t yet understand. This gift is necessary to determine spiritual origins, which in turn will determine outcomes. When we fail in our recognition, we miss out on what God is doing, or we allow demonic harassment to continue out of ignorance. Our first encounters with the Holy Spirit are often in the form of “goosebumps”, a feeling of electricity, or perhaps a prickly feeling on our skin. Conversely, our encounters with demonic spirits are not so pleasant. Sometimes we can sense them by a distinct and unpleasant smell, or we feel an unpleasant coldness in a certain location, or we might experience a nauseous feeling whenever we come around a certain person or group of people.
We also will discern the attitudes and struggles of people, good or bad, which can be a directive for prayer or an opportunity for ministry. Once you realize how much spiritual information you perceive through your senses, you begin to pay attention. Gut feelings and hunches that were once ignored are now examined for their meaning. Discerning through sight involves our inner eyes, also known as the eyes of our heart, as well as our two physical eyes. Through the gift of discerning of spirits, we might see angels, visions of Jesus, and even the Lord through signs in nature. You can discern the spirit of something through physical touch and external sensations, or you can discern spiritual information through your emotions. Some hear the voice of the Lord or an angel; others hear the voice or thoughts of the enemy. You can discern good or bad through your sense of taste or sense of smell. The presence of the Lord is discerned as a sweet fragrance, the demonic can be discerned as the smell of death or leave a bad taste in your mouth. What God appoints you to do, He will anoint you to do. He will anoint you with the gift of discerning of spirits so you can see and discern spiritual conditions to be more effective. Ask God to anoint you with the gift of discerning of spirits. Ask for more of it!
Scriptures | Ephesians 1:18 | Revelation 2:7, 11 | Numbers 22:31 | Matthew 2:2 |
Holy Spirit, I invite you to open the eyes of my heart and anoint me with the gift of discerning of spirits as you teach me how to steward this gift well and increase it in my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Discerning Spiritual Atmospheres
When you operate in the gift of discerning of spirits, you will discern spiritual atmospheres through your senses, often through the vehicle of your thoughts and emotions. We often dismiss what we discern though because it is not rational enough. It is something you will need to catch on to because it is not logical or rational at all. Discerning different atmospheres happens in different ways and varies from person to person. For myself, I often discern the spiritual atmosphere of a city by what I spiritually see and feel on the land. Spiritual atmospheres are real, and we discern through our senses what God and His forces are doing, as well as what Satan and his forces are doing. This is always a call to prayer. Discerners are spiritual watchmen and gatekeepers. Those with the gift of discerning of spirits are both spiritual watchmen and gatekeepers for their church, city, and beyond as the Lord directs. Not only do discerners shut the spiritual gates to the wrong things; but they also open the gates to the right things. As spiritual watchmen and gatekeepers, discerners often become great intercessors.
An intercessor is one who advocates in favor of another, and discerners passionately advocate for people and their cities in prayer. The Holy Spirit has taught me that we discern so that we can respond. When we discern the presence of the Lord, we can worship. When we discern a demonic atmosphere, we can change it. We are supposed to change it. When you encounter a demonic atmosphere, you need to speak to it. You speak to the atmosphere out loud and with authority, going in the opposite spirit of what you have discerned. We are also exhorted that if something is standing in our way; we can speak to it, and it must move. Being created in His image, you and I will also use our words to change what needs to be changed. Another way to purge an atmosphere is through praise and worship. We can change most spiritual atmospheres through our words and with praise and worship.
Scriptures | Proverbs 18:21 | Mark 11:23 | Romans 4:17 | 1 Samuel 16:23
Holy Spirit, I invite you to increase in me the gift of discernment and speak to me through my senses. I ask that you show me the spiritual atmospheres around me and guide me in what to change and how. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Discerning Who Is For You and Who Is Against You
The gift of discerning of spirits will reveal people's heart motives, whether they are sincere and genuine or evil and deceitful. To be honest, I have found that most people are somewhere in the middle. The gift of discerning of spirits is God’s security system to let you know, who is really who. My husband had a situation where he discerned rebellion and manipulative speech through a particular feeling against his mind. This was his alert from the Holy Spirit to pray for rebellious gossip to the surface so he could confront it. The gift of discerning of spirits revealed this so we could deal with it effectively. More than once it also revealed men and women sent on demonic assignments to harm my husband or me.
Discerning an actual demonic assignment against you can be alarming within your emotions, and you need wisdom and patience, not reactiveness, to handle it properly. The gift of discerning of spirits also sifts out the hugely deceptive who see the church as a means for personal gain. If you are new to the gift of discerning of spirits, here are some points to help you begin to identify who is for you and who is against you. Remember, this is a supernatural ability that goes beyond natural perception. You are not just reading people or their behavior, you are discerning by the Holy Spirit what the natural eye cannot see.
Pay attention to your ‘knower”. Pay attention to your imagination. Pay attention to your peace. A religious spirit can go undetected, even by the most sensitive of discerners, because it is an expert in disguise. It does a lot of evil things in the name of God, even murder, but God has nothing to do with it. It is legalistic and power-seeking, and it uses religion to suppress or even kill off anyone genuinely moving in the Holy Spirit. There are some spiritual conditions that are harder to discern than others since they are extremely deceptive. We learn to distinguish the “hard to discern” by studying the nature of spiritual beings, both the angels and the principalities and powers.
Scriptures | Ephesians 6:12 | Job 1:10 | Isaiah 55:12
Holy Spirit, I thank you for the gift of discerning of spirits and ask that you would help me to know clearly who is for me and who is against me in every season. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Discerning the Angels
Angels are the servants of God and of us, they do a lot of things, such as help us, protect us, guide us, and more. Yet they function primarily as God’s messengers, something I understand to mean that angels will communicate a message both verbally and even indirectly by their actions. I once saw four angels come and stand on our church platform, and I discerned by the Holy Spirit why they had come. These were angels on assignment from God for provision. God provides for us, but it is the angels who facilitate His provision. When we understand the message of the messengers, often observed in their actions, then we can co-labor with God and complete what God has already initiated in heaven. I have discovered that there are a few specific ways in which you will discern angels. These are that you will see them, feel them, and hear them. Many people have seen angels as flashes of light in their peripheral visions. I have seen them in this way as well. When I see blue flashes of light, then I co-labor with what God is doing and pray for deeper revelation and deeper communion, knowing that angels have been sent on assignment for this.
We do know from the Bible that angels play musical instruments; specifically, we know they play trumpets, which again fits their messenger role. Angels are described in the Bible as winds or flames of fire, and they can be felt as such. Angels also help “lighten” heavy atmospheres. Angels forever worship Jesus, and being attracted to our worship, they will join in with us. We can discern angels by their distinct sounds, but when we hear them, we most often will hear a message from them. When angels appear, test them and when someone tells you they have seen and heard from an angel, be prepared to put that person’s words to the test. The success of the gift of discerning of spirits is not that you have just discerned something but that you have discerned it well.
Scriptures | Psalm 34:7 | Hebrews 1:7 | 1 Thessalonians 4:16 | Matthew 13:16
Holy Spirit, I invite you to make me more aware and in tune with the angelic presence and assignments around me so that I may discern well to co-labor with your messengers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jennifer Eivaz is a minister and international conference speaker with a heart to equip the church in the supernatural and for raising up passionate and effective prayer. She is a content contributor for many online Christian publications, has been featured on several Christian television shows, hosts the popular podcast Take Ten With Jenn, and authored several bestselling books. Jennifer and her husband, Ron, co-pastor Harvest Church, now meeting in several locations – in addition to hosting a thriving online campus. They also have two wonderful children.
Jennifer Eivaz's Website: www.JenniferEivaz.com
Invite Jennifer to Minister
If you would like to give to the ongoing work of this ministry you can donate by clicking below: