Demons and Depression

Demon from The Pilgrim’s Progress movie.
By R.E. Olsen

Have you ever noticed that you can sit up until 2 am watching a scary movie on Netflix that you probably shouldn’t be watching, but if you decide to pray or read your Bible, you fall asleep in ten minutes? It’s like something doesn’t mind you watching television, but doesn’t want you reading the Bible or praying.

The Bible tells us that in life, there are struggles against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). When it comes to demons and evil spirits, it’s important to know what you are dealing with so you can remedy it. The main difference between evil spirits and demons are their origins.

Evil spirits were once in physical human form, but demons come from the spiritual plane (although they can manifest in various ways in the physical realm). The Bible says that demons are real and they are opposing God’s will. Demons were once angels of God who sided with Satan in a rebellion that took place in heaven (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28).

The people of Jesus’ day recognized the reality of demons. In Matthew 12:28, Jesus Himself described the open clash of two spiritual kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. The way that Jesus dealt with demons was perhaps the most striking feature of His whole ministry (Mark 1:27-28). However, spiritual warfare is a concept that is overlooked or ignored by many people today.

The Spirit of Heaviness

The late Derek Prince was a Greek scholar and Bible teacher who was highly revered for his theological insights. Derek Prince Legacy Radio is still broadcast around the world in various languages. Prince is most noted for his teachings about demons. As a Pentecostal Christian, he strongly believed in the reality of spiritual forces operating in the world, and of the power of demons to cause illness and psychological problems.

Pastor Prince’s philosophy stemmed in large part from his personal battle with depression. He told audiences that he had once been a pessimist growing up in a family of pessimists. He knew the scriptures, he was saved and baptized and preached the gospel, but he had never overcome pessimism.

In fact, during the early years of his ministry, he was always struggling against what felt like a dark cloud that would settle over him, pressing him down like a heavy weight. Pastor Prince noticed that the pressure got worse the more he wanted to serve the Lord, and it was hindering him in his service for God.

Prince prayed and fasted about this problem, but nothing worked. Then one day he was reading the book of Isaiah. “I read Isaiah 61:3, ‘in place of the spirit of heaviness, the garment of praise.’ As I read that phrase—the spirit of heaviness—the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, ‘That’s your problem – a spirit of heaviness, of depression.’”

Pastor Prince told his congregation, “I had struggled with this for years until I finally recognized I wasn’t dealing with myself. It wasn’t my mental attitudes. It was a spirit that was tormenting me day and night. And I realized he had known me from childhood. He knew my every weakness. He knew just when to attack me.”

Invisible Enemies

Prince referred to demons as “persons without bodies” to make their motives and actions more real. Plus, it’s easier to say no to another person that you perceive as your enemy than it is to say no to yourself. He also used the term “familiar spirit” – meaning a spirit that is familiar with someone from long or close association. A familiar spirit preys on your weaknesses and aims to bring about circumstances to keep you in bondage and defeated by your weaknesses. In his case, Pastor Prince thought it was the same spirit that had affected his father for many years.

As soon as Pastor Prince realized what the problem was, he knew what to do. “At last, I had come to realize the identity of my enemy. With that realization, I knew I was 80 percent of the way to victory. But the Lord knew that I only needed one other scripture to bring me the solution to my problem. He led me to Joel 2:32, which says this: ‘It shall come to pass, that whoever call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.’”

Prince said, “I put the two Scriptures together—Isaiah 61:3 and Joel 2:32. Then I prayed specifically to God, and I want to emphasize the importance of praying specifically. I named the spirit, ‘the spirit of heaviness,’ and I claimed God’s own promise, ‘Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.’”

“This was my prayer: ‘God, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, according to Your Word, I’m asking You to deliver me from this spirit of heaviness.’”

When Prince prayed that specific, scriptural prayer, he said that he was delivered from the demon that was weighing heavily on him and crushing his spirit. He said it was like a “heavenly vacuum cleaner” came down and “sucked this thing out.” From that moment on, he believed “anything that wants to keep you from worshiping God is a demon.”

Defeating Depression

Pastor Prince would say “it’s not you. It’s not a mental or a psychological condition. It is a spirit—it is a person that hates you, that dogs you, that is unseen. It is a person without a body that has followed you even from childhood. That person knows your weakness, so as to know exactly when and how to attack you most effectively. You are fighting a person, an unseen demonic person. It is the spirit of heaviness.”

Prince said, “In modern English we would call it the spirit of depression.” Now that he had been delivered from his depression, i.e. the spirit of heaviness, the next challenge was to stay delivered. “Once I was delivered, God showed me that he had done for me what I could not do for myself. But he would not do for me what I could do for myself.”

God said in effect, “it is up to you to do the rest.” Prince said that he had to break the habit of negative thinking that had been ingrained in him since his youth. “I had to learn how to protect my own mind against thoughts of pessimism, morbidity, and depression.”

Pessimism vs. Optimism

Pastor Prince went on to explain, “God then began to reveal to me that this pessimism was actually a denial of my faith. If I truly believed the gospel, I could not be a pessimist. … [There are] several scriptures which teach this very clearly, especially Romans 8:28: ‘And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.'”

As a result, “I began a process of retraining my mind. I had to cultivate a totally different outlook, different reactions, different mental patterns. Every time a negative or pessimistic thought would come to my mind I would refuse to yield to it. I also quoted and memorized helpful Scriptures that became a scriptural foundation for not being a pessimist, but for being an optimist!”

Prince had to help himself by changing the way he thought. Every time a negative suggestion or reaction came to mind, he had to meet it with something positive out of scripture. “It didn’t happen overnight, it took at least three years, but by the end of that time, I was no longer a pessimist.”

Sin vs. Demons

Prince taught his audience how to distinguish between things of the flesh and demons or evil spirits. The flesh is the old carnal nature inherited from Adam that causes us to sin. No human is perfect. To sin means you’ve missed the mark, you made a mistake, you didn’t follow God’s instructions as written in the Ten Commandments.

“People can sin and stop sinning if they decide to… but if you are compelled to keep sinning so that you can’t stop and you become addicted, that is demonic.”

Think about it… this may very well explain why four independent studies have shown that Teen Challenge – a Christian rehab center – has a national recovery rate for meth and other addictions ranging from 70% to 86%, compared to the average 40% to 60% success rates at other drug and alcohol rehab centers.

Characteristics of Demons

  • They entice
  • They harass
  • They torment
  • They compel
  • They enslave
  • They defile
  • They deceive
  • They weaken or kill

Three Objectives of Demons

  • Torment and Torture
  • Keep you from knowing Christ
  • Keep you from serving effectively

Common Names of Demons

  • Pride
  • Rebellion
  • Witchcraft/Occult
  • Fear
  • Anger

Pastor Prince said, “I discovered about 10 different kinds of spirits or demons mentioned in the Old Testament and about 20 in the New [Testament] but that’s just a little sampling. There are hundreds of different kinds of demons…. Behind every negative emotion and attitude, there is a corresponding demon.”

He also said that demons operate in gangs. When one gets in, they open the door for the rest. Derek Prince wrote a whole book about demons and how to be delivered from them. Here it is: They Shall Expel Demons: What You Need to Know about Demons

Evil Personified

If you want to learn more about how demons think, read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, a series of fictional letters that describe how a senior devil instructs a junior devil in the art of temptation. In the story, a junior tempter named Wormwood has been given his first earthly assignment, to secure the damnation of a young man. He seeks the advice of an experienced demon, his Uncle Screwtape. Their correspondence discloses the psychology of temptation as seen from the demons’ viewpoint.

Although Satan himself has persuaded many people that he does not exist, Satan very definitely is a real entity, the source of all unbelief and of every kind of moral and spiritual evil in the world. God did not create Satan as an evil being. The angels, like man, were created as free spirits, not as unthinking robots. They were fully able to reject God’s will and rebel against His authority if they so chose.

The basic sin, in both man and angels, is the sin of pride. Satan said to himself, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God… I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14). This could hardly be the motivation of an impersonal force.

The existence of Satan as a personal being is further proven by the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ recognized him as such. Jesus referred to Satan frequently by name (e.g. Luke 10:18; Matthew 4:10). The apostle John said, “The whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) and that Satan “leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). These statements indicate that Satan and his demons are in fact real.

“No matter what the devil does, GOD HAS THE LAST WORD”! ~Derek Prince


The Struggle Against Depression – Derek Prince (in English, with Danish subtitles)

How Demons Can Cause Negative Thinking – Derek Prince (clip)

How Demons Can Cause Negative Thinking (Full Version)

They Shall Expel Demons: What You Need to Know about Demons

The Screwtape Letters

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  1. I’m glad that Derek Prince found a way to get over his depression. But I don’t think the spirit of depression is a type of demon possession. After all, he was still the pastor of a church, surrounded by Bibles and crosses. My brother has a painting of Jesus in his office, and he said that one day a guy came in, looked over and saw Jesus, and instantly started backing away. He kept going farther and farther back until he was halfway out the door. Now THAT poor guy must be possessed by a demon.

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