Posted by: rcottrill | February 6, 2011

Demons and Music

Some folks involved in “deliverance ministry” suggest that if we play praise music all the time–in our homes, in our cars, when we’re praying, and so on–it will drive demons away and keep them away, because they hate praise music. So, does praise music keep demons away?

I often wonder where people get such notions–and how they can be so definite and dogmatic about them, when the Bible is silent. Since Satan and his demon army oppose the purposes of God and seek to destroy the people of God (Eph. 6:12; I Pet. 5:8), we are certainly safe in assuming they do not like to see people worshiping the Lord “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24). But that’s not the same as saying they don’t like worship music. Those are two different things.

A great deal of so-called worship music is mere entertainment. The real audience for this music is not God (as it should be) but the participants themselves, who gather to have their ears tickled in the name of religion. Sometimes the music is designed to promote fleshly excitement and a kind of emotional binge that again falls far short of true worship. In either case, I cannot imagine the devil being too unhappy!

I am no fan of “deliverance ministries.” (Forgive me if I tread on your toes, here.) I think those who practice such things make too much of evil spirits, and step way beyond what Scripture says into unhealthy speculation. I can recall a guest speaker at a camp saying, in all seriousness, when the offering didn’t meet his expectations, that demons had a hold of people’s wallets, and he needed to exorcize them! Well, that’s ridiculous! And when we lay the blame for such things at Satan’s door, we may be letting a lot of worldly, carnal Christians off the hook!

The epistles were mainly written to Gentile Christians, whom the apostles were led of God to equip to live the Christian life. Since these folks often had no background in the Old Testament, and could not simply go to their local Christian book store and ask for texts on crucial subjects, this instruction was vital. It needed to cover all the essentials. But it is significant that, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, nothing at all is said in the letters of Paul or the others about deliverance ministries, or about casting out demons. Nothing.

The most detailed passage on the subject of Satan’s attacks is Ephesians 6:10-18. There, Paul describes the equipping God gives to protect us against the devil, comparing it to the armament of a Roman soldier. I have preached a series of messages on this passage many times. It presents a practical and common-sense approach to the subject, without any fanciful superstitious overtones. (See my article on Christian Armour.)

The twice-repeated instruction given elsewhere is to “resist the devil” (Jas. 4:7; I Pet. 5:8). This simply involves taking a stand upon the Word of God (as Jesus did, Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). We have no business mocking the devil, rebuking him, or even talking to him. Even the powerful angel Michael did not try to do that. When opposed by the Satan, he left matters with the Lord (Jude 1:9). So should we. (I dearly wish Adam and Eve had walked away instead of engaging the serpent in a conversation!)

As to music driving demons out, or keeping them out, that is pure superstition, with no foundation in the Word of God. It sounds something like wearing garlic around your neck to keep vampires away! Or like another idea I heard about: pasting pages of the Bible on the walls of a home to keep the devil out. Actually, the devil likely knows the Bible better than we do, and he readily quotes it, if he thinks it will further his malicious plans (cf. Matt. 4:6, quoting Ps. 91:11-12).

But again, note the difference between a ritualistic act and a heartfelt one growing out of a personal relationship with the Lord. When God’s people sincerely worship Him–with music or without it–they are expressing faith in His Word, and acting in obedience to God (Ps. 111:1; Rev. 4:11). That is the essence of what it means to “resist the devil” (Jas. 4:7).

A word needs to be said at this point about an incident in First Samuel Chapter 16. Following the repeated disobedience of King Saul, the Lord had Samuel anoint young David to replace him–though it was still some years before David would ascend to the throne of Israel. And when David was anointed, he received a special empowering by the Spirit of God (vs. 13). In contrast, the Lord departed from Saul, allowing an evil spirit to torment him (vs. 14). This spiritual oppression seems to have been accompanied by times of black emotional depression.

However, the servants of Saul knew that young David was a skilled musician, and he was brought to the palace to play before Saul. “And so it was, whenever the [evil] spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him” (vs. 23).

A quick glance might suggest to some that this is the kind of thing being claimed by the deliverance folk. However, several things must be kept in mind.

1) It is a basic rule of interpretation and application that we should not use a narrative passage to prove a doctrine, or to suggest that what happened must apply to all. The incident described happened to David and Saul, but there is no specific indication God wants others to do the same thing.

2) Nothing is said about the music being worship music. Nothing is said about any words being sung either. Given the instrument used, we can deduce that it was likely soft, pleasant, relaxing music. That is all.

3) Though the distressing spirit departed for a time, Saul was not changed spiritually. For the remainder of his life he was plagued by dark moods and a murderous hatred of the future king.

4) God may well have done this unusual thing more for David’s benefit than for Saul’s. It established David in the court as a person of influence. It highlighted his God-given abilities, and prepared the way for him to take up his reign some time later.

Bottom line: This incident does not prove that Christians playing worship music today will drive demons away.

Another problem is this. We live with more noise today than at any other time in history–and part of that noise is musical! Not only do we have music in our homes, and in our cars, but music plugged into our ears when we go jogging, or walk down the street. Then there is music in stores, music in restaurants, music in elevators, music in banks. (I can recall trying to do some calculations in my bank, with music playing so loudly I could hardly think clearly!)

We have largely lost the blessing of solitude and silence. Elijah experienced a fire, an earthquake, and a hurricane wind so strong it “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces.” Yet the Lord did not manifest Himself to His prophet in any of these, but rather in “a still small voice”–a gentle whisper, in other words (I Kgs. 19:11-12). I listen to Christian music too, at times. But if I don’t also have times of quiet, I may miss the gentle whisper of God to my soul.

As far as music in the house of God, even there we need to have times of silence. In one church where I pastored we customarily had a pastoral prayer, when I prayed for the needs of people the Lord laid on our hearts. But at the end of this, I had a time for silent prayer, when those present could each talk to the Lord. It became an island of quiet reverence in the service, giving it an unhurried feel.

The Bible says “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (I Cor. 14:33). I cannot see how trying to pray or do other things in competition with some music is a help. And whatever kind of music it is, if it creates confusion, or hazy thinking, the demons will surely rejoice!


  1. Excellent points, and very well said. I’m sure you will get responses that disagree with you, but I believe you have hit the nail on the head. In particular, when religious music or religious talk becomes just more of the background noise, we can easily drown out the still, small voice of God. Part of practicing the presence of God in our lives means giving significant time for silence each day. Noise — even religious noise — is a tool of the enemy, not a tool of God or of His followers.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. And yes, I’m certain some will disagree with my position. There’s a place for cautious speculation about things on which the Bible is silent–as long as we don’t become dogmatic and claim our ideas are inspired truth, or suggest that our ideas must be accepted and applied by all. But what was described falls into that trap.

      And you’re right, the notion will simply add more noise to an already noisy environment. I enjoy and listen to a wide variety of music, sacred and secular. But there are times when “silence is golden.” Incidentally, that’s part of an old proverb that says, in full: Speech is silver and silence is golden. I wonder, if we could say that, at least at times, “MUSIC is silver and silence is golden!” 🙂


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