In healing and deliverance circles, Pharmakeia has a specialized meaning and implication.
In the Bible – Pharmakeia is a transliteration of a Greek word usually translated as sorcery or witchcraft, in both the New Testament and the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Septuagint) that was usually used by the New Testament writers when they quoted from the Old Testament, which was their Bible.
This word group (pharmakeia and its related Greek words) appears in Gal. 5:19-21 and Rev. 9:21 and 18:23. In the Old Testament, the Greek translators used it in the same sense in Exodus 7:11, 22; Exodus 8:7, 18 and Isaiah 47;9, 12. In extra-biblical usages this word group sometimes had the sense of preparation of poisons and potions, and magic charms and enchantment.
In current healing & deliverance ministry – It refers to the use of prescription medications, particularly psychotropic ones. A psychotropic drug is one that that in various ways affects thoughts, perceptions, emotions, mental processes, feelings and behavior. It also has a secondary implication of the general approach of preferring to treat mental and emotional troubles with drugs, rather than other means.
Two concerns with this approach:
1] These drugs produce powerful chemical changes in the brain, and can themselves produce severe anxiety, depression or psychosis, including psychotic impulses and the perception of voices. As if that was not enough, the effects of these drugs can be utilized by demons to produce severe spiritual bondage, physical symptoms, compelling verbal messages and overwhelming suicidal and homicidal impulses.
2] Reliance on ‘the pharma approach’ can easily lead an afflicted person, family and friends away from dealing with the spiritual roots of many conditions that are considered strictly psychological or biological, as in, “She has a chemical imbalance.” Many of these conditions are caused or worsened by the presence of sin, unforgiveness, rejection, bitterness, occult involvement and deep beliefs in lies and deceptions. Over-reliance on pharmakeia can incline people to deal with the underlying issues that led them to the doctor or the clinic in the first place.
We should note that we are a prayer ministry, and we do not ever tell anyone on prescription medication that they ought to change or discontinue it. More on that next time.
Practical considerations – Be aware that during a time of ministry, someone taking psychotropics (or who has recently discontinued them) may be less responsive to your questions or directions. Their thinking or speech may be slowed or less fluid. It can be helpful to speak a little slower and more distinctly than before, and if needed, be a little simpler in what you ask them to do.
It may be a little difficult to sense how they are feeling or what the Holy Spirit is doing. There is no way to predict how someone will feel or respond to you or the Holy Spirit. Be aware of these sorts of uncertainties, make allowances for them, and ask the Spirit for discernment.
It may be difficult to discern whether what you are seeing should be attributed to the meds, to the underlying psych condition or to an aspect of demonic oppression. It may be necessary to ask more detailed questions about how the person feels in response to certain prayers or questions.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to interpret what you are seeing and hearing, and whether you should adjust your praying or questions accordingly.
What About Our Own Feelings? Even if I think that the use of psych drugs is a bad idea, it is never wise to hint or suggest that the person should discontinue them on her own. It must be stressed that these decisions must always be made by her and the doctor or therapist together.
That said, it can be a good idea to discuss how the Holy Spirit can bring healing and restoration to any kind of psych condition, and that as we learn to live in the Word and the Spirit, we can end up with much less need for medications. Look for the underlying roots of the condition, address them in prayer and deliverance.
These roots often include “the usual suspects’ that affect many afflictions – pray over issues and spirits like these: Rejection, self-rejection, self-hatred, guilt, condemnation, fear, double-mindedness, confusion, trauma, anger, resentment.
References & sources:
Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker Greek lexicon
Persbacher and Thayer’s Greek lexicons
Vine’s N.T. Dictionary
Word study by Larry Hurtado at MassBible.org
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Art Mathias, In His Own Image
Henry Wright, A More Excellent Way