For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16 NASB
13You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. Galatians 5:13-18 NIV
The problem of the controlling spirit is something that I’ve frequently recognized in myself. When someone “has a controlling spirit,” it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a demon who is instigating the control. It can simply mean that they are yielding to their own human desire to be in control. I think this might be me!
The controlling spirit likely stems my tendency toward “pride of life” that John mentioned in 1 John 2:16, because it involves trying to get others to do my will. It doesn’t have to be limited to just people. In my pride, I may even try to get God to do my will through selfish or controlling prayers.
The controlling spirit typically uses manipulation to accomplish its purposes.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines manipulation as: “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage; to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one's purpose.” I can see by this definition, manipulation is self-centered and has nothing to do with love.
There are many examples in the Bible of people who tried to manipulate or control others. Here are a few:
Potiphar’s wife trying to get Joseph to sleep with her (Genesis 39:6-13)
Delilah trying to get Sampson to reveal the secret of his strength (Judges 16:5-21)
Ahab sulking about a vineyard in hopes that his wife Jezebel would get it for him (1 Kings 21:1-15)
Martha appealing to Jesus to make Mary help her prepare a meal (Luke 10:38-42)
Elymas the sorcerer trying to turn the proconsul away from Christianity (Acts 13:6-12)
God wants me to be under the control of only one spirit, i.e. the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-16, Galatians 5:22-25). The Holy Spirit has set us free to live for righteousness and no longer be under sin’s rule.
If we’ve been guilty of trying to control others or yielding to someone with a controlling spirit, we’ll need to repent in either case and reaffirm our allegiance to God by yielding to the Holy Spirit.
When we manipulate others, how does that affect our walk with Christ? (Galatians 5:13-14, 16-18)
Why might a controlling spirit cause the presence or anointing of God to lift away? (James 4:6-7)
“Father in Heaven, I repent from any attempts I’ve made to control or manipulate others (specify). I repent from yielding to pride and exerting my will over others. I repent from making any manipulative prayers. I also repent for any times that I have yielded to a controlling spirit and resisted the Holy Spirit (specify). Please forgive me and cleanse me from my sin by the blood of Jesus. I reaffirm that you are my Lord and Savior today. I am sensitive and responsive to the Holy Spirit’s leadership. I yield my will to your will, Father. Please fill me with your love for people and help me discern any controlling spirits that may be at work in my daily circumstances. Thank you, Father! I praise you now and forever. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”