Slain in the Spirit

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"Slain in the Spirit" is a term used in charismatic Christianity to describe a religious behaviour in which an individual falls to the floor.[1] This usually happens during an event they perceive as a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, often associated with the practice of laying on of hands. Slain in the spirit, falling out in the spirit, falling out, under the anointing, and slain are terms that mean the same thing, although what is most accepted among the charismatic is “slain in the spirit.” This is a powerful experience that occurs quite frequently among charismatic groups.


Slain in the Spirit (Faith healing by Fernando Suarez)

Church members or attendees may come to the front of the church (or in other gatherings not necessarily in a church service or building) to receive a special work of the Holy Spirit from the Pastor, service leader or a team of ministers.[2]:91 Often a significant amount of time is spent singing and praying during the church service before this point. Attendees are then prayed over and touched by the service leader or leaders. They perceive the Spirit of God upon them and they fall, usually onto their backs.[3]:235 In most cases, their fall is broken by deacons, catchers, ushers or orderlies behind them to prevent injury. Beliefs associated with this phenomenon include divine healing, receiving visions, being set free of demonic spirits, hearing God speak.

As Thomas Csordas says: "In Charismatic ritual life, resting in the Spirit can serve the purposes of demonstrating divine power; of exhibiting the faith of those who are "open" to such power; of allowing a person to be close to, "touched by," or "spoken to" by God (sometimes via embodied imagery); of preparing a person to receive and exercise a spiritual gift; or of healing."[3]:247


Being slain in the Spirit was extremely common in late eighteenth-century Methodism, particularly at camp meetings and love feasts. Other names for the phenomenon are "falling over", "falling under the Spirit's power", "falling before the Lord", "slain under the power" or "resting in the Spirit".


Some critics say that the practice is neither described nor prescribed specifically in the Bible, and that it is, at best, of satanic origin.[2]:91 David Pawson states[4] that the closest Biblical reference is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, which has a quite different connotation.

Sociology of religion[edit]

Other sources of the phenomenon can be autosuggestion, peer pressure, or a desire to experience what others have experienced.[1] Perhaps the most obvious sociological category is the "possession trance".[1] A similar state that could be described as religious ecstasy may occur in the rituals and dances of other religious and cultural traditions; for example Kundalini awakening through shaktipat.

References in culture[edit]

The 1967 film Holy Ghost People by Peter Adair documented an Appalachian Pentecostal church service in which several people are slain in the spirit.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Burgess, Stanley M.; van der Maas, Eduard M. (2002). The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements s.v. “Slain in the Spirit”. Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-22481-0. 
  2. ^ a b MacArthur, John F. (1993). Charismatic Chaos: Signs and Wonders; Speaking in Tongues; Health, Wealth and Prosperity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 
  3. ^ a b Csordas, Thomas J. (1997). The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing. Berkeley: University of California Press. 
  4. ^ Is the Blessing Biblical?, 1996, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-66147-X

Further reading[edit]

  • God Struck Me Dead, Voices of Ex-Slaves by Clifton H. Johnson ISBN 0-8298-0945-7 – describes similar experiences in the accounts of nineteenth century African American spirituality.