Doing my own independent research, I've noticed a clear pattern of religious people reporting feelings and sensations that they usually describe with expressions such as "waves of electricity", "fire", "heat", "burning all over", among others. I've heard expressions like these mainly from individuals in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles.

For illustrative purposes, here are some example video clips from individuals describing their first-hand experiences: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O.

Also, here is a quote from a very descriptive testimonial posted on Charisma Magazine:

[...] In an instant, the Spirit of God gave me a single word in tongues to speak out, and as I repeated it, more words erupted through me. The power of the wonderful Holy Spirit enveloped me as what seemed like waves of electricity and what I can only describe as God's love and power washed over me. It seemed as though a spotlight exploded out of my mouth as I spoke in tongues, with my arms and hands surging with tremendous currents of electricity as the waves of power washed over the rest of my body as I loudly spoke in tongues, feeling immersed in His Spirit. [...]

Source: https://www.charismamag.com/spirit/revival/32085-this-is-what-it-looks-like-when-holy-spirit-s-electric-power-sweeps-over-you (cached version)

Reviewing literature about these experiences in Google Scholar, I came across a paper published in 2014 by Julia L. Cassaniti and Tanya Marie Luhrmann titled The Cultural Kindling of Spiritual Experiences (https://doi.org/10.1086/677881). In this paper, the authors themselves acknowledge the existence of the phenomenon (although they attribute it to "adrenaline rushes", which I find unjustified):

The “Holy Spirit” experience, for example, is a concept often used to describe an event in which someone feelings an intense surge of power sweeping through their body like electricity, or what we would call the bodily affordance of an adrenaline rush.

These three phenomena—cataplexy, or the loss of muscle control; adrenaline surge, as if electricity is shooting through the body; and emotional surge, when someone experiences intense, overwhelming emotion—are examples of physiological phenomena that are common to all human bodies but unusual enough so that people can remember the moment independent of a specific label.

So, given the abundant reports of these dramatic spiritual experiences allegedly attributed to the Holy Spirit, is there any scriptural basis for them?

  • 1
    ...other than the Spirit descending as tongues of fire over the disciples at Pentecost ?
    – user46876
    Sep 1, 2020 at 2:21
  • 1
    Cross-posted on SE-Skeptics (down-voted and unanswered).
    – Nigel J
    Sep 1, 2020 at 6:14
  • It's also on Psychology & Neuroscience Stack Exchange.
    – Lesley
    Sep 8, 2020 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


I regret that I can't speak specifically to Pentacostalism, which uses as one of its fundamental verses the experiences of the Day of Pentecost in the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-4), which appears to be more of an external experience than an internal (feelings) experience. But let's examine a couple of Biblical verses.

When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. (KJV Isa 4:4)

This appears to be speaking of the end-days when God shall restore Israel. He speaks of doing so by the "spirit of judgement" and the "spirit of burning." Part of any restoration must be (a) the individual's realization that past behavior was wrong and (b) some means of knowing that the new behavior is acceptable to God. I believe the spirit of judgement and the spirit of burning refer to (b). A person who successfully changes their lives to conform to the Gospel will know that their life is acceptable through a feeling (the "spirit of burning").

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. (KJV Luke 4:32)

My belief in this verse may be a bit more esoteric, but I believe it's valuable. The modern interpretations of the ancient Greek tend to favor the word "authority" over "power." But I've "spoken with authority" in my own profession (Engineering), speaking with both conviction and certainty — and I've never once had the reaction like that recorded in Scripture. Yes, Jesus did not come out of the Schools of Law, so it may be that they were simply surprised that He was as good a preacher as He was without that formal training — but I believe the Surprise had more to do with what they were feeling than what they were experiencing. And to support this idea, we have the following:

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? (KJV Luke 24:32)

That's perhaps the most obvious of the scriptural references to a feeling (specifically a "burning," perhaps the "spirit of burning" spoken of by Isaiah).

And finally, the words of Paul.

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (KJV 1 Cor 2:4)

Paul talks about not simply speaking words, but those words being verified (a "demonstration") by the Spirit via some sort of power.

So, there is scriptural support for strong feelings, notably a feeling of "burning," that accompany the witness of the Holy Ghost to the preaching of the Word.


In my experience, it can often be difficult to discern the difference between the Spirit and Showmanship. Humanity (and most certainly the devil) learned long ago that emotions can be manipulated. Those manipulations are the root of music, dance, drama, and other forms of entertainment. They're used for education, indoctrination (good and bad) — and frankly are tapped into for commercial marketing.

I believe it is for this purpose that God ensured the following verse was available to us today:

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (KJV 1 Kings 19:11-12)

As dramatic as that feeling of burning is (I know I have felt it), it must be discerned (analyzed, considered, tested) with patience, peace, and stillness. This secondary confirmation is so very important.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (KJV James 1:5-6)

Because that wavering is what allows us to think that we felt a spiritual burning when what we really experienced was showmanship. I suspect that if we could interview people who heard Adolph Hitler speak in 1937, they would have said they felt a burning, too.

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