An inner vow is a
determination set by the mind and heart into all the being in early life. Vows we make currently also affect us, but an
inner vow is one set into us as children and usually forgotten. Our inner being persistently retains such
programming no matter what changes of mind and heart may later pertain. The distinctive mark of an inner vow is that
it resists the normal maturation process.
Inner vows resist change. We do
not grow out of them.
An inner vow does not have to
be a judgment. It doesn’t have to be a
sin, but it is as if you are telling yourself the way things are going to
be: “I will never do that again”, I will
never be like my mother”, “I will never allow that in my house."etc.” We are telling our inner being, we are
telling ourselves how reality is going to be and that is not God’s will for us.
The inner vows that are made
in childhood and that we have forgotten seem to be even more powerful than the
ones we’ve made as adults – even to the point where they can affect growth and
development. Words have more than
psychological power; they have spiritual power too. When we made those vows, our enemy, the devil,
worked hard to make those negative words come true.
Inner vows may not become
manifest immediately in behavior. They
may rest totally forgotten and dormant, until triggered by the right person or
situation. Having forgotten them, we are
unaware that they exist or that they could have any effect on us or our
relationships. They are often difficult
to identify and take on a life of their own within us that causes us to deal
with reality in a particular way.
A person cannot uproot or
change an inner vow unaided. Such vows require authority. Only one who knows his authority in Christ
can break a vow and reset the inner being to another way of acting. All three go together – the person has the
heart of stone; they have made that fortress that they are sitting behind. They
have made their bitter root judgments. Then
on top of judging there is an inner vow, “I will never. . . “
Some inner vows seem to be
good things. If daddy was an alcoholic
and we say, “I don’t ever want to be like daddy,” that sounds like a good
thing, because we are going to be moral, and we are going to be correct. But it is a fleshly righteousness. We are not relying on the Holy Spirit to
guide and direct us. It is like we have
decided in our mind and in our will that we will not be an alcoholic. But it coerces us to a righteousness that may
not be real or genuine. It may lead us
to the other extreme where our emotions are bottled up and our actions are not
moving out of genuine love.
Some inner vows have effects
on our bodies. A young wife could not
conceive and the doctors could find no reason for the couple’s
infertility. It was discovered that she
was the oldest of nine children. Every time her mother got pregnant the mother became
very ill and the responsibility for taking care of the children fell on the
oldest. Feelings of imposition increased
and anger began to build in the girl.
Ultimately she cried out that she would never be like her mother and act
like that. Her inner being easily interpreted
such vows as orders never to allow pregnancy.
Her inner healing through forgiving her mother and breaking the inner
vow broke the hold on her body by proclaiming for her to receive and nurture
life. Then she was able to conceive naturally.
Other inner vows that allow
us to harbor childhood resentments can give us hearts of stone and close us off
to intimacy with others and with Christ.
This type is harder to break because there are more structures (learned
ways of acting) that need to be broken down.
Merely realizing and breaking the inner vow will not by itself set one
free because many other character structures remain after the original inner
vow is broken. An example would be a
certain husband cannot share and be close to his wife – so he remains distant
and the marriage is cold and meaningless.
His mother was controlling and critical whenever the boy shared his
feelings with his mother. So he learned
to hide his feelings from his mother. He soon learned that the less he shared
the better off he was. Whatever his
mother knew may be hauled up for criticism or scolding – even weeks, months or
years down the road. Though all this is
normal, sometimes the situation is so tense or the reaction so vehement, the
child forms a most obstinate inner vow:
“Never share what you really feel with a woman. It is not safe.” So begins the buildup of character structure.
The first step for such a person is recognition of the inner vow. Then they must come to an understanding and hatred of the inner vow because of the blocking it causes in our character. Such hatred is not automatic and should not be taken for granted no matter what the supplicant says. Fruits, not words reveal truth. Prayer should be immediate, for the parental dishonoring to be forgiven, for the vows to be broken, and the new life of freedom to emerge, but it may take awhile for proper hatred of the old nature and consequent death of self to arrive.
Inner vows of this type have built huge surrounding complexes in the character structure, and all are still seeking to fulfill that original purpose, to hide the person from hurt. There may be, for example, a heart of stone, or unconscious, evasive and defensive habitual flight mechanisms, automatically triggered angers, many bitter root expectancies, key words, phrases or actions that stimulate automatic reactions, deep anxieties and fears, incapability to trust, etc.
Francis MacNutt’s School of Healing Prayer, Level II
Deliverance from Evil Spirits, Francis Mac Nutt
The Transformation of the Inner Man, John and Paula Sandford
Also see ( in sidebar under Topics): Bitter Root Judgments