Joash shooting the arrow of deliverance. William Dyce
My eighteen-year old daughter, Zoe, is at the School of Ministry at Catch the Fire, Toronto.
She and the other School of Ministry students ministered at the same Catch the Fire conference as John Arnott and Heidi Baker. They were told to pray boldly, that everyone gets to play, that everyone was equal before God.
However, she said, when John Arnott, a stocky matter-of-fact Canadian, stands before someone, hold out his hand, and declares, “Fire,” they fall down, “slain in the spirit.” However, when the 18-year olds hold out their hands and say “Fire,”—well, it’s not the same!
It is a problem in the spiritual life, isn’t it?
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Why are some people’s prayers answered, and not others? Why are we healed when some pray, but not when others pray? Why do you know the prayer will be answered when you hear by a certain timbre in a woman’s voice that she has entered the throne room –but when another prays, you think, “Aw, sound nice”?
The pray-ers life has something to do with it. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12. Wilfully persisting in sin creates a massive barrier between us and God.
But it also comes down to faith. Arnott has no doubt the Holy Spirit will come on request. He is sure the Fire wants to dwell within us, and he prays fervently, and it comes. Bill Johnson has no doubt God will heal, and so he does when Bill prays.
Last year, I heard Isabel Allum riff on all the lost objects which miraculously turned up as she prayed for them—contact lenses, medicine, satnavs, diamond earrings. She has no doubt they will be found, and God arranges this.
I am reading Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker. Mark believes that God will give him horrendously expensive properties in Washington D.C. (where land goes for $14 million an acre) and God does–through a combination of donations, sheer chutzpah, persistence, and the wild success of Mark’s books, a significant portion of which he donates to the Church.
Heidi Baker tells stories of the dead being raised, of an orphanage gift of used stuffed dogs (feared in Africa) being changed to beads at her prayer, of the dead being raised to life, the blind seeing, the deaf hearing. She knows God, she has no doubt that God will step down to help us on request, and so he does.
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The way to form a new habit is to take a goal (lose a pound a week, wake a hour earlier, read a book a week, write a thousand words a day) and divide it to its smallest measurable increment (250 words a day, wake 5 minutes early, read 5 pages a day, lose half a pound a week) and go from there.
In prayer, however, the opposite is true. Pray as big as you dare believe. Write down your dreams. If you desire to see what you’ve written doubled (and you may not!!), then pray that. Daily or weekly, pray through your lists of prayer-dreams. And take steps of faith in accordance with them.
Praying to lose weight? Eat more veggies. Praying to finish your book? Write first thing in the morning. Praying to become organized? Get rid of one thing a day. Praying to wake early? Well…do so.
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We tend to see God’s hand in the areas in which we have the greatest faith that surely he will act. I have seen his miracles and deliverances in my finances most often, because, most of the time, I have an expectant faith that he will help me.
I have begun to pray with faith in creative areas, for God to give me books and for the first time in my life, am experiencing an anointing in writing. You know, when “the right words in the right order” come quickly and easily, as if from a power beyond myself.
After reading The Circle Maker, I have created prayer lists–a page for each of the 30+ areas or people I am praying for–and am praying through every dream, worry or ambition in my life. I am seeing things shift, expand, change at an accelerated rate. Small changes, but so many changes, coincidences and God-incidences, in so many areas, that I can hardly believe it! My faith is growing.
According to your faith be it done to you. Perhaps that’s why we see answers and miracles in one area in which we can see the kind face of Jesus as we pray, and know he will answer our prayers, and, yet remain stuck in another, in which we have less faith that he will help us.
Prayer is truly the greatest force in the world. I have long believed it intellectually. I am now gradually believing it with all my heart.
Four years ago, I went to the grandly titled “International Leaders School of Ministry,” led by John Arnott of Catch the Fire (the new name of the Toronto Airport Fellowship, famous for the Toronto Blessing.)
They taught us a form of prayer called soaking prayer.
Basically: lie down on the floor, often facedown. The position is important; the physical attitude of surrender makes it easier to arrive at the mental attitude of surrender.
In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape advises his nephew Wormwood to get the new convert to scorn the importance of physical position in prayer, to forget that “they are animals and whatever their bodies do affects their souls.” We were taught to wriggle and squirm until our bodies were comfortable. A comfortable, relaxed body makes it easier to hear God’s voice.
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And then, once comfortable, relaxed, face down on the floor, we do…basically…nothing!
We listen, we rest, we are conscious of our Father’s love for us. If our thoughts wander like wild falcons, then like a falconer, we gently bring them back. God may speak full of directions or wisdom, or he may not. Our prayer is a matter of abiding, of hanging out, rather than a shopping list of requests and queries. We are in the Presence, resting in the Presence, and what happens there is up to him, not us.
This is how John Arnott describes it:
Soaking is simply spending time in God’s presence, rather than striving. It’s about resting in His Presence, experiencing Him and choosing to be intimate with Him. While we base our theology on the Bible, our experiences with God make the truth come alive in our hearts. When we soak, we focus on Him.
Soaking puts us in a position where we are often more able to hear His voice and receive His love. It is also an opportunity for us to pour out our hearts to Him. It’s about living in and enjoying an on-going relationship with our creator.
As people have soaked in God’s Presence, they have experienced profound heart changes, marriages have been healed, fears dispelled, depression and sickness have left and their lives have been transformed.
Or “Soaking prayer is a modern form of contemplative prayer … People put themselves in an attitude of stillness, focusing on Jesus and open to the Holy Spirit but with no requests or agenda. The aim is to be still in God’s presence, ‘waste time with Jesus.’ The Toronto church sees soaking prayer as one of the main ways in which they encourage people to be open to the Holy Spirit.” From “Soaking Prayer” by Roger Harper.
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It is prayer for contemplatives, right-brain peoples, nascent mystics, a different form of prayer from a more activist model.
For me, it involves lying face down, getting physically comfortable, and just relaxing. Doing nothing. Just being. Being surrendered in the presence of God. Thirsty ground soaking in invisible waves of slow love and grace and Spirit. Inviting the Father into my heart, to perform his surgery in his time.
No agenda. Nothing as entrepreneurial as prayer lists for my business, or my children, or my marriage or my blog or writing, or my home or garden. Just face down in worship. Or surrender. Or sometimes emptiness.
It is prayer beyond words. It is waiting. Speak Lord. Thy servant is listening.
Nothing in the realm of the spirit is quantifiable, of course, but this practice of rested, surrendered prayer has changed me.
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I gained a deeper conviction of God’s love for me. Experienced his love far more deeply. Begun to experience deep healing (intellectually, and creatively, interestingly. I was burnt out when I started.) I became aware of a new boldness, and fearlessness, and disregard for what people think of me.
It’s a place of peace. When the timer goes, it’s a wrench and sadness. For someone as cerebral as me, it’s a surprise to realize that I have been deeply in the presence of God, though nothing much was said, or done, or ostensibly “happened.”
I just love to hang out with you.
Nothing much is said.
Nothing much is done.
Apparently nothing happened.
Yes, somehow, I am different.