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.