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The LORD God … Before Whom I Stand (Part 1)

For many years now, my heart’s cry has been to see and hear in the Spirit as accurately as Elijah and Elisha did.  Elisha seems to have been more of the seer, while Elijah was the one who knew the voice of the Lord.  I love His voice — more than just about anything.

One of the phrases Elijah used repeatedly was, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand.” Standing before the absolute Potentate of the entire universe — what an awesome privilege! Yet, it is the place God wants every New Testament believer to have.  Throne room access was purchased for us by Jesus’ blood, but very few of us have it as an experiential reality in our lives. Why? It is about relationship. Although Elijah lived under the old covenant of the law, he managed to tap into what God desires for the Spirit-filled believer today. Elijah knew experientially, vividly, what it meant to “stand before the Lord.” What did he have that so many of us – even baptized-in-the-Spirit, tongue-speaking, faith-declaring believers – are lacking?

Elijah was a diligent seeker. Hebrews 11:6 says, “… he [God] is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” Elijah went after his God with his whole heart. He listened to the Lover of his soul with intensity, because he loved God’s voice. What do you think Elijah did during the years of the drought he had prophesied, while he sat by Cherith Brook (1 Kings 17:5, 6)? He didn’t just think, from morning until night, about the next meal of bread and meat that the ravens would bring. He spent time with God, interceding for his beloved people Israel and listening to God’s heart.

God holds up Elijah as an example for the rest of us:

James 5:16The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. He prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth fruit.

Elijah did not begin his life as an intercessor and listener at Cherith. The time spent alone with God there was an extension of what was already Elijah’s way of life. He already clearly understood what it was to stand before the Lord. We know this, because when he first appears in the Bible, a virtually unknown prophet, he tells King Ahab that he comes in the authority of one who stands in the Presence of the Lord. (1 Kings 17:1)

Sometimes people get a wrong idea of what decreeing things is all about. They use Elijah as an example of decreeing and receiving. They say that because we speak, our innate authority as believers makes it happen. I think there might be a little more to it than that.

God did not hold back the rain for three and a half years just because Elijah spoke it. Elijah’s decree was established because he was in intimate communication with God, and he knew that it was God’s directive that it was not to rain until Elijah said so.  He had his decree from the throne room, where he stood and received God’s counsel.  He spoke what he had heard from God.  This is why some folks decree right and left, and nothing happens.  They didn’t get it from the throne room; they just thought it was a good idea.

Jesus Himself said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father has taught me, I speak these things. … for I do always those things that please him.” (John 8:28, 29) Jesus also said, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father….” (John 8:38) I think that is what Elijah also experienced: doing and speaking what he had seen and heard in the very Presence of God.

I am suggesting that when Elijah said, “The LORD God of Israel … before whom I stand,”  what he was talking about was knowing experientially what it was to stand in the actual throne room of heaven, and it was from that experience that he derived his prayers, his strategies, and the amazing decrees that he so boldly pronounced (and which God backed up with thunderous answers).

Elisha also knew what it was to stand before the Lord. He referred to his relationship with God in the same words as Elijah had used before him, which is not surprising, since he received Elijah’s mantle. No doubt during the years that Elisha served as a prophet-in-training, Elijah poured into him all that he knew about having intimacy with God.

I believe Jeremiah and Samuel both “stood before the LORD,” as well.  God promised it conditionally to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 15:19“…and you shall stand before me.” The condition for Jeremiah to get to stand before God was that he needed to repent of questioning God’s faithfulness and truth.  He needed to repent of doubt.  He needed to “take forth the precious from the vile” in order to be God’s mouthpiece — which meant separating out of his life wrong speech and carnal ways of acting and thinking, but especially the speaking part. (See Jeremiah 15:15-19.) Samuel must have “stood before the LORD” also, because “the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1 Samuel 3:19) This involved prophesying and decreeing.

Next time we’ll talk about how “standing before the Lord” applies to blood-bought, New Testament believers of our day.

Next: The LORD God … Before Whom I Stand (Part 2)

Lee Ann’s book, Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God

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Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 5

Today’s entry will wrap up my thoughts on soaking prayer for awhile.

I wonder sometimes if some of us are just made of a different fabric, and if, perhaps, it is OK to not fit the mold.  For instance, some soaking experts say that we cannot fully get into God’s Presence if we are not absolutely quiet.  But many of the most wonderful times I’ve had with Jesus have been when I was peacefully praying in tongues.  He often talks with me when I’ve been praying in my prayer language at length.  I’m not talking about doing violent warfare in tongues.  Some people do not know how to use their prayer language in any other way than aggressive warfare.  But I spend a lot of time praying in tongues with a listening attitude, and God speaks to me then.  I feel His Presence around me as I tell Him I love Him, and as I ask Him questions.  We often have conversational times together that are very dear to both of us.  These are not times when I am doing the “correct” soaking thing.  But they are better times with the Lord than what I have experienced in soaking.  I prefer to find Him in these ways.

So, I am torn.  On one hand, I have soaking friends that tell me I will never achieve the highest levels of intimacy with God if I don’t soak as they do.  They tell me I will never experience the heavenly visions if I don’t soak in the prescribed manner.  It’s interesting that I’m starting to hear some of the soaking people say that they are learning to ask God questions during their soaking times.  (Isn’t this breaking the absolute quiet rule?)   Could it be that soaking is only a step in the process of finding intimacy with the Lord, and I just missed this step and still got where I needed to be?  Or is soaking prayer perhaps merely a method — one of many means to achieve the desired goal?  I can only hope!

My husband and my best friend (she is a soaking advocate, by the way) have both seen and listened to my frustration over not being able to connect well with God through soaking, and they tell me to do what has been working for me all along.  I’d like to take their advice, but hardly know if I dare to.  The voices that say I am missing something clamor so loudly, but the encouragement to just do what has always worked brings more peace.  My friend that soaks (but says I don’t need to) has a theory that soaking IS just one method of getting into intimate relationship with the Lord.  She thinks I am accomplishing the  same end as she is, but have found a different way to do it.  I hope she is right.  Still, I will try a little longer to do it in the acceptable, prescribed way.

I bought Jim Goll’s book, The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence.  I figure, if anybody can help me sort it all out, he can.  I highly respect Mr. Goll.  He’s a prophet-intercessor with solid Bible grounding and he’s about as balanced as one could be.  When some of the rest of the prophetic world has itself out on a limb over a canyon, Jim Goll isn’t afraid to sound the warning alarm and bring things back to center.  So, I think I’ll find out what he has to say on the matter.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Purchase at Amazon: The Lost Art of Practicing His Presence

 Previous — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 4
 Soaking Prayer Revisited — An update done several months later

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Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 4

We left off yesterday with a promise of an explanation of why worship music works better for me than soaking music in slipping into the Presence of the Lord.  If you don’t like what I have to say, remember that it is just an opinion, not a biblical truth.  You’re entitled to yours, too.

I usually get frustrated when I try to draw near to God with “soaking music” playing.  Some of those women wax screamy as they get excited about what they are singing prophetically.  Some wax silly.  (I quickly flip over the song about God’s Presence enveloping the singer like a marshmallow.)  One track on that same marshmallow CD has a guy grunting throughout: “Ooh! Aah! Ooh! Aah! Ooh! Aah!”  I’m not sure what’s wrong with him.  Perhaps he has digestive problems.  But it sounds coarse.  It is hard to be in God’s Presence and stay there when you want to burst out laughing  at the goofiness of it all.  I must give them credit, though — if an enhanced ability to visualize is the goal, they have succeeded.  Even we nonpictorial types get some pretty funny images floating through our brains when this stuff is going on!

But seriously, I noticed early-on that worship music — Gateway, Hillsong, Third Day, Twila Paris, Rita Springer, Daniel Brymer, etc. — enhances focusing on the Lord, while some soaking music doesn’t do that for me.  And I wondered why.  The focus of the music is the key.  Worship music is about Jesus.  Much of the soaking music is about us.  Worship music extols His greatness, His character.  Soaking music is often filled with prophetic encouragement about the destiny we have ahead of us.  Soaking music may talk about how much we desire the Lord, the longing of our heart for Him, and that is wonderful, but it is still about us more than it is about Him.  This is not true across the board, but it is a general theme I have noticed.  If you like that theme, that’s fine.  If it gets you into God’s Presence, good.  But it leaves a real lack in my heart.  I feel like I’m missing something, when the song is all about me.

Tomorrow, I’ll wrap this series up with some concluding philosophical meanderings.

Previous — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 3
Next — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 5

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Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 3

Today’s entry is a little wackier than the previous two.  (I have my less-than-serious side.)  I’d like to discuss the doctrines of soaking and my experiences with them.  You didn’t know there were doctrines?  Well, officially there aren’t.  But after one gets the same advice over and over, it begins to sound like doctrine.

1.)  Position — It’s best to be lying on your back on the floor, face up.  For enhanced soaking, make sure you have a cute little pillow and a favorite soaking blankie.

I think it is probably a good idea to be face up.  It’s easier to breathe that way.  I don’t like to lie on the floor, for several reasons — it’s hard, my back hurts when I do it, and in Wisconsin in the winter, it’s too cold on the floor.  The pillows with Winnie the Pooh or Tweety Bird on them are cute, but I’m not sure I need them.  How they enhance soaking will be discussed in Point 3.

2.)   You have to quiet your mind so that you are receptive to the Lord’s Presence.

I understand.  I have encountered people who seem to be in a constant frenzy in their thoughts.  It evidences in what comes out of their mouths.  I’m not like that — unless I’ve had a l-i-t-t-l-e too much Dr. Pepper.  So, perhaps my mind isn’t as unquiet as some people’s. But I have struggled with this, mainly because of the subdoctrines that go with it:

a.) You must empty your mind of everything.

Before you get your grundies in a bundle, I’ll agree with what you’re worried about: emptying your mind is a New Age/Eastern religious practice.  But some people who soak say you have to do this.  My mind does not empty.  This may be a good thing.  Who needs to be empty-headed?  So, the other subdoctrine about having a quiet mind is much better, and hopefully won’t mess with anybody’s worries about New Age.

b.) You shouldn’t try to empty your mind.  Instead, you should focus on Jesus.

I like this one better.  Dennis Walker, a wonderful teacher we met in Peru, corrected the empty-headed soaking notion.  He said the mind was never meant by God to be empty.  (Aha! I thought so!)  It was meant to be focused.  (OK, focusing I am usually good at.)  Focus on Jesus.  (I like this.)  Still, I have a hard time focusing for long, it seems.  Some people said I must picture Jesus as He appears in Revelation 1.  (OK, I did that.  It lasted about 10 seconds.  How much time must I try to visualize that particular picture of Jesus?  I am not good at pictures.  I cannot remember what I look like as soon as I leave the mirror behind — which isn’t all bad.)  So, the getting-a-picture-of-Jesus thing isn’t working.  Maybe I will try picturing Jesus blessing the little children instead.

Now, I know, some of you are still weirding out.  You are thinking, “Red light!  Red light!  She wants us to picture Jesus in our minds!  That’s visualization!  She even said the V word (visualize)!  New Age!  New Age!  New Age!  Whoop!  Whoop!  Whoop!”  Sorry, I can’t help you.  Your mind is not quiet enough to listen, even if I tried.  Let’s just not worry about it.  I don’t do well trying to picture Jesus, and you don’t want to, so let’s just not even bother to do it, OK?  I think we can still get into God’s presence without this step.

On to the cardinal doctrine of soaking:

3.)  It is A-OK to fall asleep while soaking.

We are told that falling asleep is part of soaking.  We will have heavenly dreams while we sleep during soaking.  I have a theory: the sleeping part of soaking is not prayer; it is a nap.  I know I am way too practical, but I’m sorry.  I do not feel spiritual when I fall asleep during soaking.  I have just taken a nap, but I have not been praying.  I have not had any heavenly dreams (most of the time), I have not had any revelations, and I have not felt close to Jesus.  I figure it is the same as going to bed at night.  I may have a God-dream when I go to bed, but then again, I may not.  And I never tell myself when I go to bed at night that this is my prayer time.  I would feel awfully foolish trying to convince myself and God that bedtime was prayer time.

(I could use this sleeping/praying concept to oh-so impress people, couldn’t I? “So, Lee Ann, how long do you pray every day?”  “Well, I am one of those really big prayer warriors.  I pray six to eight hours a day.”  I wouldn’t have to mention that I meant that was how long I sleep at night, and wouldn’t I sound spiritual!)

Unfortunately, I always fall asleep when trying to soak, and I do it very quickly — within five minutes.  When I wake up a half hour later, I mourn the lost time I could have been spending with Jesus, if I had been praying rather than soaking.  Ah, well!

If you are into napping as part of your soaking time, that’s why the blankie and the Tweety Bird pillow are important.

4.)  You have to have certain music playing in order to soak.

Did you know there is such a thing as soaking music?  And it is very nice, too.  Just stick “soaking music” in Google and you’ll find it.  I like some of the soaking music in small doses.  But after a short time, it really starts to bug me.  It either helps put me to sleep, or it gets too busy and loud after a few tracks.  But, this is OK if you regularly fall asleep during your soaking time, because you will not notice when it gets too busy and loud; you are already snoring.  Do you want to know how I know this?  I complained to a friend about some music she had recommended.

“Hey, Mary Sue, you know the Gonzales lady you recommended for soaking?  Well, I like the first few tracks, but then she gets to wailing at the top of her lungs all of a sudden, and the only thing I can visualize is a wide-open mouth the size of Carlsbad Caverns about to swallow me.”

Do you know what she said?  “I don’t even know what’s in the middle of those CD’s.  I usually only get as far as the first couple of tracks, and then I’m out like a light, and I wake up about the time she’s on the last track.”

I prefer straight worship music to soaking music (although some soaking music could fall into the worship category).  Tomorrow I’ll give my theory on why worship music works better for me.

Previous — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 2
Next — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 4

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Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 2

Yesterday, I said I don’t believe all time spent in prayer communion with God must necessarily involve heavenly visions.  It’s about Him, not about what glorious visions we can get out of Him.

Again: It’s about Him, not about what glorious visions we can get out of Him.  Repeat: It’s about Him.

I am not sure that this is always very well understood among soaking prayer enthusiasts.  I hear people say that soaking prayer is important because it is the open door to receiving revelation (which, I will add, we desperately need).  But if our whole purpose in soaking is to receive revelation, then we have erred into worshipping the revelation, rather than worshipping the Living God Who so much desires to give us the revelation.  It’s like the big engagement ring diamond being more important than the lover who gave it.  Not a pretty way to be!

The lover, Jesus, must be the desired end of why we soak.  Communion with Him is what He wants us to have.  It does not matter if we do not receive heavenly visions every time we soak.  What matters is that we take time to be with Jesus.  I have several friends who prefer to call soaking “basking in the Lord’s Presence.”  I like that way of phrasing it.

I know a couple of people who are obsessed with soaking.  They do not read their Bibles, other than to use a verse to launch themselves into soaking.  They do not spend much time in intercessory prayer.  They do not want to participate in corporate worship when the Church gathers together.  They only want to soak, whether at home or abroad.  They are not balanced believers.  It shows in the rest of their lives.

I think both the obsession with soaking and the idolizing of revelation will balance out among soakers at some point.  When God puts new and fresh emphasis on real truth, people usually stray some to the right hand and to the left for awhile.  New moves of God generally have some wrinkles to iron out.  But God somehow sees to it that the central truth prevails in the end.  That’s where I believe the soaking craze will end up — in balance and truth.

Next time: Soaking prayer dogma.  Be prepared for a bit of humor.

Previous — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 1
Next — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 3

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Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 1

I’ve been trying to discipline myself to do “soaking prayer” for many months now.  Basically, soaking prayer is quieting oneself before the Lord for an extended period of time for the purpose of intimate contact with Him, giving Him the opportunity to speak.  It hasn’t always been a fun adventure for me.  Sometimes it’s so frustrating that I want to permanently pitch the whole idea out the window.

My particular circle of Christianity is the charismatic, prophetic community.  Most of the people around me insist that soaking prayer is a must, if one does not want to be a pygmy Christian.  I’m not so sure they are completely right.  The following five-part series explains what soaking prayer is and how my own experience with it has been to date.

Soaking prayer became very popular during the Toronto Blessing revival, but it’s really been around as long as the Church has.  Some people weird out about it, thinking it is “meditation” or “mysticism” and therefore it’s Eastern religion, not Christian.  Soaking prayer is not yoga and such things, however. Psalm  104:34 says, “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.”   And Genesis 24:63 tells us Isaac was “meditating in the field” when he first met Rebekah.  There are lots more references in the Bible to meditating on God and on His Word.  And, if you use a concordance to look up words like “mystery” and “mysteries” in the New Testament, you will find that Jesus and the apostles spoke frequently about the mysteries of the Kingdom, or the “hidden wisdom.”  So “mysticism” — which involves mysteries (hidden things) — is not necessarily bad.

I’ve heard many ideas from a variety of  people about this type of prayer.  Sometimes it has sounded very ooky-spooky, depending on who was talking about it.  I’m finding that there are some expert soakers that I trust, and some that I do not, based on what I see happening in their lives.  The people who are balanced, godly people, who exhibit wisdom and grace, I listen to.  Those who are not showing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives, I do not like to listen to — no matter how stupendous their heavenly experiences sound.

I am mystified by people who are into soaking prayer for hours a day and say they are seeing all sorts of heavenly visions, but they do NOT exhibit Christ-likeness.  There must be some kind of disconnect going on in their lives that is not normal.  If we are truly connecting with God, and seeing into His supernatural realm, our lives should be changing.  When Isaiah saw the Lord (Isaiah 6:1-8) he said he became “undone.”  I hear that phrase thrown around a lot.  I don’t think, for Isaiah, that being “undone” was a momentary experience of chills and thrills.  It was a life-changing deal.  He took on a new purity.  The revelation of God’s holiness became a deposit of holiness in Isaiah himself.  Encounters with The Holy One should mean we take on a measure of the character of Jesus.  Transformation into His likeness should be the fruit of spending great amounts of time with Him.  This seems pretty basic to me.

I think sometimes the problem is that some of the expert soakers are not spending much time reading the Bible.  I mean reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, not just the portions that talk about heavenly visions (like Revelation and Ezekiel).  I like spending time with the Lord in prayer.  But I also know I need to commune with Him through His Word.  Sometimes in reading my Bible, I sense God is speaking directly to me through a verse or passage.  Sometimes I go for days where that direct speaking is not the case, but I am still learning general concepts that I need to be reminded of.  For instance, God talks a lot about how to relate in a godly fashion toward other people, especially in the New Testament letters to the Church.  I don’t always feel like God is giving me special, personal conviction or instruction when I read the Bible, but He is still speaking to me.  I am taking in His way, His concepts.  I still become like Him by absorbing these truths in a general way on a regular basis.

All Bible reading need not take us up into heavenly visions in order to be productive in our lives.  I don’t believe all time spent in prayer communion with God must necessarily involve heavenly visions, either.  It’s about Him, not about what glorious visions we can get out of Him — which is where I’ll pick up next time.

Next — Soaking Prayer Journey, Part 2

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