what I’ve learned about prayer in the last two days

On Sunday after church, I booked it (within the speed limit) to see my closest friend, with a purpose really just to pray for a couple days. I’ve only done that one other time in my life, with my (former) spiritual mom, and then I flew halfway across the country to do it. I have said many times that we do what we care about. And I cared about prayer.

On March 7, as everyone who knows me knows, I experienced a spiritual miracle. I call it The Miracle because it was so big it deserves its own proper noun. This happened in the same place I have been praying the last two days. While I didn’t go off social media or email, I have not done much but upload some pictures and keep up with work. The bulk of the last two days has been spent in prayer and worship. Just two people in a house. No special band or anything.

And no limits either. I won’t write much in detail here, but I do want to write about principles I think are important, as much as they are dependent upon us in given situations, and lessons I want to apply in the future.

  • Take the clock away. This isn’t news to me, but rarely do I get to experience times f prayer or worship where there isn’t some time limit or people shuffling in and out distracted. When you have hours for Jesus, He hangs out for hours and does stuff.
  • Take the limits away. We may pretend we don’t have them, but most of us do. Do you know what it may look like when the Holy Spirit moves? It may not look “proper.” It may not always be humanly comfortable, but it’s always spiritually comfortable. You know when it’s Him. The definition of whether something is from God isn’t if we have experienced it before. We have not tasted and seen every facet of Him and how we moves. Experience isn’t definition; the Bible is, and if you read carefully, there is some wild stuff in the Bible, including after the ascension of Jesus.
  • Linger. Don’t change songs if one song is doing something. Don’t move on to a list if the Holy Spirit is highlighting something. If He moves, move with Him and stay there. For Pete’s sake, stay there! Nothing is more important.
  • Do what works. God is a multiple choice God in lots of things. Not sin or anything important like that, of course. He is God and His standards don’t change even when we want them to. But He is, as the Bible notes, loud and quiet, flagrant and subtle, tender and firm, gentle and roaring. It’s not more holy if it’s loud or danced or whispered or whatever. It’s more holy when you are worshiping and glorifying Jesus and responding to Him how He leads.

These sound like I’m making some sermon outline to discuss prayer. I’m not. I’m telling you what I have experienced this week in the act of praying. Real learning comes from doing. I’m speaking generally since some of that was intimate, but I didn’t think of good points to put in a blog; I’m pondering what things I learned and took away that I can apply anywhere. Except the time one. That one only works if the people involved are on the same page. But trust me, food and texts and sometimes even the bathroom can wait. And if we wait, He will come.

Like fire. Like water. Like wind. Like rain. Like a still small voice.

And sometimes all in the same few hours.



writing light

I used to literally, physically feel darkness when I wrote. Words are powerful, and repeating them makes them potent.

I’ve had more dark days than I care to admit, days where I was flooded with despair, but since I was alone in a physical sense, to deal with the pain, I would talk—or write—about it. And that deepened the darkness. I come from a stream of Christianity where sometimes people over-ascribe things to the devil that are really just our own sinful flesh. But this one I think had some gas stations in hell, also. There were times I would write that I felt fueled. I would begin writing a story of something, much like this blog is telling a story, but then I would get to something really negative and write faster and with more emotion. Sometimes I would write negatively about myself, such as how awful or stupid, or something equally as negative, I was. And, well, this is sort of scary to say to a public audience, but I felt darkness take over. I don’t mean like some creepy horror movie. Satan isn’t a genius, but he’s smarter than that. I would feel bad inside, and as I typed, I would feel worse, and the awful things I was saying about how awful I was would feel bigger and worse. I hated myself more as I wrote, but I was in a war of needing so desperately to talk and get it out. The result was I would send the story or email and feel even worse, creating a dark spiral. And one day in one of the darker phases of my pain in 2012, I recognized what was happening: the literally power of hell was fueling my words. I would type faster, more heated, and feel this rage and pain spew out. It went from the flesh to the enemy in just moments.

This matters because of what’s happening now. Many people know that at the beginning of Lent I decided to do two things: read a Lenten devotional and write something every day. Anything. It didn’t matter if it was about the reading or not. I just wanted to form a good habit. It was 2.5 weeks after the start of Lent that The Miracle happened. And then you can just imagine what became of my writing. I was pouring out stories of the Holy Spirit, of what happened in my prayer times, of worship, of powerful encounters with Jesus as I danced. I couldn’t keep up but I wrote a lot of the highlights down; I still do write a lot down as I am nearing halfway through a second journal. And one night I realized something as I wrote things about what the Holy Spirit did and how deeply I wanted more of Him—more experiences and encounters and power and passion for the Lord—and I would write it that way with details. And you know what happened, don’t you? Heaven fueled my words. My pen got faster, and my spirit rose inside me. Love overwhelmed me. Excitement and anticipation would rise from deep within me. And one night when I realized that I remembered the parallel. It was the contrast of darkness and light. I was feeling the power of the Holy Spirit on my words. I was repeating the goodness of the Lord and the miracle of His power.

It worked in reverse! It was a wonderful realization. Since The Miracle my tolerance for the negative has declined rapidly. I mean, who likes negative anyway, right? But complaining, bitterness, calling political leaders names, criticizing things—even bad things—with an angry tone, all of it began to really impact me. I couldn’t read things the same or hear people the same. Please understand: I do not mean I separated from reality. I am not talking about being a goody two-shoes Pollyanna. In fact, I freelance for a pro-life news service and expose and report on the bad things happening in the abortion industry. The other day I wrote a story about a woman who paid $25,000 to abort her 8-month old pre-born baby. I know the darkness in the world. I know avoiding reality is a one-way ticket to destruction, but rehearsing darkness versus bring darkness into light are different things.

The first summer I worked in Kansas City, I worked for a leader with a national ministry that spoke against some issues in the news, like abortion. I would sometimes be in a position to tell him something that just got reported in the media, or to read an email to him that was negative. Every time, he listened, responded, and then—every single time without fail—said “let’s pray for_______.” And we stopped and prayed for the person or situation—even when it was a person against him or it was a corrupt and evil situation in the world. What I learned from this man was priceless. I learned how to face reality but leave the room feeling like the discussion was productive because it was then channeled into prayer.

The same principle is at work in writing or talking. Words matter. In some Charismatic circles words are used as magical incantations. If you “speak forth” a new car, the Lord will give it to you. B. A. L. O. N. E. Y. God is not a genie you rub by using magic words. That is not what I mean, and that abuse of the principle of words being powerful is one reason I eschewed people for telling me not to “speak negative things.” That’s unfortunate.

If I may backtrack for a moment: I have mentioned previously in this blog how I realized the power of worship when I had my vision of Jesus in 1997. I discussed how I don’t, in general, listen to secular music, not because I think it’s “evil,” but because I saw what the power of those words of worship did in me. If worship was that powerful and those words became life and a vision that was supernatural, then those were the only words I wanted.

How then could I not comprehend that writing down negative things would not be counterproductive. One of the most dangerous outs we give each other as believers is the “right to vent.” I am not going to lie to you and tell you I have not vented. I probably will again. Most of the time it’s sin. We don’t really have a right to vent because, in the Kingdom of God, we don’t have a right to our “rights” or anger when it’s about us. Jesus never got angry on His own behalf. He got angry at injustice. I fully believe—even when I do it wrong, truth is still truth—that the more we rehearse our personal perceived injustices, the more we make ourselves feel worse. God doesn’t have to “punish” us—our words bore into our souls and do the job, separating is further from Him in that moment.

There is a time to talk about bad things—for the purpose of productivity, to solve a problem, to fueled informed prayer. Ignorance is no more godly than slander. But the lesson I have been learning lately is that when the Bible says “life and death are in the power of the tongue,” that isn’t just about tearing someone down like we think about. It certainly includes that but it comes when we write or speak our unrighteous anger too.

For me, the contrast of the actual physical fueling of my spirit was convincing (and convicting) to me. In darkness that day in 2012 when I first experienced it and knew that was the enemy’s power upon me was one side. In light—that night a few weeks ago when simply writing in my journal about an ordinary thing filled me with joy and caused me to stop writing and worship because I was so alive is the other side. Those contrasts have taught me more than anything about the power of my words and others’ words around me and how they impact my spirit.

I want to be like that leader I served that summer and bow my head in prayer after every discussion or thought that fuels negative. Only then is the discussion productive.

I hope my lesson on my own power of writing and speaking helps you in some way, but really, this one I have written so I could have a record. Also, do I even have to tell you how alive my spirit feels right now after writing all this?

My work load is getting much lighter for the next few months, so I’ll be back to more regular blogging. I have so much to share with you about the power of God in my life and the things He is teaching me—assuming you want to hear these testimonies and lessons. As my friend and our mentor in prayer that season in Kansas City when he worked with our team, George Otis, Jr., used to tell us all the time, testimony is one of the most powerful keys to transformation and revival. The Bible is truth but it’s history too. That makes it harder for some to grasp, but when the Bible comes to life now, today, in the life of someone who was dead and now is alive, then people see and hear and often put their trust in God. I hope I can help that happen to my little slice of influence.

May Jesus be glorified in all things.

And may He remove all the things in me that don’t.