Developing a Posture of Perpetual Prayer (Mennocostal: IHOPKC Onething Series)

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The idea that Christians pray is often a mandate which is taken for granted.  We assume that it is the Christian thing to do and that all Christians pray.  Prayer is, after all, what makes a Christian.  It is the fundamental root of Christianity.  The one action that keeps us living and breathing Christ.  The Apostle Paul wrote that we are to “pray without ceasing” regardless of our circumstances.[1]  Yet, if only all Christians prayed!  If only all Christians fervently poured out their hearts on a regular basis how different our nations and our world would be!  Indeed we would see miracles happening!  We would truly see blessings taken place in our daily lives.

Prayer is something that I have often struggled with in my own life.  There have definitely been seasons of my life when I have been so on fire for Christ that I have prayed for hours and lived out my life as if it were an aroma to God.[2]  Yet, there have been even more times in my life when I have wrestled with knowing what to say to God.  There are times in my personal life when I am really struggling and when God seems distant and talking to Him seems so much harder than talking to a friend who I have met and gotten to know in person over the past few years.  To be honest, I have often been envious of Moses who was able to talk to God face-to-face in the way a man talks to his best friend![3]

Martin Luther once noted that, “It is the business of tailors to mend clothes and cobblers to fix shoes, and it is the BUSINESS OF CHRISTIANS TO PRAY.”  Christians are to be about their Father’s business, always!  It’s our vocation and our missional calling! 

We know that prayer is important because it is perhaps THE most fundamental teaching in all of Scriptures.  I know of few other topics which have as much teaching devoted to them than prayer and which have been modeled by Christ, Himself, as much as prayer.  Works of justice, righteousness, and compassion are important to the Christian faith and Christians are called to engage in them – but they are secondary to prayer.  Without prayer these works will cease.  Without pray these works are not sustainable!  That’s because, as Mike Bickle (founder and leader of the International House of Prayer movement in Kansas City, MO) states, “prayer and mission are inseparable and both need the prophetic ministry added on to them.”[4]

WHY PRAY?Oftentimes when you meet a very mature Christian, someone who has been through the most difficult things in their own lives, but who still has an unshakeable faith the answer for why they are able to keep carrying on even amidst adversity lies in the fact that they pray!  That they talk to God about whatever’s going on in their life and that He answers even if it is in unexpected ways.  They trust Him to be faithful even when they are not.[5]

Their prayer life has rooted them so deeply in Christ’s love and care for them that their hearts have a completely rock solid foundation.  Even when the highest storm waves crash over the sea or the mightiest tempests blow, they are still standing firm.  They are immoveable.[6]  They can sign with gusto the words to the song which says, “What though my joys and comforts die?  The Lord my Saviour liveth! What though the darkness gather round?  Songs in the night He giveth! No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the Rock I’m clinging.  Since Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth, how can I keep from singing?”[7]

In the book of James we read the following, “Now the prayer offered in faith will make a sick person well.  The Lord will raise him up and he will be healed.  If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.  Confess your sins then to each other and PRAY for each other so that you may be HEALED.  The PRAYER of a righteous man is POWERFUL and EFFECTIVE.”

Have you ever seen mountains move?  Have you ever seen the earth turn over and surrender to God?  It’s because faithful people pray!  It’s the prayers of the elderly grandmothers for their grandchildren that impact the world.  It’s the prayers of the drunkard crying out in the dead of night that awakens God’s attention![8]  It’s in the sinner’s cry, the beating of the chest that God hears – it’s NOT in the pious, overly zealous prayer that is full of empty words but no heart![9]

When we pray for our brothers and sisters, God promises to heal them of their afflictions.  He promises to bring them comfort and relief.  He promises forgiveness and complete absolution of any sins.  But James doesn’t just end with that.  He says that not only are we to pray silently in our rooms, but that we should also have prayer meetings where we gather with other believers and are mutually encouraged by the things that Christ is teaching them!  How often I have been in a prayer meeting hearing another brother or sister pray something that the Lord has laid on their heart and in that instance known that that word was meant for me and that God was giving me the same encouragement that He had taught them!  If you are righteous and if you’re living a life that follows after Christ’s heart than it doesn’t matter how long you have been saved, it doesn’t matter how much seminary education you have, and it doesn’t matter if you are able to sing or preach, your prayers are still effective.  Your prayers are still heard by God and He takes notice of them!

A CALLING TO A LIFE OF PRAYER: Throughout my life, I have relegated prayer to the sidelines.  I made it a point to pray before meals and before bed… often my “amen” being muttered in the morning when I had gotten up realizing that I trailed off before I even finished.  As I got older and started to be more involved with non-Christian peers that soon ended up resulting in me not even thinking of praying before meals.  Sometimes I went entire weeks without lifting my heart and voice to Christ!  In the back of my mind, Christ was always there, but He was more like the One I called on when I needed something.  I didn’t spend nearly as much time praising and worshiping Him as He deserved.

However, over the last few years Christ has started tugging on my heartstrings again and reclaiming His rightful place as center of my life.  He has reminded me of my need for Him and how to a believer prayer is the food and water of the soul.  He has reminded me that in order to grow into full Christian maturity I need to spend time in His Word discovering who He is.

With Christ, prayer is a 24/7 lifestyle, it’s not simply a once in a while type deal.  It’s not good enough just to pray at breakfast.  It takes effort, but we really need to carve out dedicated time for Him.  Once we start intentionally making time for prayer and making time for Christ in our lives, then there is no possible way that we will stop being able to share our testimonies.  No possible way that we will stop being able to share all that we have seen and heard![10]  When we pray we will begin to see the hearts of families and of nations turned to Christ.  Until we pray, though, we can utter with our lips that we want to see revival, but it won’t take place.  It won’t take place because God sees our hearts and He knows that we are all talk and no action.  That we don’t want it enough to spend even one hour with Him in order to help join Him in His reconciling mission of the church on this earth!

HOW IHOP CHANGED MY PRAYER LIFE: A large part of my IHOP experience was simply being able to spend unhindered time with Christ alone where He came and ministered to my soul.  He delivered me out of my brokenness and set my feet on high places so that I could worship Him.[11]  During this time with Christ alone He continued to repeat over and over to my soul, “come with Me to the quiet place and allow Me to minister to you.”  I believe that this is the same message that Christ echoes to each person – young and old, across all different nationalities and ethnicities, across all socioeconomic levels.  It is a message of what true greatness really is. It is a reminder that all ministries need to be consumed with an attitude of prayer and completely covered with adoration to Christ!

We are often reminded in the Bible that worshiping and prayer never stops.  In Revelation we read that, “day and night they did not cease worshiping the Lamb.”  They kept saying over and over, “blessing, and honour, glory, and power be unto the Ancient of Days!”[12]  The Apostle Paul reminds us to be “steadfast in prayer and abundant in love.”[13]  Note here how prayer comes before love.  That’s because it’s impossible for us to love without first experiencing the ultimate and true love of Christ!  There are many non-Christian married couples who are deeply committed to one another, there are many non-Christian parents who truly do love their children, but they only love the best they know how to.  They don’t know true love because they have never experienced what that feels like.  I don’t doubt the fact that they are compassionate to their children and spouses, but the Bible tells us plainly that WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US![14]  If you want to know true love, if you want your love for your significant other, spouse, or child to grow, you need Christ to minister to you!  You need to come with Him to the quiet place so that He can love you and fill you with a love so great that you never knew it was possible to love someone to that extent before!

MY PRAYER LIFE WAS SHIFTED AT IHOP

In the first sermon that I heard Mike Bickle preach he told us, “Worship is an agreement of who Christ is.  Intercession is an agreement of what Christ said He would do.”  In order to have a vibrant prayer life – one that makes God take notice and one which will draw us into deeper Spiritual maturity with Christ, we need both of these elements.  They are completely inseparable.

At IHOP we listened and sang music, but it was NOT a concert.  I’ve been to many concerts before.  I have many favourite secular as well as Christian artists.  Oftentimes these concerts (primarily secular) are little more than mosh pits with the occasional overpriced beer or whisky.  Yet at IHOP as we sang, we were lead into deeper worship and communion with Christ.  Sometimes I sang, other times I sat there silently, there were a few times that I wept.  Still other times I prayed and interceded so hard and felt assurance from Christ that He was going to bring healing to the people I was praying for.  He confirmed many things to me during my time with Him.   I promise you that if you spend that time with Christ, He will do the same for you!  If you make an effort for Him, He will make time for you!  He’s never too busy to hear the requests of His children!

RECEIVING PERSONAL ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAY THROUGH MY TEAM

When I went to IHOP I traveled with a group of just under 50 young adults (ages 18-30).  I got into a 12 passenger van with them and we drove all the way down to Kansas City, Missouri (which is a little over 15 hours from where I live).  I didn’t know anyone before I left.  I actually had a lot of anxiety.  I am an extrovert and do really enjoy getting to meet other young adults, especially if they are Christian and I perceive that we might be able to have much in common and might be able to network.  But when I left my hometown I had been through a very difficult past four months and was feeling pretty broken and the idea of having people I never even met before minister to me sounded pretty daunting.

I’m glad I didn’t let that hold me back!  These young adults might have been primarily younger than me, but they had a certain spiritual maturity that really inspired me.  This maturity led them to give up a shopping trip in St. Louis just so that we could spend additional hours in prayer at IHOP and continue to intercede and see the Spirit move and work!  To be honest, I don’t know many other 18 year olds who would have taken our leader up on that offer!

Really, it’s crazy how I spent all day every day for 6 days, literally over 10 hours in worship and then came back to the hotel and continued praying and discerning the Lord’s voice.  Even prophesying.  Up until last week when I went to IHOP, this was the kind of stuff I had only heard about in books or from missionaries.  I thought the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was confined to Africa and Asia.  I never realized He was so present here in affluent and busy North America!  I’ve never experienced worshiping this long before.  When I was a student at Tyndale there were some intense times when I was caught up in the Spirit and worshiped for 3 hours…once even almost all night.  But never all day AND all night!  I’ve adopted this posture of prayer.  At IHOP there were days when it was 1:30am and I just couldn’t stop praising Him.  Some days I would get 5 or 6 hours of sleep because I was so caught up in the Spirit and in worship, and I would be fully recharged the next day, and usually I’m the type of person who needs 8 hours or I’m sunk. 

I used to marvel that Africans went to church for hours, now I know it IS possible and it’s what I want.  I feel like I could do this all day every day and never get bored of it.  This must be just a glimpse of what heaven will be like when all nations praise God with the angels day and night before the Throne unceasingly!

CONCLUSION:Sometimes people think that I’ve gone IHOP crazy.  That I’m all about edifying IHOP, but that’s not the case at all!  IHOP was just one instrument that God used to encourage and strengthen me in my walk with Him.  He could have used any other means and I would have been equally as grateful, but God spoke to me and got a hold of my heart through this conference.  Any thanksgiving I have goes straight to God.  I give IHOP props for being faithful to the calling God has laid on their heart and how they have ministered to thousands and pray that God will bless them richly both in heaven and on earth for it.  But in the end of the day – it’s God I worship, NOT IHOP.

I want to encourage you to read my next several blogs about how the Spirit moved during my time at IHOPKC and all that He taught me while I was there.  My next blog will be written on the topic of intercession primarily on how God called me and equipped me to pray during the Night Watch – one of the most intense and Spiritually demanding assignments He has ever given me, but a ministry for which I am glad to be a part.  I hope you will join me in reading that blog and that the Lord may also call some of my faithful readers to join me in this vision of proclaiming the Kingdom of Christ until He comes again.[15]


[4] From a sermon Mike Bickle preached at IHOPKC’s ONETHING 2013 Conference

[7] My Life Flows On (Text and Music By: Robert Lowry, 1869)

[8] Better Than A Hallelujah (By: Amy Grant) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm5kx3xqmg0

All Things Charismatic – A Mennonite’s Perspective on Visions, Prophesy, and Miracles

Image If you read this article and you like it, you can check out some of my earlier thoughts on the Charismatic movement by reading this blog post: https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/a-mennonite-who-speaks-in-tongues/

In our modern world, the Charismatic movement has gotten a somewhat bad rap unless you are Pentecostal yourself.  There are two main ways of thinking of the charismatic movement according to the Christians that I have met.  The first way is to view it as a super incredible movement which is the answer to all of life’s problems.  I see this view played out all the time by churches which claim that they have raised people from the dead (I sincerely have my doubts about that one), go on mission’s trips with no other purpose than to preform healings, and have youth meetings where the only purpose is to receive Words from the Lord for one another.  Although these churches do provide a certain excitement around what the Spirit is saying to the churches[1], I actually feel this is doing a huge disservice.  Placing the expectation on youth and young adults that EVERYONE has the gift of prophesy or speaking in tongues not only adds a lot of pressure but is simply NOT Biblical.  The Bible does teach us that prophesy and speaking in tongues are both gifts,[2] yet by the same token it teaches us that of all the gifts speaking in tongues is the least important.[3]  Looking through the Scripture passages about gifts, we notice that there are many gifts but the same Spirit.[4]  Each gift (if used correctly) can be useful for edification of the church, but no one person has all of the gifts.[5]  In fact, the Apostle Paul reminds us that if everyone in the Body of Christ were an eye we would have no ears and if we had no ears how would we be able to hear?[6]

Yet, when churches make it sound like everyone should be able to receive Words from the Lord they are in effect saying that those who do not have the gift of Special wisdom or prophesy are somehow inferior Christians.  When I was at Tyndale, many of my charismatic friends believed that speaking in tongues was a sign of the Holy Spirit working in your life.  Speaking in tongues is indeed a Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 2 we read that in the first Pentecost this is exactly what was taking place.  People were speaking in tongues and little flames were dancing above their heads.[7]  Yet, for as much as Speaking in Tongues is a Baptism of the Holy Spirit it is only one mode of baptism among many.  I would say that the true Baptism of the Holy Spirit is when your life becomes completely consumed by Christ’s Word and when you begin to live a life that daily exemplifies His character.  After all, when contemplating what true faith is, the Apostle James writes that, “true and undefiled religion in the sight of God our Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep one’s self unstained from idols.”[8]  Looking at this verse reminds us of what the Baptism of Christ truly looks like – it is about doing service and acts of kindness to others, consoling them in their hurt and need, and focusing solely on Christ.  In a world that pushes for fame and recognition we are to keep ourselves pure and only care about the reputation we have in Christ.[9]

The second way of viewing the Charismatic movement is to view it with disdain as if it has no place in the church and in fact distracts from the true message of the cross.  I have no doubt that certain televangelists and teachers do distort the truth.  Their entire message is only one to get them fame and power, they do not actually follow the teachings of Christ.  Yet, at the same time as I disagree with these televangelists, to think that God no longer uses charismatic gifts does not make much sense in my opinion either.  Why do I say that?  For one, I find it hard to believe that God only granted the gifts of prophesy, healing, and miracles for a certain time period – why would He all of a sudden abolish them?  Why are they all of a sudden not important?   Second, how can we be negligent of the fact that the charismatic gifts are still happening all around us every day?  I have seen great things accomplished when my friends have laid hands on other people.  A few times I have received timely Words from the Lord that really spoke into my situation without the other person even being fully aware of what was happening.  Yet at other times, I also have received visions and have spoken in tongues in ways that have edified the Body of Christ.

I did not grow up in the Charismatic movement by any means and when I was younger I also had a negative view of Pentecostalism because I didn’t understand what it truly was.  I saw no point to rolling around and barking like dogs – in fact, I still don’t.  I still have my reservations on many things – gold teeth and being slain in the Spirit included.  Yet, as I have spent time at Tyndale I have come to learn that miracles still do take place and God has often spoken to me in dreams.

I think part of our resistance to the Charismatic movement is the fact that our worldview (if we are from the West) does not welcome these types of responses.  Our first response as Western Christians tends to be to attribute everything on science.  When someone is miraculously healed of cancer we thank the good doctors and surgeons who looked after them.  When a person is told they only have 6 more weeks to live and 6 months later they are completely pain free and moving on with their lives we say that the doctors misdiagnosed them.  We are human and we all make medical errors.  I’m not saying that skilled doctors and nurses don’t deserve our praise, but the truth is we don’t give credit where credit is due!

Yet, on the other hand, in my studies of Global Christianity I have become aware to the many medical and spiritual mysteries that are taking place in certain African and Asian countries where medical equipment is lacking.  Muslims from Africa who have never even heard the name of Jesus have often received visions of Him in their dreams and turned to Him as a result.  There was even one case that I heard about at Tyndale of a young woman who was illiterate and had never even heard of the Bible who received a vision before her (similar to the one Muhammad received) of an open Bible which she was able to read the pages on!  This woman converted to Christ and now evangelizes to others within her tribe!  How can we ignore the fact that these things are taking place and turn a blind eye to the fact that the charismatic movement is still sweeping our globe?

So, what do we do with these two conflicting views and which one is correct?  I would say they both are correct to some extent.  We should not fear the Spiritual gifts of prophesy and tongues, nor should we extoll them as being the important gifts thus insisting that those who have never received these opportunities are somehow less valuable to the Christian church than we are.  At all times, we need to test the Spirit because we know that Satan can use what is good and edifying as a way of destroying the church.[10]

How do we test the Spirit?  This is something that the churches I grew up in never taught me to do, but yet, without testing the Spirit we are opening ourselves up to potentially fatal consequences.  When you test the Spirit you need to first of all determine if what the person is saying makes any sense.  If what they are saying clearly goes contrary to the truths of the Scripture than it is not a true prophesy or vision.[11]  Secondly, their message needs to be timely and relevant to the person who it is being spoken to – if it is overly vague you should have some reservations about it.  Third, you should do your own research to determine if the word spoken to you really was meant for you and how it will play out in your life.  If you continue to be unsure about it ask trusted friends and mentors who have walked the Christian faith longer than you have, talk to your pastor or spiritual director, and continue to wrestle with Scripture on your own.

I would add a fourth idea for testing the Spirit even though I know some people would disagree with me.  In my own experience, I believe that receiving a word from the Lord needs to come out of some pre-existing relationship that you have with the other person.  It should be spoken out of love and concern.  This is not to say that strangers can never offer you a Word from God.  On at least two or three occasions I have received prophetic words which were very timely – one from a complete stranger at a church the other from students at Tyndale who had only seen me in the hallway a handful of times but never struck up a conversation with me.  I still cherish those encounters and believe God used those people to bring light to the experiences I was having at the time.  So, do not discount the fact that God can use anyone to speak to you, but at the same time, be very careful of someone who has no pre-existing relationship with you who is claiming they have some great truth from God to bring into your life.  Many times, these people are little more than false teachers and basing your life off of what they say can end rather poorly.[12]

Especially be cautious of churches or individuals which claim that they can receive a Word from the Lord for anyone as long as you ask them.  When I was in Indiana I visited such a church.  I was invited to sit in a little room with two elders who recorded our conversation on tape and made me sign a waiver form saying that I would not do anything stupid to make the Word of the Lord happen.  The example they gave me was that if the Lord said I was to become prosperous I would not rob a bank and then say that the reason I had done it was because this church told me I would become wealthy.  There is definitely some truth to this.  I think of the story of Abraham and Sarah who were promised a son and when it didn’t happen right away they took matters into their own hands and got themselves into a huge mess which still has consequences today.[13]  On the other hand, this church had no idea who I was and yet they were claiming that God could immediately give them some type of special knowledge about me.  If you experience such a church, RUN AWAY!  These churches have a tendency to have cult-like characteristics, their pastors being little more than a wolves who run around in sheep’s clothing.[14]

So, by all means, do not write off spiritual gifts as being for a different time and a different place.  Encourage one another to use their charismatic gifts and if the Spirit is leading you continue to develop your own gifts in these regards.  BUT be very careful, use common sense, and do not ignore what the other Scriptures teach us.  Charismatic gifts have much to offer to the church, but they have as much potential as being harmful as they do of being beneficial.  In all things, seek the highest aim which is the love of Christ, and only then will the other gifts help to make this happen.[15]


[4] 1 Corinthians 12:4 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2012:4&version=ESVUK

[10] 1 John 4:1 –  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20John%204:1&version=ESVUK