Listening for the New Year, part 2

Waiting on the word

It is as we wait to hear the word from God that the Spirit begins preparing us to be fitted to what He is about to say. Revelation involves more than what we can think up for ourselves. It involves a gracious work of redemption whereby the Holy Spirit draws us up to Himself, crossing the infinite chasm between our limitations and God’s wisdom, and making us adequate to resonate with His speaking.

It is no wonder, therefore, that we have to be patient to let his work be done in us as we wait for Him at full stretch, pointing all our attention towards Him.

It is at this point that most people give up just because they feel so distant from God, so distracted and so “out of it” with respect to the presence of God. This is understandable because for many people the seeming silence of God and the background noise of other voices is discouraging.

Yet the psalmist is assured that God will speak, and what He speaks will ultimately be a word of peace; not destruction or ruin. Though we don’t know what He will speak, we are convinced that the word He speaks will call into being a new order that is shalom in our land.

Waiting to hear involves an alignment of expectation in accordance with God’s intentions of peace to us. The framework of listening has to be an obedient one. This is one of the ways that we prepare our hearts with obedient expectations.

When the word is heard, when it comes, it hits us not as a data point, but a transformative encounter. You are done to by it, apprehended by it; not merely controlling or applying it.

In a culture that values strategies for making oneself heard, listening involves a whole set of opposite practices and attitudes relating to receiving, welcoming, understanding (as in “standing under”) and humble non-presumption. Patience is an essential part of listening, and necessitates being hospitable to the voice of God. Think about it!

Changing Dimensions

In 2 Corinthians 3:15-18, we see a quantum change in perception when a certain veil is removed from before our eyes. In this transformation, although we were not able to see spiritual things, now when we turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away and we have liberty and sight because the Spirit is present. We begin to see things we never saw before. Things strike us differently. Our view and attitude to things and people is now colored with love. Our outlook is touched by faith and trust. The panic and dread is replaced by hope. Instead of looking at things, we seem to be able to look into these same things. It’s as if new spectacles have been put on that make us see things in multi-dimensionality, rather than to see things “flat”.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

It is as we turn to the Lord and listen for the word of Shalom, that we enter into a different dimension in which “salvation is at hand to them that fear Him”(v9). That is, while we may ordinarily think that a long process is needed before we see God’s deliverance, now the distance between us and deliverance is collapsed, and made near. Space-time experiences the shortening of distances between ourselves and salvation. That’s because we are not counting the distance of time between now and the things we think will take a long time to come to fruition. As we draw near to God, we find that it is in God, rather than the things themselves, that deliverance is found. Our mistake is often to fixate on things that we want to happen, and their distance from our present, but when we find ourselves in God, these distances are relativized “in the light of His glory and grace”. That’s why an extraordinary thing happened when the disciples toiling against the wind in the boat on Galilee, received Jesus into the boat. Immediately, the boat found itself arriving on the other side of the sea!

We are often put off from engaging in faithful processes because of how long they would take. That may be true if we are in the dynamics of Jesus’s absence. But when we totally surrender to Him and indwell His presence in obedience, we enter a different dimension-that of His presence. In this dimension, 5 loaves and 2 fishes become enough to feed 5000 people with plenty to spare.

The psalmist goes on to point out that steadfast love and faithfulness kiss each other, so that the land will yield its increase. Faithfulness and truth spring up from the ground, and “set us in the way of His steps”.

Cultivating Faithfulness

It’s funny how faithfulness is so little valued in contemporary culture. Yet faithfulness has to do with consistent faith-full action in spite of the fact that these actions may not amount to much, certainly not what is needed to achieve what is desired. But faithfulness that is directed towards God is like the 5 loaves and 2 fishes that when put in the hands of Jesus, miraculously multiply beyond their natural limits. This is not some dogged, inane ineffectuality. It is the subversive obedience to the Kingdom that breaks the oppressive power of the Empire of this world.

Two things combine to cause our land to yield its increase – faithfulness, and seeds. The word of God is dropped into our spirits. And as that happens, if there is amidst all the instability of our times, a rhythm of faithful, repetitive, incremental nurturing of it, an amazing thing happens. That faithfulness will cause the growth of the seed to outpace and outlast the pulls and temptations to cease faithful watering. Regular, faithful prayer is one of the chief aspects of faithfulness that will cause growth in our loved ones, and in our outreach. For some it would mean calling your children who are living away from you regularly. For others, it would mean turning up at meetings whether you feel like it or not. Faithfulness can be cultivated, to the extent that it becomes no longer a chore but a delight. And it is faithful actions that cultivate to harvest, a vision that came to you initially as no more than a seed word.

“Righteousness will go before Him and make His footsteps a way”.

Listening for the New Year, part 1

Recently, I came across a post on Facebook from Buddhist Humor that advised, in keeping with the holiday mood:

Forget the past-you cannot change it. Forget the future-you cannot predict it. Forget the present- I didn’t get you one!

The beginning of the New Year often opens up the the question of how new the new year really is. Is the new year merely a date in the calendar that doesn’t carry with it any real newness? This is especially crucial because so many of us experience the carry-over of unresolved issues and consequences of the previous year, and even that of previous years. By what compelling reason would we believe that 2016 should be really new, if there is no new substance in our lives that can generate new things? Where is the “substance of things hoped for”?

And it is this pun-intended view in the joke from Buddhist Humor, that when all is said and done, we have no present, no “purchase”, no new substance to begin with to build upon in the new year. Only recyclings of the past year, including the continuing reverberations of previous sins and mistakes.

Psalm 85 – The Staggeringly Good News

That is why Psalm 85, and the whole biblical witness, is such staggeringly good news. The psalm begins with the decisive disjuncture between our sin, our past and the future and present that God has for us. In fact, our path is determined not by our past but by God’s righteousness:

“Righteousness shall go before Him; and set us in the way of His steps.” (v13).

In other words, the year ahead need not be predetermined by the overhang of last year’s wrongs, but by the gracious act of God setting us “in the way of His steps”. Instead of being left alone to to the consequences of our past, God has a year ahead that is touched by the sense of being accompanied. How?

In the first 3 verses of Psalm 85, we see that God had pardoned all the sins of Israel, forgiving their iniquity, pardoning all their sin and turning from His hot anger. We are not able to ascertain any particular historical event that is being referred to, but can safely say that the psalmist sees this reference as paradigmatic of the pardon without which Israel cannot exist. This radical forgiveness and restoration of favor was fully realized in Christ. whose finished work on the cross avails for us today. If any person be in Christ, she is a new creation. All things are passed away. Behold all things are new.

Like ticking time bombs, our past sins and unresolved issues follow us into the new year. They subvert our future and diminish our powers in the present. We all live under a sentence of death. As sheep, we are appointed to Sheol. Death is our shepherd. The portrayal of life as a sort of death march in modern literature is accurate. There is no lasting hope for the new year. That’s what makes the work of Christ so amazing. It was He who laid down His body upon the bomb and covered our sins. This is what it means by the pardon, the atonement in v.3. He has turned his anger upon Himself and absorbed it all, making Himself the object of His righteous wrath.

This wrath is not some arbitrary character trait of punctilious peevishness in God, but a function of His love and delight in us, so much so that we matter infinitely to Him. That is, His wrath is not a balancing counterpoint to His indulgent love, but essential to his love because we matter to Him. This is contrary to postmodern ethics that seek to absolve ourselves of guilt by abrogating sacredness from the body – so that it doesn’t matter what you do to your body, as long as what you engage in is consensual. When we dismiss the sacred from the discussion, love does not win. It becomes desacralized.

But the amazing thing about God’s love at Calvary is that in confronting how much it matters, Christ bore our guilt upon Himself, the horror of His suffering standing in direct proportion to the fact that we matter! Therefore, our past has been absorbed by Christ, and as a consequence, we can experience everything as new. Truly new.

Personalizing the Good News

Yet everything we’ve spoken about up to now is not merely an abstract generalization. The truth (Heb. ‘emet) is not fully Truth until it’s realized and personalized “by us”, as John would put it. So in the next 4 verses (vs.4-7) the psalmist speaks as if the nation still lives under the overhang of past sins. So he strains under the burden of impending calamity and oppression.

“Wilt Thou be angry with us forever?” How long more must we endure this before change happens? The cry for revival rises up from the depths of crushing burdens.

And herein lies the turning point. At the precipice of all our tomorrows the psalmist says,

“I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints” (v8)

And this is where the juncture lies. The psalmist is not content to live in the comfort of a once-spoken promise. He has to hear God speaking his word in real time, in this time. And it is the same with us. We too must hear the Lord speak His word of peace to us-not just to know things in principle and promise, but to have it spoken in real time to our spirits, so that conviction rises in us. The word must step out of eternity and enter into our time. It must be heard.

This point cannot be overemphasized. We have to have the word spoken by the Spirit, or administered unto us. Not just cognitively gotten at. Even though the psalmist has the narrative of God’s past saving acts, that information is not the same thing as hearing God actually speak. So he listens and waits for the word that will re-order his insides, activate faith, open up a path through the impossible waters, and make all things new.

All truth has to be embodied truth. It has to be administered by the Spirit unto us. Until that happens, it is external to us. True nevertheless, but unrealized. It is in this state that we wait on God to speak. It is when He speaks personally to us that His word brings life to us, and not merely information.

Coming up… in part 2 of the post, waiting on the word, changing dimensions, cultivating faithfulness

Daily Training Set #4


1. Pray with an awareness that God has people that He has been dropping into your spirit to “carry to term”. There is a good possibility that over any given week that God will bring them to mind- especially if you allow yourself to be drawn out of yourself. Pray with confidence in the spirit until you sense things moving as you pray for them. Be ready to ask God for any leading He may give you to take action. Be ready to share about 1 person that God may have put in your heart to intercede for during our Saturday training, or during small group. It is always good to use a prayer notebook to record “the movements of God in the sanctuary” (Ps 63). See how they pan out in the external world. The more we grow in prayer, the more, we coordinate what we see and hear in our spirit with what we see and hear with our physical eyes and ears.

2. Try to be intentional in taking opportunities to pray beyond the limits of your current capacity. You may want to use the prayer tool for reference. The main thing is to have prayed further than usual a few times in the week. By doing this, you are pushing past the boundaries of your capacity. Remember, it’s not a matter of us trying in our own efforts, but being open to God’s drawing you further. In all this, God is not only working in you, but in the places that He has you to minister – church, work, networks of relationships.

A note about training: Because we have only one session during the course of a month, it is important to be regular in attendance in order for it to be of significant benefit. If you are not able to come for a session for any reason, please inform us about it. The idea is that God is forming us as a body, and the unit through which He works His purposes in this world is the church. And when the church begins to come together in unity to function together, things happen that could not happen on an individual basis.

Considering the work done during the Easter period


I thought it would be good to reflect a little on some of the lessons and spiritual things that God has been building into our Spirit Training leading up to the Easter Service. We would have moved quite a significant distance in prayer – if we persevere in the practice of such prayer. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. Generally speaking, the basic premise that we have been making may be stated thus: that prayer in the Spirit originates not so much in the thoughts and observations of our mind and senses, but from the mind of the Spirit, who takes the things of God and reveals them to us. Rather than merely learning to pray more articulately from our natural knowledge, we have been exposing ourselves and pushing our hearts to the reality of God’s prayer which is with “sighs that cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), at least, in English. This is what we mean by “praying in the spirit”.

In order to enter the River of God’s activity in prayer, worship has played a big part in setting (or resetting) our souls to not begin with lists of prayer items originating from our pressing knowledge of needs and circumstances. Instead, we have been learning to begin, through worship, from the work that the Spirit does in our hearts to tune us to His impress. In worship, we surrender our agendas in order to be ready for God to move us in the direction of His leading. The practice of beginning with worship tunes us to the Spirit’s leading.

This has necessitated our being willing to “sit” in the apparent silence, repetitively praying in the spirit or calling our to Him until He brings clarity, focus, a certain unifying unclutteredness in our souls, or drops a word, a conviction, a passion, a burden, a half-formed something in our hearts.  The training involves doing this often until it begins to be second nature. It also takes perseverance and consistency, without which it doesn’t actually develop into fruitful empowerment in ministry. There is no substitute for repetitive and reiterative practice.

2. Recognizing that God probably has been putting people in our hearts for us to pray for them in the spirit to “full term” is also something we have begun to practice before Easter, and will be continuing to carry through praying in the spirit. Living with that reality changes our orientation in life and will bring us into fruitfulness. As we prayed for these precious ones, it has been clear that prayer has taken on a deeper resonance and faith. As we have mentioned, God has called us to bring many children of glory whether we are evangelists or not.

3. Pushing the limits of our prayer just a little beyond where we usually stop is also something we have seen happen especially in the 2 sessions before Easter. This is important as it allows our capacity to be enlarged, and pushes our spirits beyond the level of our current faith. In all this, it is not our own self-directed efforts but God’s drawing us out of ourselves, and further into deeper penetration in the spiritual realm. To a large extent, the depth of effectiveness of our ministry is a function of the penetration of our “pitch” into the spirit realm. We will know more, and minister with more effect as we lean into the Lord’s drawing of us. As Solomon wrote, “Draw me after you and let us run together”.

4. From what I have heard from the Easter Service anecdotally, God moved in several people who were unchurched. This does not mean that they are now churched. The birthing process of intercession and follow-up must continue in order for them to be won to the Lord and incorporated into His body. But a huge move has happened in their lives. One woman who was not a Christian shared that she had received a dream in which Jesus spoke to her that He was the true way. One man from came up for prayer weeping and received Christ, and one unchurched couple was so touched that the husband asked whether he could join our church. So far none of them have turned up on Sunday, but it would be wrong to think that the work was shallow. The spiritual mind of the harvester pursues practically, even as in prayer we are pushing the boundaries.

God’s winning ways…that involve losing temporarily when necessary!


Concerning where we are in our training

Between our last training session and our next, I thought it best to recap and comment on our discussion on Acts 16.

As we have been focusing on the ministry of the Spirit, as well as the Word, we have been endeavoring to lay a foundation of practice in these 2 core building blocks of ministry, without which, we would tend to be ministering according to our flesh without lasting spiritual fruit. But what is often missed is the fact that just as in swimming, pulling and kicking are essential basic components to racing, the point is that they must be put together into winning ministry to the lost. Without that, these 2 activities are like 2 disembodied organs that were never meant to be activities unto themselves. God’s heart is burdened that none should perish, and it is when the love of God reaches to the world and to those who come to church in search of His reality that the combining Spirit and Word thrust forward in ministry!

Gearing up for the harvest – what to expect

In our last session we looked at Acts 16 as a model that portrays God’s building of a move of the Spirit in a place – a city, an organization, a neighborhood, a network of relationships, or a people-group. All of us are pregnant with the transformed souls of people in our places of witness – our Philippi! We are definitely engaged in a massive spiritual battle whether we’ve signed up for it or not! Here are some of the key components in the move of God:

1. “No” as “not this” (vs.6-10) – God often begins by guiding us into the field that He is calling us to. This happens often by closed doors, and what seem like No’s. These are not meant to discourage us, but to redirect and singularize us in the direction of the harvest field that He has us minister in. The result of taking No as guidance is a conviction that activates us in the right direction. Here, God is identifying the field and focusing us on it.

And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

2. Going to where God has evidenced His work of creating openness
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to follow the path of His opening of doors to people’s hearts, than to go where people are not yet open, or to be directed by some objectified, formulated or systematic criterion for where to spend your time reaching out to people. The river was a place of prayer where people were seeking God. We need a nose and a feel for this. This can be developed, and often, openness is quite observable. As we pray more and more in the spirit, our senses are made more aware of this openness.

3. Recognizing Lydia – The opening of a person’s life and home to us is a very precious thing, and is often an indication of someone whom God has his hand on in relation to you and the mission. I’ve found that in the preparation for a move of God, there would always be a Lydia kind of person whom God uses greatly to advance the kingdom of His love. These key people often show a desire to learn, to be used by God, and a willingness to open their homes to others. Expect Lydia’s to show up. Dwell with them, and spend time with them.

4. Confronting the powers – Because the activation of a move of God is the result of a breach in the ranks of principalities and powers in the spiritual realm, spiritual battles are a necessary part of the process. In this case, the powers were manifesting themselves in the maid, and rulers and the mob.
There will inevitably be a resistance that can touch a variety of forms. This is because you are going in prayer “behind enemy lines.” There will invariably be attacks from the Enemy, but this only serves to confirm that you are connecting with real spiritual things, and the Enemy is feeling it.

The important thing to note here is that when things seem to go wrong, it is not a sign that God is not with you, or that you are in the wrong field. Quite the opposite may be in play. It’s almost as if the Enemy has shot at you, but he will not be able to take away anything essential from you. There may be a shaking off of things, relationships and freedoms that are not essential, but that is usually used by God to focus us.

5. The Tipping point – The persecution, imprisonment and restriction imposed upon Paul and Silas did not dampen their spirits, but called forth the irrepressible in them! God shakes off everything in us that can be pressed down, until only the irrepressible remains. And it is this that shakes the spiritual atmosphere.  Definitely stay for this.  This is the tipping point!

6. Now it’s your turn! – Now is the time to really go forth with boldness. The devil has had his turn; now it’s yours. Stay interceding in the spirit. For now, everything is in the spirit. The whole way in which you are moving transforms into a way conditioned by the now emboldened, sensitized and freed-up soul that has been set free by the warfare. Most people merely go by their senses, and give up when the things they have depended upon are removed. You may be reduced to sickness, unpopularity, and stuttering, with few who would give you any credibility. You may be marginalized, categorized and dismissed. But in the little space that you have left, make sure that your spirit has been growing in faith and in the apprehension of God in a way not dependent of circumstances and externals. That is the time to praise God and sing. That’s because the singing, praising, and speaking will be of a wholly different quality.

Harvest Time

I believe, anyone who desires to see a move of God (harvest) will experience points 4-6 in some way. Many of us are, perhaps without realizing it, already at point 4. Do not be afraid. God will bring you through, and the reward is like no other. Points 1-3 are important as a foundation, and are good as we develop as witnesses. But the Harvest as a spiritually significant phenomenon involves the prayer in the spirit that confronts the powers. Fruitfulness requires at least 1-4. To see Harvest corporately, 4-6 is what we want to track with as we continue to meet corporately.

Lessons on Winning and Asking from Swimming


You may remember that one Sunday, I shared an email that my oldest daughter sent to her Rose Bowl head coach during a meet. A few days ago, I saw that he had blogged about that email and really went into some very practical lessons that could be drawn out of that email. I think they will be useful as we wrestle with the idea of winning. As we look at the idea of “Winning”, and begin seeking God about what He has for us to enter into the process of Asking (working together with Him in bringing forth), this blog goes into some of the inner dynamics that parallel our quest. I have been given permission to share that blog post with VCF, and the head coach’s blog is publicly available.

A bit of background: my daughter wrote to him during the Total Performance Meet at Kenyon College. It was a bit of an off meet for her and she was quite discouraged. Then, she had an idea to write down the things that she had learned during times when she had these off meets and email it to her former coach. Somehow it was a breakthrough thought, because that morning she swam faster and made the NCAA cut in the 100 Free. That meet turned into a good meet for her. I think God was giving her wisdom for herself, but the practical dynamics are useful as parallel principles that work themselves out in our humanity.

What’s fascinating, and critical, is to have a theology of incarnation that intimately knows, feels, and moves in the human and divine, without any part being disregarded. This blog, if seen not merely in human, naturalistic terms, throws light on some of the ways “the loins of our mind” can be girded up.

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ”
1 Peter 1:13

Please check out the blog below.

Daily Training Set #3


One thing that causes many people to miss out on the promise of John 15:7-8 is that they do not give the time needed at the beginning of the year to receive words and convictions from the Holy Spirit, and to grow these convictions by praying in the spirit into them. That is where spiritual sets/exercises are crucial. As we pray, we may receive what seems like a little particle or seed into our spirit. The mistake that most people make is to not grow it until it has mass, strength and weight. Many beginnings of great things are aborted through sheer lack of care in prayer. They are relegated to one of many competing ideas, rather than grown into the lens through which everything is viewed.

So, here is the set for the coming weeks:

1. Set aside time everyday to pray for God to deposit in your heart, His desires and goals for the year. These will give you an idea of what He is wanting to focus you on and accomplish through the year. “Without a vision, the people perish.” If you have not heard the sermon from Dec 29 or Jan 5, please try to listen to it ( Please spend a significant amount of time seeking God about what He’s aiming you towards as your focus for the year. One characteristic about the Asking that God puts in your heart will be that it will be somehow bound up with being a witness.

2. Share with your small group leader, or do make an appointment with me to talk about what God has put into your heart, so that we can work together this year with a vision of this in front of us.

3. Continue the previous set as a staple for your prayer life. Pray unto being filled with the Spirit.

Whatever you are feeling, pray in the spirit (in tongues, or praising Him repetitively, focusing on inviting Him to be Lord) in a relaxed way for 20 minutes using the Spirit Tool. Go for longer if you like. But do this everyday. That will be our staple. Pray towards the point where you feel that the distractions, concerns and depressing thoughts begin to fade, and God’s peace takes over. The Spirit Tool may help you identify some signs of His rising in you and your circumstances around you.

If you have done this consistently last week, you will probably have experience a difference in your state of heart in the morning. There will have been some days in which you felt a change of heart, a strengthening, a liberty, and even a sense hope or faith rising. On some other days, you may have felt that the work of prayer had not been fully done.

As we enter more fully into our exercise in prayer, rather than just praying by the clock (20 mins), aim to pray till you feel the grip of God changing your heart. Keep that trajectory in mind as you now pray, not just for the 20 minutes, but towards that inner transformation of state of mind. It may take more than 20 minutes, but now you are going for something more – you’re going for God’s reign in your heart, mind and circumstances.

Ask whatever you wish… Really?

If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:7-8

Every new year, my family and I spend some time praying and asking God for goals for the year ahead. When that time of the year comes around, there is often an air of expectation and rejoicing when we get to share around the dinner table, the things that God has fulfilled in our lives in the year that has gone by. Because we have generally prayed and ruminated upon the goals that we would be sharing, we listen carefully to each others’ hopes and note them all down in a book. This year, with just the 2 younger daughters with us, it was particularly meaningful, because it had been marked by great trials and challenges for our daughters. Amazingly, it was also marked by answers to prayer that were “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

In spite of having tendonitis and neuritis for the past 1 1/2 years, and added to that, a shoulder injury, all of which made it impossible to sustain regular swimming practices for the year, one of our daughters broke 2 club records, made Y Nationals, Sectionals and NCSA Junior Nationals all in the same year, qualifying her for Academic All-American, while achieving her academic goal of a 4.0. All goals which, when she had shared them a year ago, seemed completely impossible, even painful to write down. As a result of God’s dealings in her life this year, she came out on the other side.

Another daughter had been plagued with an edema, a shoulder injury in which she could not lift her shoulder above her chest, and pneumonia this year. She had shared that her goal would would be to be ranked in the top 10 for her age group in the nation for an event. As it turns out, she was ranked 9th in the 100 back and 8th in the 200 back. She also won 3 golds and 2 silvers in the Winter Junior Olympics. She also wanted to make the 8-women SoCal All-Star team to compete in the Pac Coast All-Stars Meet. Although she had missed the deadline, we received a call from them saying that she had been picked. She flew to Seattle with the team the first weekend of January!

Through all this, it has been a year of tremendous, often overwhelming challenges for them, often taking them through dark, dark nights with no end in sight. In many ways, any goals or dreams that arose out of their/our own flesh would have been incinerated by the reality of the many setbacks. But if God was the initiator of these goals, it would have been He who was guiding them through to these God-sized challenges that God would meet head on, all this while teaching and molding them. Thus while it is true that we can be full of our own dreams that are self-generated, God does have significant and miraculous goals for His own accomplishment in us! These will appear even after all our own hopes have been decimated. But it is He who brings about the answers to our Askings, and who fits us for them.

We have been talking about that challenging passage in which asking is enjoined upon us. We already know that Jesus here doesn’t mean an indiscriminate asking that is a license for fleshly lusts. Nevertheless, this passage has the power to completely radicalize our approach to life, including our perspective on the new year ahead of us.

How is that so?

1. Asking here refers to more than requesting, or mere wishful-thinking. It involves taking up the wishes of God that are being grafted into our hearts desires by the abiding of Christ’s words in us. To let His words abide in us is to receive them in a surrendered and intimate way, to the extent that they are the hammer that has been put to our idolatries and bondages. His words are the Lion who has been let loose in our house. If we receive His words as we receive Him, i.e., in their fully authoritative character, they will not be merely a resource to us – one among many other data-points, but as the awesome Lion that they are. They have the power to tear apart the enemies in our own soul, and establish the Lordship and kingdom of Christ in us. (Chances are, you’re already harboring the things that God is wanting you to ask for in your heart!)

2. What that does is to replace the diseased desires and cravings in us, with the desires and purposes of God. God puts His visions and dreams within us, and cuts a path through the year that is full of direction, purpose, training, transformation, correction, discipline, refreshing, lessons, intimacy and close working, divine appointments, providences and miracles on the road to fulfilling the above promise in John 15:7-8. Everything that you face can now be viewed within the perspective of your covenant of asking and God fulfilling. God, in other words, wants to make this year a year of purpose and fulfillment; not of aimless que sera sera’s.

3. But this path and perspective require courage, and is not for the faint of heart. To take on God’s bigger vision of what He wants to do in and through you this year, it will involve a commitment to walking closely with Him, and following Him through His seeming reversals when in being raised up to be a harvester, He works on your valleys and flat spots. It will require a commitment to spiritual disciplines and a commensurate increase in time spent with Him, going way past the fitful resolutions that only result in spasmodic jerks in devotional activity. For the things that John 15:7-8 speak of are not the domain of those who are mere fans of Jesus. Only a rigorous follower (read Kyle Idleman’s “Not a Fan”) can even begin to get a feel of the Way of Jesus that leads to the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that our joy will be full.

Daily Training Set #2

daily2The training set that you have been using last week is a basic practice that we shall build upon. So instead of thinking in terms of moving onto something else, what we want to do is to build upon the basic 4 things we have been practicing for the season, and going deeper, exploring and noting the movements of the Spirit in our souls. For this week, we’ll add some definition to the 4 things. Basically, I’ve laid out the basic sets from the last week, and added something.

A word about mornings

Each of us has a different time when we do our devotions and spiritual exercises. Whether you do your devotions in the morning or evening, or any other time for that matter, the morning is a crucial time at the beginning of all that will take place that day. Many people lose the day because they lose control of the morning. For many, the mornings are not the tranquil sacred place where we receive grace for the day. For many, the mornings are more more like a messy, tension-filled rush – a battlefield in which we have been acted upon by failing alarm clocks, underestimations of time required to do the things we need to do, people around us who don’t conform to our expectations, random occurrences, wakings on the wrong side of the bed, accelerated movements of the hands of the clock, overhanging troubles from the day before, and spiritual heaviness that comes with the day we are about to embark on. Losing the morning to common human dynamics often means losing the day. If we do not take control of the morning, much will be lost, and we will often start the day on the wrong footing. The fears, apprehensions and sinking feelings we wake up with will take control of us during the day if we do not take control of them by the Spirit.

That is why the psalmist proclaims, “Lord in the morning will I direct my prayers, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). Whether you do your devotions in the morning or at any other time of the day, it’s important to actively begin the day in active prayer. The trajectory of our prayer in the spirit should be towards being taken over by the Spirit of God -where there is a change of heart, a change of sentiment – where even our mood and state of mind is lifted, charged and infused with God. That’s where in prayer, we move from expressing our own sentiments to praying the prayers of God (see previous blog post).

Training Set

  • 1. Whatever you are feeling, pray in the spirit (in tongues, or praising Him repetitively, focusing on inviting Him to be Lord) in a relaxed way for 20 minutes using the Spirit Tool. Go for longer if you like. But do this everyday. That will be our staple.  Pray towards the point where you feel that the distractions, concerns and depressing thoughts begin to fade, and God’s peace takes over. The Spirit Tool may help you identify some signs of His rising in you and your circumstances around you.

Praying unto being filled with the Spirit

If you have done this consistently last week, you will probably have experience a difference in your state of heart in the morning. There will have been some days in which you felt a change of heart, a strengthening, a liberty, and even a sense hope or faith rising. On some other days, you may have felt that the work of prayer had not been fully done.

As we enter more fully into our exercise in prayer, rather than just praying by the clock (20 mins), aim to pray till you feel the grip of God changing your heart. Keep that trajectory in mind as you now pray, not just for the 20 minutes, but towards that inner transformation of state of mind. It may take more than 20 minutes, but now you are going for something more – you’re going for God’s reign in your heart, mind and circumstances.

  • 2. During the day, be sensitive to times when you feel “off”, then find a space to pray back into orientation towards God. Keep drawing your attention back to His peace. What we are doing is to find a position of living from the presence of God. We are learning to find our way back to our dwelling place (where Jesus says “where I am there you will be also”) from places where we don’t feel at peace. Use your notebook to record how it goes.

As you continue the practice of praying back to His presence, note the things that set you off track, and resolve ways to avoid these traps and tricks of the Enemy. Often, noting these susceptible places will cause us to avoid situations when “defeat is snatched from the jaws of victory!” (Chesterton)

  • 3. Look out for opportunities for ministering to needs around you and for inviting people for Christmas. Pray in the spirit for them. Again, use your notebook to keep track of who you ministered to or interceded for.

Continue this practice of looking out for opportunities for ministering to needs. In this practice set, we are developing the innate ability to “see differently” – to discern the harvest. This takes practice. As Lee Strobel just tweeted, “Who can you invite to Christmas services at your church? Pray and then take a relational risk. People are open this season.”

  • 4. As you feel led, begin praying for your land, expecting God to put certain people on your heart. Begin interceding for people that keep coming up and note them in your notebook.

It would now be time to move from praying for them to inviting them for Christmas!

Giving up our own prayers; praying the prayers of God


One of the crucial things about growing in prayer and in the Spirit concerns moving from praying our own prayers to letting the Holy Spirit work through our spirit to intercede the prayers and workings of God through us. The difference is infinite.

While our prayers that originate from our own souls are received lovingly by God, that is not the essence of our call as priests. 1Cor. 2:10 tells us that the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God. The presence of the Spirit in us is not intended to actualize our own desires, ideas or prayers, but to glorify God, or to bring to the fore the works, the personality, and the heart of God. When the Spirit has His full effect, our prayer comes from a decreased I and an increased He (God). As John the Baptist declares, He must increase, and I decrease.

When God prays through us, we are taken up by One far greater and more powerful than ourselves.

For those who came for last Saturday’s prayer, we experienced a little of that phenomenon. And it is this particular critical point that we shall be working on. It has to do with praying until a point comes when we are taken over by God’s heart and mind. When that happens, we feel like we are in the grip of someone other than ourselves. Some of those present last week commented that it took about 40 minutes for that fading out of self and the “grip of God” to take effect.

As we praised and worshiped God, we were giving up our own thoughts, desires, hopes for something to happen, and just releasing ourselves to wholeheartedly praise Him in a sustained way. The tendency for our thoughts to lunge out to the future (e.g., what will all this praising do for me?) was being counteracted by staying in the present to just wholeheartedly praise and worship God. That in itself is a battle that involves giving up our practical utilitarianism for personal benefit, and giving it all to God. Praise and worship wholeheartedly and sustainedly practiced mortifies the flesh and self, and takes away the Enemy’s ground for attack on our souls.

At a certain point, we experienced to some extent, a cessation of human mental activity, and the filling up of a different presence – the presence of God’s prevailing prayer. We felt a poignancy in what was being prayed and uttered, and a quiet that was discernably filled with presence. Some would have experienced more than others, but I think, that was roughly the movement that was taking place during that time of prayer.

This is not something we can engineer or will into being. It comes only by grace. It’s totally a work of God, and He expects us to wait on Him until we are “endued with power from on high.” That’s what makes abiding so powerful. Abiding involves making submissive and attentive space for all that it takes for God to do what we cannot do for ourselves. And when we experience His coming, we feel more alive, more hopeful, more inspired, more at peace (Cf. the VCF Spirit Tool).

In waiting on Him, we do experience a certain uncomfortability with being with God. This sometimes comes from feeling the silence of God and the restlessness of our own souls. It is this awkwardness that we want to intentionally work through. Without that, our prayers do not rise above the level of just being present to our own thoughts and desires. But He promises to answer us and show us great and mighty things that we’ve not known. It is this point of departure from our own prayers that we are shooting for as we ask God in our training, to lead us into His presence.

As you do your sets, you may want to incorporate this into your prayer in the spirit. Pray toward this as much as you are able, and if you can, pray into this. It is often in this “zone” that God reveals people that He is directing us to and giving us a burden for. Here He increases our faith and power as His word begins to gain force in us. We will be training our spirits to function more and more from this zone.