As a young child abused by a woman shouting in the spirit during one Sunday church service, if asked then, I would say there is no such thing as filled with the Spirit because God would not have allowed me to be hit in the head by a backhanded fist. My parents soon moved to help plant another church which evolved into a quiet church of praise. No SHOUTING sisters in that church!
Author Luhrmann, in her book When God Talks Back seeks to understand what a relationship with God means. She visited several churches yet decided to focus on her experience with the Vineyard Church community. I see her journey outlined as chapters, in her book. The chapters are as follows: The Invitation, Is That you, God?, Let’s Pretend, Developing Your Heart, Learning from the Experts, Lord Teach Us to Pray, and The Skill of Prayer. In scanning the chapter titles they are similar to the emotions one could experience in seeking God and desiring to hear from him.
In the scripturesGod said, “my sheep know my voice.” This scripture is the key to an intimate relationship with God. “God is always talking to you. He speaks through the Bible, dreams, etc.” (59, Luhrmann) I have found that to be true through my own relational experiences with God. There are times when you may experience a nudge in your spirit to act in certain situations, hear a soft voice command, or hear a sermon with a selected phrase being what you needed to hear. Author Trebesch spoke in her book on her experiences with God. She stated that “God‘s voice spoke quietly to her heart with action or encouragement.” I have always prayed for and received discernment. Discernment is a term I viewed as receiving understanding from God. Luhrmann points to Paul speaking of “discernment of Spirit as a gift.” (63) Sometimes one has to decipher if that is what God said or are those my thoughts. I’ll admit there are times I say to God, you are going to have to really give me a stronger sign for that one. To discern if it’s God, she shared four tests that the Vineyard congregants shared with her. They are:
1. Is it something you would normally think of?
2. Is it something God would say or imply?
3. Can others confirm your revelation that may have a similar experience?
4. Do you have a feeling of peace? (63-65, Luhrmann)
There is an emotional aspect to hearing God. You must first believe that God does and will communicate with you. I have seen seasoned Christians become emotional when hearing a song played or sung, or the words of a preacher brings on the remembrance of God’s presence in their lives which bring forth outward expressions of tears, shouts of hallelujahs or amen, or clapping or raising of hands. In my church settings I have seen people run around the church, do a private dance of praise, jump up and down in praise, and shout (moving uncontrollably). As I have matured in Christ, I have come to understand the term “filled with the spirit.” I do believe that if you are in the spirit and moving about uncontrollably, God will allow no harm to you or others. Laurmann shares some emotional practices one should consider in their relationship with God. They are:
1. Developing your heart – experiencing God, crying in the presence of God – God’s will is my will
2. Seeing it from God’s perspective
3. Practicing love, peace, and joy
4. God’s the Therapist
5. Reworking God the Father
6. Emotional cascade – Overwhelming crying uncontrollably (109-122, Luhrmann)
Laurmann placed prayer as an intricate part of communicating with God. One must take time to spend communicating with God in a quiet area. There are many books written on praying and posture of prayer. Jesus gave the disciples a model prayer which we have labeled the Lord’s Prayer. Even Psalm 23 is a powerful tool for prayer. On her journey, she asks that the Lord Teach us to Pray. One’s prayer outline should include “Praise Worship and Petition. There are other tools, for example, ACTS (adoration, confessions, thanksgiving, supplication).” (157, Luhrmann) This ACT concept was taught in one of our vacation bible sessions at church. Looking at the model prayer, Jesus outlined the format and many authors have expanded on it. Jesus says you give first honor to God, praise Him, asking forgiveness, guide and direct, His will be done, and thanksgiving. Pastor and author Tony Evans say “Prayer is not a position of the body or special words. It is first and foremost an attitude of the heart and mind that seeks to make contact with God.” We need to approach God in respect of who he is – Sovereign. He is our creator and he knows the future – Omniscience, he is mighty in power – Omnipotent, and he is present everywhere – Omnipresence.
Having an intimate relationship with God requires an effort by us. We must first seek the kingdom of God. I seek him daily and he guides me daily. He protects and provides for me daily. He communicates with me daily by signs, nudges, through others, songs, biblical reading, and silence. I have been in his presence where his spirit has filled the room. I long for that experience again.