December 18th, 2009
It has been six weeks since the morning of November 11th and the beginning of a new season for the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Six weeks ago, I walked into the auditorium of our bible school, IHOPU, and experienced the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in a way that was unique to my Christian experience. I spent my morning in our prayer room, hearing rumors and excited talk about something happening down the road. The first report came at 9 AM (as the move of the Spirit was beginning down the road) when I ran into Allen Hood - our bible school president - on the way in. As he described the days leading up to this point and what was happening down the road, I was wide-eyed externally and slightly skeptical internally. It wouldn’t be until later that I would think back to that moment as the premiere illustration of the unperceived gap in my heart between years of asking for a move of the Spirit in prayer and the reality of God’s unexpected answer.
In other words, it struck me later that I had spent much time and energy asking God for something I didn’t really believe would come.
Even when I first walked into the auditorium at 3 PM, I was unsure of what was happening - and whether or not it was for me. I felt a strange pang of loneliness - it was as if I had walked into someone else’s party, uninvited. It was as if everyone else was having fun, but I didn’t know how to join in, who to talk to, or where to stand. It was a critical moment for me - a sudden crucible that had caught me completely off-guard: a holy “pop-quiz” that I desperately wanted to pass. I could feel the temptation to sit in the back, spectate, and analyze; yet there was a competing twinge of desire to jump in and swim with the rest of the students. Pride, hunger, desire, and all of the other silly little emotions and thoughts that seem meaningful in the moment - and are ultimately exposed as petty in hindsight - struck my heart and mind as I calculated my next move.
Wes Hall, the provost of the bible school, was on the platform leading the meeting. Yet it was that exact moment that he walked off the stage for a quick break - and walked right past me. I stopped him. ”Wes!” I shouted above the noise of worship, prayer, and the various other cries and shouts of this particular kind of meeting, “Would you pray for me?” He laid his hand on my chest as a few others joined him. His prayer was prophetic - spot-on prophetic. I didn’t feel much in regards to an increase of the presence of God, just a sudden surge of permission to join in the festivities. Yet, it was significant: my heart was unlocking. I sat and agreed with every prayer and proclamation spoken from the platform: every call for repentance, every issue, every time someone said, “say this with me”, every time someone asked for a response. I said yes every time as I called my family and urged them to get to the auditorium, quickly. The room was filling up.
As the time went on, I felt my heart getting lighter and lighter. I felt surges of joy, playfulness, freedom, and exhilaration that I had not felt in quite some time. I realized in a moment how dry and barren I had been - and how willing I had been to make peace with my barrenness. My wife said it well: you a rarely aware of how dry you are until the Lord gives you a drink. I Also realized that I had been okay with living without the presence and the fullness of the Spirit of God in my life - every area of my life - and how awful that truth was. I had settled into a rut that was killing my heart and leading me into a broken-down place of burnout and depression, content to imagine that breakthrough was decades away and that I could grind my way to it. It was time to adopt a new mindset: in the days of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, breakthroughs and victories (small and large) were now seconds away for me and anyone else hungry enough to stand, wait, and ask.
Where did I lose my playfulness? When did I lose the joy of my salvation? In my zeal to be a faithful servant and diligent shepherd, I had said “yes” to a path that was far below the dreams of God for my life. I had traded down to lay hold of attainable dreams within a limited context of what I could imagine, yet throughout that season my heart longed to be free of the cage I had placed around it. It was in January that the pain began to become unbearable. Still, I managed to find creative ways to cope as I strategized my way forward out of pain and into joy. It was in September that I realized that all of my plans involved some amazing solution falling into place…in the future. None of my plans involved laying hold of life, freedom, breakthrough, and joy…today. I needed to be re-introduced to the immediacy of God, or, as others call it, the “suddenly” of God.
The awestruck anticipation of the “suddenly” of God and the infinite possibilities of what He can do in the next few seconds of a believer’s life was something that had gripped my heart in the early days of my journey as an intercessor. Yet, over the past few years, I had spent so much time considering the future that I had lost a real and vibrant connection with the present. In fact, I had a conversation with my friend Stuart Greaves at 1 PM that day (two hours before I made my way over to the FSM Auditorium) in which I declared, “Breakthrough may come today - but my hopes are knit to the one that is coming just before the return of Christ.” With joy and much laughter, I repented for my self-deceptive statement at 9 PM that evening during the meeting.
The Lord, in His kindness, re-connected today and tomorrow for me in my mind and heart. Oh! The great distance between what I say and preach and what is actually true on an emotional level within my soul. Yet in the great kindness of God - and His kindness has never been more tangible and palpable than these last six weeks - He came when I least expected it and delivered me just in the nick of time.
Things really began to explode in me when I began to pray and minister to the students at the altar. For the first time in my life, I was overwhelmed by the thick, weighty presence of the Holy Spirit in a way that was wholly unique to anything I had ever experienced. I grabbed my friends, Brian Kim and Jesse Engle, and confessed to them that I was drunk in the Holy Spirit. I was filled with the Holy Spirit in a fresh way that caused everything within me to come alive. I had experienced different measures and variations of being filled with the Spirit (as a life-long charismatic believer) - but I had never been intoxicated with His presence like I was on that day.
Since then, that experience has multiplied and expanded. The Spirit of God and the beauty of Jesus are the first things on my mind when I wake up in the morning and the last things on my mind when I go to bed at night. I cannot imagine settling for less than what I am experiencing in God during these past few weeks; I feel as if my testimony changes and improves each day. As the days have gone on, I must report that I have only felt the presence of God increase and intensify - and the testimonies and activity of the Holy Spirit in our midst seems to confirm this. At random times during the day, I will suddenly be overwhelmed by the presence of God or surprised by His activity. I have become, at times, almost unrecognizable in joy and wild abandon by even my close friends. My marriage and family life is better than any time I can recall. My family joins me at the meetings every night from 5 PM to midnight - we have adjusted our entire lives to be in the midst of what God is doing.
Thanks be to God! One of my favorite titles for Jesus has always been “The Living One” from Revelation chapter one. That title has never been more alive within my soul than these days. I am struck with new joy over the future as well - for the apple tree is sweet and His fruit is incomparable today; and my future involves a banqueting table of endless pleasure and delight at His right hand in which everything I am experiencing will be multiplied beyond my wildest imagination. His banner, or His leadership over my life, is truly about love and producing love in my heart beyond anything I could offer Him myself. My own works seem all the more futile, and His work and His leadership seems all the more glorious. Oh! that every believer could experience the fullness of the Living One! (Ephesians 3:16-19)
David Sliker, December 18th, 2009