Spiritual Disciplines I’ve been learning about and practicing

Here are some stuff I’ve been learning and thinking about recently (the past 6 months or so) in relation to my own personal spiritual life. They are mostly practical spiritual disciplines that I’ve been working on and that I hope to work on more in 2011. A lot of these (e.g. tongues, meditation – and the related visualization / imagination and declaration / confession – and fasting) have to do with releasing that perfection that is already in our spirits into our soul and body which I discussed briefly about in The place for “more” in the New Covenant – Part 2.

1) Tongues and Revelation Knowledge: I started speaking in tongues about 14 years ago when God changed my life in a Pentecostal church. However, I’d never used this gift that often, nor understood its importance until recently. Over the past 6 months or so, various people from various sources have pointed me to Dave Roberson’s ebook The Walk Of The Spirit – The Walk Of Power (for a better pdf format of the book – i.e. fewer pages with more words per page – go here). It’s supposed to be one of the most definitive books on tongues and has transformed the lives of many people. Dave also has an audio series that can be downloaded for free here. However, I’d recommend reading the book because unlike Andrew Wommack who gets straight to his point, Dave can be painfully slow at doing so! I know most people wouldn’t read the whole book, but I’d recommend everyone to read at least chapter 2. If you’re game for more, chapters 6 and 7 are good too.

Dave started his full-time ministry as a pretty clueless guy yet praying in tongues about 8 hours a day. After 3 months, God used him mightily (healing, prophecy) in one meeting. This is what Dave wrote about what the Holy Spirit told him regarding why the power of God came during this meeting:

Son, this anointing didn’t suddenly come upon you because it was predestined for this meeting from the foundations of the world…. It came upon you because you have uncovered a spiritual law: praying in other tongues for your personal edification. That law carries with it an ironclad guarantee to build you up on your most holy faith in your spirit – that part of you from which faith comes. You have found something you can do on purpose to edify yourself – as much as you want to, as long as you want to. Through praying in the Holy Ghost, you can build yourself up above a walk where your physical senses hold you in checkmate and convince you that God’s Word isn’t so, to a walk that is vibrant, Spirit-charged, and free in the Holy Ghost.

This book has impressed upon me the benefits of praying in tongues and has put in me a desire to know more about the benefits of tongues and pray more in tongues especially. Before reading this book, I would pray in tongues only occasionally – e.g. sing in tongues during worship with occasional short spurts of praying in tongues at other times lasting no more than a few seconds. Through this book, I’ve learned that praying in tongues is a simple way of edifying oneself on purpose and the more one does it, the more edified one will be. Now I am starting to pray in tongues at least an hour a day (sometimes while playing aloud Roberson’s Tongues for the Believer Bonus Prayer CD recording where he leads his congregation in over an hour of praying in tongues) and couple that with tuning in to receiving revelation.

One particular thing I learned from the book is the link between tongues and receiving revelation knowledge that I have seldom heard being taught. Andrew Wommack also has an excellent teaching on this topic called Revelation Knowledge. Besides getting into Dave Roberson’s stuff, I’m also looking into resources by two of Dave’s friends: Gary Carpenter and Jim Martin.

Speaking of the importance of praying in tongues and the link to revelation knowledge, John G. Lake actually has this to say:

I want to talk with the utmost frankness, and say to you that tongues have been to me the making of my ministry. It is that peculiar communication with God when God reveals to my soul the truth I utter to you day by day in my ministry. But that time of communication, with me, is mostly in the night. Many a time I climb out of bed, take my pencil and pad and jot down the beautiful things of God, the wonderful things of God, that He talks out in my spirit and reveals to my heart.

And here’s Kenneth E. Hagin on tongues:

I experienced the greatest miracles in my ministry after extended times of praying in other tongues. Not 15 minutes, not 30 minutes… I’m talking about one hour, two hours, three hours. Then I would hit a gusher…

2) Meditation, Visualization, Imagination and Levitation: I know renewal of the mind is key to one’s transformation (Rom. 12:2), but how does one renew one’s mind. Yes, there’s knowledge and I’ve been a huge reader and lover of knowledge for the past 15 years. But I know there’s more and that’s where meditation comes in. Linked with meditation is visualization or using one’s imagination – Richard Foster said that “the inner world of meditation is most easily entered through the door of the imagination”. Admittedly, I’ve been reading more about how these help and how one does these things than actually doing it, but I’m hoping to increase my time spent on meditation, visualization and imagination.

I’m aware of the sometimes negative connotation attached to these words within the Christian community. It can sound so new agey, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done in a Christian way. Three people whom I’ve been learning from (and will continue to learn from) in these areas are Mark Virkler, Peter Tan and Gregory Boyd.

One of my first encounters with visualization was from Mark Virkler’s great book on How To Hear God’s Voice, which I wrote about here. Peter Tan has tons of his materials here. He was actually an early mentor of Pastor Prince but now the New Creation people who know him are quite wary of him. His teachings and beliefs are quite unique and interesting, I have to say. One area he’s strong in is visions and visualization and I’m open to learn what I can from him. I hesitated to mention him here because he is a very controversial figure – I don’t want to say why publicly. But I trust there are no Sunday School attendees here :) but that those reading this are mature and discerning enough to take what they think is good and leave behind what they don’t agree with. While I do think I’m responsible for what I write here on this blog, I know most people who actually read all this stuff are adults, critical thinkers and mature enough so I don’t need to play the “nanny” role here. I believe in learning from everyone, but everything we hear and believe has to line up with the Word of God and we all are responsible for making sure that is so!

I had read of Gregory Boyd as an advocate of Open Theism before but never really read anything from him until I knew Curry Blake highly recommended his God At War book, which by the way is an awesome book. As I started to find out about his other books, I realized what an interesting writer he is. He’s a non-charismatic evangelical who has a very good mind – he did his doctorate at Princeton Theological Seminary and MDiv at Yale Divinity School. He’s written tons of books but three books have captured my attention in relation to the mind, visualization and imagination: Present Perfect (on contemplation), Seeing Is Believing (on imaginative prayer) and Escaping the Matrix (on the mind and neuro-science). I like to read about Right-Brain (the visual, intuitive) stuff from the academically-inclined Left-Brain dominant authors because they are the ones who can truly help Lefties understand and move in Right-Brain stuff. And it seems that Gregory Boyd, like Mark Virkler and Peter Tan, is such an author. Gregory Boyd’s Church has an awesome website where all his sermons and teachings can be downloaded for free. Here are some free stuff related to the above topics: Experiencing Jesus Workshop (based on his book Seeing Is Believing), Escaping the Matrix Conference and Animate (on imagination). By the way, while I’ve questioned the biblical basis of a lot of inner healing practices which seem to take a lot from Theophostic Counseling, I’ve become a bit more open to such practices having read Boyd, who seems to advocate pretty similar practices and provide a basis for them.

Andrew Wommack also has good teachings on Meditation (Meditate The Word) and Imagination [Hope and Imagination and You’ll Do What You’ve Imagined (start from 16:37 onwards)].

Oh, about levitation. That was… just a joke :) Well, I do believe levitation by Christians is possible. Walking on water will become more common in future and also being translated from place to place (Acts 8:39-40) – check what Quantum Physicists are discovering regarding teleportation! I believe such miracles will be more common the closer we are to Jesus’ coming again! What’s preventing us from doing so now? Our unrenewed minds and the lack of revelation concerning these miraculous things. I take God’s Word seriously when He says everything is possible for him who believes. Our faith is the only thing preventing the “impossible”. Already, Christians have experienced the above things (levitation by God’s power, being translated from place to place, etc.) and I believe it’s only a matter of time before it’ll be commonplace for Christians to move in such miraculous powers. As we gradually hear more of such experiences, we’ll build our faith up to expect these things for ourselves, building upon those who have experienced them in the past.

3) Confession and Declaration: Related to meditation is confession and declaration. I’ve been listening to one of Curry Blake’s Dominion Bible Institute (DBI) course which stresses the importance of personalizing scriptures and confessing/declaring them out loud to renew one’s mind. This is something I’m hoping to implement more in my own spiritual life.

I think there are at least two purposes of confessing/declaring Scriptures: 1) renewing our minds 2) expressing faith. Many times we’re taught that doing so is an expression of faith. But we can confess and confess and yet not get what we confess! Why? Because we’re not confessing as an expression of faith. What we say doesn’t flow from faith within. Yet if we don’t have faith, not to worry as confessing God’s Word (which I think is a form of meditating over Scriptures) also helps us to renew our minds that we may have faith.

I think this is the reason why some people continue to confess Scriptures yet don’t get what they are confessing (e.g. healing) until after doing so for quite some time. The reason is because while they thought they were initially confessing and declaring out of faith, they actually didn’t have faith. But the confessing led to renewal of the mind which led to faith. And when they finally confessed out of faith, they got it! My hypothesis!

4) Prophecy, the Right Brain and the Mid Brain: Mark Virkler was the first person who alerted me to the fact that hearing God’s voice is easier for Right Brain dominant people because God’s voice comes in spontaneous thoughts. Right Brain dominant people are not so logical or analytical and because they deal better with the intuitive and the visual, they tune into God’s voice (which often comes in spontaneous thoughts or pictures) better.

Besides starting to practice visualizing – which would help in developing or activating my right brain, I hope! – I’m also in the midst of reading this very interesting book, The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. While this groundbreaking book is for teaching Left Brain dominant people to draw by tapping on the Right Brain, I bought it to understand more about the Right Brain and how I can tap on it more. I can’t draw for nuts and I’m not intending to master drawing, but I believe the theoretical knowledge and practical exercises found in this book will aid me in functioning more with the right side of my brain.

I am also starting to step out more in prophecy. The Bible tells me to desire the prophetic gift (1 Cor. 14:1) and that’s what I’ve been doing. And along with the desire to move in this gift needs to come the practice of it. My desire to move in healing has made me step out to pray for everyone on the streets I can. I haven’t seen the kind of results I want, but that’s all part of stepping out in faithfulness and obedience if one wants to grow. The same for prophecy. If I want to grow in this area, I’ll have to be willing to look like a fool when the word I give is totally off. OK, I’d rather look like a fool when approaching people on the streets and getting rejected, or when praying for the sick and not seeing healing, than giving a prophetic word that is way off! Haha. But I need to start to do more of that! :) That’s the risk involved if one wants to grow and learn and improve.

I’m hoping to spend more time just being in tune to my spontaneous thoughts and pictures in my mind. Even during the day, I’m hoping to get more in tune with God and lean my ear towards hearing if He wants to say anything in any normal daily situations. I’m trying to implement the practice of asking God for a word (or words) on Sundays for the following week – then I can see how accurate my hearing was as the week passes. I’m slowly starting to try to get some prophecies and words of knowledge for friends and  see how accurate they are. I’m sure I’ll get lots wrong initially, but if I don’t try and learn and improve, I’ll never grow! I’ve had a tiny bit of interesting success so far, as well as I’m sure pretty bad failures :)

In relation to all this, recently I discovered the interesting concept of “midbrain activation”. The midbrain is supposed to manage the function of the right and left brain. Supposedly, as we grow older, the midbrain loses its capabilities and one side of the brain tends to dominate, resulting in an unbalanced use of the brain. There are now midbrain activation courses to train children (adults are probably too old to be trained in this area) to activate their midbrain. Supposedly, one result of activating one’s midbrain is the ability to do various activities blindfolded – e.g. sorting cards according to colors or numbers. My cell leader’s son was actually able to do these activities blindfolded after attending the course (more information for such courses in Singapore can be found here). Anyway, all this is interesting because it’s somehow related to the prophetic in a way. Recently I’ve been reflecting upon the idea that many so-called supernatural or spiritual things can actually be explained scientifically. I heard Curry Blake say something like the miracles of the New Testament can be explained by Quantum Physics. Not that such supernatural things are not of God, but perhaps God made it such that many supernatural things can actually be explained in a scientific manner – e.g. Quantum Physics explaining the power of words, etc. Some of God’s spiritual “laws” are in a sense also scientific “laws”.

5) Silence and Solitude: Moving in the prophetic and hearing God’s voice I think requires a lot of quieting one’s soul and being alone. At least in the beginning stages. For people used to the noise and distractions in this modern world, it really takes discipline to spend time alone with God in silence. I tend to always want to play worship music during my “quiet time” to prevent too much silence! Haha! It can be difficult to spend much time in total silence and solitude. But I’m trying to discipline myself to do so, especially in 2011. I’m hoping to intentionally spend regular times in total silence and solitude, tuning in to the Spirit. And also go for a silent retreat in a far away and quiet place for a few days or more about once or twice a year – something like what Blogpastor did which was organized by Listening Inn.

6) Fasting: I’m hoping to fast more in 2011. As I mentioned here, I’ve been learning to see fasting not as a discipline to get more power or to move God to act. Power is already within us; we just need to learn to get it out of us. God doesn’t need to move; we need to learn how to move. Some good quotes on fasting that reflect this view:

Fasting doesn’t get you power. Fasting gets you out of the way so power can flow easier. (Curry Blake)

Fasting does not change God or cause God to move. Fasting changes us and makes it easier for us to move. (Curry Blake)

Fasting is to get things out of the way that is preventing me from knowing I already have everything. (Rob Hotchkin)

Our fasting doesn’t move God; it moves us to a place where we can receive from God. (Dave Roberson)

One thing I’ve been noticing is that many men powerfully used by God actually spend a lot of time fasting (and praying in tongues, for that matter). And so I do hope to incorporate this spiritual discipline into my life more.

Join the Conversation

12 Comments

  1. Hi Jonathan….when you said imagination and visualising, do you mean meditating on God’s word…and God’s word guarding the whole process?

    1. Esther, I’m still learning and thinking a lot about all this . But yes definitely the Word of God is guarding the whole process. I believe it can be dangerous without this. On the other hand, I think because of this danger we tend to over-react and not allow our imagination a bit freer reign.

      To say the Word of God guards this process, however, would mean different things to different people. Does it mean that we never use our imagination to think about things outside the Bible? What does “outside the Bible” mean? If we’re believing for something from God, is it OK to imagine it (e.g. success in some endeavor) since this specific thing is obviously not in the Bible, but can be related somehow to bible passages? Andrew Wommack links imagination to hope and without hope, we can’t have faith for something. So in a sense, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with imagining your desire / hope / dream. That will probably aid our faith.

      I think starting to be open to use one’s imagination also means that one is more open to receive more visual pictures directly from the Spirit of God. If one is not in tune with one’s imagination and visual pictures, God won’t speak to us this way or if He does, we’ll miss it. For people like me who seldom use their imagination in an active way, I hope to start doing so – e.g. by using it when reading Scriptures and imagining how things were like in the gospel narratives. Then slowly I think I’ll be more open to receive visual images directly from God – of course, always testing it by the Word of God to know if it’s really from God.

      Haha, all this is too theoretical to me now though. I need to get down to practice. Will share more in a year’s time how it goes :)

  2. Pingback: restinginhisgrace
  3. Hi there,

    really, really good article. Great reading. Your point about levitation actually got me excited in the title! Not that I read the whole article only waiting for what you had to say about levitation, but I was indeed looking forward to it. What intrigues and excites me the most in your writings, especially this article, is how open you are to the fact that Jesus and His Love is an experience. John Piper is big on this, but while his theory (like most Calvinists) is exemplary, it seems he just falls short in experience. I sincerely believe we in are entering into a significant season in the Church whereby the sons of God (Rom 8) are rising up and realising Christianity is a mystical experience of God’s unconditional Love that is too good not to be kept to ourselves! What will happen in these days by such people will be “the greater works” Jesus spoke of. And the world will flock for it. I believe this has been labeled the “sons of God” movement. While I am not into labeling movements, I think some proponents of the theology are onto something. All I know is, people like yourself are vital to what God is doing through His Body on the Earth in this hour.

    Here is some very interesting material for you to digest. While you may get offended at first (if you haven’t already heard of this lot), if you push through and actually listen to their material, you will soon realise what they say rings true in the depth of you spirit.

    http://www.thenewmystics.com/Articles/1000040966/Home_Page_of/Articles/Teachings/2008_Archive/High_on_Jesus.aspx

    You can download a great John Crowder sermon at the bottom of this page:

    http://www.jubilee.org.au/index.cfm?i=6163&mid=18

    Another guy making waves is a chap who came second on the 1oth season of UK’s Big Brother! Tell me the world isn’t hungry for this!

    http://www.thenewecstatics.co.uk/The_New_Ecstatics/News_and_testimonies.html

    Enjoy. May the Lord our Loving Father continue to open our eyes to the supernatural realms of Glory available to us His children!!

  4. Not sure if you have looked at this at all, but have you looked at Orthodox spiriutality at all? I “stumbled” across these “forgotten” cousins of the faith. I thought, when I first looked at their faith, that they were another form of the Catholic church, but they are as close to Pentecostals (in some ways) as they are Catholics.
    I am not Orthodox, but, rather pastor an Independent Pentecostal faith.
    Weaving through Vineyard teachings, which some (like Rev. Ken Wilson), are looking back at the “Ancient practices” such as silence, fasting…
    While active, Charismatic practice is not common in this church, I can see where some of their spiritual practices could be beneficial in Charismatic faith.
    There is a movement within Orthodoxy to a more “Spirit-filled” way of thinking, though. One leader is a priest, Timothy Cremeens. He came out of the Assemblies of God, and attends Regent University. He is working on a book on a Charismatic move of the Spirit wihtin the Orthodox church.

  5. Great article, really enjoy the subject and the way you approach it. I found Greg Boyd through Terry Wardle who teaches inner healing classes called Formational Prayer. He has you do exercises that are to activate both sides of the brain. Also Tim Keller a “reformed” pastor and author from New York City has some great stuff on biblical meditation.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Good to see a fellow brother who (like myself) enjoys charismatics like Curry Blake and Bill Johnson, yet also reads Greg Boyd (non-Reformed) and Tim Keller (Reformed). I was once Reformed and am no longer, but I still keep very in touch with the Reformed movement and Tim Keller is one of the better ones I like because of his emphasis on the gospel and grace which I like! I didn’t know he taught on biblical meditation. Could you share some of the resources by him you thought were good?

  6. Thanks for the quick reply. I read and (mostly) listen to a wide variety of Christians.
    Here is a link to the Tim Keller teaching http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/meditation-what-it. I also really enjoyed his series called the prodical father. Also Grace Center in Franklin, Tenn has a podcast library that might still have Brian Smallwood. He is no longer the pastor but really excellent. Another name you might try is John Sheasby, good on difference between old and new covenant. The mention of John Crowder and the link got me some new material today. Crowder is not for the faint hearted but he does things that keep me centered in grace. Again thanks, I really like the blog.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *