Saturday, March 5, 2011

Soaking Notes

This weekend I’m giving a short introduction to a one-hour “Soaking Session” at a women’s retreat sponsored by my local church, King of the Nations Christian Fellowship (http://www.kncf.org/ – see also “Ways of the Kingdom” on Facebook). What follows are my notes for this session - not a thorough explanation of the subject, but hopefully enough to give a basic idea of what we're doing - I'm also posting this as a reference for attendees.

1. What is “Soaking?”

What some call “soaking” or “soaking prayer” refers to being immersed in God’s Spirit, with a greater emphasis on resting in the Lord and receiving. It’s different from other forms of prayer or interacting with God (which are also valid) such as petition or intercession, where we tend to do more talking than listening (although even those can be more effective if we listen to God first).

The term “soaking” began to be used in Toronto when ministers noticed that people were “being touched by God” as they lay on the carpet, resting in His Presence. Sometimes people fall to the floor after prayer (and some of us don’t fall to the floor, which doesn’t mean God isn’t touching us) – it seemed that God continued to do more with people if they didn’t always get up right away. An associate minister (now their senior pastor, a former Baptist, who also didn’t “fall down” often) realized he could choose to lie down in his own living room, play a worship CD and experience God. My pastor likes to quote Ecclesiastes 8:3a, "Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence."

2. Personal History & Examples

I’ve attended several “Soaking Schools” sponsored by CTF Ministries since 2005, which go into a lot of scriptural detail* about the Father’s heart, Spirit-led ministry, etc., but it’s really pretty simple: when you make a time & place to meet with God, He always shows up. He wants to be with us and speak to us, more than we realize. The first time I led “soaking” was at an assisted living senior center – my former pastor’s mother lived there, and I felt God wanted me to visit her and invite some of the other residents to join us. I was amazed, all I did was put on a worship CD & welcome Holy Spirit. God’s Presence touched everyone in the room. A lady was healed of acid reflux. We do this in children’s church as well – for 15 or 20 minutes, we ask the children to rest quietly and listen for God.

I’ve led “soaking sessions” on the mission field also – although it can be a little different :) : in Nicaragua, this past January, as I was about to give instructions for soaking to a room full of former prostitutes – mostly young girls, ages 10 to 18 - a sheep walked in front of the pulpit, leaving a trail of droppings all across the room. The girls giggled and chased him out; but it didn’t stop the Holy Spirit from coming and touching those girls in the hour that followed. Oscar, the on-site director of that ministry, calls me “the one who makes us sleep” - I let them bring pillows, and he falls asleep within a few minutes. :) I told him that’s OK – it’s good to engage with God as much as you can, but God can also speak through dreams, or just touch your spirit while resting in His Presence.

I've introduced a Soaking Session at KNCF women's retreats in 2008 and 2009 (last year I was away on a cruise/conference and unable to attend). In 2008, I spoke for about 30 minutes, then we asked everyone to soak for at least 20 to 30 minutes, after which the schedule called for "free time;" anyone who wanted to leave quietly at that point could enjoy hotel amenities or, if they wanted to, continue soaking in God's Presence for another hour. I think more than half the attendees were still in the room for the entire CD (Laura Woodley's "In Love"**), at least 30 minutes into their free time. In 2009, I was struck by the high percentage of testimonies on Sunday, when attendees were asked to share something God said or did that impacted them during the weekend, that mentioned the soaking time. Why? I think it's because we made room for God to encounter each of us directly, and He did.

3. Repose that Repositions & Esther’s beauty treatments
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Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.
[Esther 2:12 NIV]
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I’m not an expert on perfumes & oils (literally or symbolically), but I felt the Lord wanted me to share these few comments before our soaking session at this retreat, which the planning committee prayerfully named “Come Away, My Beloved!” Sometimes we think of soaking prayer (or a retreat) in terms of our own comfort or enjoyment – sort of a spiritual “spa day” for ourselves, a refreshing break from our normal routine that allows us to return to the same with renewed energy. But this verse about Esther reminds us that the real purpose of “spiritual beautification” is that we are being prepared to meet our heavenly Bridegroom-King! It’s not just so we can tackle earthly activities with new vigor; hopefully, this is a “repose that repositions,” a time to realign ourselves with God’s priorities. Everything in this life is headed toward a day when we, and those around us, will meet Jesus face to face. Are we fulfilling His call on our lives, pursuing His kingdom and living for eternal rewards?

Soaking in God’s Presence is a time of purification, cleansing, softening, and saturation with “the fragrance of Christ.” A few verses on this theme of “catching His fragrance” & intimacy with God:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
[2 Corinthians 2:14-15 NIV]

You love righteousness
and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.
[Psalm 45:7-8 NIV; v. 7 refers to Jesus, according to Hebrews 1:8-9]
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Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.
[Proverbs 27:9 MSG – Who is our Best Friend?]

The
Song of Songs, which is Solomon's. "May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine. Your oils have a pleasing fragrance, Your name is like purified oil; therefore the maidens love you. Draw me after you and let us run together! The king has brought me into his chambers. We will rejoice in you and be glad; we will extol your love more than wine. Rightly do they love you."
[Song of Solomon 1:1-4 NAS]

4. Exfoliants, then Emollients

This year’s “soundtrack” *** first challenges us to pursue God with all of our hearts, then soothes us with quiet instrumental music. I wondered if the first CD might sound a little “rough” for soaking, but the Lord seemed to say to me (along the theme of Esther’s beauty treatments), “exfoliants, then emollients.” Let me explain what I think that means:

According to http://www.dictionary.com/, an exfoliant is “a cosmetic product or ingredient intended to remove dead skin cells and dirt from the skin surface.” Consider the following paragraph I found on the internet in connection with Esther’s first 6 months of beauty treatments with myrrh:

Myrrh is both bitter and pleasantly fragrant. It was used to embalm people, and was burned at funerals to disguise the smell of dead flesh, yet it heals many ailments. It both removes impurities and softens the skin. Treatment with myrrh represents repentance, dying to self, and the sweetness of losing our lives and finding them (Matthew 16:25). Myrrh removed the smell of flesh from Esther.
Soaking in God’s Presence often “loosens the dirt” of carnality in our lives, allowing God to go deeper into our hearts, healing emotional or spiritual wounds. We don’t put a soft bandage or balm on a wounded place without cleansing it first, and we don’t wash our clothes in fabric softener alone. However, God never “scrubs” or “strips away” without also comforting us with His Presence – hence the “emollient” aspect of the 2nd CD, which better expresses what we tend to expect of soaking: “having the power of softening or relaxing, as a medicinal substance; soothing...”

5. Practical Instructions for Soaking Prayer

So find a comfortable place, as free of distractions as possible. You may want to lie on a pillow, with your Bible and a journal nearby – don’t struggle or strive to “hear God,” but be prepared to turn quietly to a scripture reference, or record a thought you may want to recall or evaluate later. Worship music can help you focus on God or create an atmosphere for welcoming His Presence, but the main thing is to engage with His Spirit. Feel free to communicate with Him heart to heart, but stay in “receiving mode,” letting Him direct. Don’t dismiss the flow of thoughts and feelings that may come from the Holy Spirit moving within or upon you; evaluate in light of the Word, or discuss with another Christian afterward. Above all, take time to enjoy & receive from Him!

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* Some scripture references that may help to answer the question, “Where is ‘soaking’ in the Bible?” – Psalms 4:4, 23, 46:10, 91:1, 131; Ezekiel 47, Matthew 11:28-30, John 7:37-39, John 15:1-15, etc.


** Laura Woodley Osman has three wonderful “soaking” CD’s available on her website. “In Love” is the CD I played at KNCF women’s retreat in 2008. http://www.spiritsoulbody.com/store.htm

*** This year, our soaking music includes:

Jesus Culture’s CD “Come Away with Me,” available at
http://store.ibethel.org/
Watch/listen to title cut on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IduHRMRcy9A


Alberto Rivera’s instrumental CD, “Yearnings” & many other excellent “Presence Music” CD’s by Alberto & Kimberly Rivera are available at http://www.rainingpresence.com/
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