This article is written by Alice Smith
As I walked down the corridor toward the large prayer room, several women rushed past me in a panic. They had been praying with more than 50 intercessors from various denominations for pastors in the United States. Curious as to what was happening, I quickly entered the room to an unbelievable sight. Lying on the floor in the middle of the room in a fetal position was a petite woman intercessor, groaning as though she were being tortured. Crouched over her, on his hands and knees, was a male intercessor stroking her hair and speaking words of encouragement. Standing around “the entertainment” were dozens of intercessors watching. No one was praying now. Their faces revealed many emotions. Some were in shock, others didn’t know what to think, a few intercessors had left the room, and most were simply disgusted.
Asked to correct the situation, I quietly bent down, asked the man to move away, and softly whispered into the intercessor’s ear, “Please stop what you are doing. Everyone’s attention has shifted from praying for the pastors – to you. This is not the way the Holy Spirit would lead.”
Gruffly the woman turned her head toward me and growled, “This IS the Holy Spirit.” Obviously, everyone in the room suspected that if it were God, He would not have answered in such a way.
Yet these kinds of activities are becoming too common in prayer rooms across the nation. If the prayer movement does not establish Biblical boundaries and acceptable corporate conduct within the next few years, it is possible that the work of prayer could be drastically derailed.
What are some of the wacky intercessory activities with which we should be concerned?
Competition in prayer
Moses and Aaron were challenged with Korah and his band’s (see Numbers 16, NIV) argument, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly? When Moses heard this, he fell on his face.”
Notice Moses’ answer to Korah and his rebellious associates.
“Now listen, you Levites! Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to him? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together.”
Intercessors have a unique position. We are called to be near the throne, to hear the voice of God, and to stand on behalf of others. We, who occupy this position, should set an example of love, grace, mercy and humility. Yet, I find like Korah and his band, there is sometimes strife, jealousy and competition among intercessors. In some cases, the prayer room resembles the New York City stock market trading floor. Each participant tries to pray more frequently, prophesy longer, and shout louder than the others do. This frenzy is enough to force many intercessors to feel shut down and unnecessary. Why the spiritual tug of war?
Let there be no doubt about it, all intercession is war! But like all of life, intercession has its ebbs and flows. Our friends would wonder about Eddie and me, after four decades of marriage, if every time they saw us we were passionately kissing in public. This may be what Hollywood portrays, but meaningful and fulfilling relationships are developed in private. We don’t need to impress anyone or to prove our love to others. Any outward expression is merely an indication of an already secure and stable private relationship.
There are times, when in the heat of battle, that the corporate prayer room seems intense, loud, demanding and pushy. After all, Scripture says that the violent take the Kingdom by force (Matt. 11:12)! But constant warfare should not be the way every prayer time is handled. Effective, sincere corporate prayer should reveal all the attributes of God – His gentleness, His tender mercy, His unconditional love and His burden for the lost. There are times when the group will experience total silence before God. At other times, a deep travail for the condition of lost souls will be felt. Joy, expressions of love, and celebration should occur occasionally among the intercessors. To reduce group prayer to anything less only reveals our immaturity in the private place before God.
Our emotions are part of our soul (i.e. mind, will and emotions). However, they should be brought into balance with our spiritual walk with Christ. Paul instructs us,
“Since you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts (i.e. emotions) on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” (Col. 3:1 – 2)
Our emotions are as flexible and undependable as an elastic measuring tape. One minute we feel happy and the next minute we’re sad. We can have a wonderful intimate time in prayer with the Lord, and in five minutes be yelling at our child for spilling milk on the carpet. Obviously emotional expressions are not necessarily an indication of either the presence or lack of God’s presence. Amazingly, some corporate prayer groups base their entire prayer time on emotions.
Hebrews 11:1 – 2 tells us,
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. By it (faith) the elders received a good report.”
It is faith that moves the heart of God, not emotion. By faith the elders received a good report. Verses 35 – 39 tell us that some of these giants of the faith were tortured and refused to be released, jeered and flogged, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. Some of these mighty men and women didn’t flinch as they were mistreated, misunderstood, persecuted and destitute.
Hebrews 11: 38 – 39 says,
“The world was not worthy of them. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.”
Their mindset was one of faith, not feelings. Now God knows I am emotional. Eddie calls me radical. In his book, Help! I’m Married to an Intercessor.
He describes me as a radical intercessor – “Alice is radical about everything! This woman would rather watch the Houston Rockets professional basketball team play than eat. She was a cheerleader in school when her father was the football coach. Alice is a Dallas Cowboys football fanatic as well. When the Cowboys game is being televised, everything at our house comes to a screeching halt. Now, I like football. I tend to watch the game casually from my recliner. I drink coffee, read the paper and talk on the phone during the game. Not her! Alice watches the game on her feet – even in our living room! Pacing, lunging, warning and encouraging the players and coaches, my radical wife is not bothered at all that they can’t hear a word she’s saying!”
Being radical is not bad as long as you are continually working to maintain balance in all areas of your life.
Intercessors have a responsibility to represent the Lord both in the prayer room and outside the prayer room. We need to learn that which is Biblical is not always appropriate. Ongoing “weird” activity in the prayer setting is likely to be soulish, if not demonic. It draws attention to self and distracts from the assignment. An undisciplined mind confuses soulishness and spirituality, allowing the soul to rule over the spirit. An unruly mind has to be “renewed daily.”
The apostle Paul reminds us “be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). To be filled with the Spirit is to exercise the qualities of the Holy Spirit.
What are they? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22 – 23)
The Greek word for temperance is “egkrates” which is translated “self-control.” The Holy Spirit will not control you. You must control you! There is an alarming manifestation among some intercessors that causes me concern. For lack of a better term, I will call it “ecstasy.”
This manifestation is often misdiagnosed as travail, but it is NOT genuine and godly travail! This manifestation causes glazed expression on the intercessor’s face and they voice utterances resembling expressions of sexual gratification. At times I have seen intercessors positioned in such a manner as to suggest a sexual act is happening, all the while they are groaning with an unearthly sound. Beware women!
We must ask the Lord for spiritual discernment concerning such matters. God does use physical phenomenon to depict a spiritual truth. Travail is a Biblical term better understood by the Hebrew word “yalad” (i.e. born) and “chuwl” which means to give birth. We cannot give spiritual birth to anything, only the Holy Spirit can. The bride of Christ is not the source of life, but we are carriers of the source of life. Through effective travailing prayer, we release the work of the Holy Spirit in the earth. But a proper experience of travailing prayer will not cause physical arousal.
Dutch Sheets makes an interesting point in his book, Intercessory Prayer.
“First, I believe biblical travail is an important, if not essential, part of intercession for the lost. Second, I don’t believe it is defined by groaning, wailing, weeping and hard work. Natural travail certainly is, and spiritual travail can include these things. I do not believe, however, it must include them, and I’m convinced it is not defined by them.”
Dutch goes on to give a formal definition of travailing intercession.
“A form of intercession that releases the creative power or energy of the Holy Spirit into a situation to produce, create or give birth to something.”
Not long ago, while teaching intercessors in a conference on the East Coast, I called for repentance if anyone had ever experienced this false travail. It was shocking to see so many come forward for prayer. One particular woman told me that she was a seasoned intercessor who had been praying for over 20 years. But recently she went to a renewal conference where a person laid hands on her for impartation.
It was an impartation, alright! She told me that since that incident whenever she tried to pray, she would see Jesus as her lover and experience a physical orgasm. She received deliverance from this evil spirit that had seduced her by deception. She had opened herself to a spiritual experience that she had not asked the Lord about first and it happened to be in her case, a false one!
This is no reason to be alarmed, but it is reason to be discerning. Ephesians 5:15 – 16 tells us to “see then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.”
What an exciting day in which we live! Spiritual awakenings are seen throughout the earth. This is my prayer for the United States. To see this happen however, we must not be wacky women of God, but strive to maintain our credibility in the area of prayer.
Let me sum it up this way. The throne of God is the center of prayer. When He becomes our center of attention, we will lose ourselves in His presence.
Alice Smith is cofounder and executive director of the U.S. PRAYER CENTER in Houston, Texas.
She is a member of America’s National Prayer Committee, the International Reconciliation Coalition, and the International Strategic Prayer Network. Alice has earned her Doctorate of Ministry from Wagner Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Alice’s first calling is to intercessory prayer and to represent a life of integrity and transparency to the body of Christ.
Alice conducts seminars, retreats and conferences, both locally and internationally, on a variety of subjects including intercessory prayer, spiritual intimacy, personal freedom, spiritual warfare, and spiritual mapping.
She is a regular contributor to Charisma, Ministries Today, Spirit-Led Woman, and Pray! magazines. Alice is a regular guest on CBN’s 700 Club, and an occasional guest on Benny Hinn’s, This is Your Day.