Friday, September 23, 2011

Falling under the Power

 A person recently asked me "Pastor, is there Biblical precedence for being slain in the Spirit?"

I am not sure where the term Slain in the Spirit comes from. Perhaps from Maria B. Woodworth-Etter 1885. The Muncie, Indiana Daily News (Sept 25,1885) tells of "Dozens lying around pale and unconscious, rigid, and lifeless as though in death." She called this the "slaying power of God". In recent days this seems to be the trend in some evangelistic meetings. A pastor or evangelist when praying over people has someone laying on hands while praying over someone. Slaying is a strong term that initiates death. There are a few people in the Bible that have been slain by God... Ananias and Sapphira come to mind (Acts 5)! But certainly this is not what people have in mind. There are numerous instances of people falling under the power of God in the Scripture. The Apostle Paul fell at the revelation of Jesus as he was on his way to arrest and persecute the church (Acts 9.3-4) In this passage Paul falls prostrate at the overwhelming presence of the risen Christ. According to Acts 26 so did the rest of those with him. John the Apostle also "fell at His feet as dead" in Rev. 1.17. Daniel (10.4ff) fell under the power of God. In these circumstances the presence of God overwhelmed the physical body and emotions of the individual. It is not unthinkable that the finite would be overwhelmed by the infinite! These experiences accompanied the revivals of John Wesley, Peter Cartwright, Charles Finney and George Whitefield. These men were not Charismatic or Pentecostal per se but had these dramatic psychophysical phenomena in their services.

Yet, increasingly, what we see is a preacher trying to make it happen as if it was the sign of the anointing of God. While the power of God is a sign of the Holy Spirit's anointing it nowhere in the NT manifested itself in this way. The anointing of God came upon men and women and initiated inspired speech and praise, but no "falling out". We need not seek the falling down as an experience to be sought. When and if it ever happens to us, it is a sign of human frailty and weakness. Neither is there any biblical cause or warrant for pushing someone (it likely will offend them and scandalize those watching) or jerking them while you pray for them. The Holy Spirit doesn't need our help to overwhelm the individual. God is able to meet needs, answer prayers, cast out devils, and heal the sick with out resorting to gimmicks.

But we are called to believe in the supernatural power of the Spirit to meet these fantastic and numerous needs that surround us. We are called to seek the Lord in authentic and fervent prayer. Seeking expereince for the sake of expereince is misguided. Seeking experiences that do not measure up to the Bible trivializes the real purpose of God. And seeking the Lord is a highly subjective and personal act of devotion. I have, at times, been overwhelmed by the power of the Spirit in times of deep intercession and prayer. Sometimes in tears, sometimes laying prostrate on the floor, sometimes in joyful exuberance. But the experience of being overwhelmed is merely a side effect of the act of pursuing God. And pursuing Him and surrendering to his agenda are all that matters. He will answer when we begin to seek him and not the side experiences. As one preacher put it, "It doesn't matter how hard you fall down or how high you jump... only that you walk right when you leave."

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