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Believe Boldly: The Power of Simple, Confident Prayer to Unleash the Supernatural
by Erica Willis
Learn More | Meet Erica Willis
“Anything, God. I will do it. Just show me what is next. There has to be more!”
Carpet fibers pressed into my face as my tears soaked my living room rug. I ached with a hunger for more of God, for answers and direction from Him. But all I heard was silence. Facedown with arms limp by my side, my posture embodied my lifeless faith.
I was drained, hopeless and grasping at straws.
I had fallen on my face that morning because I needed a change only God could bring. My faith and all it held was, well, boring. I wanted more, needed more. I was a stay-at-home mom who served as a church children’s ministry director. My husband, Joey, was a full-time student, full-time banker and full-time church leader. The days were too short and my sleep at night even shorter. While I could see God working in my ministry and family, it was not enough. The God of the New Testament was not as present as I hoped He would be. With all my heart, I wished to see the miracles of the Bible in my little ministry and my suburban family.
My faith was average. I had become normal. Ugh. Normal is milquetoast Christianity. Someone please spit me out of my lukewarm existence.
Where were the miracles of the Bible?
Whom had I touched who was healed from sickness?
Why could I not identify real spiritual warfare?
My friends were being baptized into the faith, but I watched them continue to struggle to believe. They were strapped into a rollercoaster of continual highs and lows, driven by their circumstances. This did not look like the victorious life Christ promised us. There had to be more. People in the New Testament laid their hands on strangers and watched as their legs and eyes and hearts were restored. It was a daily occurrence. Where was that in my life? Had I strayed from His original design? Out of my need to keep my encounters with God predictable and manageable, had I suppressed the supernatural?
That morning I finally came to understand that my life had become a series of safe encounters with God––calculated, formulated, underwhelming.
I could not stand it anymore. It had to change.
I think of myself as a realist. I like facts and figures. I enjoy a good debate about theology. I am balanced and fair and have a good head on my shoulders. Long before I take a step, everything has been weighed, calculated and planned in my head. I am concise, logical and I get straight to the point.
The only problem for people like me is that God does not always speak to our brains first. Sometimes He bypasses our intellects and speaks straight to our hearts. Unfortunately, I can be all brain.
Maybe you are like that, too. Many people are. I lovingly call it being “a Normal.” Things in your life make sense and you like it that way. A little sway in the boat is okay, but you certainly do not rock it. You show up for church on Sundays and the sermon speaks to you, most days. You are safe and predictable, exactly the way God intended, right? I completely understand. God made us Normals mature and wise for a reason, but we tend to box ourselves in.
In high school I began to let my responsible and careful approach turn into a fear that poisoned and paralyzed me. I had been a cheerleader for five years when I decided to step up my game and learn gymnastics. I would spend an hour and a half after school in cheerleading practice, flying through the air as my squad tossed me in the sky like a rag doll. Up and down, up and down––the stunts we built with an all-girl squad were impressive. Then one day a week my friend Amanda and I would rush from practice, grab a fast-food burger to fuel our growth-spurt-driven bodies, and run into gymnastics class moments before it began.
The coach would start with warm-ups and stretches, getting our muscles prepared for an hour of running back and forth. We did V-sits, splits, supermans—a collection of exercises meant to prepare and condition us. Every girl in the class lined up at one end of the floor and took turns running toward the coach. He was poised to catch each girl around the waist as she flipped in the air. I loved the round-off-into-back-handspring combination. Focused and determined, I ran with speed and correct alignment and usually pulled it off without a hitch.
However, I was terrified to tumble on anything but that bouncy, padded, royal blue floor. It made me feel safe and brave—unlike when I was actually cheering. The track encirclingthe football field where we did stunts every Friday night? A little bouncy, but nothing like the tumbling floor. The wooden basketball court that we performed on at halftime all spring? Please do not get me started on that death trap. I would rather break my own neck than let the floor do it for me!
That royal blue floor became my safety net and it eventually trapped me for good. As long as I was in my controlled environment with cushion and a spotter, I was good. Take me out of my comfort zone and I lost all sight of what I knew and understood to be true. I did not like to venture outside of those boundaries. I would step off the practice floor and stop thinking of myself as a gymnast. I would question my ability and forget all I had accomplished over the past several years. Convinced of my impending doom, I only did one back handspring at a game in my whole high school cheering career.
Years of practice and thousands of dollars down the drain. At game time, all those hours of hard work, sweat and risk amounted to nothing. Not because I was incapable, but because I was scared of the risks. On the gymnastics floor with a paid professional, I was invincible. I was not scared to venture into a new skill or jump higher. My spotter had my back and I knew I would not fall. Those firm hands around my waist gave me the courage I needed to try daring stunts. But I could not attempt anything otherwise.
I felt I needed to protect my Normal self. I filtered every encounter––physical or spiritual––through my own Normal definition of myself, rather than looking to Christ for my identity. What about you? Can you identify with this approach to life? Is God calling you to take some spiritual risks? What is He asking you to try? Where is He leading you to step out of your comfort zone? His hands are securely on you. You will not break your neck!
Let’s open our minds to the possibility that there is more out there. Let’s stop letting our fears dictate our destiny.
Normals like me do not normally know what to make of people who seem to love the super-spiritual stuff. I call them the Supers. Supers seem to come from a different planet. They feel the excitement of the Lord; in fact, they crave it. These are the people in your church or Bible study who use different terminology such as, “baptism in the Spirit” and “holy laughter.” They may say things like, “I had a dream from God about you last night,” and “God gave me a word for you.”
A “word”? Interesting.
For someone like me who had never heard of such things, statements like this could be intimidating and overwhelming. I did not know whether to trust the Supers or dismiss them altogether. They pushed my Normal meter over the edge. I resorted to snarky thoughts rather than trying to understand what they were saying. Their view of the world was so different from my own. To them, everything seemed to have a purpose. Every butterfly that floated by told a story of God’s love. Each spoken word had the power to heal or kill. Some claimed God even ordained what time of day they would go to the grocery store (Really? You think God cares about the exact moment you walk down the produce aisle? Grab a head of lettuce and move on, lady!)
I could not understand them. They were so intense! Did they ever just turn on the television and zone out for a bit? My brain would be on overload if I tried to make a lesson out of everything I touched or tasted. Each time someone would share a story of God speaking through some unexpected means, I would roll my eyes (on the inside) and look around the room for a friend to save me from the nonsensical conversation.
Then there are “spiritual dreams.” We Normals see our dreams as out of our control and often weird. Why would we think a dream about pink elephants was a revelation from God? Was that a message from the Holy Spirit—or from the latenight pizza? To keep it safe, I filed “Dreams” under “Supers” and moved on.
Then there were those pretend languages that people claimed to have received directly from God. What? This had to be a joke. So-called prayer languages sounded like babble to me. All the super-spiritual stuff just felt a little crazy.
Until one day, it was not.
Taste and See
My husband, Joey, is stacked and lean. With muscles for days, he thrives in the gym and enjoys a good workout. As good as he looks, most people would be shocked to know he is addicted to sweets. Candy? He’s down. Ice cream? Of course the average person eats half a gallon at one sitting, right? Joey once devoured an entire specialty ice cream treat created to feed ten people all by himself. When we have friends over for dinner, he is always in charge of our dessert. As far as I am concerned, this is a great arrangement in our marriage. For starters, I do not really care about dessert. Joey is very particular about the amount of time a fresh Toll House cookie sits in the oven. His cookies are the perfect balance of baked, but still gooey. I refuse to strive for his level of perfection. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
When I was growing up, there was a strict limit on sweets in my home. My mom baked often, but we were never permitted to go crazy with the sugar intake. Two cookies a day, tops. And make sure you play in the yard for an hour to run it off. I had a built-in sugar regulator. Being the firstborn child, a Type A person, this pleased me.
Then I married Joey. In our first year of marriage, he would bake a cake at 10:00 p.m. just because it sounded good. Who bakes a cake that late? Who has energy enough to stay up late, make a mess of the kitchen, wait for it to bake, let it cool, eat it, and then clean up the mess? Certainly not me! Joey never counted the cost of sleep or cleaning. He would create his masterpiece with love and care, and the smell of goodness would fill our tiny apartment.
The first time this happened, I truly believed he was out of his mind. Everything in moderation, you animal! Cake must come directly after dinner, paired with a glass of milk. It does not fit as a midnight snack.
Then I tasted the warm cake, iced just out of the oven. . . . Oh. My.
My eyes were opened to a whole new world, and my waistband to a whole new size. How glorious! How magnificent! How . . . how . . . how could I get more? We decided from then on there was no need to cut “slices” of cake. That was for amateurs. Anyway, who wants only one piece of warm yellow cake? Just grab a knife and hack away whatever size chunk you want!
I never knew how delicious warm cake at midnight was until I tasted it for myself. In the end, it turned out that Joey was right: Late night cake is the best cake. But I could not have known just how good if I had never tasted it for myself.
The Holy Spirit has a big ol’ cake waiting for you. Not dayold cake. Fresh cake, right out of the oven, made just for you. You may have your own method of how you indulge in God, and it may look nothing like the Supers. They sit for hours reading their Bible or randomly praying for people on the street. That does not look appetizing to you. Your anxiety may skyrocket when you think of the mess it could make. You have to ask yourself:
It is worth all that work to experience more of the Holy Spirit?
>What we unleash through indulgence we will never manifest through calculated encounters.
Taste and see that He is good.
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