Have you ever been filled with the Holy Spirit? In the post, “Christ’s Living Water Revives Cancer Victim”, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich described a time when he was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he became Its conduit in the revival of a lady who was near death. He mentioned an exercise that he had been doing to accomplish this spiritual immersion and I was anxious to find out what was involved and to share it with you.
Here is a link to that post and below is Paster Tim’s reply to my query.
Link to “Christ’s Living Water Revives Cancer Victim“.
Debbie asked me to write up the spiritual exercise I use to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There are three exercises that I have used over the years, one is hard to explain so I have written about the other two (below), which are easier to understand.
The good news is that being filled with the Spirit is an experience offered by God to every believer. The bad news is that there are some pre-conditions and prerequisites that must be met first. It may go without saying but the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit is available only to those who are willing to approach the Lord as He requires; this experience is not attainable through casual effort or unwillingness to pay the cost of admission.
In congregations I have served over the years my experience is that 1% or less of the members of my congregation have experienced being filled with the Spirit. The vast majority of Christians never have this experience, so those who do have this experience belong to a pretty exclusive club. Like an amusement park that has written policies concerning the required behavior of its guests the Bible has what we can call a set of policies concerning the required behavior of those seeking admission to this exclusive club.
I hope I haven’t discouraged you because the experience is unequaled. At 65 I have lived a life filled with amazing adventures: I have traveled to over 40 countries, and I have experienced every pleasure that life offers and most of the pains, but there is no greater joy, no more life altering experience than to be filled with the Holy Spirit!
There are four Biblically based preconditions to being filled with the spirit which I need to share with you:
1. Being filled with the Spirit is more than a little complicated and mysterious. Jesus said this: (John 3:8 NLT) “The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” There is an old saying that fits here – for those who have experienced it, no explanation is necessary, for those who have not experienced it, no explanation is possible; let’s just say you will know it when it happens!
2. Just because we want to be filled with the Spirit, our wanting is no guarantee we will receive it; nor can we be assured of being filled with the Spirit by spending X number of hours in prayer; many good Christian people have desired to be filled with the Spirit without ever attaining it. The apostle Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 12:11 NLT): “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.” While every believer in Jesus Christ receives some gift of the Spirit, and many of us feel the presence of the Spirit in us and with us, being filled with the Spirit is a very special and miraculous gift, and it is up to the Spirit when and to whom this gift will be given. Our job is to be prepared, both fortune and God favor the prepared.
3. Jesus taught that God does want us to be filled with the Holy Spirit and is willing to give us the Spirit (Jesus said, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 NRSV). But unfortunately, it is not as simple as just asking. There is a large set of prerequisites that must be met to successfully be filled with the Spirit, and they are not listed or described all together in one place in the Bible but rather they are spread throughout the New Testament. For example, when Jesus taught the disciples that they could have a mountain thrown in the sea through prayer he added this disclaimer (Matthew 11:25 NLT): “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
Have you ever tried to forgive someone who has done something terrible to you? The first time I realized that this is a prerequisite, it took me over 45 minutes of steady focused prayer to just forgive everyone I held a grudge against. The first time I had to forgive someone who had done something truly terrible to me, it took weeks for me to finally be able to forgive entirely from the heart. This is just one of several prerequisites to experiencing the miraculous which Jesus assumes that you, as a good disciple, will have fulfilled before asking for the Spirit to fill you or praying to move a mountain. Below you will find a checklist of nine prerequisites; you will see that they overlap a bit in content.
4. To be completely filled with the Spirit also generally takes an exceptional level of desire that we normally only experience in times of great fear, or having a completely broken heart, or a burning desire to know the Lord; although one time our God filled me with the Spirit as I was praising Him in a worship service. The Lord said through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 29:13 NRSV), “When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.” What it took the first ten years of my ministry to realize is that “all your heart” is literally a requirement. All your heart means 100%, that nothing at all is more important to you. To want it with all your heart takes more than most of us are capable of giving or interested in giving to God. We may have reservations against giving 100% of our self to God that we may not be aware of – preconditions we have set on a subconscious level.
Seeking the miraculous is a wonderful but serious business; listen to what Jesus said,
(Luke 14:26-33 NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So, you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
The gift of being completely filled with the Spirit is the spiritual equivalent to climbing Mount Everest; it is an amazing view, but the atmosphere is so rarified that only one human has managed to live at the peak. It is such a rare and special gift that even as a pastor for the last 37 years (at the time of this writing) I have only managed it five times. If you are not hungry enough or desperate enough for the Spirit, and / or blessed enough to be completely filled (it is not for everyone to be sure), if you carry out the exercises below in good faith you will in all likelihood at least feel the Spirit inside you.
We may not be able to meet the necessary rules and expectations, but our efforts are well worth the time and energy spent because to be filled with the Spirit, or even to just feel the Spirit inside us, is to experience the touch of God; and more, to have the exceptional joy of knowing that God is, and that God knows you and cares about you. This is the greatest experience a human being can have because it is enjoying a relationship with the Supreme Being, the Ultimate Source of Power and Reality in the Universe, the eternal creator of everything who holds everything together.
I like to think about the effort it takes to be filled with the Spirit this way: there is a locked door between us in the physical realm and the Spirit in the spiritual realm. The key to open the lock requires the proper number and alignment of bumps and grooves to turn the tumblers of the lock. The key is your heart- mind connection; the bumps on the key are the attitudes and efforts required to hit the tumblers of the lock. The spiritual exercises provide the effort to turn the key and unlock the door. The amount of time you will spend in soul searching, confession, and prayer will enrich your life.
As you begin, look at the prerequisites below. If you feel that you already have put in the time and effort and have the right attitude, then proceed to the exercises; but know that you will not succeed in being filled with the Spirit without having completed the prerequisites. Paul writes (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NRSV): “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” What we are doing when we complete the prerequisites and use these exercises is cleaning out the temple and making the altar (our heart) a suitable place for God to place the spark and flame of the Holy Spirit.
II. The Prerequisites
|Bumps on the key to unlocking the door to the Spirit.|
1. James 4:3 ( NRSV ) 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Commit to God your intention and desire to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
2. Hebrews 10:35-36 ( NLT ) 36Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. Have patience, remember God’s timing is not the same as ours.
3. Luke 17:6 ( NRSV ) 6The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Have faith and trust in God.
4. Matthew 6:14-15 ( NLT ) 14“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Have a forgiving heart.
5. Jeremiah 29:12-13 ( NRSV ) 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, Knock, seek, search with all of your heart.
6. Mark 11:22-25 ( NLT ) “Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. 24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” Fears = doubt = not trusting in God
7. Luke 11:5-10 ( NRSV ) “And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Pray continually.
8. Psalms 139:23-24 (NRSV) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” Confess and repent of your sins.
9. Luke 14:26, 33 NLT) “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. So, you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.
10. Matthew 6:6-13 ( NLT ) But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8Don’t be like them, for your father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
According to the gospels Jesus said several times that the purpose of his teachings was to fill us with joy (John 15:11, 16:24, 17:13). What I discovered some years ago is that the Holy Spirit is a spirit of joy: you cannot experience being filled with the Spirit without also being filled with almost indescribable joy – the joy of the Lord. So, both spiritual exercises involve the joy of the Lord.
III. Exercises to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
Galatians 5:22-23 ( NLT ) But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Congratulations – if you have made it this far then you are certainly a disciple of Jesus. Though we are separated by time and distance we are connected in that we stand with our feet in the same eternal steam.
There is a reason that all the world’s so called great religious emphasize the importance of having a truly good heart, and that they all define a good heart with the same positive adjectives – honesty, purity, integrity etc. the heart truly is the religious center of the body. So, it is not surprising that the experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit is a physical sensation that you can feel that begins in the center of your heart and spreads out to encompass your entire torso, neck and head. The physical sensation is joy and peace and love all rolled into one. As you are doing this exercise be paying attention to your heart, you will know that you are having success when you can begin to feel it in your heart.
To set aside a time and create the conditions in which you can be undisturbed for at least 45 minutes. A greater expert than I, St. Ignatius of Loyola, recommends that you spend no less than 45 minutes and no more than 60 minutes in a spiritual exercise. Both exercises begin with prayer. The first exercise is simple and repetitive; the second is more involved and is a fall back in case you don’t have success with the first.
Spiritual Exercise #1 to Remove Blockages to Being Filled with the Spirit
1. Center – take a few minutes to relax and think of God; offer God this or a similar prayer:
Father, in Jesus’ name I pray that You would give me the strength and resolve to take the time and make the effort to cast out the things which keep me from joy and your perfect love. Lord, You said to us (Matt. 11:28) “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” We are weary of carrying the heavy burdens of fears, doubts, and worries around with us! May this exercise give us rest! You commanded us not to worry and assured us that we will be filled with joy if we obey your commandments. Help us to bind up with the Holy Spirit the sins and things which keep us from full and joyful obedience to you. Help us to laugh from the inside out. Fill us with the good medicine of a cheerful heart! Help us to remember that “the kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.!” Amen.
2. Ask – “God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, please help me to know what things are on my mind and keeping me from being filled with joy. Thank you, Lord!”
3. Think – about and name each fear, doubt, worry, sin – one at a time and follow the remaining steps 4-7: “Lord I sense that I am feeling (for example) fear of failure (or for example) I am feeling doubt about your reality.” I have found that quite often there are several things that are blocking out my joy; most of them are buried in my subconscious mind shallow enough that in a few moments of prayer they surface.
4. Bind – “Fear of failure holding me down, in the name of the Father Son, and Holy Spirit I bind you with the Holy Spirit” (picture the Holy Spirit totally wrapped around it)
5. Cast out – “Fear of failure in the name of God the Father, Christ the Son and Holy Spirit I cast you out of me! Be gone from me and don’t return!”
6. Heal –“Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit. With your Holy Spirit touch me in all the places where fear of failure held on to me.
7. Give thanks – “I thank you and praise you Lord for healing me and filling me with your Holy Spirit. Praise you Lord! Thank you, Lord! Alleluia! Amen!”
8. Repeat 1-7 until you feel lighter. Most who do this exercise discover many things which are weighing them down. It is a liberating feeling as one at a time we lay them down before God. It can take as much as 1/2 an hour to an hour to name and follow the steps to get rid of the things that are holding us down.
Spiritual Exercise #2 to Be Filled with the Spirit Through Joy
1. Begin with an ACTS Prayer – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. That is to say:
- Begin by giving God praise for who and what the Lord is to you and to the world; include his qualities and nature.
- Confess whatever is holding you back this day from joyful obedience to the Lord and lay it down before God.
- Give God thanks for your many blessings.
This first part, the ACTS Prayer may take as much as ten minutes depending on how much you need to confess and how many things you can think of to thank the Lord for. After completing the ACTS Prayer, you are ready to ask:
“Eternal Creator, my Father in heaven, I pray that you will grant me this day, the blessing of being filled with your Holy Spirit through this exercise and your grace.”
Set a timer for 45 minutes and now comes the repetitive part: repeat again and again, for the next 30 minutes, “The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.” It is normal to find that during these 45 minutes some things will distract you or temporarily requires your attention. When you realize you have become distracted just let go of what distracted you and turn your attention to repetition.
As you are repeating “The joy of the Lord is my strength” think about the meaning of each word. What you should experience as you continue to repeat this statement is a) that the phrase becomes a prayer of sorts, a prayer of observation; like saying in prayer “God you are great and greatly to be praised.” And b) as you repeat “The joy of the Lord is my strength” you should begin to experience sensations of joy creeping into you and that your heart is feeling it. If 45 minutes of repetition does not produce joy and a sense of the Spirit inside you then there is something or several things blocking your joy. In that case use the first exercise and then repeat this exercise.
Obviously, depending on where you are starting from, all of this could require several months of effort and may require you to repeat portions over again several times. The optimum condition for this whole project is to take an individual spiritual retreat for two or three full days at a retreat center, both because the conditions are optimal for prayer in that you will not be distracted by other concerns, and because retreat centers generally have a great spiritual air.
Philippians 4:4-7 ( NLT ) 4Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! …6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
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