Aug 21, 2014
Over the last ten years I keep getting emails from Free Believers all over the world who are writing to tell me their story. It’s truly exciting to hear how God is revealing Himself to so many people in exactly the same way. There used to be a time where I honestly thought I was the only person in the world who believed like this. Now I have evidence that what He did in me, He is doing in thousands of others. Watching people grasp this revelation of His love and grace in spite of how they were raised is a dream-come-true for me. Hearing these people’s stories also gives me a bird’s eye view on what I consider to be an entire movement that is changing Christianity as we know it.
One of the main things I have observed after reading through these emails is something that first concerned me because of my religious upbringing, but after seeing how often this takes place and the fact that it’s happening with almost every single person, I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that it’s not only normal, but that it’s what MUST happen in order for God to accomplish His overall plan with us. Amazingly, in almost every letter I’ve received, people are telling me that once their eyes where opened to God’s heart, they have almost stopped praying altogether. They’re writing me because they’re concerned and they don't understand why this is happening to them.
There used to be a time where I could secretly tell whether a person truly received this revelation by whether or not they continued to rely on their church to keep them spiritually alive. Because so many Free Believers just naturally left the institution after receiving this revelation, it almost became a way to decipher between those who “got it” and those who didn’t. While many people continued to attend a local congregation to maintain friendships, they did so with an entirely different attitude, but the vast majority of people just left the church world altogether because in their words, they just couldn’t take it anymore. After observing how common this phenomenon was with new Free Believers I found myself wondering if this “not praying thing” is one of those same things. I say all this to express to you just how common this has become.
It would be one thing if several people expressed the same phenomenon, or even if a fourth of all the people who wrote to me did. But I’m finding that nearly a hundred percent of Free Believers are having the same experience with prayer. They just quit doing it, and they can’t figure out why. The irony of this doesn’t escape me. One would think that once a person finds out that God is a million times more loving and graceful than they were previously taught, their prayer life would explode. After all, if they prayed before they knew Him, it stands to reason that once they really knew Him, they would pray even more. Quite the opposite is taking place however and it leads me to believe that it’s for a reason.
The Road Trip
Angie and I took the kids to Sea World several summers ago for a family vacation. I’m still not sure why we call it a “vacation” because it never actually turns out to be one. Some of these vacations are about as self-defeating as shooting myself in the foot in an effort to train for a marathon. The actual vacation is more exhausting than if I had just stayed home and worked for a week.
We have five children and an emotional dog who for some reason my wife insists must come with us on all our family adventures, so you can imagine the stress level in the van. When we informed the kids that we were taking them to Sea World they all screamed with excitement. The three youngest kids screamed the loudest and danced the hardest which I found to be a bit ironic because not one of them had the slightest idea what Sea World was. I could have taken them to the mall and told them it was Sea World and they would have never known the difference.
The week before we left, I showed them videos of Shamu, jumping dolphins, penguins, sharks and polar bears in an effort to prime them for the adventures to come. The two older kids had been there several times before so they knew exactly where we were going.
The moment we left the driveway and started through downtown Phoenix the three youngest kids began machine gunning out the most random and ridiculous requests I had ever heard. Their questions had no rhyme or reason to them and were clearly inspired by whatever they happened to see outside their windows as we drove. We’d pass by a park with a swing set and monkey bars and they’d all yell out in unison, “Can we stop at this park and play on the jungle jim”? Another one would ask, “Oh, oh daddy, can we go to the water park?” We’d drive another two blocks and I’d hear, “Please dad, please, can we stop at McDonalds, we’re starving. Please?” Then Jude spotted a Lego store, “Dad, I need a Lego! Do you remember you promised that you’d take me there? Can we just look in that store and see what they have?” The car wouldn’t even have time to go another ten feet before another child would start begging me for whatever their eyes fell on next. They wanted to drive through a car wash. They wanted to stop and see a movie. They asked if we could take them to the zoo. If they saw it, they begged for it.
They tried asking nicely, batting their eyes at me and saying “please” over and over again. They even resorted to using old-school tactics by telling me that I never did anything with them or took them anywhere. They tried bargaining with me, “If you just take us to the dollar store so we can get you a present we’ll be quiet.” “NO,” I’d say. “We’re not stopping anywhere. Just sit there and keep your mouths shut.”
Then we passed by a car dealership with one of those annoying flopping blow-up men that appeared to be bowing and waving at all the passing cars and they literally pleaded with me to stop the car so they could go there. They didn’t even know what that stupid thing was, but because it looked like a huge toy they wanted to stop and spend time with it. Keep in mind, we’ve only driven about three miles now. We haven’t even entered the freeway yet.
I was truly impressed with their persistence and the levels of pure darkness and manipulation they were willing to sink to in order to get what they wanted. The oldest of the three spotted a Cold Stone ice cream shop up ahead and she started thanking Angie and me for being the best parents in the world as the car got closer and closer (I actually almost fell for it). Shockingly, she was just as quick to curse the very ground I walked on the moment I drove right by it without so much as slowing down. She let us both know how disappointed and hurt she was and how she always thinks about her life as an abused child growing up in an uncaring family. After all, her friend at school’s mom and dad take her there all the time after gymnastics and we had the nerve to just drive by without stopping for a “FREE” taster.
As any parent reading these words may already have guessed; we calmly answered, “No” to all their ridiculous requests and continued driving on. We had a destination already in mind and the last thing we were going to do was stop at a thousand places along the way. It was as if the three youngest kids had no concept of where we were going. They didn’t have the ability to focus on the big picture (Sea World) because their little eyes kept seeing all the little things along the way.
Interestingly enough, the two oldest girls, Landin and Sidney have traveled this road several times before. Because they’re both older, they’ve spent more time with Angie and me on an adult level and in some ways they’re closer to us because of this. Because of their age and maturity, they weren’t just “being taken” to Sea World, but they were in on the trip with us. There’s a huge difference here. In fact, within the perimeters of the “difference” here, lies the revelation that I want you to get.
The two older kids sat up front with mom and dad and asked questions that were relevant to our destination, while the three youngest sat way in the back shouting out whatever looked good to them from their perspective. Landin and Sidney both asked if we were going to eat lunch at Sea World or if we’d be leaving and going somewhere else. They also wanted to know whether the Orca show played all throughout the day or only at specific times. Sid asked us if we were planning on buying her a souvenir at the park and Landin asked if she could wear her swimming suit and sit up front during the Shamu show because he splashes water on everyone. The answer was Yes! Angie and I discussed the trip with them and answered every one of their questions without hesitation.
People ask me all the time where God has brought me in the last thirty years of my spiritual walk. For many years, the answer had always been, “I have no idea where He’s taking me.” Because of the fearful teachings about Him I had grown up with, I was just happy to be along for the ride. Don't get me wrong; I trusted Him and believed in Him, but I didn’t know from day to day what He was doing in me. In those beginning years I felt exactly like my three youngest kids must have felt that day in the car on the way to Sea World. They felt like their requests all fell flat to the ground the moment they left their lips. My prayer life went pretty much the same way. It was as though I was seated in the back of the van and the things I prayed about had to do with whatever random thing I happened to see out my window.
Though I prayed to Him all the time, my prayers didn’t have anything to do with where He was taking me. In other words, I wasn’t in on the trip with Him. I was just along for the ride. I believe that this is exactly what the vast majority of Christian people experience in prayer on a daily basis. I also think it’s exactly what their Pastors teach them to do, week after week. In most cases, the Pastor isn’t in on the trip with God either. He’s in the back seat with everyone else, trying desperately to teach the people different tactics and ways in which to ask their next ridiculous question. When I see the things that the average person prays about and for, I find myself wondering if they have any clue who they’re in the car with. I wonder if they even know where that car is headed. People are so lost and disconnected from God’s heart that they ask Him for things that aren’t even on the menu. Because they don't know who they’re talking to, or where he’s taking them, they ask for random, off-topic, immediate things that matter in the big picture about as much as getting to play on the monkey bars or stopping at the Lego store.
It seems that everyone is set up for this left-field experience with God because very few people are sitting up front with Him. The real question is, who is directing everyone towards the back seat? The vast majority of teachings on the subject of prayer are nothing but teachings on how to manipulate God to stop the car - in spite of where He’s taking us - and give us what we want. People today lack the intimacy it takes to be in on the trip with God. It’s not that they don’t want to. I think it’s more that they’ve been trained NOT to, and they don’t even know it. They come from a religion that has taught them to fear God. The problem is that when you're afraid of Him, you can't know Him and if you can't know Him, you can't ever know where He's taking you. When you raise people on a diet of fear, you end up with an entire generation who lives in the dark. Their prayers are nothing but shots in the dark. This is why all our present day teachings on prayer are specifically designed for people who don't know Him and they constantly encourage people to "stand on scripture." It's all we have. Many people even purchase books that list out all the promises of God in the Bible, because it's the only hope they have in the midst of the darkness they've been taught to live in. They were born in the back seat and taught to stay in the back seat. Sitting up front with God is not even an option in their minds.
This is what separates, Those who pray TO Him from Those who pray WITH Him. The real truth is that prayer doesn’t even begin until you’re praying WITH Him. Everything about God is all about intimacy. He wants you in the front seat of life and totally in on the trip with Him, but He’s fighting a force that has stolen prayer away and has contaminated it to an unrecognizable point. It was never His desire to just be taking you somewhere; you were supposed to be going together. For many people, this revelation will be a profound turning point in their life.
When your heart is one with His, you suddenly find yourself asking Him questions that directly pertain to where the two of you are going together. Your wants and desires will naturally fall within the parameters of the destination you’ve both chosen. In other words, when you’re driving to Red Lobster together with God, you are very unlikely to randomly ask him for a Big Mac or a Chalupa Supreme. The conversation on the way to Red Lobster will be about those awesome cheese biscuits they serve before your meal. Christians today rarely have those conversations because their religion has thwarted them to another topic that’s inevitably OFF topic.
I think most Christians are asking for Big Macs on the way to Red Lobster because they’ve not decided to go anywhere together with Him. They’re just along for the ride. That’s the difference. Their heart is not set on Red Lobster because they didn’t plan the trip with Him. The moment they get hungry, they ask for the first thing they see outside their window; McDonald’s.
This isn’t something you can teach people. Everything I’ve said so far in this article is not my feeble attempt to teach you intimacy with God. Driving in the front seat with God and being in on your destination with Him is not something you can learn by following a few simple principles or a religious recipe. This article is merely drawing out the lines and stating the facts about God and what He wants to share with you. At the very least it’s an attempt to explain to you why most people’s entire religious experience isn’t working.
Everything about religion is about keeping you as far away from the front seat as possible. Religion knows that the moment you’re in on the trip with God you won’t need “IT” any longer. The part religion plays in your life is not just keeping you in the back seat looking out the windows at everything that passes you by, but religion keeps you in the back seat of LIFE so that everything in your life is off topic, random and out of the Spirit of where he's taking you. Religion speaks in terms of where God is taking the church or a particular congregation, but it knows that it can’t tell you where He’s taking you as an individual, and this is where the problem lies. It might surprise you to find that God is not taking your church anywhere. In spite of what you’ve had drilled into your head all these years, God doesn’t take groups of people on specific journeys together like He did in the Old Testament times. Because of what took place on the cross, God is now an individual God, not a “group god.” If religion wishes to survive however, it must convince everyone that the trip we’re all taking with Him is on the church bus. That way people feel like if they don’t go to church, they’re no longer on the journey with God. In other words, they need to stay on the church bus forever. Getting away from this “group god” mentality and realizing that he’s taking you on an individual journey, is key to understanding Him.
I honestly believe that our religion is set up to stunt or even stop us from growing spiritually intimate with God, keeping us as far away from His heart as possible so that we’re always in the dark with nothing more in sight to pray for than a better parking space at the mall or for a red light to change back to green before we stop the car completely. These are precisely the things most Christians fill their prayer life with. We’ve become people without direction and as a result, our prayers are directionless.
Sadly, most of us are in such spiritual poverty, we’re living from spiritual paycheck to paycheck. In other words, we’re operating today on the amount of faith that was left over yesterday from our last prayer request. It’s hard to keep our belief level strong when the last fifty things we prayed about seemed to be met with, “No, we’re not stopping anywhere, just sit there and keep your mouth shut.” Because our religion has put its focus on teaching people how to get answers to back-seat-random-window-sighting-prayers, we eventually have come to a point where all our prayers and questions are not being answered because none of them pertain to anything having to do with Sea World (your personal trip with God).
If religion can keep you away from intimacy with God and in the dark about your personal destination with Him, you’ll spend your entire life rattling off random prayers that are so off the topic of your life, God won’t be able to answer a single one of them.
This is how churches survive. By creating a bunch of drones who sit around analyzing and micro managing every last detail about nothing until they have absolutely no energy or motivation left over to really know Him. It’s the ultimate back seat window watching experience. Talk about, think about, sing about, read about, fight about, pray about everything that passes by your window while having no idea whatsoever that you’re being taken to Sea World by God.
If ANYONE tells you they can teach you this I-know-where-I’m-going-with-God kind of intimacy, don’t believe them. Religion’s trap is to convince you that not only can you learn this, but that they’ll be the one to teach it to you and without them you’ll never get it. I have found that the greatest way to prevent yourself from being caged by the power of religion is for you to trust God to take you to Sea World Himself.
This is why the Scripture says, “The anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you.” It is imperative that you stick with this and don’t be tempted to give your heart over to another teaching. Sorry my friends, this one’s gotta be CAUGHT not TAUGHT.
Many people simply need to begin by looking at prayer completely different from the way they learned in church. This is the point where your idea of prayer must go from the awful religious mentality of “getting answers” to simply “finding intimacy.” Anything less than that is a waste of time.
I have found that He wants us to be “in on it with Him.” This position only comes through intimacy. We read verses that tell us that if we ask anything ACCORDING TO HIS WILL we will have it in Jesus’ name. This verse is laying it out in black and white. It’s God saying to us, “If you know me, you’ll be “IN ON IT” with me. You won’t just be along for the ride. Your questions and requests will always pertain to Sea World rather than to the silly things you pass along the way. Sadly, we read a verse like this and we immediately start searching the scriptures in an effort to find out what His will is so we can have a legal list of the things he HAS to give us. In other words, we try to look in the teacher’s manual to find the answers because we’re too lazy to open our hearts and KNOW him for ourselves.
You can always tell that people are hopelessly disconnected to a thing by the kind of questions they ask and the things they say when the subject is brought up. Hearing Christians talk about prayer today reminds me of watching a movie with my seven-year-old son Jude. He’ll ask me questions all throughout the movie that have absolutely nothing to do with what’s going on in the story. The main character will be running around like crazy locking all the doors to his house and frantically loading his gun while peering out the window and my son will say, “Why is he wearing that red jacket?” That’s when I know it’s time to flip the channel back to Spider Man. When my kids do this, I usually say, “You’re asking the wrong questions.” This is what I find myself saying to most Christians today. If your main question is, “How do I get answers to prayer?” or “How do I hear from God?” trust me in this; you’re asking the wrong questions. The very fact that these are your questions should have you reanalyzing your Christian existence.
I get the same feeling today when I hear Christians saying things like “Prayer works.” If you really think about this statement, I think you’ll be left asking yourself the same question I’m left asking myself every time I hear it. What the heck IS it saying? It seems that rather than experiencing genuine intimacy with our Father, we’ve taken the very avenue through which that intimacy is expressed and we have labeled it as being nothing more than a machine. Works for what? That’s not even something that can be said about prayer. It makes as much sense to say “Prayer Breathes” or “Prayer Giggles.” Prayer isn’t there to “work”. Once again we are saying the wrong things, proving that we don’t get what prayer is for. Saying things like, “A family that prays together stays together” is just terrible in my opinion. So THAT’S a reason to pray now? You might lose your family if you don’t? Prayer isn’t there to keep your family together. PRAYER IS INTIMACY. We’ve gotten so off topic that we don’t even know what we’re talking about anymore.
Landin and Sidney were asking questions, but not questions based on whatever was outside their window. They were asking pertinent questions having to do with their destination like, “When we get there are we going to eat lunch in the park?” or “What time does the dolphin show begin?” or “Can we pet the stingrays this time?” or “Will you buy us a souvenir?” Their questions all received answers. They were all questions that had to do with where we were going.
This is a perfect picture of how I see prayer these days. I pretty much keep my mouth shut until I have a question that pertains to the trip He and I are taking together. I’ve learned to see other people’s destinations as well, so sometimes I even pray for them concerning where I know they’re headed with God.
Most people will read these words and ask, “How do I know where He’s taking me?” My answer is that you probably already do know, but you are too afraid to admit it. It’s just too good to believe. Most of the time, if you look into your heart of hearts and look at your deepest longing, you’ll find it there. He’s been taking you on that trip your entire life. It was your religion that convinced you that your dream of that destination was self-serving, arrogant or out of His will. It was your religion that convinced you He ultimately had a destination for you that would make you uncomfortable. They told you it would be something you didn’t want to do or someplace you didn’t want to go, and if you were obedient, he would bless you. Sadly, I have found that most people know exactly where He’s taking them but they live as though they don’t know.
I think Free Believers stop praying because they’re no longer desperate and looking out the window. They’re sitting next to the Father and they’re no longer interested in little stops along the way. It just feels like they’ve stopped praying because they aren’t barking out random prayers that have nothing to do with their trip anymore. For many people, that’s the equivalent of cutting out 98% of their prayer life. As a new Free Believer your life is inevitably about knowing Him now. THAT IS PRAYER. Remember - Prayer is intimacy. You’re just experiencing prayer on its original intended level.
I have found that Free Believers stop praying once they receive the truth for one basic reason; it sounds religious and fake. They literally can’t stand to hear their own voice spit out the phony manipulative jargon they’ve learned to hate so much. The language of prayer with its phrases and word structures become totally exposed for what they are when a person comes into this revelation, and what was normal a day earlier, is now repulsive to them. It’s easier and much more pleasant to just keep your mouth shut and trust Him. Every time they start to pray, they catch themselves rattling off the same ugly stuff with the same filthy accent, so they stop. Most Free Believers I know are committed to having something REAL with God. Once they enter into Free Believer mode, they simply can’t tolerate fake talk.I’m here to put your heart at ease. I’m here to tell you that nothing’s wrong with you. You’re fine. In fact, you’re right where He wants you to be, and know this; you’re NOT alone in this. This is all part of what He’s doing worldwide. You’re NOT missing anything my friends. What is happening to you is actually quite beautiful. You’re going through a transformation. You are moving from one position to another.
You are finally in the front seat with Him and on your way to Sea World!
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