Friday, July 5, 2013

Re: Worship That Shakes the World

Recently, Misty Edwards, the International House of Prayer's worship leader, wrote an article for Charisma Magazine on the subject of prayer and music in worship. The full article can be found here. When I read it, I felt compelled to write a response, not so much because of what was said, but because of what wasn't said. That is, Misty Edwards would touch on the subject of prayer and worship music, but not clarify what she meant by it, or what she really meant by it. We need to understand a person's theology not by what we want them to mean, but by how they themselves define what they mean. Someone reading the article might assume from it that IHOP-KC was a theologically sound place, or might think that their beliefs regarding prayer and worship are like any other Christian group. As we go through the article, however, we'll see that's not the case.
Worship and prayer are inseparable. Through worship, we agree with who God is, and through prayer, we agree with what He promised to do. I don’t believe worship can be disconnected from prayer at all. The only thing that makes “worship music” worship is that we’re talking to God; otherwise, it’s just music.

Prayer is a dialogue with the Invisible, and there are many expressions of this conversation. Sometimes it is a contemplative meditation on Scripture. Other times it’s a heartfelt plea for help, a cry for justice or a lament of repentance. Prayer also includes a declaration of who God is and gratitude for what He’s done and will do, as well as a prophetic declaration of what He’s saying today. Intercession, worship, praise and the prophetic are all one seamless flow involved in this holy conversation that we call prayer. When we combine these elements with music, there is a dynamic impact on our hearts—individually and corporately—that affects society at large.
To those unfamiliar with IHOP-KC and its theology, this might all sound well and good. However, just as a Mormon means much more than an orthodox Christian when he says he believes God is the "God of this world," so too does Misty Edwards mean a bit more here. In fact, she fails to mention a couple of things here.

One thing she fails to mention here is what she means by "contemplative meditation on Scripture." While I agree that it's good to meditate over Scripture (that is, ponder what a verse means, study it in depth, etc.), she means something entirely different by it. At IHOP-KC, they teach what amounts to the Roman Catholic doctrine of Lectio Divina, which teaches "praying God's word" in order to receive feedback or a deeper "communion" with God. They likewise teach the monastic (and also pagan) teaching of contemplative prayer, where you attempt to discover the deeper secrets of God by meditating (in a pagan sense) over a verse (I talk about this somewhat here and here).

Another thing she fails to mention is exactly what she, and IHOP-KC, believes prayer can do. That is, they believe that through our prayer we in essence give God permission to act on earth, similar to the beliefs of Word of Faith teacher Myles Munroe; God cannot release great conversions or miracles or powers until we pray for Him to. To quote from Mike Bickle's book Seven Commitments of a Forerunner:
Speaking forth the Word of God back to God is the catalyst for releasing His power. The Father has chosen to govern the earth in partnership with His people through intercession. [pg. 35; Forerunner]
And again:
Today, God requires our intercession to release the fullness of His power and justice on earth. As we speak, or pray, God’s will back to God, the Spirit releases it on the earth. If we do not speak out God’s Word, then the power of the Spirit will not be released in the same measure. God requires holy, persevering, believing prayer to release the fullness of what is in His heart. The fullness of God’s justice will only be released in the context of night and day intercession. [pg. 36; Forerunner]
Another thing she fails to mention is what she means by prayer being "a declaration of who God is and gratitude for what He’s done and will do, as well as a prophetic declaration of what He’s saying today." IHOP-KC believes that through prayer, we actually receive personal revelation of God's intentions for today, especially for the end times. This leads into the rather Gnostic belief held at IHOP-KC that those who engage in heavy prayer (especially if they join the Forerunner movement or something like it) will receive from God "deep secrets of His heart."
Prayer is much more than a spiritual discipline to be performed, or the means by which we find our way out of difficult circumstances...Rather, it is the place of encounter with God where our spirit is energized as we grow in love with Him...As we dialogue with Him in prayer, He reveals glimpses of His personality, giving us revelation of His thoughts and feelings toward us. This is a necessary foundation for all who wish to grow in intimacy with God. [pg. 30-31; Forerunner]
Again, there's far more under the surface here than we may realize.
Often we use these two words—worship and prayer—to mean singing and speaking our conversation with God. I believe there’s a powerful connection between spoken prayers and those that are sung. In Revelation, we see both spoken word and song offered continuously around the throne. We see a harp, signifying music (Rev. 5:8), and a bowl full of the intercession of the saints (vv. 8-9). And we know that if this is the way it is in heaven, it’s also a model for how it ought to be on earth.

Today we see prayer meetings springing up around the world where the intercessors are being carried and sustained by enjoyable prayer (Is. 56:7). One way such prayer becomes enjoyable is through the combination of spoken prayer with prophetic, inspirational music and singing.
It is common for those at IHOP-KC to take the vision in Revelation 5:8 as a literal representation of what it is like in heaven, and while I don't deny that it's probably close, I would likewise ask if they believe there is also a bloodied lamb with seven horns and seven eyes walking around heaven (Rev 5:6).

Also note that she says the bowl in verses 8-9 are the "intercession of the saints" and that it is "full." This is because at IHOP-KC (according to the end-times beliefs of Mike Bickle) they believe the first seal will not be broken until the bowl is full of the intercession of the houses of prayer (a clear teaching that is not clearly taught in the text). To put it another way, God's automobile of judgment needs gas, and praying fuels it up, hence one reason those in this movement are so adamant about prayer. They in essence believe that they are praying Jesus back.

In fact, the forerunner movement gets a silent nod at the end of this section, when Misty Edwards talks of "prayer meetings springing up around the world where the intercessors are being carried and sustained by enjoyable prayers." I talk more about the forerunner movement here, but suffice to say IHOP-KC believes that these prayer meetings (more accurately prayer cultures, as Lou Engle calls them) are being raised by God to bring about His end times plans. In fact, God personally spoke to Mike Bickle and personally told him to help start this movement. Almost everything at IHOP-KC is grounded on personal of the traits, by the way, of a cult.
Music originated from God. The human spirit is musical because we are created in His image. There is something mysterious yet simple about song and the connection it has to our emotions, our memory and our ability to focus mind, body, soul and spirit. It is a beautiful gift God has given each of us.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a singer or a musician, you are musical. Paul said that he sang spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). I doubt he was a worship leader, but he was a man of prayer, and he sang in the spirit to God (1 Cor. 14:15).
Note how she says that music has the ability to help us "focus mind, body, soul and spirit." If you listen to the music at IHOP-KC, especially at their special events, one thing you'll notice quickly is that they tend to repeat words a lot and use music in a rather hypnotic way. This is something done in New Age music and some pagan rites, and is simply a manipulative use of music done to help the people get into a kind of spiritual high. Somehow, I don't think this was what Paul was talking about. If you read all of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, you'll find that when he spoke of "spiritual songs", he was talking about "psalms and hymns". Psalms and hymns don't do what the music at IHOP-KC does.
In our individual lives, singing our prayers is beneficial in many ways. One way is by giving us the ability to focus at a greater level. When we sing Scripture to God, it has a way of leading us into meditation, due to the repetitive nature of song. It also writes the truth on our hearts in a way the spoken word does not.

For example, if I said, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star,” you would immediately remember the song and likely be able to sing it word for word. But if I said “Ephesians 1:17,” many of us would not know that prayer at all. However, if we put this prayer of the apostle Paul to music, even children would remember it. Add in the spontaneity and development of Scripture a teacher would bring to such a text—yet do it through song—and you would not only remember the text, but you would also understand it.
Note that here, in a way, Misty Edwards confirms what I said before: we can "focus at a greater level" and hence lead us "into meditation, due to the repetitive nature of song." IHOP-KC has their musicians repeat the same lyric over and over and over again so that the listeners can get into a kind of meditative state -however, this form of meditation belongs more in monasteries and false religions than it does in Christianity.

In regards to the second section, while I agree that putting scripture to music (as many hymn writers did) can assist even children in remembering the verse. There's nothing wrong with that. However, I've rarely seen it happen at IHOP-KC in such a way that one would "understand it." Usually what might happen at IHOP-KC is someone would take Ephesians 1:17, repeat it a few times, then focus in on one thing and say something like "Give us the wisdom and revelation!", and repeat that over and over again. One time, while I was personally visiting the prayer room, I was listening to the music and realized that they had taken a well known hymn (I forget which one) and just repeating the first verse over and over and over again. That's hardly edifying to anyone.

As I've said before, it seems like those at IHOP-KC's prayer team believe that Christ said "do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words", they believed it was a friendly suggestion.
In our corporate life, singing prayers has a dynamic impact too. Through song, we are able to become one voice and one heart as we sing the same thing to the same Man at the same time. Through song, we can also feel the same thing at the same time while either declaring the truth or interceding for a breakthrough. 
Again, do you see the subtle hint at IHOP-KC doctrine here? When she says "interceding for a breakthrough," she means praying to God to grant Him the ability to perform something.
Song is a powerful tool to unify the body of Christ. Whenever you have the combination of spoken prayer and singing, an entire room or a whole stadium of people can come into agreement with what is being prayed through simple songs that make us one voice. I believe this unified intercession and worship is one thing that changes the spiritual atmosphere of a city or a region. 
Once again, a subtle reference to IHOP-KC's doctrine. When she says "unified intercession and worship" can change "the spiritual atmosphere of a city or a region",  she's saying that when we pray, we release "spiritual energy" (as Lou Engle called it) into the atmosphere, to combat demonic forces. If you listen to Lou Engle talk about the house of prayer movement, you'll hear him talk about Christian houses of prayer are literally in direct spiritual warfare with non-Christian houses of prayer, because according to this doctrine mosques and synagogues and other non-Christian places of worship are blasting energy into the atmosphere. The house of prayer movement believes that when we pray, we combat that spiritual energy, and hence break it away and help bring revival to a city.
You don’t have to add music to the conversation—prayer—you’re holding with God, but music combined with prayer opens our hearts, writes truth on our minds, changes the atmosphere and facilitates sustainable, enjoyable corporate prayer that leads to a unified heart with one another and with God.
As I said earlier, all this sounds good, and perhaps if it was someone else writing this, I would give a hearty "Amen!" But we need to realize something: theology matters.