|HOME - 'Resting in the Spirit': Questions and Answers|
|ARTICLE:||'RESTING IN THE SPIRIT': QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS|
|Introduction||(back to top)|
|'RESTING in the SPIRIT?' or the Falling Phenomenon|
This article is a summary of some points in my booklet 'Resting in the Spirit'. The booklet - over ten times the
length of this - is regarded by many as a standard work on the subject and includes contributions from Don Double
and Cardinal Suenens.
It is still available from Renewal Servicing - see our Books Page.
It should be consulted by any reader really wanting to study the subject.
|1. What is 'Resting in the Spirit'?||(back to top)|
It is a modern term to describe people collapsing or falling to the ground when they are being prayed-over. This may
happen in a service where such ministry is offered. It can be a regular and anticipated feature in the ministry of some.
|2. I have heard the term 'Slaying in the Spirit', is that the same?||(back to top)|
Yes, it is another modern term, but because to be 'slain' suggests something violent, most folk opt for the term
'resting' since the experience is usually a gentle one, and this seems to describe it better.
|3. What does Scripture say?||(back to top)|
There are eight incidents that might have a bearing on it. You may see the texts via the Bible buttons.
They are as follows -
|4. What can we deduce from these experiences?||(back to top)|
(a) There seem to be two causes of falling in Scripture -
Falling as a result of a clash between good and evil occurred with the epileptic demoniac (v). This might also be the cause of the crowd falling back at Jesus' arrest (vi).
(b) The second thing that Scripture shows is that there are two types of falling:
The crowd at Jesus' arrest are flung backward (vi).
The fallings of the Priests (i) and Saul (vii) are not clear.
The demoniac boy (v) was thrown down by an evil spirit.
|5. Isn't it quibbling to make a distinction between falling forward or backward?||(back to top)|
I think not, because they are two very different things. To fall forward is, in certain situations, a voluntary and
natural act. Bowing is a formalised expression of this. To fall backwards, on the other hand, is, for humans, unnatural
and dangerous - because we cannot see where we are going!
|6. Is not the falling of 'Resting in the Spirit' a forward falling? I have never actually seen it, but I always presumed it was.||(back to top)|
No. The phenomenon we are considering is almost invariably a backward falling, not the natural worshipping attitude we
sometimes sing about - '...bow down before him', or '...prostrate fall'.
|7. What about Saul/Paul's falling?||(back to top)|
My guess is that as he was blinded, and as he did not know what the vision was, it was not a forward prostration of
worship, but a backward recoil. But we don't know. Artists have sometimes depicted him being thrown from his horse!
However he fell, his experience provides no parallel, but rather the very opposite of today's experiences when being prayed-over. Today we would expect the falling to be accompanied by some fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit or a measure of healing.
Saul's experience was the opposite of this. After his falling Saul was neither Spirit-filled nor healed - in fact he was blinded and needed prayer!
The result of his falling required the ministry of Ananias: it was not Ananias's ministry that produced the falling.
|8. Is there any real Biblical precedent for today's experience of 'Resting in the Spirit' when being prayed over?||(back to top)|
There is a Scriptural precedent for falling when experiencing God's presence - and that may sometimes be the case today.
But there is no basis for collapsing when being prayed over. Indeed, in the Biblical accounts there is usually more
emphasis on getting up than on collapsing! Thus, God enabled Ezekiel to stand
; Daniel had a divine hand raise him
; Jesus touches the disciples and tells them to get up
; the implication is that John gets up and writes
|9. Is there any sort of Biblical pointer towards 'Resting in the Spirit'?||(back to top)|
Many people were prayed-over in Scripture; but the absence of such falling in Scripture means that -
|10. That strikes me as a bit hard and rigid!||(back to top)|
My point is not to deny that present-day falling may be the result of Spirit-empowered ministry and a blessing to the
person involved. My point (at this stage in this article) is simply to establish that there is no firm basis in
Scripture for making such claims.
But God, of course, may work in people's lives today in ways that have no exact parallel in Scripture.
|11. How does Scripture guide us in this matter?||(back to top)|
Simple: Seek God himself, and focus on him! Don't seek non-Scriptural experiences of him or particular outward
manifestations. Get your priorities right. Be thirsty for God, and leave the choice of what he gives you to him. If he
blesses you and that blessing was accompanied by an experience of 'Resting in the Spirit' Alleluia! If he
blesses you and that blessing was not accompanied by an experience of 'Resting in the Spirit' - Alleluia also! It
is not a reward given on merit; it is not a guarantee of blessing; it is not a mark of holiness; it is not a demonstration
of God's favouritism.
Human nature being what it is, Christians can make 'Resting in the Spirit' a sign of spiritual one-upmanship, or a hallmark of sound belief, or a signal of group membership and so on. We need to watch out for these pressures that might lead us to seek it, but for the wrong reasons.
|12. How is an experience judged to be 'Christian' if it is not described in Scripture?||(back to top)|
To answer that adequately would take another article! But, in brief, the following check-list might be
|13. Is this so-called 'Resting in the Spirit' a totally new thing?||(back to top)|
No. It is not just a Pentcostalist import. It has occurred at various times in both Catholic and Protestant
spirituality. Both St.Teresa of Avila, John Wesley and the Salvation Army tradition encountered it.
|14. What did they think about such things?||(back to top)|
John Wesley changed his mind about such things and in his later ministry neither expected nor encouraged any of these
manifestations. St. Teresa knew mystical life better than anyone, and recognised that 'spiritual' trance states could
be the result of weakness, silliness or sheer exhibitionism! Any of her Order who were prone to such things were told
not to pray for too long and made to do plenty of hard work!
The Salvation Army termed it 'Having a Glory Fit', and the Quakers during Wesley's ministry supplied blankets and drinks for the prostrate, and let them be; commenting that in them the 'Spirit was warring with the flesh'.
|15. What may we learn from the past?||(back to top)|
Christians have always played-down all such fringe items of the Christian life, and we should do the same.
|16. Why did they 'play-down' such things?||(back to top)|
17. Your four criteria for judging Christian experience (question 12) mentioned not dividing the church.
Does 'Resting in the Spirit' do so?
|(back to top)|
It can, which is why I have written about it. That happens when Christians think they know better than those who have
gone before, and allow themselves to 'go-overboard' on the latest thing.
Men and women are sacramental by nature; they need 'outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace'. If their Christian tradition is not sacramental about things, (water, bread, wine, oil), they will tend to behave in a sacramental way about experiences instead.
The trouble with this is that our experience and feelings are so complex and unreliable that Christian 'reality' gets based more on us and our feelings than on God and his faithfulness.
|18. What would you recommend?||(back to top)|
For your convenience I have, up to this point, used the phrase 'Resting in the Spirit'. This is, of course, a religious
and Christian interpretation. The snag of using such a phrase is that it presupposes what is happening before it takes
place. It gives a high-profile spiritual interpretation to an event long before anyone has had time to assess whether it
had any real spiritual content at all!
My advice is simple and common sense.
went semi-conscious, etc.'
When, later, the person concerned and local Christians begin to understand what had been going on, having seen its results, they can begin to interpret the event and any spiritual significance it might have had.
We are then in a position to begin to use spiritual language about it - 'His life was so changed when he was prayed over, that when he collapsed it seems to have been a 'resting in the Holy Spirit'.'
'When she got up she realised that she had been healed, and that God had used that time when unconscious to heal her!'
It is quite possible that nothing of religious significance happened at all. So a person might admit -
'I collapsed when prayed over a long time ago. While it was quite restful, it doesn't really seem to have made the slightest difference to me, then or since.' It would be misleading to describe that instance of the falling phenomenon as 'Resting in the Spirit'.
'Resting in the Spirit' is a good term to describe the fairly rare authentic experience.
But to call every collapse in a Christian setting a 'Resting in the Spirit' is misleading, confusing, and should be avoided. Such collapsing occurs, after all, in non-Christian circles.
Let's not prejudge such physical events by giving them spiritual labels long before we know if there was any spiritual blessing accompanying it.
It is no criticism of those involved simply to say of a person initially that they 'collapsed' or 'fell'. This is, after all, what the Biblical writers tend to do, i.e. they separate the physical action from the spiritual. Thus the Wise Men bowed down and worshipped him, and Christ at Gethsemane fell to the ground and prayed. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice.
In the 1980's when I suggested that spiritual language be not immediately used to describe the physical falling phenomenon, it was immediately acted on positively by Protestant and Catholic leaders both in America and Europe.
Cardinal Suenens wrote (1987):
'An Anglican minister, J. Richards, suggests that, to begin with, we should adopt a neutral term that remains purely descriptive and does not make its spiritual content and interpretation a foregone conclusion. He proposes that we call it the 'falling phenomenon', and not speak too hastily of 'resting in the Spirit'...
I too endorse his suggestion. In short I shall speak more frequently of 'falling' than of 'resting'.
|A Prayer||(back to top)|
Help me to focus on you and to thirst for you.
Give me what you think is best
in the way and at the time of your choosing.
Keep my heart and life open to you,
so that your gifts and graces may find no hindrance in me.
Free me from wrong human pressures
and from any tendency to
tell you what you may and may not do!
I ask this so that the Presence and Power of Jesus
may shine and work through me. Amen.
|Copyright John Richards 2002, but waived for users of www.helpforchristians.co.uk|