The church is being inundated with new age, mystical practices and instead of rejecting them, many are embracing them. One of the primary reasons this is happening is that pastors are deceived into thinking that these practices are in line with Scripture.
Some pastors like Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, go so far as to say that Christians need to reclaim New Age practices and use them for God’s glory. In a book written by Bethel staff members called The Physics of Heaven, it says, “Now we are beginning to hear more and more revelation that is in line with what New Agers have been saying all along and we are hearing more and more teaching about Christians ‘taking back truths’ from the New Age that really belong to citizens of the Kingdom of God.”
With statements like that it’s wo wonder worshippers are confused.
One particular New Age practice that is being embraced by the church is a type of contemplative prayer called soaking. Christians who do soaking prayer say that it is a way to experience intimacy with God.
John and Carol Arnott, founders of Catch the Fire Church in Toronto (formerly the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship), describe soaking as, “the practice of expectantly waiting and resting in God’s love, rather than striving in prayer.” The Arnotts also say that God has given them a mandate to “give birth to soaking prayer centers around the world.”
Gary Oates, author and former church planter, claims that soaking is the primary key to intimacy with God. He describes soaking prayer like this: “Put a dry sponge in a bucket of water and slowly the water permeates the sponge. This is the same as soaking in God’s Presence. The more we soak, the more we become filled with His Spirit.”
In order to practice soaking prayer, Christians are instructed to prepare themselves to enter into the presence of God. This can be done by putting on soft worship music and grabbing a pillow and a favorite blanket. Once they have quieted themselves and gotten comfortable, soakers are to yield their thoughts to the Holy Spirit and to simply focus on God.
As the soaker does this, they will eventually feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. They might feel tingling, heat, or other sensations throughout their body. Once the Holy Spirit is present, the soaker may hear God’s voice or have a vision. They may also “receive impressions, pictures, angelic visitations, and other supernatural revelations.”
To any Christian who wants to develop a closer relationship with God, soaking prayer sounds like an amazing way to do just that. There are some major concerns about this practice, however. Some say that while it is fine to want to spend time with the Lord, this New Age practice implies a supernatural experience will happen with God, instead of prayer and reflection.
Anytime prayer induces a trance-like state, it contains more similarities to a New Age practice, or that of Hinduism, rather than Christianity. Another problem with soaking prayer is that there is no Biblical support for this type of prayer model.
Those who practice this type of prayer say that having such supernatural experiences are Biblical. They cite passages such as Genesis 15:1, where “the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision” and Acts 8:39-40 where Philip gets transported in the Spirit. The problem is, they are taking these passages completely out of context.
Bible-believing Christians should know that they don’t have to practice God’s presence, as He is already with them wherever they go. Christians should also not have to experience physical sensations, like tingling in the fingers or heat in the hands, in order to know that God is present.
Another danger of soaking prayer is that it implies praying and spending time in God’s word is no longer enough and that believers need to be doing more in order to know God.
Kevin Kleint who blogs as Honor of Kings says, “Every time, those who try to empty their minds and have little or no foundation in the Word, they open themselves up wide for deceiving spirits. Convinced that they are more spiritual because they are hearing voices, ‘manifesting’ and feeling things, they leave behind the tools that are their very lifeline to God… the Word and prayer.”
As with many practices invading the church today, soaking seems like a wonderful thing, but in reality, relying on subjective experiences instead of God’s truth will actually lead people further away from God rather than closer to Him.