Beni Johnson had no desire to be an intercessor. All the intercessors that she knew were depressed. She would feel other peoples’ feelings when she walked in a room, but assumed that they were her feelings. However, as God started showing her to release them to Him in prayer, and freeing her from self-pity and being afraid of what other thought, she began to realize that she was an intercessor. As she spent time with God, He would show her people, cities, or problems, and sometimes solutions. She would pray over these things. Ultimately, she came to realize that being an intercessor is simply knowing the heartbeat of Heaven and praying it into the world. Intercession is birthed out of simply spending time loving God. As we get to know Him more intimately, He starts sharing His heart with us. Intercession is just praying His heart.
Another way of saying this is that we need to pray from third realm; the realm of God. The first realm is the natural realm; praying from this realm leads us to focus on what seems logical and reasonable, which is not usually where God is coming from. The second realm is where the angels and demons war. When we pray from the second realm, we are often getting supernatural information, but from the demonic. As believers, we are seated with Christ, who is in the third realm. When we pray from this realm, we are seeing things as God sees them. It is both divine perspective and also where we enforce what Christ has accomplished on the Cross.
Intercessors need to realize that we are on the offensive team. Jesus disarmed the devil on the Cross, and now the devil is on the defensive. The offensive team does not worry about what the defense does. Instead, everyone on the offensive team knows the play and executes it; it is the defense that has to react to the offense. So intercessors need to single-mindedly focus on God so that they know what the plan is.
In fact, we are so much on the offensive, that even a single person change dramatically affect the battle. King Saul was sitting under a pomegranate tree hoping the Philistine invasion would somehow resolve itself. His son Jonathan was fed up with the Lord’s army sitting around, so he and his armor-bearer went up to the Philistine camp by themselves to attack the Lord’s enemies. They promptly killed twenty people and the whole Philistine army started fleeing (at which point Saul finally decided it was a good time to attack).
Similarly, intercession needs to be done from a place of rest. Hebrews says that Jesus is our sabbath rest. It is not us or our prayers that is doing the work, it is Jesus, and we rely on him. Striving is what the devil does, so when we start finding ourselves working and striving for the results instead of relying on Jesus for the results, we need to go back and regain our sabbath rest.
Another important value for intercessors is joy. Jesus is joyful and Heaven has lots of joy. Jesus has the world under control, so we don’t need to worry about it; that is his job. Our job is to pray what Heaven is saying and give the rest to God. “If we feed ourselves on life and joy and what God is doing here on earth, we will live like Jesus lived on earth.” (81) Johnson notes that people with a strong mercy gift seem to have trouble doing this, so they need to be especially diligent in giving the problem to God.
Joy and worship (something else Heaven is full of) are offensive weapons. They confuse the enemy, who hates both joy and worship. Bill Johnson will worship for 45 minutes and pray for 15 minutes if he has an hour to pray. Bethel Church has often had people dance in worship which seems to clear up barriers. At one church where they were having trouble having intimate worship, they had their lead dance dance, and a member of that church said that he had been seeing demons hanging out, but when she got up and started dancing in passionate worship, the demons started screaming and got out as fast as possible. Bethel Church also has intercessory prophetic art during worship; the art team even joins the worship team for practices, praying for the team members. Then, during worship, they paint as the Spirit leads.
Another offensive practice is to take ownership of the region where you live. This is not so much of a wrenching physical ownership from the demonic spiritual realm or something. Instead, it is simply caring about God’s values being expressed in the region because it is your region; you live there. Johnson was reading about massacres of Native Americans, and was led to contact the local tribe, the Wintu. Their church has consistently shown them support and sought to work with them. The small tribe was originally ignored by the local city, but as Johnson partnered with them, it spilled over to the city, and has been healing for the tribe.
Going further, intercession needs to take control of the spiritual communication in an area. The book of Daniel shows spiritual opposition hindering the answer to his prayer from reaching him for 21 days. We are on the offensive; we need to own the spiritual airways. She says you do it by praying from the heartbeat of heaven, but is a little unclear on how this differs from regular intercession.
Johnson discusses sort of a grab-bag of intercession issues. Mostly it is about not spending lots of time worrying about negative things that you are getting. Basically, if you have a concern, raise it with your team leader, but generally, simply pray with the heart to see the person flourish in the Kingdom. She notes it is easy to see dirt, but when you see the person how God sees them, then you see the gold in them. She also gives a warning against praying against demonic principalities over a region unless God specifically directs you to. Praying against things that God has not told you to can lead to physical health problems in your church.
The last chapter switches to private prayer, specifically what happens as we desire God Himself more than anything else. This is essentially what the Christian mystics were all about—having more of God at any cost. She describes several types of prayer. Travail is where we are birthing something new with God, and, like birth, can be painful. We need to release the burden back to God at the appropriate time, or the desire to see it birthed versus the present reality of it not being birthed yet can produce depression. Brooding prayer is where the Spirit leads to you to explore, through prayer, His heart for a situation. The dark night of the soul is an intense problem that (hopefully) drives us to abandon everything to God in total surrender. Ecstasy is “a period of time in prayer when the awareness of the soul is suspended and the only focus that the person has is the incredible presence of the Lord.” (179) Contemplative prayer is like “tasting” God; directly experiencing His love through contemplating aspects of Him. Finally, meditation on Scripture (lectio divina) is filling our mind with a Scripture read slowly and repetitively to understand that aspect of God deeply. (Note that it is not emptying our mind!)
The book is a quick read. Johnson is more of a story-teller than someone like Paul who builds an argument. Given the very subjective nature of spiritual experience, I think it works fairly well. However, it is pretty far out on the Charismatic spectrum, even touching on some New Age topics (for example, thin places). Her argument is that the spiritual realm is real, and that New Age, etc. is picking up on realities of the spiritual, just corrupted. Conservative readers should be forewarned. I, personally, found a statement that made in a talk at Bethel by another speaker helpful: “the offense of the apostolic is persecution [e.g. the people opposing Paul]; the offense of the prophetic is foolishness.” So if you find yourself saying “What?! You gotta be kidding me!?” remembering that the Bible does say that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world; even if you end up not agreeing, it should put you in a frame of mind to more easily understand what she is trying to say.
I found this book easy to read, but difficult to get a good mental understanding of what she was trying to say. Frankly, the book felt like she was spider-webbing (when someone, women more often, jump around from point to point without a structure that is clear from the outside). Each chapter flows okay, but the book as a whole is hard to get a handle on. That said, from my notes and this summary, I feel like her main points are:
- Intercession is praying God’s heart. So at its essence, intercession is about being intimate with God and hearing His heart.
- We are on the offensive. Tools for this are joy and worship (essential), relying on God for the results (rest), and caring for our region as if we own it.
Chapter 1: The Journey
- Beni would feel what other people were feeling (usually negative) when she walked into a room; she assumed they were her own feelings and internalized them. This is the gift of discerning of spirits, and what she needed to do was release them in prayer.
- Many people (other than her parents) told her she was shy, and she agreed with that and made it her identity. She was so shy she would rather flunk an oral exam than speak in front of people.
- As a pastor’s wife at Weaverville, she prayed, but just in the ordinary way for family, people in the church, etc.
- She and her husband visited the Toronto Airport Fellowship in 1995, and a guy drunk in the Holy Spirit put his finger on her and she started shaking violently for 20 minutes. She asked God the next day what had happened and He said that she had shaken her strongholds out of her. This gave her the power to resist things like self-pity that came along.
- Shortly afterwards, at a women’s retreat, she was minding her own business and the Holy Spirit came on her and she began to cry as God began pulling His live into her. She began having deep and intense intimacy with God.
- After this, leading started becoming easy. She stopped caring what other people thought.
- In her times of intimacy with God, she started getting pictures of people, or cities, or problems, and would start crying out to God for solutions. If God showed her solutions she would pray about that.
- “My definition for being an intercessor is ‘capturing the heartbeat of Heaven and declaring or praying that into my world. It’s true agreement with Heaven.’” (28)
Chapter 2: Praying From His Heart
- When she is in the secret place, experiencing God’s Presence and liquid love, she often sees people, places, situations and feels like God is giving her something to brood over (the way God brooded over the waters in Gen 1:1). She usually just agrees with God, and feels like she is somehow the womb of God (the innermost being from which flow rivers of living water in John 7:38 is based on the root for “womb.”) [I get the feeling from her choice of “brood” that God might be inviting her deeper than that.]
- Often we go to God with an idea of what we want Him to do; often He wants to do something entirely different. We need to go into His Presence with no agenda.
- “Intercession is just the fruit of being with Him. It was birthed in my own heart because of spending time with Him.” (32).
- When your heart is intertwined with His, you pick up His heartbeat, and from that comes your prayers.
- God likes our ideas, and sometimes we don’t know whether an idea God likes is ours or His.
- It was David’s idea to build a temple, and God liked it.
- Beni had the idea to pour a bottle of wine at a Croatian WWII concentration camp as a prophetic act of reconciliation. The local pastor in the group visiting the concentration camp was Croatian and his wife was Serbian, so their marriage was already a reconciliation, and they poured out the wine. The idea felt right to her, but she doesn’t know if it was hers or God’s.
- “I feel like our lives can be so intertwined with God’s that our thoughts, feelings, and even what we do are melted together with His. When God made us just the way we are, He liked what He made. He likes everything about us. I believe He enjoys our ideas, and we in turn like His ideas. God chooses us, as He chose David.” (34-5)
- When her daughter gave birth to her first child, Beni was the midwife. At one point someone came in kind of oblivious to the process and was talking, but her daughter did not even notice because she was so focus on her mother during the contractions. During a time of birthing something with God, we need that kind of focus on God.
- “When I pray from the heart of God, I become so lost in the presence of God that it feels like the only thing I am listening to is the voice of God. In that place, His heart, His plans, His voice become so real that it is almost as if He and I become one. At those times, it feels like I pray with Him. When I am in that place, all I have to do is agree with God and partner with the things that are already on His heart. ... Those are the times when I begin to see real breakthrough, no agenda required.” (36-7)
Chapter 3: An Offensive Lifestyle
- Jesus got the offensive back on the Cross; we are on the offensive now, and we should pray that way. In American football, it is the offense that has the ball and everyone on the team knows what is going to happen; it is the defense who has to try to read the play and react to it. Don’t worry about what the devil is doing, figure out what God is doing.
- When one of their grandchildren was born, the mother had an infection and they had to do an emergency C-section. The baby had an Apgar count of 2 (out of 10; usually 2s don’t make it). She asked God what was going on, and He said it was just warfare, just say “no.” So the family prayed that way, and in 10 minutes the baby’s Apgar was up to 7.
- A hunter does target practice so that he kills the animal, not merely wounding it. Likewise, we need to pray to hit the mark.
- Meditating [repeatedly or over a extended period?] on a piece of Scripture lets it sink in and transform how we think and pray.
- Pray from a knowledge of what to do. In 1 Chron 12:32, the tribe of Issachar were “men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do” and they switched allegiance from Saul to David. Pray from the plan of God.
- Hezekiah is an example of offensive prayer. When Sennacherib attacked Jerusalem, he puts on sackcloth and immediately goes to the house of God (the temple): go to the Presence. He also contacts the prophet Isaiah. When Sennacherib sends a threatening letter, Hezekiah again goes to the house of God, spreads out the letter in front of God, and says that this problem is contradicting the nature of God who protects Israel, asking God to come through. Then Isaiah gets the word that God will wipe out Sennacherib’s army.
- Prophetic acts can be powerful.
- One person can change the tide of battle. Saul was sitting under a pomegranate tree hoping that the Philistine problem would go away, instead of doing what kings should do and fighting the problem. His son, Jonathan, was fed up, and went secretly with his armor bearer. He climbed up a difficult way, killed twenty of them, and the army fled. Saul eventually found out and chased them. Jonathan (and his armor bearer) caused the win all by himself.
Chapter 4: Ownership
- When we take ownership of an area [as in, take ownership of a situation, not this is exclusively mine], we identify with it. This involves considering its sins our sins, repenting on behalf of the people, initiating reconciliation, etc.
- One day she was reading about the massacres of the Native Americans and started asking God what to do to bring healing to the land. The local Wintu Tribe was not recognized or honored by the city, but she started interacting with the Tribal Council, her church started sending monthly checks to the Wintu Nation. Healing has progressed so that the city invited the Wintu Council to be a part of prayers at the opening ceremony for the Sundial Bridge in 2004.
- [I had always interpreted bloodshed and the land requiring healing as being the physical land—soil, etc.—requiring the healing, which struck me as weird. But her story suggests that it is the people in the land that need the healing. I totally makes sense that bloodshed hurts the people in the land, who then need healing.]
- Beni found out that the area has a lot of marijuana grown [the book was written before California legalized marijuana], and money from the sale went to making other drugs. She felt led to pray at sunrise on a new moon cycle at the northern border of the California. (From experience, praying at sunrise is more effective because there is an open Heaven then.) They blew a shofar at sunrise, then found herself asking for forgiveness for letting a spirit of sorcery in. (Apparently the Greek word for “sorcery” includes the use of drugs) In the next month, a bunch of unusual drug busts happened—in one, a U-Haul tipped over on the highway and a meth-lab spilled out! California is apparently on the drug route to Canada, and a drug smuggler acquaintance of Beni’s had his Canadian friend ask why no drugs where getting through. Shortly afterwards, her friend became a Christian.
Chapter 5: Jesus, Our Example of Joy
- Heaven is full of joy!
- Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him.
- Yes, there is a bunch of bad stuff going on in the world and that rightly that should concern us. However, it isn’t our burden to bear. Beni had a vision during a time of praying about something like this: she and Jesus were walking with their arms around each other’s shoulders, but his left hand hand was closed around something. She asked him what it was, he opened his hand, and there was the world, looking small in his hand. Jesus has the world taken care of.
- “What comes from Jesus’ completeness on the cross is that we can now fight from victory not for victory.” (78)
- “I’m not saying that there aren’t times during deep prayer that we feel and pray with a burden. We can carry this in times of prayer, but I feel that we are not allowed to carry it outside our intercessions. There is an exchange program for us. We give him weary heavy burdens; He gives us rest.” (79)
- People with a mercy gift struggle with this more than others. “It becomes unsanctified mercy because it is carried in human strength. The best solution is to press into God more and to receive His words.” (79)
- “If we feed ourselves on life and joy and what God is doing here on earth, we will live like Jesus lived on earth.” (81)
Chapter 6: The Three Realms
- There are three spiritual realms:
- The first realm is the natural realm.
- The second realm is where angels and demons battle (but appears like a really nice place [speculation: perhaps because it is where angels were live?])
- The third realm is where God’s Presence is. It is where we should live (we are seated with Christ).
- We need to pray from the third realm.
- “When intercessors get stuck in the first realm, they are preoccupied with logic and reason. Then their prayers become focused on what seems logical, which is not where God is coming from most of the time!” (93)
- When you pray from the second realm, you can get stuck with the demonic view, which is depressing.
- “I can tell when [I have done too much research and] I am not focused on the third heaven because the problem starts to look bigger than the answer.” (97)
- Psalm 73 is an example of the change that comes from spending time in the third realm.
- “It is not that the problems go away, but that you have a heavenly outlook now and understand that God has it all under control. This is also the place of authority for the believer—'seated in the heavenly places with Christ’ (see Eph. 2:6). It is not merely a place of divine perspective. It is the place of our enforcement of Christ’s accomplishments at Calvary.” (99)
Chapter 7: Airways
- Whoever owns the spiritual airways (lines of communication) over an area controls the spiritual atmosphere there.
- Daniel 10 shows God giving an answer as soon as Daniel started to pray in Babylon, but it took 21 days and the assistance of the archangel Michael for the message to actually get through; there is a spiritual reality that hinders the work of God.
- You own the airways by praying the heartbeat of Heaven. You can tell when you do: things start to happen.
- There was a bar that burned down the night a man from their church wished the bar would burn down (a friend’s daughter had been killed there). The property sat empty for years. Beni took a group of students there to pray to lift the curse on the land. Within a week, someone came to the city with a proposal for the land.
- Beni heard a prophecy of an earthquake in California. There are always people saying California will have earthquakes, but Beni felt different about this one. So she took a couple people to places on the San Andreas fault to pray for the stress to be released gradually. They blew a shofar at dawn at one location and both she and another person had the same vision at the same time, of a large tube with dried blood that started flowing freely, which they took as a sign that the blood of Jesus was covering the region.
- (Matter can have spiritual memory. For example, Elisha’s bones healed a man thrown on them long after Elisha had died.)
- Intercessors stand in the gap. God was going to destroy the Israelites, but Moses stood in the gap and said that God would dishonor his name among the Egyptians if he did that.
- Intercession does not require words. Could be a prophetic act.
Chapter 8: Warfare Through Worship and Joy
- The Greek word for “worship” means “to kiss.”
- Worship is warfare. Demons can’t stand it.
- Once Beni felt like there were witches at the service and was looking around to see how to minister against it, but the Holy Spirit said “just worship Me;" He would take care of the spiritual part.
- If Bill Johnson has an hour to pray, he will spend 45 minutes worshiping and 15 praying.
- During a ministry trip in Alaska, the worship just was not getting intimate at all, for several services. So her husband had their lead dancer get up and dance in worship. She does not dance for war, but simply worships mightily. A man at this sermon said that demons had been there, but when she started dancing, they started screaming and got out as fast as possible.
- In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshephat was attacked, so he set his face towards God until he got an answer. God said he wouldn’t have to fight the battle. So he sent the priests in front of the army to worship, and when they got there, the three allied armies had completely killed each other.
- Jesus says his burden is easy and his yoke light; there is no striving in Heaven, that is what the devil does.
- Was once part of a prayer team that felt it was there job to pray against the demonic in the church. Was a lot of work. A young Christian woman had joined the prayer team, but after a while left the church (although not God) and never came back because she just got so burned out.
- In contrast, the pre-service prayer at Bethel is full of joy, people soaking, etc.
- Joy confuses the enemy.
- Joy is also physically good for us. The University of Maryland did a study that concluded that thirty minutes of exercise three times a week at 15 minutes of laughter a day is probably good for the vascular system.
Chapter 9: The Rest that Is Internal
- Hebrews says that Jesus is our Sabbath rest. We minister out of rest, not out of striving. Striving is when we need to do everything ourselves. When we have a heart of rest, we depend on God to get the work done (of course, we are still His hands and feet, but we aren’t depending on us to get it done).
- It is essential to keep your rest as an intercessor.
- Beni’s daughter was nanny for a three-year-old girl. The three of them met at a restaurant for lunch, and the girl could sense the pain and sadness in the woman’s heart behind them and it really bothered her. Beni prayed for Jesus to help the woman. The girl was still bothered, so Beni prayed again, and then told the girl that she needed to give the feeling to Jesus and let it go. Then the girl was fine, and happy like normal.
- Jesus had such internal security that he could sleep through a storm that terrified his disciples (who, being fisherman, were used to sailing).
- When we panic, or fear, we need to sit down and regain our rest.
Chapter 10: Addressing the Issues
- Intercession is a helping gift, it is helping the leaders by praying protection and blessing on them, their families, and their ministries.
- If you are getting bad stuff about a person, then figure out how God sees them and pray that way.
- Anyone can find dirt; seeing people how God sees this is finding the gold in them.
- The intercession team needs to have a leader, otherwise the pastor(s) will get warn out with the intercessors coming to them about things they think might be important. Instead, they can bring it to the team leader, who can bring the relevant things to the pastor’s attention.
- Art is used for intercession during the service. The intercessors come during worship practice and pray for the musicians. Then during the service, they paint led by the Spirit. The goal is paintings that are, themselves, prophetic.
- During 48-hour prayer, they play worship music for soaking, have stations for journaling prayer, writing to God, a map to write prayers on, etc.
- Prophetic intercession spends time soaking in God’s Presence, then pray out of oneness with God.
- Avoid prayers like “God, please teach our pastor <my way of thinking>.” This is little different from witchcraft (trying to control/manipulate someone through the spiritual realm), although it is often done with good intentions. Intercessors serve the leaders; pray blessing over the leaders.
- Avoid doing spiritual warfare in places where God did not send you. One church had a lot of miscarriages resulting from the prayer team rebuking the principality of the region, which God had not sent them to do. If you have any hesitation in your spirit, don’t do it.
Chapter 11: Mystics, Mystical Experiences, and Contemplative Prayer
- A mystic is someone who wants nothing more than a continual awareness of God.
- Obviously, such a person is comfortable in the spiritual realm, since that is where God is.
- There are several types of mystics:
- Cave-dweller: someone who likes to be alone with God more than anything else.
- Seer: someone who sees in the spirit; they are able to discern the times.
- When you know what it is like to feel connected to God, you want to be there all the time.
- “When we connect with God, we make ourselves aware that He is right there all the time. ... And because I have spent time with God, focusing on His presence, I have found that I now have access to an instant connection.” (166)
- Most people have this view of mystics as people who are secluded from others, but that is not actually the case. Many of the historical mystics were normal people and impacted the world (St. Patrick and Columba are two good examples).
- The mystics are no different than you and me. They are everyday people who have chosen to lay their lives down to seek after God. ... [They say, ‘God, I must have you no matter what it costs me.'] The heart cry of the mystic is, ‘Take the world but give me you.’” (167-168)
- David was a mystic.
- “When I spend time in the secret place, alone with God, I become so wrapped up in His presence that very other desire looses its importance to me. When I allow His presence to consume me, I surrender myself so completely to His will that my desires begin to line up with His. I become fully engulfed in His presence, lost in a sea of His beauty, and captivated by His love. In that place is the fullness of joy, the fullness of peace, the fullness of love, and the fullness of acceptance. In that place, I become one with Him.” (169)
- You need to truly believe that God is good, otherwise your fears prevent you from fully letting God in.
- Types of prayer:
- Travail: “an intense feeling of giving birth to something.” (172) Sometimes you use words, often deep groans from your inner man, sometimes prophetic acts.
- You need to give the burden back to God at the appropriate point, otherwise you will carry it to long and may become depressed.
- You don’t choose to travail; travail chooses you.
- Brooding: times when the Holy Spirit gives us something specific to pray over and it doesn’t go away. You sit on this issue for a long period of time.
- This is the same sort of brooding that the Holy Spirit was moving over the waters in Gen 1:1.
- Need to look for answers as God gives you more insight in what to pray for. God always answers our prayers, so look for the answer.
- Thin places: locations where Heaven is close to earth.
- Dark night of the soul: the really hard times where we either run away from God or to Him. It enables us to come to God in total surrender.
- Ecstasy: “a period of time in prayer when the awareness of the soul is suspended and the only focus that the person has is the incredible presence of the Lord.” (179)
- Contemplative prayer:
- “Reading seeks, meditation finds (meaning), prayer demands,
contemplation tastes (God).
Reading provides solid food, meditation masticates (chews); prayer achieves a savor; contemplation is the sweetness that refreshes.
Reading is on the surface; meditation gets to the inner substance; prayer demands by desire; contemplation experiences by delight. —Teresa of Avila” (181)
- Meditation: slow and thoughtful reading of Scripture; lectio divina.
- Meditation is not emptying your mind; it is the opposite: filling your mind with God’s greatness and character.
- Ultimately, prayer is to be lost in God.
- You can also ask the Holy Spirit to brood over loved ones who are rejecting Him.