Monday, March 30, 2009

Spiritual Exercises 1-15

These exercises are processes we tried and found that they helped us grow closer together as a group of men and, more importantly, grow closer to God. As the leader, I didn’t plan an agenda for meetings, rather, I asked God to direct the meetings as He saw fit. These are not a definitive list of things to do; most of these exercises were a result of a couple hours of praise and a worship then being led by God to ‘try something new.’ These are some examples of where the Spirit of God led us and that we were willing to follow.

Each meeting had a personality of its own. Each meeting developed a theme of what God wanted from us and we just tried to be faithful. That is my hope for anyone who wants to lead a Worship Group or want to have a more active presence of the Spirit involved in approach God and ask what He wants to you to do and do it; ask what He wants to hear and say or sing it.

1. Ask participants to try something new each and every group. Have them ask God what He wants them to do different and ask them to be faithful. If they aren’t used to raising their hands, have them raise their hands for at least one song. Tell them that when they do something different, it is natural to feel uncomfortable. Other things they can do different is worshiping on their knees, praying for someone, sing prophetically, dance before the Lord, speak what God is laying on their heart.

2. Say ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Scripture says we can only say ‘Jesus is Lord’ by the Holy Spirit. When one feels disconnected, has intrusive thoughts, is in the presence, or having trouble connecting to Christ, ‘Jesus is Lord’ acknowledges that I can’t do it myself and need the Lord to do it for me.

3. Ask participants to take a body position that best represents ‘praise’ and ask them to hold the
position. Have them pray from this position then sing a praise song from that position. Ask them to experiment with different positions to find one that fits best for them. During worship time, ask participants to experiment with different positions to get a feel to which position seems most congruent with the words being sung.

4. Have participants ask God for the words to praise him. There are certain things God wants to hear from each of us, words God created us to say. We want to give God what he wants, not what we think he wants or that we feel comfortable with saying. God wants our hearts engaged when we say what he wants to hear. Jewish teachers ask their students to repeat scripture 3 or 4 times (or more) until the Rabbi hears their heart engage into the words. Say the statement several times until your heart gets into it.

5. Ask someone to play a simple melody (3 or 4 chords, repeated) on an instrument that is easy to follow. Members of the group ask God for words to sing with the music or ask God for a scripture to put to music. One member may start singing the words and others join in as they hear the words (or add new words). Keeps the words simple and repeatable. The song may sound like a round, or may have other words or melodies woven into it as the main melody is sung. Or a new melody and new words may overpower the old melody, just allow there to be a flow of the Spirit as the music and words are sung. Let this exercise go at least 5 to 45 minutes.

6. Have participants do a ‘Go God’ cheer with the same exuberance you would give your favorite sports team scoring a game winning shot right before the buzzer. Have them clap and whoop and holler and cheer for God.

7. Have a mini prophetic workshop that takes 5 minutes. After praise and worship, have participants declare ‘Jesus is Lord’ then ask God "Father do you love me?" Have them listen with their heart and see if they can sense God’s ‘yes.’ Some may have to repeat this exercise several times. Make it OK not to hear but encourage those to keep trying. Once someone can sense a movement of the Spirit, have them ask other ‘yes/no’ questions just to get used to hearing and sensing God.

8. Only play one new song per worship session if you play one at all. Why? New songs break the flow as people have to engage their brains to learn and remember the melodies and words instead of engaging their spirits. Play a new song at the beginning to learn then bring it back up during worship. This way the flow of worship continues.

9. How to start:
A. Ask each person to introduce themselves to someone.
B. Explain the purpose of the meeting.
C. Ask one of these questions: "What brings you here? What do you want to happen during this meeting? What do you need from God during this time together?
D. Invite them to participate. Even if they don’t know the words to songs, invite them to
make up words to sing and sing along.
E. Explain why we pray out loud. Verbal prayers help us to get outside our thinking and
engages our hearts. Encourage them to pray out loud during prayers times, to
tolerate the chaos of everyone praying to together.

10. Be patient. Don’t rush. Keep it simple. Allow there to be times of silence during the breaks between songs and prayers. Give God an opportunity to speak and work.

11. Singing the psalms is a great way of engaging with God and each other. Have someone choose a number between 1 and 150...they choose a number...turn to that psalm. Pray as a group, "Jesus is Lord...Father give us a melody to sing to you." Have a musician play a simple melody then go around the circle and each member sing a verse, in order. The person can either sing the verse as it is written or paraphrase the verse.

12. Say praise statements from revelations several times. I figure if God has the heavenly creatures and angels saying and singing these statements for eternity, then these statements have meaning and importance to him. Plus, we don’t have to make up statements that he wants from us, they are already written down.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.
You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor, and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Just and true are all your ways, King of the Ages.

For you alone are holy.

Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty.

All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God
forever and ever.

To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be all praise and honor and glory and
power for ever and ever.

13. Tell participants to not wait their turn but to pray as the Spirit moves them. Tell them it is okay to talk over, sing, praise, shout during the praise and worship period. Have them verbalize their prayers instead of thinking their prayers. Practice praying with everyone speaking at the same time, and agreeing with others’ prayers around them. Scripture says that if two or more agree on what they are praying for, it shall be done. Read that scripture and encourage vocal agreement during prayer and worship time.

14. There are several references in scripture of God requiring people to take off their shoes when they came into God’s presence. What if God was serious about ditching your shoes when you come into his presence? Ask participants to worship with their shoes off...see if it makes a difference in their quality of worship.

15. Sometimes in group, some will "sit back and observe" instead of engaging their hearts in praise, worship and prayer. At the beginning, I gently encourage each person to express and actively participate. Refusing to express during praise and worship time, in my experience, seems to shut off the flow of the Spirit to that person. It is important to have an upbeat praise song at the beginning that encourages everyone to clap, raise their hands, dance, etc. to get them more engaged right off. Encourage them to vocalize, sing or say, to help them engage.

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