Questions and Responses
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
It is important not to approach resting in the Spirit simply as an unusual phenomenon that has appeared among Catholics through the Renewal. This approach can suggest that the phenomenon is inherently problematic. A wiser approach is to consider the implications of a strong prayer of faith in the power of the Holy Spirit on the whole being of those prayed for. Because our bodies are an essential part of us, because our full healing has spiritual, psychological and physical dimensions, we should not be surprised when the prayer of faith produces visible physical effects. What we must not do is to try and make something happen by our efforts. For this reason, pushing people to fall back and rest is to be avoided. It is also wrong to put a psychological pressure on people by suggesting that only those who fall are blessed.
A full answer requires a sense of what is happening when people rest (generally on the floor) following prayer. In many places in the Renewal people line up to be prayed for, wanting to receive blessing and healing. When they are prayed for, many fall to the ground. But within half a minute they get up and go back to their places. This seems to me to be largely a waste of everybody’s time and a distraction from the real business of the Lord. Here I share my own reflections as a priest-leader. Why do I say this? Is it because I think resting in the Spirit is a distraction and a waste of time? No, because I have seen people deeply touched by the Lord while they have rested in the Spirit.
Rather, I say this because the act of falling is an act of surrender. It is a letting go of my own control, and can become a sign of submitting to the Lord. It means switching off our patterns of worry and anxiety, of trying to decide how to handle our problems. When we have cut off our racing mind, and we can truly say: “I place myself in Your hands, Lord,” the Lord can work in us at a deep level. Some people are taken back to forgotten parts of their lives. Others have profound experiences of the Lord. Some just don’t know what is happening. The first time I ever rested in the Spirit the only thing I knew afterward was a certainty that I had got up too soon!
How do we know whether someone is truly resting in the Spirit? As long as nothing is obviously “not of the Spirit” this is not an important question. What matters is that leaders and people have their focus on the Lord, not on experiences, not on unusual phenomena. When Christians baptised in the Spirit come together to seek the Lord, we do not need to ask this question. When people are resting peacefully, we leave them in the hands of the Lord. When there are signs of agitation, even violent motions of the limbs, the most likely reason is that deep wounds and hurts, maybe suppressed from memory, are surfacing. This is good, not bad. What is manifesting is not just the Lord and his grace, but deep pain that the Spirit is uncovering for healing. If these occurrences are disturbing the meeting, the person should be taken to another place, where the healing work of the Spirit can continue without disturbance.
Why is this phenomenon so widespread in our day? We can see a wisdom of God at work. Today, there are huge numbers of deeply wounded people. Every rise in the divorce rate, every division of children
between quarreling parents, every act of abuse and exploitation, every mass movement of refugees fleeing violence and terror increase the number of those needing profound healing. Some learn to function in society and hide their pain, others are walking wounded, unable fully to function. Not letting their pain come out can deny them the chance of healing.
Another factor today is that our world is full of noise! People carry their own entertainment with them, music, video, chat shows, etc. Noise is one device to push away isolation, loneliness, pain. Alcohol and drugs are another. So resting in the Spirit can be seen as God’s gift of a silent space, where He can get in and work. In my view it should not be treated with suspicion, for then we risk “quenching the Spirit.” What is needed is not suppression, but wisdom and discernment. Because of our noisy hyper-active lives, deep surrender and rest are difficult for many people. They want fast results. They want the fast- food version. So they lie for one minute and get up. This can be another way of not letting the Lord deal with our deeper issues. Resting is a profound act of trust.
In our day many practice soaking prayer, which is really resting with the Lord. This will be addressed in a future column.