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Soaking in the Spirit: Effortless Access to the Presence, Voice, and Healing Power of God
by Carol Arnott
Learn More | Meet Carol Arnott
From Shy to Bold in the Holy Spirit
I used to be incredibly shy and insecure. I only wanted to stay in the back row, to stay hidden and out of the limelight. Even now, I know that without the Holy Spirit I would be so self-conscious and timid.
When I first married John, he owned a travel agency, but he had previously trained for ministry. Early on in our marriage we took a mission trip to Indonesia and were undone by the love of those people. It was there we realized that we could not give our lives to business. We decided to plant a church in my hometown of Stratford. I used to ask him, “John, what can I do?” I didn’t think I had any abilities or talents. I hadn’t been to Bible school, I was really afraid to get up in front of people, and I couldn’t even do the traditional things that a pastor’s wife could do like play the piano! I thought I had nothing. John would simply reply, “Yes, honey, but you can love.” I thought that was insignificant; surely everyone could love. I didn’t see or appreciate the gifts that God had given me, so I wanted to keep myself hidden, but John kept encouraging me that I had an ability to love the unlovable and that it was a gift from God.
Once a year, John would ask me to speak on the Mother’s Day Sunday service. It took me six months to find something to speak on. I spent months searching the Bible for something to say and then the whole night before, I was awake worrying about it. It was awful! I would perspire all the way through the service because I was so nervous about getting up in front of people.
When Marc DuPont first visited our church in Stratford, he prophesied that I’d be preaching to hundreds of pastors and leaders, to thousands of people. I laughed right in His face and said, “Some kind of prophet you are! You are kidding me; you can’t be serious!” But God has a way. It wasn’t long before the revival began and I started to learn to minister in front of people. I started to soak and to encounter the Holy Spirit, and I discovered His nearness and His love and His absolute delight in me and that built my confidence, bit by bit. Now, I get the opportunity to teach and minister all over the world, sometimes in front of thousands of people. Marc’s prophetic word was right. (By the way I’ve been back and apologized to him since).
People laugh at me now when I tell these stories because they don’t think I look very shy. The Holy Spirit has made me tenacious. It’s not me, it’s Him. When the Holy Spirit works in our lives, He brings dramatic transformation. It’s been through soaking and marinating in His presence that I’ve built the boldness and trust in the Lord to go after something when He asks. My whole life changed when I realized that the Lord truly loves me. As I learned to pour out my love on Him and soak in His presence, I received a deep and lasting understanding of His love.
I still don’t feel 100 percent confident every time I get up to speak. Recently, I broke my wrist and tore the tendons in my shoulder and arm when I slipped on some ice. I was due to speak at a conference, but I was still in pain and couldn’t do everything I was used to doing. I didn’t feel as comfortable as I normally would. I had to just take a step back and say, “Lord, I can’t do it, but you can.” Positioning my heart to know that He’s with me and yielding to Him in any moment has become a regular practice for me. I’ll tell Him, “Here I am, Lord. Speak through me.” When I feel His presence on me, then I know He’s with me and I can minister with confidence.
Still, sometimes, God calls us to do something whether we feel His presence or not. We have to rely on faith, not our feelings. I had to learn that in a time of intense sickness. It took me three years of not feeling His presence, which was awful for me. The Lord taught me that He is faithful even in those times when I didn’t feel Him and when I didn’t have the experience to back up the truth that He is always with me.
Soaking Changes Us
When I speak on soaking, I love to use the example of Mr. Sponge. I have a sponge that has a sad, grumpy face drawn onto it. It’s dry, crusty, and hard. Mr. Sponge is not a happy sponge. I have a bowl of water on the stage with me and I put Mr. Sponge in there for the duration of the sermon. It always draws a few laughs when, ta-da! Mr. Sponge comes out of the water soaking and dripping wet, with a great big smile on his face. It’s a simple and fun example of the change that soaking makes in our lives. It’s not easy to forget that image!
I’ve seen soaking really transform so many people. Heidi Baker has told me many times that she wouldn’t be able to do what she does without a consistent soaking life. I have many friends that I call “super soakers” who really invest time in God’s presence and Heidi is at the top of that list.
Steve Long, the senior leader of Catch The Fire Church in Toronto, used to find it a little harder to feel the presence of God. In the early days of the revival, we used to say that he was like an oak tree. He never moved or felt anything. So he decided to spend 10 or 15 minutes soaking every night, lying on the floor beside his bed. He wouldn’t get in the bed because he didn’t want to fall asleep. He would listen to worship music and take time to receive. Months later, a pastor from Ottawa was using the Mr. Sponge example to teach on soaking. He asked for a volunteer to pick up the bowl of water at the end of his message. So Steve jumped up, got on the platform, held the bowl, and as the pastor picked up the soaking wet sponge and squeezed the water out, all of a sudden, Steve fell right back, holding the bowl of water in his hand, not spilling a drop. The Holy Spirit fell on him and he responded dramatically. Nothing like that had happened to him before. God honoured Steve’s faithfulness in soaking. Steve chose to soak out of obedience and not by feeling, but now, he can really receive and feel much more of the Holy Spirit than he could before. Soaking dramatically increased his capacity to experience God.
“I Only Say What I Hear the Father Saying”
Do you want to learn to experience the reality of God? It’s about learning to live in His presence every day. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing and He only said what He heard the Father saying (see John 5:19). I want to continually remember to pray that prayer. I’m nowhere near doing and saying what the Father is doing and saying all of the time, but can you imagine what would happen if all believers could walk as Jesus walked? What would happen? The blind would see, the deaf would hear, we’d see immediate freedom from sickness and infirmities. It would be incredible! We’d lead people into a relationship with Jesus here, there, and everywhere. I want to be that connected and that close to the Father.
Soaking opens up the heart and soul to romance and intimacy with the Lord. It allows the Lord to love you and you to love Him, much like a couple in love find that their love and intimacy deepens as they spend more and more time together. My mother used to say, “For crying out loud, you’ve been on the phone with John for two hours. And you talked to him yesterday! What do you talk about?”
I’d reply, “I don’t know. We just talk. We just want to be together.” When you’re with somebody that you really love, you just want to spend time with them. It really doesn’t matter what you say. It’s more about being together, walking together, loving them, and knowing them.
You don’t have to lie down and soak to experience intimacy. Intimacy with the Lord is about connecting with Him all the time. I love to be out in my garden communing with Him. It’s a time to connect my heart with His heart, just to sit together. He just loves that communion and I love it too. He wants to be together in the significant moments and the little day-to-day moments when nobody else is watching.
As I’ve developed intimacy with the Lord, I’ve found that He really cares about the little details. I can never find my glasses. I take them off, set them down, and later, when I need them to read something, I can’t find them. I’ll say, “Father, where did I put my glasses?” and He’ll tell me in an instant. It blows my mind that the God of the universe, who has much more to do than to remind me where my glasses are, still wants to be involved in the mundane details. Soaking builds that kind of sweetness in everyday relationship.
Learning to Hear God Speak
I love Mark Virkler’s teaching on hearing God’s voice.1 In the early days of our church, God spoke clearly to John that there were some important values that we needed at the core of our ministry, including teaching how to hear God’s voice. We got connected with Mark Virkler, who had spent a year searching the scriptures for a clear guide to hearing God speak and found four simple keys out of Habakkuk 2:1-2. When someone learns to hear God’s voice for themselves, it completely changes their relationship with Him. It becomes living and active.
Many of us hear the devil loud and clear and our own thoughts loud and clear, but don’t know how to listen for the still small voice of the Lord, unless we’re taught how to. The first key that Mark Virkler teaches is to quiet yourself down. Soaking teaches us to quiet ourselves down to find the gentle voice of God. Of course, He can speak loudly, but most of the time we experience Him in a whisper, like Elijah, rather than in a loud voice. In lives that are so full of busy clatter, quieting ourselves down is really important.
Mark Virkler’s second key to hearing God’s voice is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Soaking is all about focusing on your Beloved. It’s taking your eyes off the rest of life to adore Him and commune with Him. Thirdly, Mark teaches that we must tune to spontaneous thoughts. Soaking helps you learn to hear God through your thoughts and through the eyes of your heart. Finally, Mark teaches that we need to write down and record everything that God says, so that we can be accountable with two others as we learn to hear God and so that we have a record to look back on.
So many times I’ve had people tell me, “I was soaking and I thought about so-and-so, so I made a note and called them later.” It turned out that the person was in a crisis or really needed encouragement. That’s the voice of God putting that person in their mind. When we understand that God speaks and that often it’s in a gentle voice, we’re able to honour those little thoughts that come into our minds and we’re more likely to do something about it.
Once, I had a man come up to me at a meeting and tell me that he was so frustrated with soaking. He’d been doing it for over a year and every time he lay down to soak, all he’d hear from God was, “I love you, my son.” The man asked me, “Doesn’t He have anything better to say to me?” He asked me to pray for him. I told him to lie down and soak, asking God why He was doing this, telling Him his frustrations and seeing what God was saying. Well, he lay down for a few minutes and came back to me with tears in his eyes. The Lord had spoken to him clearly: “I’ll keep saying it to you until you start to believe it.” He was so moved and so encouraged to keep soaking in God’s presence.
You need to know that God really loves you. God wants to permeate whatever part of your heart still doesn’t believe it. As we learn to hear God in soaking, His truth sinks in deep, right where we need it. Every time you soak, take time to ask Him what He wants to say to you. He’s never lost for words toward you, as it says in Psalm 139:17, “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (NIV).
Resting in the presence of God heals us. When we soak, God will speak to us and heal us of our past hurts. Sometimes He’ll even do things in our hearts and heal us when we didn’t know it, just like going under anesthetic for surgery. He is a gentle healer! He wants to deal with the issues of your heart, to bring you peace where there is anxiety, and to bring you comfort where there is pain. In our School of Ministry in Toronto, the students have time allotted in their schedule to soak every week. When this was first implemented, the leaders noticed a dramatic difference in the students’ needs for one-on-one ministry and counselling because they were bringing their needs before God and letting Him minister to their hearts.
I’ve also seen many examples of people soaking, or receiving soaking prayer, and then receive physical healing. You can read some amazing examples in chapter eight where, people have been dramatically healed through soaking.
Dreams, and Visions, Signs and Wonders
The anointing of God’s presence increases as you spend quality time with Jesus. I’ve seen people strive to attain the supernatural in their ministry, but it’s so much better to allow God to move through you when it’s from a place of rest.
Dreams and Visions
Before I started soaking I never had a vision. I also believed that I didn’t dream. Then I realized that God loves to speak to people through dreams. I quickly repented and asked God to speak to me through dreams and visions.
Just as Mark Virkler teaches, we must allow God to speak to us through pictures. God wants to use the eyes of your heart. Dreams and visions are a really important part of the way that God wants to speak to us. We see them all throughout the Bible. One of my favorites is Joseph. God spoke to Joseph in dreams and he had to learn how to use this gift. Eventually, his ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams saved a nation from famine.
Three weeks into the revival in 1994, not long after I’d repented of believing that I couldn’t see visions or dream dreams, I had a long 45-minute open vision in technicolor about the bride and the bridegroom that totally deepened my awareness of spiritual realities. All of a sudden, I could see for myself that God can give us visions and dreams. It was amazing.
Sometimes, when I’m soaking, I’ll ask the Lord if He has anything to show me, or anywhere He wants to take me. Often, He’ll show me a picture of me walking with Jesus beside a beautiful river with a big oak tree beside it. It’s bright aqua blue, reminding me of the rivers in British Columbia, Canada. In the vision, there’s a meadow beside the river. Jesus and I will just talk. It’s such a peaceful, restful place, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
I grew up believing that I couldn’t see in the Spirit, but I’m so grateful that it’s possible for all of us to see and hear God through dreams and visions. I wouldn’t say I dream a lot, but when I do, they’re usually pretty profound. God has spoken to me with warnings and with blueprints and plans in dreams that have affected the direction of my life.
Signs and Wonders
Many of us are hungry to see signs, wonders, and miracles happen in and through our lives. This is such a wonderful thing to pursue, but it must always come from intimacy and relationship. Otherwise, pride will always get in the way. Through soaking, you learn that God is really present. You immerse yourself and know that He wants to spend time with you. If we want to see miracles, signs, and wonders, we must listen to what God wants to do, just as Jesus said and did what He heard and saw the Father saying and doing.
With miracles, you’re always walking on the water. It’s about trust—putting your hand in His hand, knowing that Jesus paid the price for people to be healed. Miracles don’t always happen in the way that we expect. Sometimes healing happens more slowly than we would hope, but God is always the healer. We must always trust that when He directs us to do something, that’s because He wants to move in people’s lives.
I’m still very much learning how to hold Jesus’ hand and trust Him to see miracles happen. I know that every meeting that I minister in is a training ground. In 2017, I was in England at our Revival Alliance conference. We were doing two conferences back to back, one in Tonsberg, Norway and one in Birmingham, England. John’s plane was late arriving from Norway and he was due to be teaching a morning session. Lori, our daughter, asked if I could facilitate people giving testimonies while we waited for John to arrive. The night before, Bill Johnson had taught. At the end, he had given a call for healing, with some words of knowledge.
I got up on the platform and invited people up to give testimonies from the night before. Lori met a woman at the side of the stage who had got out of her wheelchair the night before, but she wasn’t walking very well. She asked me if I wanted to invite her up to testify, even though she hadn’t received her full healing yet. I said, “Of course, God’s doing something in her. Let’s corporately pray for her.”
Soaking people in prayer will very often facilitate greater healing. A lot of times, when John does a call for ministry and someone is not quite fully healed, maybe they’re 70% percent better or so, I’ll spend five or ten minutes with them. We’ve discovered that many times there is a forgiveness issue, or trauma, or words spoken over the person by a doctor that is blocking their full healing. Taking a few minutes to pray through forgiveness and repentance often brings greater breakthrough.
We brought the lady up to the front of the meeting. I helped her forgive and repent for the areas that God was leading us into, and then as a whole room, we started to believe and pray together for her complete healing. I started walking her back and forth across the stage, which was a fairly large stage, and after a few times back and forth, she was walking, completely normal!
While I was with this lady, I had a word of knowledge. Sometimes God speaks to me through symptoms in my own body, which is harder to discern the older you get because there’s always a little pain somewhere! This time, I had a sharp pain like glass shards going down my legs. I had no idea what it was, so I explained on the microphone what I was feeling and that I thought it was because God wanted to heal somebody. All of a sudden, a lady got up from her chair and started screaming. Lori brought her up to the stage and she explained that she had cancer, and every time she had chemotherapy, she had pain in her legs which felt like glass shards in her veins. The instant that I announced what I was feeling, all the pain left her body. It was totally God!
Then, out of my mouth came, “I want everyone in wheelchairs in this place to come up. God is going to heal you.” Immediately I wanted to take the words back! The meeting room was huge and I had no idea how many wheelchairs there might be! I knew I couldn’t do a single thing to help them in my own strength. I asked the Lord, “Oh God, what did I just say?” I put my hand up to my chest and touched a little heart necklace that Beni Johnson had given me. Inscribed on the heart is, “God’s got this.” I said to Him, “God, I don’t have this. Do you have this?” And He said, “I have it, Carol.” I knew that if He had it, I could go for it. I felt like I was walking on water. Together with everyone in the room, we prayed for all of the people who came up in wheelchairs and saw everyone who had been in a wheelchair walking! Some incredible breakthrough!
In that kind of situation, you need to know that God is with you. You need to have practiced that intimate communication already so that you know you can trust Him. If He asks you to do something, or you find yourself in a situation ministering to someone and you have no faith, simply tell Him, “God, I’m really scared. I don’t know what to do.” Then, step back into His presence. Find out how He wants to order the battle. Ask Him what His plans are.
It’s all about communication and about knowing Him. When best friends spend a lot of time together, they begin to really know each other’s hearts. They know the intonation of the other’s voice if they’re struggling that day and they’re trying to put on a good face. Have you seen how some best friends even start to dress similarly? They have similar tastes and things that they enjoy together. That comes with spending time together. It’s the same with Jesus—the more time we spend with Him, the more we know Him and the safer and more trust-filled our communication with Him becomes.
We all must spend time soaking in the presence of God. Especially if we want to be effective leaders. So many leaders are too busy. They’re focused on ministry, like Martha. Many leaders read the Word and pray, but they’re striving rather than resting. The most effective leadership comes out of a relationship of resting in the affection of the Father, not striving, working, or doing to earn His love.
As you soak, make space for God to speak to you. Follow Mark Virkler’s keys to hear His voice—quiet yourself down, fix your eyes on Jesus, tune in to spontaneous thoughts, and write down what He says. Start by asking, “Lord, what do You want to say to me today? How do You see me?”
- Mark Virkler, “4 Keys to Hearing God,” Communion with God Ministries, accessed June 30, 2019, https://www.cwgministries.org/Four-Keys-to-Hearing-Gods-Voice.
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