Moving to the Next Level Spiritually
“Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
By John David Hicks
In 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. Not only did he prove that the “sound barrier” could be broken, but he moved aviation to the next level. Until Yeager proved otherwise, most people believed you could not exceed Mach 1, the speed of sound.
When you near the speed of sound, you develop and face what pilots called a “shock wave.” Behind it was the unknown. When you hit the shock wave, your plane would shake and spin out of control. Many pilots died in crashes. But on the rocket-powered X-1 that Yeager flew, an adjustable tail was installed to give the pilot longitudinal control. And it worked! When Yeager accelerated past the sound barrier to about Mach 1.06 or 1.07, seven percent above the speed of sound, the airplane flew quite well. There was a quiet “peace” on the other side.
The rest of the world didn’t know how the United States did it. The adjustable tail was a classified secret. In the Korean War, it gave the F-86 jet fighter a 10-to-1 kill ratio advantage over the Soviet Union’s MiG-15.
God has a secret “tail device” that will take you not only across the “sound barrier” of this world, but also into the “peace” of the next level of the Spirit.
“How do you move up to the next level spiritually?” was my question. My first response: through prayer.
Prayer is based on the redemptive love of God—on His grace and mercy. It is God’s invitation to ask for help. “Call to me,” the Lord says, “and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Note the command to call, to ask. Go to the sovereign of the universe, the source of everything, and talk to Him. He promises to answer. Come boldly to the throne of grace! “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
In Hebrew the word that’s translated “call” means a calling aloud or crying out. The same word is used in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” And in Psalm 145:18, “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” David knew if he “called out aloud” to the Lord, God would answer him. “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me” (Psalm 55:16-18).
Like David, you know that God answers prayer, but many Christians don’t live like it. Their lives are full of worry, fret, and hostility. They seem content to let “what ever will be, will be.” It may take times of crisis and trouble to learn the power of crying out to God in prayer. When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush and gave him the call to deliver His people, God said that He had heard the cry of His people and was sending Moses to deliver them.
Just before the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus said, “God knows what you need before you ask. After this manner pray….” If God knows, why ask? For your benefit. You must ask for it, cry out for it.
As I prayed over this question, “How do you move up to the next level spiritually?” I waited on the Lord and mentally reviewed 40 years of ministry. A deeper answer came thundering back: Moving on to the next level of spirituality, or breaking the sound barrier, can’t happen until God puts you in circumstances that you can’t handle. Circumstances bigger than you; circumstances that are overwhelming.
When you have been overwhelmed, frustrated, discouraged, and experienced failure; when you have faced building programs, problem people, a harvest of souls or need for revival, you have to travail in prayer! In English, Hebrew, and Greek the word “travail” refers to childbirth and the experience of heavy labor. “As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8 KJV). This travail in prayer is like breaking the sound barrier into the next level.
It is natural to travail in prayer when a loved one or child is in trouble or you have a problem that only God can resolve. You feel powerless and helpless. The tears, agonizing, and travail of your soul gives birth to God’s victory. That is intercession. When Jacob wrestled with God, he cried out, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26). He travailed until daybreak and prevailed.
Travail in prayer has been a key factor throughout history for revival and deliverance, because the battle is first won in the spirit world. Paul said, “I travail…until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19 KJV). In travail prayer, all you can do is to groan within over and over again, until in intercession the answer is birth and the delivery takes place. Through travail Christ was formed “in you” and the desired birth took place.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27).
The Holy Spirit helps us by praying in cooperation with us with “groans that words cannot express.” Apparently our groans do not find expression, for they are inexpressible, but the Holy Spirit prays them according to the will of God.
You can’t make spiritual travail happen, because the Holy Spirit searches our hearts and makes intercession for us with groans that words cannot express. He is the delivery agent. The Spirit of God is interceding, not you! You must “pray in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). The Spirit gives life to the will of God. Remember that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty to the pulling down of strongholds” (Ephesians 6:12) at the direction of the Holy Spirit.
It’s possible that the very thing you’ve been praying for years has not come to pass, because of the lack of travailing prayer. You must break through the sound barrier into victory and freedom.
This past year after a revival service, a woman asked the pastor, his wife, and me to pray with her for her husband who was a backslid preacher’s kid deeply into drugs. She had carried a heavy burden for him for four years. As she prayed, she began to groan and travail in prayer for him. We all were soon groaning and travailing in prayer as well. After about two hours, we broke through. All of us believed that God had heard and answered our prayer. We had a peace, with the conviction that her husband would be saved.
A few months passed and the pastor reported that this woman’s husband had accepted Christ and was completely changed. He gave examples of the extreme changes in his life and his commitment to God and the church. Years of praying hadn’t produced any significant changes in his life. Then travail entered the picture and the breakthrough came. His conversion was not a coincidence. The woman, the pastor, his wife, and I all believe that it was through our brokenness and travail that God came to show His love, grace, mercy, and power.
To experience the next level of spirituality or anointing, you must break through whatever barrier you are facing. The groaning, travail, and perseverance in prayer will take you into the next level with praise.
Praise is the “secret” to breakthrough. Praise is the part of the tail that gives you direction. In my last pastorate there was an old preacher who said to me, “Brother Hicks, how do you know when you have prayed through?” I knew he had something important to say, so I said, “How do you know?”
“When your prayer turns to praise like in Philippians 4,” he replied, “but
especially verse 4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!’”
That’s when you have released it to God and the breakthrough comes! You have gone beyond seeing what human eyes cannot see and expressing your confidence in God’s faithfulness in tangible ways, to resting in the assurance and joy that God indeed is on the throne. This is what the old saints called “praying through.”
For me, praying through has always been a conviction in my heart followed by the peace of God, much like the conviction that Paul wrote of in Romans 9:1, “My conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit.”
When there is a breakthrough, a person matures into a new level of faith. You move in the anointing of that level of faith. You no longer have to groan and travail like you did at first. The faith is now a part of you.
I remembered that five years ago when I started to pray for the sick, I had to groan, travail, and persevere. At times I did not know how to pray or know what to do next, but I cried out, groaned, and travailed. The Holy Spirit heard my groans and interceded for me (Romans 8:24-26).
Through the pains of childbirth and perseverance a new level of ministry emerged. I moved into a new blessing, authority, and power spiritually. At that time I saw God heal all kinds of pain and illness, from cancer to multiple sclerosis. Some individuals had only a few weeks to live, but God healed them. People received deliverance from drugs and bondage. One man who had been in and out of the state hospital for mental illness for 27 years was healed in one night. His family and doctors confirmed it the next week. That was three years ago and he is still praising the Lord.
But after two years I was not seeing blind eyes open and the deaf hearing. Again, I had to groan, travail, and persevere. God then opened the eyes of the wife of a doctor, who confirmed the miracle. I have now seen 12 people who were legally blind healed. Then God healed a pastor of deafness and he no longer wears hearing aids. Many others have been healed, although not all I have prayed for. But that does not stop me from believing the promises and praying for people.
Like breaking the sound barrier, the next level has a depth and a height to it. The depth is about the blessing that transforms the message you communicate. The height is about a fresh anointing of God that impacts other people with power. Both are connected in various ways. When it is completed, it breaks forth into praise.
To go to the next level of faith there is a price to pay. Like childbirth, there is the incubation of faith—the time for growth in the womb and the travail and groaning of the delivery. We want the child, but not the pain. The desire for more faith and to go higher starts when God puts you in situations that are beyond you, that are overwhelming or impossible so that you will cry out to Him and persevere. That’s when God moves you up. Without the groaning and travail, it is next to impossible. To break the sound barrier you must go through the friction and shaking into peace.
I received a call from a pastor after doing a conference on healing. He wanted a revival meeting and for me to pray for his daughter. (I was overwhelmed with his request to minister to him and his family, so I shared with my Friday morning prayer group that I needed a breakthrough. We prayed and cried out for a miracle. During the week I kept my prayer group updated on what was happening.)
Here is the story of the healing miracle in the words of Brian Blankenship, pastor of Eastside Church of the Nazarene in Sikeston, Missouri. As we prayed for his daughter, I asked him to document what took place for the glory of God:
Kara Blankenship, who is now 15, was born with myelomeningocele, a severe form of spina bifida. When she was born, there was an opening at the base of her spine about the size of a quarter, which didn’t have skin covering it. When someone has this defect, everything below the stomach is affected. In Kara’s case, it affected bowel and bladder control, paralysis below her waist, and lack of pain and hot or cold sensation below her waist. Kara has had 13 surgeries and spends her time each day in a wheelchair.
As I talked to evangelist John David Hicks on Sunday afternoon of the revival, John told me that the Lord desired to totally heal Kara.
Sunday evening of the revival, at the prayer time, John asked Kara what she wanted the Lord to do. “I want to get out of this wheelchair. I want to walk.”
As we prayed on Sunday evening, quite a few different things happened. (1) All pain left in her back. (2) She began to get feeling in her legs. Something like electricity went through her legs. (3) She began to have feeling in her hips. (4) I told John that Kara’s legs weren’t the same length. As we prayed, and soaked in the Lord, Kara’s right leg began to extend out until it had actually grown about three inches. Also, fat and muscle began to grow on Kara’s legs, and they began to fill in, unlike someone who is handicapped with legs that have atrophied. (5) I prayed for Kara’s bladder and bowel functions. (6) As John continued, her back began to straighten out, although not all the way. (7) There was heat all over her as we left the service.
Monday night, we began to pray and soak in the Lord again for Kara. (1) As we prayed, the curve in Kara’s back began to straighten out and shift into place. (2) Kara was told to move her legs, and she did. God even repaired the ligaments in her legs that doctors cut in surgery. (3) We prayed for the connection from the brain to her nerve endings to fire. Also for strength in Kara’s muscles. (4) Kara had heat all over her as we left the service.
Tuesday, during the day, (1) someone in the church told me that the word “complete” came to mind as we prayed Monday night. (2) Legs were now close to being the same length. She was able to put both feet on the floor. (3) Her hips and legs began jumping and connecting with the brain as we prayed. We prayed that Kara’s crooked legs would straighten, and they did. (4) Her ventricles were literally pulsating in my hand, to indicate that her ventricles were now working. (5) There was heat all over her as we left the service.
Wednesday morning, John and I met with Kara at the church. (1) We began to soak in prayer and praise. (2) She had a greater freedom of movement. (3) As of Tuesday evening, John and I both had a peace about the whole situation. We now needed to praise God for complete healing. (4) There was heat all over her as we left the church.
On Wednesday night (1) both feet raised and moved. (2) She was now able to wiggle her toes. (3) At the end of prayer and praise, Kara was now able to have even more movement than before. (4) We were told to begin to try to get Kara into physical therapy, because her muscles do not have memory of movement. (5) There was heat all over her as we left the service.
Each day John told me to anoint Kara and pray that the healing would continue. The healing has continued. Kara now has controlled movement in both legs. We were able to get her into physical therapy. Kara is now able to sit up in a chair with no back and rock back and forth, which she was not able to do at all before. Kara’s legs now are symmetrical to the rest of her body. She is now able to tell the difference between hot and cold.
After a few months in physical therapy, Kara now can do leg lifts, beginning with 10-pound and now with 20-pound weights. She can do 25 with her right leg and around 20 with her left. She does push-ups from her armrest, at least 10, and is now beginning to do push-ups from parallel bars. Kara took 13 steps via the parallel bars, with rests in between trips. This of course is with the physical therapist close by. Kara stood four times on the parallel bars for extended periods, while holding herself up. The last time she stood for 60 seconds, a personal record for her. Every day she is still steadily improving.
With all that we have seen God do in Kara’s life in the last few months, there is a scripture that continues to come to mind: “He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it.” We believe as we continue to persevere in prayer, God will be faithful in completing what He has begun.
We are so thankful to the Lord and to Dr. Hicks for his impact, then and continuously for his prayers, and scriptures, and encouragement. It has made a big difference in me. God has increased my faith over the last few months, until we now believe that God in His mercy is both able and willing to bring complete healing, if we are obedient to cry out to Him in prayer.
When you pray, “Lord, take me to the next level” or “Lord, increase my faith” (Luke 17:5), God will put you in impossible circumstances that you can’t handle. To break the sound barrier spiritually, you will go through groaning and travail, but He will answer you. With assurance you will be able to declare with Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Travailing in prayer is pictured in James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James is talking about sickness or anything else in your life. It is the fervent prayer of the righteous that will prevail. Elijah illustrates fervent prayer. As a Christian you are righteous, which is a gift from God (2 Corinthians 5:21). You are in “right standing with the Lord.” So your responsibility is to be fervent—to be persistent in prayer with all your strength. How long? Until the answer comes. It could be one hour before the answer comes, or it could be five hours. You are seeking the Lord with all your might for a breakthrough. If one day is not enough, spend 30 days. God’s grace and power will come. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Prevailing prayer is God’s method for developing His kingdom, defeating Satan and evil, and taking you to the next level spiritually. It is God’s means of accomplishing His will. Jesus taught us to pray: “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Your groaning and crying out for God’s will to be done will bring heaven’s answers to earth because it fulfills God’s plan of redemption to train you for His eternal purposes. The travail of prevailing prayer is what will move you and me up spiritually and will build God’s kingdom.
Will you cry out in the time of trouble? Will you cry out until you get through? Charles Spurgeon said: “He who prays without fervency does not pray at all.” How serious are you? God looks at your heart. “I cry out with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:145).
Early in your Christian life there were some things you struggled to receive from the Lord. But today, you have no problem praying the prayer of faith and receiving them from the Lord. Because you found the secret, the “tail” of faith, travailing prayer was added. It helped you break the sound barrier in the spiritual sense and took you to the next level. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36).
At the next level, there is the peace and conviction of faith.
To be continued in the next issue: “Five basic principles that God uses to move