I lost my voice for an extended period once. It was painful for a number of reasons, and as time went on, one reason took priority over the others. I discovered that many of the religious practices are spoken. Prayer, confession, worship and praise, exhortation, prophecy, teaching, and many forms of pastoral care. So many of Jesus’s miracles were spoken. He commanded the paraplegic to stand up. He gave verbal instructions to the man at the pool, who had waited so many years to be healed. He cursed the fig tree, which withered. He was the Word. Creation began with a spoken word, a command by an unimaginably powerful being. Reality listened to the Creator and obeyed.
What happens when you speak? Physically, it is a complex process. There is a whole web of muscles and nerves in your neck that vibrate to make noise. The airflow, the movement of the tongue and lips to control the noise, the lungs and the posture of the whole body all make their mark on the process. It all happens fairly automatically, unless there’s a problem. The vibrations in the air carry and hit the ears of another person. Their ears transmit the sound to the brain which then interprets these mouth noises as words. Philosophically, there’s something going on in language that I am not smart enough to dissect. Words are commonly understood symbols of meaning. There is a widely, although not quite universally understood sound for millions of ideas. All of this is an amazing process to wrap one’s mind around.
Spiritually, what happens when you speak? That’s a whole other question. We know what happens when God speaks. There is no higher power, so it is easy to see the power struggle in the context of the highest versus the not-highest. The most common miracle Jesus performed in the Gospels was exorcism. This is an example of what happens in the spirit realm when someone speaks. When God orders a demon to leave, they have to leave. When God binds up and casts a large number of demons into a herd of pigs, the demons and the pigs both have no choice. It is pretty cut and dry when there is 1) authority clearly defined and 2) a physical, material movement as a result of the spoken word. We can see what happens in the spiritual realm when Jesus speaks, as he was God in spirit and God incarnate both.
You are spirit and body, but you are not God. What happens for you when you speak? I find myself looking to unusual sources for this, but I can start with scripture. The disciples who followed Jesus cast out demons. Jesus gave them the authority to cast out demons and to heal in his name, starting to the 12 disciples (Matt. 10:1). Later he gave that authority to the 72 (Luke 10:1-23), and then it expanded to the whole church at Pentecost (Acts 2). The successors to their Apostolic authority could do all of what Jesus do, the most interesting to me is the ability to cast out demons and to heal. Some believe, myself included, that this power and authority continues in today’s believers. What Jesus could speak into the spiritual realm we can as well, for those who are empowered by the same spirit.
The trouble is, there is a very muddy ranking system among the spirits around us. Jesus had clear authority. The disciples had clear authority, and sometimes they still found themselves outsourcing to Jesus (Matt. 17:19). I believe there are moments of clarity, or moments when God’s will is clear, his permission and authority and power are present, and we can act on it. This would be a situation where a believer could pray for healing and receive it immediately. I have seen that happen. There are other situations where believers pray earnestly and they don’t receive what they ask for. Not at that time, or ever. Sometimes people die of an illness that Spirit-filled believers had tried to cast out. Often times, we find ourselves in competing causes calling upon the same God. How often have wars been fought by and for Christians against each other?
Knowing this, I suggest to all believers that you are full of the Holy Spirit in power. It would be nice if we could tap into the power of God at will and heal whoever and whenever we want. I think that’s possible, just rare. Conversely, I believe it would be convenient to turn that ability off. When you speak a curse, when you call on darkness, or speak evil over people, there is a spiritual shift that takes place. Your words matter, always, and there are spirits listening all the time. God is listening all the time. The enemy is listening all the time. The spoken word is a means to connect the heart to reality, to connect desire to the material and spiritual world, and make things happen. Our brothers in the occult know this. What they practice in spells is in line with what we believe about what God can do through us, it is just that their traditions are different – as are the spirits to whom they are loyal. Witches and sorcerers know that they speak curses and blessings over people. I find that Christians have let post-Enlightenment rationality wash that idea out of their relationship with the Holy Spirit. I find that Christians don’t imagine that their prayers actually do anything.
To what extent do your words have power? Apparently, Isaac Newton was obsessive in his scientific rigor in trying to quantify and objectify the world of the occult. He did experiments with alchemy, astrology, and more. They are somewhat of an embarrassment looking back now. He was a brilliant mind, and here we have one of the most brilliant minds in history writing at length about the wonders of the universe and … also magic. The problem that he ran into was you can’t quantify spiritual things. I believe it’s like quantifying love, hope, hatred, anger. It’s like running an empirical study on the quality of my marriage over time. There are no repeatable experiments (although Newton tried, as have countless others) on how to interact with any spirit, or how one prayer may work, or how one religious idea may work or not. Those who are engaged with “soft sciences” are very comfortable with this – professional counselors are very familiar with the reality of what may work for one client at one time may not work for another client at another time. Some concepts may work for some clinicians in some settings with some clients some of the time. This type of comfort with ambiguity isn’t to say “nothing is true” or “all things are true.”
What am I saying with all this? You may find that you are a powerful practitioner of spiritual things. I have met a few. They speak and things happen. It comes across as leadership, confidence, or sometimes it comes out as aggression or an ability to put fear into people. Sometime like that will set the tone of the room, whatever tone they may decide. Your relationship with God and your intimacy with Him is where a Christian’s power comes from. For a witch, or whatever else, it’s their relationship (or contract, or oath or whatever) with the other spirit. There are other powers out there – and you can find that in the 2nd commandment. How much spiritual power do you have? I don’t know how you’d quantify it, but it would sound like a lot of religious stories, myths, fables, anecdotes you hear. It’d sound like the crazy moments in scripture where someone calls down a curse on some youths, and then some bears come out of the woods and kill forty something people (2 Kings 2:24).
What are your spiritual stories? What were the moments where you saw God’s power? When have you seen prayer be effective, and why did it work that time and not others?