“Well, Lord, I was told today at church that if I would get on my face and worship You, I could find some answers . . . that I could connect with You . . . that You would change me. Is this what they meant?”
My nose was beginning to get a little rug burned so I turned my head and let my cheek rest on the floor. I continued to lay there for almost two hours. You see, I was desperate. My history was more than a little embarrassing. I was 40 years old and here’s what I had to show for it: a divorce, a bankruptcy, a lost business, $500,000 of debt, and the prestige of being a convicted felon. It’s true that I now was married to a wonderful woman and had some great friends. But the shame of my past still dominated my thoughts.
My list of atrocities did not happen overnight. I strung them out over a 22—year period. What’s interesting is that during those years I consistently read my Bible, went to church or Bible studies, prayed, and openly spoke about my love for and commitment to God. Yet I was a mess. A terrible disciple of Jesus Christ. So, in many ways, lying on my face that day was a “retreat.” I had retreated into God’s presence to lay down my old life—and, hopefully, emerge with something new.
I was looking for something spectacular. You know, an audible voice, a visitation from Jesus, or even a glimpse of an angel. But I got nothing. Yet as I continued to pour out my heart to God and wait, I knew deep within that I was on the right track.
Finally, I prayed, Lord, I know a lot about You. But I don’t think I know You. Something is missing. Will You teach me about You? Will You change me? Will You re—wire the way I think? I’m really tired of living life my way.
That was all it took. I became overwhelmingly aware of God’s presence. I decided that these “floor retreats” were a good thing. So for the next eight months, I began to meet with God in the same room, on the same floor, in the same position, three to four nights a week—for sometimes up to three hours—while the Holy Spirit gently taught, corrected, and transformed my life. What started out as an experiment turned into a discipline. Eventually, it became a lifestyle.
Over the next three years, everything changed. In every area of my life where I had produced failure, success moved in. No, I didn’t become perfect; but my wife and others who knew me well began to comment that something was “different” about Gary.
I want to make a couple of things clear, however. One is that not all of my “floor retreats” were amazing encounters with God. Sometimes I finished a session and wondered if I had wasted my time. Sometimes I fell asleep. Sometimes my prayers seemed to go only about three inches off the floor, and God seemed a million miles away. Other times, however, His presence was overpowering. I remember moments when I felt I was glued to the floor. Or times when I would lie there with tears streaming down my face, but I didn’t sense that I was overly happy or sad. It was more like a cleansing. On one occasion, I thought for sure I could feel God breathing on me.
The second thing I want to mention is that my transformation was gradual. I’m not saying it always has to be, but that’s how it worked out in my life.
I remember one morning after I had been meeting with God for about three weeks. I woke up and thought, I don’t know if this is doing anything at all. I don’t think I’m really changing. Later that day somebody on the freeway cut me off and almost forced me into a ditch. I immediately responded, Lord, bless that guy. He probably feels awful that he did that. He’s probably going through something difficult and his mind wasn’t on his driving.
I drove for another two miles and then it hit me: Who was that? That’s not how the Gary Skinner I know would normally handle himself! Hmmm. It was clear that God had been up to something all those hours while I was on my face on the floor.
Sharing the Floor with Others
During my three years of change, I had the privilege of becoming an associate pastor at the church I was attending. In light of my past, this in itself was a miracle. When I was asked to interview for the position, I thought for sure I would be disqualified because of my sordid past. But one of the associate pastors told me, “Gary, we’ve been watching your life over the last couple of years and some of us who know you believe you would be perfect for this position. You have been transformed.”
As time passed, my “floor retreats” became something of a trademark for me. Some people might have thought they were a gimmick. Others might have thought they were foolish. All I know is that they worked. I think they worked because they brought me face to face with God, who knew exactly what I needed for true transformation—and He can perform life—changes in a way that no human counselor or program can.
A couple of years ago, I was meeting with a friend who was sincerely hungry for change. I explained what I had learned from my floor retreats about humility and honesty before God. He decided to put it to the test. When we met about a week and a half later, he said, “I’ve been getting up early every morning, lying on the floor, and waiting on the Lord. Nothing is happening. Any advice?”
“Yes,” I said. “Keep doing it. If nothing has happened a few months from now, let’s talk.”
I know that wasn’t what he was hoping for. I know he was hoping there was a shortcut somewhere. Maybe there is. But I don’t know what it is. The good news is that it didn’t take that long for my friend. In fact, within three weeks he had an incredible testimony of how God was speaking to him and directing his steps.
Taking It on the Road
Over the past few years, I have been doing weekend retreats in the mountains with groups of 8 to 12 men. I like to take at least two men with me who are close friends and know what to expect. The rest can be men I know little or nothing about. In reality, these are prayer retreats, but we never call them that. We want to attract guys who truly need this kind of getaway but would not normally be interested in a prayer retreat.
We usually arrive on a Thursday evening, share dinner, learn a little about each other, pray together a little, and then get some sleep. On Friday morning, I usually go over some Scriptures and then teach on how to listen for God through the Scriptures. I always hone in on the value of getting on the floor to wait on God.
I know that the floor thing is too big a jump for some men. So I tell them they can go for a walk or sit under a tree if they prefer—just as long as they are comfortable and quiet and able to let their hearts be open to the Holy Spirit. I usually tell them my story, emphasize the importance of honesty and humility before God, and then encourage them to go out and try it.
On Friday evening, we have an opportunity to share with the group what happened or didn’t happen. What we hear, almost always, is absolutely amazing. In general, three themes usually surface in the testimonies—and often confessions—from the men:
1. An acknowledgement of an area in their lives that God wants to improve.
2. A true sense of forgiveness from God for where they have fallen short.
3. A fresh vision and hope for the future.
What is most fascinating to me is that this all takes place without a sermon or lecture. They get it directly from God.
Okay, enough about me and my friends and our floor retreats. What about you? Have you ever spent time on your face before God, honestly laying yourself open to Him? When is the last time you did that and begged Him for transformation?
I encourage—no, challenge—the people I care about to spend time on their faces, on the floor, before God. So I challenge you to do the same. I dare you to get on your face and wait on the Lord with a heart of honesty and humility. I dare you to do it now. I dare you to do it every day. See for yourself if what I say is true.
This article first appeared in Pray Magazine and the book Come Away with Me. Gary graciously gave me permission to reprint it on my blog. You can learn more about Gary Skinner and his ministry at www.garyskinner.com.