The Mystery of Prayer
Well, my name is Keith, and I’m recovering my identity as an artist. I’m a dad, photographer, been in ministry as a career my entire adult life other than a few years out of college. I consider myself a Louisiana man. You know, big pots and I cook big and I entertain big. But my heart, at the end of the day, for Jesus is about seeing the captive set free. Mostly, I think, because my heart and my life has been so set free, not without its pain, and not without its ups and downs. But I think I would say my heart transformation started about about 12 years ago in a significant way.
I was spending most of my days at that time as a college pastor. And in that college ministry, we had an active prayer time in the ministry, but didn’t realize how much prayer was going to impact the rest of our lives and where we live today. I grew up in a Methodist Church, served in Presbyterian churches as a professional, so I had lots of great denominational, great theological background. I would say that we were very normal. I mean, if you asked my wife if I’m normal, she might disagree with that. But in the standpoint of just being normal Christians called to ministry, I believed in prayer, believed in Jesus, believed in the word, believed in worship, believed in the local community, still do believe in all those things. But something really shifted and it started becoming, I think the word I would use is “tangible.” As God started inviting us into His presence in different ways, I started feeling things, frankly, seeing things, noticing changes in my desire to pray and how to pray, frankly.
I think I was given a great model of prayer growing up, the Acts model, A-C-T-S right? Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. But in that model, I realized over the last 12 years that there wasn’t really room for listening or engaging. So it was a great theological framework to think about how to pray, but there was no interactive element in that, and for me, it’s the interactive nature of how God is moving in power that has really transformed everything that we do. I left a very good, a very good job, very comfortable job at a really nice, affluent church. We were living in a really nice affluent neighborhood, great schools, great everything, and the Lord, very directly, led us out. And I heard, I think what I would say for the first time, the Lord clearly speak to me when I quit the job. I heard the Lord in a time of prayer, and I didn’t hear it with my ears, more like in my chest, in my heart. I don’t even know physically where it came from, but if I felt it. And the phrase that I heard was very clear, “Keith, wherever you go, needs to be completely rooted in solid theological framework and totally open to the power of the Spirit so that you can operate the way I made you.”
And I’ll never forget, my instant or my instant response was, “Hmm…Good luck, Lord.” Because my experience was, it was either the “frozen chosen,” who had great theology and not a whole lot of experience in power and experiencing the Spirit or it was what I would lovingly, and please my charismatic friends hear my heart, “crazy charismatics.” And I have lots of friends who live in that world, but it was like, I don’t want to be like that guy. So I genuinely didn’t really even think that God could move in a way that was rooted in theology and open to power and then it started happening.
I’ll never forget, I went to a conference in California. I was leaving my role on a church staff and beginning a role on a missions agency staff. And they were attending this conference, because the missions agency was also then, trying to grow in understanding the power gifts. Again, great on theology, great on deeds, had boots on the ground all around the world, but how is it that God is moving in power? And I basically just said, “Lord, whatever You want to do with me, I’ll do it.” That’s a dangerous prayer. I recommend it, and I don’t recommend it. Because God will do it; He’ll move. So here I am, I’m on, I’m a newbie on this mission staff, but I’ve been to this conference with a few of them and I’ve been slain in the Spirit at the conference. And so unbeknownst to me, because I was slain the Spirit so much, behind my back lovingly, of course, but behind my back, they started calling me carpet Keith. Because every time they’d pray, boom, Keith’s on the carpet laid out. So I’m new, but this is how they know me, thinking this is my norm, but it’s not my norm. It’s all brand new to me. I’m just wide open. I’m like, “Turn the faucet on Jesus. Let’s do this.”
So like three months later, I go to this training. So we get this guy who comes in, this great theologian, works on staff at a large seminary, mainline seminary, not not wild, just solid. But this friend of ours is, she has a headache and fever. And so the missions agency president’s wife says, “Hey, Keith, would you pray for our dear friend over here? She’s just got a fever and a headache and she doesn’t really want to miss this. So we’re going to just lay hands on her and pray for her.” So yeah, sure. Of course, you know, I like to pray so why not. But nothing other than the significance of like, God speaking to me had really happened in my heart or my life. And so the three or four of us are gathered around the sister in faith. And I just feel like this nudge in my heart to like, put my hand in front of her forehead and say, “Father, in Jesus name, we just say thank you for our dear sister” and call her by name. And I said, “Lord Jesus, bring down her fever.” And as soon as I said that she was like, “Oh, I feel it.”
I’m sorry. Okay, you feel what? I’m sorry. I’m confused. I’m just, feel what? She goes, “The cold air blowing out of your hand.” Umm, I’m sorry. What? And you know, my hand is hovering like, right, like two or three inches in front of her forehead, and my left hand was on her shoulder, laying hands on her. But something in me just, I put my hand up there. And she goes, “Oh, yeah.” And then the lady across from me puts her hand, like in between my hand and lady’s forehead, right? And she goes, “Oooh, that’s cold.” And I’m like, “Y’all are out of your dang minds.” I’m like having this moment where I’m like, “What in the world is going on right now?” And, and so then the missions agency president’s wife puts her hands in between, and she goes “Ooh, yeah, that is cold.” And I’m like, “Oh, God, I gotta…” So I put my other hand, my left hand, in between my right hand and her forehead and sure enough, I feel what feels like cold air blowing out of my hand. And she goes, “Huh, fever’s gone. Headache’s gone. Thanks, Keith.” But so, I’m gonna have to sit with that one, right.
So, so, here I’m having this crazy experience and I’m thinking to myself, I don’t know that I want to be able to do that. I can’t tell my friends about this. Frankly, I have not told this story publicly, before now. I’ve held it. I’ve shared it privately, amongst friends that I can trust, but I haven’t shared it publicly. And I’ll be honest, the reason is fear. What are people gonna think about me if they know that story? I’m a normal guy. I work in normal churches. I’m not some weird Yahoo doing kooky things and waiting for special effects to happen in the church service. So how do I share this? Don’t. Don’t, don’t share it. But it was incredibly significant. Because here I am seeing the power of God move in a way that I cannot explain.
I think that’s been the biggest difficulty in my season of this power expression of ministry. There are so many who doubt and I can’t explain it. And for a lot of my theological friends, if you can’t explain it, it can’t be believed. The problem with that is faith is believing in something that cannot be seen, ie faith is something, believing in something that cannot be explained. I cannot explain why Jesus spit into mud and rub it on a dude’s eyes and he could see. But something changed in that season 12 years ago, and it’s been changing since.
There’s this great tension within me now that it currently exists between the idea that I saw, felt, heard, experienced, this radical weird story of air conditioning, air blowing out of my hand to heal a fever and a headache instantly. And one year ago, my wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer. How do I reconcile the fact that, that I saw one thing happen but literally, as I told the surgeon, my wife’s general surgeon who is going to do a total mastectomy of her right breast. I told that surgeon, “I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe that that tumor is going to come out.” And she said, “Mr. Peeler, I’m happy to pray that way, but so far, I still do the surgeries.” And until the day that that surgeon took her breast, I was believing in faith that that tumor would go away. But it didn’t.
So I love my Lord. I love the power of His presence. But as a human being, it is deeply perplexing why in one place, I see incredible healing, power and weirdness, and in another, over the woman I love more than anything in this world, and not getting the result that I hoped for. And that’s, that’s real. The power of God moving in that is real. The fact that I am even willing to talk about that is real. Because my heart, my life, my everything, I gave it to Jesus a long time ago, but that tangible expression of the power of God goes so far beyond a moment. And I think what I’m sitting with, what I’m understanding, what I’m wrestling with is – I just wish it was easier. I wish life was easier. I wish that these power encounters were just what I got all the time. And in one way they are! My life has changed. I mean, 12 years ago, I didn’t expect to hear from God when I prayed. I expected Him to hear me, but I didn’t expect to hear back. But now I do. I started seeing that there was a tangible, like, if I was listening, if I was actually listening to what the Lord is asking me to pray for – I got my own list. Trust me, I got a lot of things I need, a lot of things I want, right. – But when I listen and I pray, and I do what the Lord is asking me to do, I see a tangible difference. Because that’s when I’m praying in His will and not mine.
I’ve learned a lot about authority in praying in the last few years – how to pray with authority. Not mine, Keith is nothing. Keith is a human being, that’s it. But through the power of who Jesus says that I am, my identity in Christ, and to the authority I’ve been given through Him, through the power of the Spirit, I can command demons to flee and they have to flee. I can bless people. I can pray for healing and they can get healed, if the Lord does it. If He leads it. I pray for lots…I wanted my wife to be healed. That wasn’t a bad prayer. But it wasn’t the way Lord wanted to answer that. And because of what I’ve seen her go through now, this last year, how I’ve seen her change, and our faith to bring us through…There’s nothing I’ve ever experienced like the pain of getting that phone call hearing, “It’s cancer.” I don’t have the authority to remove cancer, but I have the authority to pray in Jesus’ name, and to trust that in His way of healing, that He will do what He wants and it will be for His victory and for His sake. And that’s enough for me.
I want everyone that I pray for to get healed. And I believe that everyone I pray for will be healed. It just may not look like what I want it to look like or what they want it to look like, and there’s something really beautiful in that mystery. There’s something really freakin’ frustrating about it. And I think as followers of Jesus, if we’re not going to be honest with ourselves about our disappointment in God, or our disappointment in unanswered prayers, then we’re missing out on the opportunity for the Father to mold our hearts around why those prayers were not answered the way we wanted. There’s something deeper in that mystery to me than my 24-7 Western culture mentality of, “We got to get things done, and we got to get it done now.”
I umm, at the beginning of the podcast I said, “I’m recovering my identity as an artist.” and here’s what I mean. If I’m not creating something, I’m not being true to the way that He made me. And as a creator God, I’m a creative man. And if I’m not using those gifts, I’m losing a part of who I am. So I’ve actually experienced power, in the name of Jesus, through creativity, because I’m connecting with who He’s made me to be over what I think I’m supposed to be doing. And, and on top of the whole, recognizing it’s my identity in Christ that matters more than anything, I’m learning the simplest of messages about how to follow Jesus. Hear and obey. I spent most of my adult life, not even realizing that I could hear from Him.
Most of my faith life as a minister was a one way conversation. How boring is a one way conversation? I think about it this way, I love my wife. I’m very lucky to be happily married, even in the midst of the chaos that we’ve been through. And I’ll say it this way, sometimes – If I, if I had a book written about my wife that described her nature, her beauty, her character, even how she smells, I could read that book. And I could probably fall in love with who she is, because of all those things are the things that I’m attracted to. But if I only read the book about her, versus taking her on a date, I would never know the warmth, and the comfort, and the joy of embracing her or kissing her. And that’s how I liken the shift of my relationship with Jesus. Having had a book about Him all my life, studying it, learning about the history of why we have the scriptures, we have, learning about the, you know, all of the things that make faith, faith for the traditional mainline denominations I’ve served, and they’re good things. But there’s nothing like putting that book down and embracing my Father and having Him embrace me. And in those things, that’s for me, the biggest change in how I live. I’ve gone from reading about a God who’s amazing, to experiencing and walking with and hearing from a God who is amazing.
The core for me, and I think this is about, I don’t know…To me, it’s like, I so badly wanted one answer. I wanted, I wanted this crescendo of difficulty to hit this amazing like [explosion], and Jesus shows up and all is well. All is good because Jesus has done this amazing thing. I mean, the scripture says, “if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you can move a mountain.” And I’m like, “Lord, I know I got more than faith of a mustard…I got, I don’t know what size seed it is, but it’s bigger than that.” And so almost like this expectation that my faith will reveal my miracle. And this is for my wife’s body, but it’s still for me. I think I just recognized some of the selfishness of that, and that to see beyond what was currently happening.
So for me, that intimate place of going from having prayed the one way conversation prayer, to the sitting, was the embrace of Jesus in the midst of crying over the brokenness of my wife’s body. The whisper in my heart, and I still hear it today. – I haven’t seen the fulfillment of this yet. – But what I hear today even, and what carried me through is this simple whisper. The Father has been saying to me, “It’s going to be better than you think.” It wasn’t an answer to the cancer. It wasn’t a ‘here’s your verse solution,’ and I think for me, that’s the honest struggle for me. It’s the reality that I’m seeking a solution when my Father is about a relationship.