When a group of God’s people consistently minister to the presence of Christ, we have discovered a remarkable pattern—the heavens thin out, and God begins to change the spiritual atmosphere in the region.
The heavens opened when Jesus was baptized, and when Stephen was martyred. Similarly, God thins out the atmosphere and simultaneously manifests His presence more conspicuously over the region where God’s people minister the His presence. An open heaven is a spiritual atmosphere over a geographical region that is more conducive to the rapid advancement of Christ’s kingdom and, specifically, to supernatural activity.
This accelerated kingdom advancement includes the radical conversion of unbelievers, physical healings, miraculous signs and wonders, demonic manifestations, dramatic deliverances, restoration of marriages, spiritual dreams, true repentance, transformation of addicts, visions of Christ, prophetic words, and a healthy operation of all the spiritual gifts.
An open heaven may sound like an abstract concept, but we have seen this happen in Atlanta, Georgia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Jackson, Mississippi, Mumbai, India, Trujillo, Peru, Niami, Niger, Madrid, Spain, and many other cities around the world. It may sound subjective, unverifiable, or even a little mystical, but it is quantifiable.
I (Fred) was first exposed to an open heaven in Africa where I saw dramatic answers to specific prayers for healing. I have now traveled to Africa fifty times, and every time I experience an unusual and heightened sense of God-given revelation. I hear God more clearly and recognize the dancing hand of the Holy Spirit more obviously.
In one meeting, we saw five hundred people physically healed from a wide range of illnesses, including malaria, blindness, migraine headaches, and a number of other diseases. When I returned home from Africa, I wondered, Why does this supernatural activity happen in Africa and not in Atlanta? Surely, God is the same. I am the same. The human nature of Africans is the same human nature as Americans—so what is different?
God said to me as clear as if I was listening to my stereo,
“It’s the atmosphere, the spiritual atmosphere. If you want to see the same level of Holy Spirit activity in Atlanta as you do in Africa, I need to change the atmosphere.”
This was a kingdom revelation that made sense. I knew I couldn’t change the atmosphere in Atlanta, but as we persisted in prayer, God began to change the atmosphere over the base camp around our church.
My local church is not a finished product; we are a work in process. We have made more than our share of mistakes, and we still have a lot to learn. But one thing we’ve learned is that ministering to the presence of Christ comes first. When we minister to Him, He speaks to us.
Just like the upper room in Jerusalem and the upper room in Antioch, God reaches the nations from the upper room, and He starts by changing the atmosphere in our region first. The beauty of the upper room is that you don’t need to be huge a church to employ the upper room. Antioch only had five seekers. Virtually any church can gather five people.
Parts of this article have been developed with permission using material from Author and Rev. Fred Hartley, International College of Prayer.