carpet time

(Reading Time: 3 minutes)

Carpet time is a new word for an old, old phenomenon. Christians have been falling out, being slain in the Spirit, and resting in the Spirit for centuries. It goes to show that Christians—like all people—are playful when it comes to language. Language isn’t meant to be merely functional… it can also be fresh, vivid, and picturesque.

I particularly enjoyed finding the quotation from Heidi Baker about carpet time in Mozambique being referred to as “dirt time” in that country (see 2000 quote), due to there usually being dirt floors at their worship services rather than carpets!

A note about formatting: as you may be able to guess, an asterisk (*) before a word in the definition means that the word has its own entry in the Dictionary. So in the example below, a person could look up ecstasy, as well as slain in the Spirit and soak in the Spirit. The term ecstasy is in “small caps” here because it’s not a Christianese word but rather more of an essay entry that I’ve included in the Dictionary.


carpet time n. Time spent on the floor in prayer or *ecstasy after swooning or falling down due to the power of the Holy Spirit.
The term was coined in 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church to describe the phenomenon they observed there. Since then, the term soaking is gradually becoming the preferred term there (see 2003 citation). (Note that the church has undergone name changes, to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in 1995 and then to Catch the Fire Toronto in 2010.)
The original inspiration for the Christianese term carpet time was perhaps influenced by the term carpet time (also known as circle time) that primary school teachers have used since the early 1990s to refer to time that children spend in group activity on the floor.
See also *slain in the Spirit; *soak in the Spirit.
1994 Chevreau Catch the Fire: The Toronto Blessing: An Experience of Renewal and Revival 51 : Those who’ve done “carpet time” at the Airport have a frame of reference for much of what is declared in the Psalm [Psalm 23], not least being the dynamic of verse 2: “He makes me lie down \zthreedots”! 1995 Housewright “Making a Joyful Noise” Dallas Morning News (30 Aug.) 32A : People remained sprawled on the floor—“doing carpet time,” as they called it—for long periods. 1995 Grady “‘Toronto Blessing’ Spreads in U.S.” Charisma (Mar.) 54 : Each person moves his stackable chair to the side of the auditorium to prepare for what has come to be known in this 600-member congregation as “carpet time.” This new ritual, so nicknamed because scores of people fall backward onto the floor after receiving prayer, occurs during holy communion. 1998 Parent Spiritscapes: Mapping the Spiritual and Scientific Terrain 136 : People began to burst into gales of laughter, they fell on the floor jerking (known as doing carpet time), they staggered around as if drunk, they began to experience visions, and most popular of all, they began to experience physical healing. 1999 Percy Power and the Church 148 : The church [Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship] encourages believers to join in what they call “carpet time”: falling backwards, resting on the floor, or being “slain in the Spirit.” 2000 Charisma 25/6–11 86 : Besides attending evening meetings, the youngest children rise early in the morning to gather in makeshift shelters where the dirt flies as they dance and sing their African songs of praise to Jesus. Heidi adds with a laugh that in Mozambique people overcome by the Holy Spirit don’t do “carpet time” but “dirt time.” 2003 Poloma Main Street Mystics: The Toronto Blessing and Reviving Pentecostalism 56 : “Carpet time” seemed apropos for the playfulness of the early stage of TACF revival (where people were encouraged to remain on the floor and “soak” once they fell). In time the more generic “soaking” replaced the earlier term and included the practice of assuming a prone position. 2006 MacNutt The Healing Reawakening 201 : Another extraordinary phenomenon in this Third Wave is the great success of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship…. Thousands of visitors, including many pastors … came to see and experience healing, basking in the intense presence of God (“carpet time,” they call it). 2007 Haldane God Hears 75 : I sit here writing this chapter having just spent some carpet time with the Lord—you know, where your snotty tears are staining your carpet and you are crying in the arms of God. 2007 Levin People in Glass Houses 149 : Carpet time: The time between going unconscious and when you wake up and go back to your seat.

hedge of protection

(Reading Time: 4 minutes)

One of my favorite Christianese expressions! Hedge of protection seems to hardly need an introduction, because it is one of the most popular Christianese expressions.

If you’ve never heard this phrase before,  take 2 minutes and watch this hilarious stand-up comedy bit by Tim Hawkins about the hedge of protection. One of his best bits of all time!

The hedge of protection is typically mentioned during prayer. Christians ask God to put a “hedge of protection” around someone they care about to keep them safe and protect them from harm. When someone is praying, they might even use this phrase like a formula, saying: “God, we pray a hedge of protection around our friend Joe here. Watch over him and keep him safe!” I’m sure the people praying can almost see a protective hedge materializing around their friend.

Praying for a “hedge” reminds me of another popular prayer phrase: laying out a fleece. Fleeces and hedges… if somebody didn’t know that Christianity’s roots began in a rural, agricultural area (such as the near Middle East), it wouldn’t take them long to figure it out, judging by the language we use when we pray.

What interesting or distinctive prayer phrases have you heard? Share in the comments!

hedge of protection n. God’s protection over someone. The term is typically used in the prayer formula pray a hedge of protection (see run-on entry below), but it can be used in other ways too (often with verbs such as build, place, put, and remove).
The exact phrase hedge of protection does not appear in the Bible. Hedges are mentioned as secure barriers around vineyards (Isaiah 5:5; Mark 12:1), and Satan refers to God’s protection and favor on Job as “a hedge around him” (Job 1:10). The Job 1:10 reference is the source of the imagery and language of hedge of protection.
Coverdale (1535) was the first Bible translator to use the word hedge in translating Job 1:10: “‘Hast thou not made an hedge about him and about his house, & about all that he hath on euery side?’” The Geneva Bible (1560), kjv (1611), and nearly all English Bibles since then have followed suit.
See also *hedge of angels; *hedge of thorns.
1976 LaHaye The Spirit-Controlled Woman 48 : Because Sarah is naive and often childlike, she needs a special hedge of protection built around her by the Holy Spirit. 1980 Skinner Back Where You Belong 85 : God has never promised to keep us out of trouble but to keep us from falling when we get into it. He gives no special hedge of protection for his children to claim as shelter from all the common woes of life. 1984 Robertson Answers to 200 of Life’s Most Probing Questions 122 : We also learn that God has placed a hedge of protection around us. 1989 Silvious Please Don’t Say You Need Me: Biblical Answers for Codependency 117 : As you go to the workplace each day, ask the Lord to put a hedge of protection around your mind to deflect Satan’s fiery darts, which come in the form of sensual or suggestive thoughts. 1994 Christenson What Happens When We Pray for Our Families 197 : As we deal with the specific requests, we make a point to enclose our children in God’s cocoon of protection. We ask for His angels to be present in their protective role. We ask for God’s hedge of protection to be established around us and the blood of Jesus to be applied to us. 2000 Pyle Triumph Over Trouble 80 : The Gulf War in the Middle East was won by the USA and our allies. Much prayer went up for our fighting forces. A Southern Baptist chaplain said he believes God placed “a hedge of protection” around allied soldiers in this war and that “the low casualty rate was His miracle.”
pray a hedge of protection v. phr. A prayer formula used to invoke God’s protection over someone. A typical usage looks like this: “Father God, I pray a hedge of protection over John and his family. Would you just watch over them and keep them safe from the enemy, and give them peace during this difficult time.”
Various prepositions can be used in the expression. The person praying might ask for the hedge to be around, about, or even over the person being prayed for.
The prayer for a hedge of protection is often used with other prayer formulas of protection; see *no weapons formed would prosper; *snares of the enemy; *surround with angels; and *traveling mercies. See also *prayer formulas.
1986 Wildmon The Case Against Pornography 150 : I pray a hedge of protection about my husband, but what else can I do to fight this evil? 1990 Lea Hearing Ear Learning: To Listen to God 135 : In addition to praying for a hedge of protection, you should also put on the whole armor of God…. Fully clad in the armor of God and encircled by God’s hedge of protection, you can stand secure in the victory Jesus has won for you. 1994 Dugan Heart to Heart with Pastor’s Wives 47 : Faithfully and consistently pray for your children…. Pray a hedge of protection around them daily and teach them God’s Word. 2004 Batterson ID: The True You 138 : I pray a “hedge of protection” around my kids all the time. I think a lot of us pray for traveling mercies. 2009 George What Pastors Wish Church Members Knew 39 : Often we pastors aren’t vocal enough in telling our congregations that we need them to pray a “hedge of protection” around us. When they pray for us, we’ll know we’re supported spiritually, and that ministry is not our work, but God’s work.

sinner’s prayer

(Reading Time: 5 minutes)

One of the interesting things about researching and documenting language is that it’s easy to think that there won’t be very many surprises. After all, to a great extent, writing a dictionary is simply recording the meanings that we all already associate with words. Sure, the finished product will contain a lot of new information for people who don’t yet speak the language; but for existing speakers the dictionary ought to be chock-full of stuff “they already know.” This is especially true in the case of a dictionary of slang, because the definitions that people already associate with these words are the very definitions I’m trying to document. Whatever you think a word means, that’s the meaning I want to capture.

But in spite of this expectation of dullness, I still managed to be surprised by some of the things I find out. Take, for example, the sinner’s prayer. This is a prayer that someone can say when they want to become a Christian. As you’ll see in the definition I’ve reproduced below, the prayer is simple. It’s what some linguists and sociologists call a “speech act,” or something you say sincerely and publicly in order to let others know about a personal decision that has been made. Wedding vows are another example of a speech act: saying “I do” isn’t what makes you a faithful husband or wife, but by saying it publicly, you let everybody know how serious you are.

By the same token, saying a sinner’s prayer disingenuously doesn’t accidentally turn you into a Christian, any more than lying about your age makes you younger or older. And yet the Bible is constantly talking about public declarations of faith, whether it be verbal (as is the case of a sinner’s prayer or wedding vows) or demonstrative (as is the case with water baptism or wearing a WWJD bracelet).

For all the value that a sinner’s prayer may have for both the new Christian and the community around him, some people criticize the use of the prayer because, as they say, the Bible says nothing about it. If you search the Bible for the phrase “sinner’s prayer,” you will come up empty. (Of course, if you search the Bible for the word “Trinity,” you’ll also come up empty, but that’s a blog post for a different blog!) But in the mid-20th century, evangelical commentators clearly identified the sinner’s prayer that was being used in tent revivals and personal evangelism with a prayer found in Scripture: the prayer of the tax collector in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Here’s the passage:

He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-13 (emphasis mine)

You can see in the definition below that books in the ’40s and ’50s directly referred to this prayer as the sinner’s prayer.

Now naturally, if a new Christian wants to expand on his or her prayer, chucking in additional declarations of repentance or affirming the promises of God, who’s to stop them? So we hear some pretty creative sinner’s prayers. But the idea of an oral confession to mark an inward decision to follow Jesus is way Biblical.

Here’s my working definition of a sinner’s prayer. What do you think? Have I left something out or added too much? Drop me (and the universe) a note in the comments.

sinner’s prayer n.
See also *accept Christ; *decision for Christ; *free gift; *Lord and Savior.
1. Often the sinner’s prayer. The traditional Christian prayer “Lord be merciful to me a sinner,” taken from Luke 18:13.
1940 The Lutheran Witness LIX. 425 : The sinner’s prayer is: “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” 1957 Harper I Walk the Glory Road 155 : I prayed the sinner’s prayer I had prayed before but this time I prayed it from my heart. “Oh, God! Be merciful to me a lost sinner and save my soul.” 1958 Sparks Things Which Don’t Happen Every Day 174 : The sinner’s prayer, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” will give you the correct answer. 1984 Bertolucci, Lilly On Fire with the Spirit 63 : So he turned to the last page [of the Bible], which contained a prayer of surrender to Jesus. The Gideons call it ’The Sinner’s Prayer,’ and it is aptly named because all of us are sinners in need of redemption.
2. As in say the sinner’s prayer; lead someone in the sinner’s prayer. Any of various brief prayers of repentance and faith in Christ made by someone who desires to be a Christian. Often the new convert is led in saying (or echoing) this prayer by an evangelist.
There isn’t a standard form of the prayer, but the basic formula includes an admission of guilt and a pledge to follow Jesus (see 1982 citation). Such prayers are often modeled on Luke 18:13 (see citations for 1962 and 1971), though they may take a variety of forms.
Some commentators complain that there isn’t any Biblical example the widely used sinner’s prayer. However, evidence supports the idea that as far back as the mid-20th century it was generally understood that the sinner’s prayer was the prayer said by the tax collector in Jesus’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (see Luke 18:13):
A sinner’s prayer can be simple or elaborate. Here is an example from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1678): “God be merciful to me a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ; for I see, that if his righteousness had not been, or I have not faith in that righteousness, I am utterly cast away. Lord, I have heard that thou art a merciful God, and hast ordained that thy Son Jesus Christ should be the Saviour of the world; and moreover, that thou art willing to bestow him upon such a poor sinner as I am-and I am a sinner indeed. Lord, take therefore this opportunity, and magnify thy grace in the salvation of my soul, through thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen” (ch. 18).
A sinner’s prayer can also be called a “prayer of commitment” (as in “committing oneself to the Christian faith”).
1962 Hyles Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church 85 : Ask them to repeat a prayer after you. Once again you may use the sinner’s prayer, ’God be merciful to me a sinner and save my soul \zthreedots I do now receive Jesus as my Saviour and trust Him to take me to Heaven when I die. 1962 Atter The Third Force: A Pentecostal Answer 000 : Every night as the Gospel was preached, there were definite decisions made to accept the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Some wept as they prayed the sinner’s prayer. 1971 King The Jesus People Are Coming 134 : A sinner’s prayer: Father in haven, be merciful to me a sinner as I confess to you all my sins and shortcomings. I receive you Lord Jesus into my heart. I believe that you are the Son of God and that you will change my life, forgive all my sins, and give me peace. Amen. 1976 Unger, Howar Principles of Spiritual Science 181 : I quickly reviewed the Gospel message with her and led her in the sinner’s prayer. 1978 Martin “The Power and the Glory of Billy Graham” Texas Monthly (Mar.) 98 : When power was restored he led them in a brief “sinner’s prayer,” then left the stadium as a local clergyman pronounced the benediction. 1982 Tipton Getting Saved From the Sixties: Moral Meaning in Conversion and Cultural Change 33 : Reciting a short “Sinner’s Prayer,” the convert acknowledges his old identity as a sinner and then sheds it by taking Jesus as his personal savior. This is known as “getting saved.”