Since its inception in 1999, Kansas City's International House of Prayer has been a hot spot of revival in middle America, drawing thousands from around the world to a place of 24/7 worship and prayer. BREATHEcast.com, a partner of The Christian Post, had a chance to speak with IHOP worship leader Misty Edwards, who has witnessed God's work at IHOP since the beginning. Read on for an inside look at worship, songwriting and vision at the International House of Prayer.
BC: Hello Misty, I'm glad that we could have some time to speak with you and provide our visitors with an introduction to you and your ministry.
Edwards: Thank you, I'm glad also.
BC: Since this is our first interview with you, I was wondering if you can just give a background of your ministry as a worship leader and also on your involvement with the folks at the International House of Prayer.
Edwards: OK, so I've been leading worship since I was 19; I actually got my start here at the International House of Prayer, which I was first introduced to as an intern when they just got started. And when I came here, I really just jumped right into the prayer room. At that time, I was looking for a place where I could really meet God face to face.
I had been caught in the mundaneness of church life – I grew up in a church and with music as well; my mother was music teacher. I never thought music was my thing – I always thought it was for my sister, or for someone else – but when the House of Prayer started, we needed singers, and we needed musicians; to do worship 24/7 takes a lot of people. So I found myself at the piano with my two chords and my little weak voice singing for hours a day. And that is really when my heart was hooked on a whole other level on worship. Because I found that in singing and worshipping, I could really connect with God.
There were very few people in the room in the early days, and I would do the night watch. So there were maybe 10 people in the room, and I didn't have a band, or a lot of knowledge of music, but I would go for two hours at a time, two or three times a day, just singing love songs to the Lord. Because there was nobody in the room, you really do have that audience of One. And I cultivated that – that heart cry just between me and the Lord, the connection between the heart of a lover, between me and God, just singing the songs, taking the Scriptures and singing them to heaven, listening to Him and singing it back and forth. So I started worship leading in that kind of environment, which is still the environment that I thrive in the best.
BC: That sounds like an amazing experience. How much has the audience grown, since then for the International House of Prayer?
Edwards: The audience has really grown for IHOP. We have soooo many people now. Back then there were five interns; now there are hundreds, and we have 3 different internships. And right now we have 300 youths here, so there's a lot of people. We have a lot of internationals that come and go, and the IHOP staff is growing, going from 50 people to over 500 now.
It's growing and growing, but I can still see that the Lord is so jealous of our worship leaders. Now we have about 24 different worship leaders, and different worship teams that each have about 12 people on each team. Each team does about six sets a week that are two hours a piece. So everybody is on the platform for about 12 hours a week at least. I lead two different teams, so I'm up there a lot. But I can still see even with all of the growth, and all of the people that are coming, because of the mundaneness of doing it 24 hours a day, there's still such a sense of humility and the audience of One. So many of our worship leaders still, when they come up there, I can tell that they are really doing it before God. Just the fact that you do it every day for 2 hours every day cultivates this reach and this hunger to do it for God. Sometimes the audience loves you, sometimes they don't – you can't really do it for them. So although our congregation is growing a lot, and corporate worship is growing a lot, I still love the audience of One.
BC: You actually have got a set coming up pretty soon, right?
Edwards: Yes, I have a set at two o'clock. It's in few minutes.
BC: And what it's like preparing for this kind of worship?
Edwards: So the team meets 30 minutes ahead of time, and we have a briefing. So for today's set, we'll meet at 1:30, and we're doing a set called worship with the Word. We have 4 different formats – we have worship with the Word, we do a devotional/prophetic worship, and we do intercession. So the 2 o'clock set is worship with the Word, and we've taken a passage – right now we're going through 1 John. So our worship is broken up into six different cycles, and we sit in our briefing, and we go down the cycles, and we kind of know what songs we're going to do, and out of the songs, we go into a spontaneous singing around 1 John. So kind of what we're doing is we're having a dialogue around a scripture, but we're singing it instead of speaking it, and it's so much fun! So we'll take one chunk of 1 John, like one or two verses, and one of the singers will sing it. And then we have a prayer leader who jumps on a phrase like 'God is light,' and the prayer leader will declare, 'God is light,' and all the singers will just start singing around that, kind of interpreting what it means that God is light, and we'll cross reference and just throw in a bunch of different scriptures. So we just start singing spontaneously of what means that God is light, and we'll stay on that theme for a little while, and then we'll go to the next phrase, and then the next phrase, and we'll move through the whole passage during a two-hour period. So that's what we do with worship with the Word.
So preparing for that, we just talk about the text, and we talk about a little bit about music. But we mostly talk about the text, and we have kind of a Bible study before we go out there so we're the same page. I love worship with the Word. It's one of my favorite outlets.
BC: That sounds really interesting. I think for most people they have this kind of distinction in their worship between music and listening to or meditating on the Word, but you guys have put it together. What is the importance that you see in putting these two together?
Edwards: Well, using music and using the Word of God and combining the two is, I think, one of the most powerful realities on the planet, because we are made as musical beings. Our spirit is musical, and when we awaken our spirit and then we sit in front of the Word of God, It comes alive. The language of the Word of God gets written on our hearts at a level that doesn't just come by listening. So in this kind of atmosphere, first we're awakened with the music, so our spirits are alive. And then we're looking at the Word of God and we're singing it, so it's going through our being. We're actually saying it, and it's getting written on our heart, it's changing our emotional chemistry, and it's changing our life view. We're understanding the Scriptures in a way that we wouldn't just by sitting and listening to a preacher – although I love listening to preachers as well. The Word is such a massive part of flowing in the prophetic even, because sometimes the Holy Spirit is saying something, but if you don't have the language for it, you can't express that. And the language the Holy Spirit uses the best is the Word of God, and so learning the Word of God and getting the language of the Bible in your heart, it gives you the tools. And so when it comes time to prophecy, when it comes time to write a song, I go to the piano to write a song and I have all this language because I've done so much worship with the Word. I have a language, I have the Scriptures, I have an understanding of the Word that I wouldn't have had without those hours in the Word, singing with a team.
As a team you go further as well, because, for example, Laura, who is a singer with me, will sing an angle that I wasn't thinking on 'God is light,' and she'll say something that I wouldn't even have thought of. And that will spark a revelation in me and I'll sing something else, and we'll just build this energy around the Word. Oh, it's awesome! It's so exhilarating.
BC: It sounds really amazing.
Edwards: I love worship with the Word!
BC: I think it's great to have such a central focus on the Word when it comes to worship. Is there a similar focus or preparation when it comes to your songwriting process?
Edwards: Yeah, with the songs that I write, there are basically two things when it comes to preparation. The first thing of course is the meditation on the Word. When I say this though, what I mean is that I take the Word of God and I turn it into a dialogue with Him. So I take Psalm 45, for example, which says 'You are fairer than the sons of men.' And I won't just do a Word study on what that means, but I will turn it into a dialogue, and close my eyes, and I look right at Him in my mind's eyes and say: 'Jesus, you are fairer than the sons of men.' And I'll ask the Holy Spirit, 'What does that mean?' And I start to develop in my heart this dialogue with the Lord, and I say, 'That means that You are better than, You are holy, You are superior in every way, You are fairer than the sons of men.' So I will develop what that phrase means, and I'll take a notepad and just jot down my thoughts.
But I also want to make sure that what I'm writing is born of the Spirit, meaning it's out of a connection with Him. I want to write songs to God, not only about God. I want to lead people to close their eyes, and actually talk to a person who is listening. You know, He is really listening to our worship. So I imagine that He is right in front of me, and I take the Scriptures, and I just turn it into a dialogue. Sometimes it'll be like Him speaking over me, and some of the songs I write feel like the voice of God speaking over the people. Some messages would be something like the urgency of the hours. I'm studying eschatology, the study of the End Times, and so I feel this urgency of the hours, and I write a song that's more directed to the people. But the first thing is that I take all the Scriptures, and I want everything I do to be based in truth, not just based of the whim off the top of my head. So I get the theology first. I get my heart moving, and then I'll go and I'll put music to it. Sometimes I'll grab a couple of musicians, and I like to write with other people, and I'll say 'Let's write on this theme.' So we'll play some chord progressions, we mess around a little bit, and we'll usually end up forming something together.
BC: Wow! It seems you guys have created a really powerful culture of worship there at the International House of Prayer. It's really amazing to hear how God is moving in different places in the U.S. You've mentioned to me that since it got started it's really grown, and so where do you see God leading you guys right now?
Edwards: For IHOP, I think where we're going is in leading a lot of people into a life of prayer. And a life of prayer is an end in itself, it's not a means to something. So I think the goal of IHOP is to get millions and millions of people all over the world praying in this concert of prayer. And the Lord's raising men and women all over America and all over the world with the same heart cry, to raise up houses of prayer in every city of the world. So again, it's not a means to an end, but it's an end in itself. Prayer is interacting with God, and it's the point of our existence, and so the idea is to raise up all these houses of prayer that will cry out for the nations, that will weep between the porch and the alter in intercession, and that will weep before Jesus in adoration. So the idea of where we are going as a house of prayer, I just see it multiplying, and multiplying, and reproducing itself all over the globe, until there is a symphony of prayer. It'll have many different expressions, all over the world. It won't be just Kansas City's expression, but the Lord is raising up places of prayer all over, and I just see it growing and growing all the way up until the Second Coming.
BC: Praise God! That's such a powerful vision. I'm thankful to be able to get such insight into the IHOP ministry and how God is working in Kansas City. I know that you have to go meet your team pretty soon, Misty, but thank you so much for taking out some time with BREATHEcast this afternoon.
Edwards: Thank you too.
BC: I hope we'll have more opportunities to work together with you and with the rest of your ministry. May God's blessings be on you, and I hope you have really a beautiful time of worship.
Edwards: Thank you, so much. Take care.