A few weeks ago, Rick and I were visiting family and attended an evening service at their church. Prior to the service, we’d learned that the music director was leaving the area as a result of recent life decisions which were born from months of pondering and the consideration of various options. We’ve been around this lovely man for many years, and have enjoyed his open, friendly manner and the easiness of his personality. Rick had worked with him several times; joining him on the stage with his guitar for special worship sessions whenever we happened to be in town through the weekend. But, as I watched him, I could feel a heavy spirit weighing on him as he led the congregation in song. I leaned over to Rick and whispered that I strongly felt we needed to pray over him after the service.
We waited for everyone to clear out and approached him while he was winding up audio cords. When I asked if we could pray for him, he let out a long sigh, closed his eyes, and said, “Yes!” We stood in a tight group, holding each other’s hands and I don’t remember everything I prayed, but I know that I spoke all that the Holy Spirit placed on my heart. I prayed out specific blessings over him. I asked God to pour out favor upon him and make a way for him. I asked the Holy Spirit to go before him and prepare hearts to receive him and prepare him to find joy in the discovery of new relationships and in the reconciliation of troubled, established relationships. I asked the Father to cover him with grace and to help him leave all his baggage from the past and move forward with only the positive expectation of a fulfilling future. And I called the spirits of doubt, dread, and fear out of him in the name of Jesus Christ. Rick followed with a sweet prayer of encouragement and endorsement. During the prayer session, he was fully engaged and uttered words of agreement and praise. His heart was so open to receive, and anxiety and tension seemed to leave him like a fine mist coming off his skin. When the prayers ended, he looked at us with teary eyes, thanked us, and said, “No one has ever done that for me before.”
That simply crushed my soul.
I thought about that statement for days, trying to wrap my head around how a believer – a worship leader – could make it into his seventies without ever having been the beneficiary of a Spirit-filled, authentic prayer meant only for him.
While I wrestled with that thought, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I had once been very aware of that truth by bringing up a relevant memory.
Several years ago, I was teaching a women’s Bible study class – I don’t even remember the exact topic – and I put our pastor on the spot and asked her what percentage of churches did she think openly embraced manifestations of the Holy Spirit and prophecy? After thinking for a few seconds, she said that it was maybe 50%. I countered her projection and said that I believed a very generous estimate was 3-5%, but I really felt like it was probably below 1%. She seemed a little shocked but knew me well enough to trust my gut. At this point, I was in my mid-fifties and had lived in several states, two European countries, and Puerto Rico. I’d been in churches that were Catholic, protestant, denominational, non-denominational, conservative, contemporary, large, small, country, and city – all kinds of Christian churches. All kinds of Christian people. All kinds of beautiful Christian love.
But it wasn’t until my 52nd year that I found myself guided by the Holy Spirit to a church plant that met in the YMCA in my neighborhood – and it was there that I learned how to become comfortable with how He moved, and how He empowered, and how He wanted me to pray. But because of the prior 52 years, and my intensely studious nature, it took several years for God to reteach me how to communicate with Him. Let me tell you – I had my religion on! There were so many rules and so much dignity that had to be undone.
My pastor’s experience, on the other hand, had been very different. She became a believer in her late teens and then a few years later, completely emersed herself in the revival movement in Toronto. She was surrounded by anointed people who fully embraced all the offerings of the Holy Spirit, and she has kept their company to this day. So, for her, “normal” was a supernatural place where about half of the Christian world lived and played. It pains me to confess that at the time of that particular Bible study session, her shock gave me a bit of gratification; it was nice to be the Queen of Understanding for a few minutes.
However, it pains me even more to admit that the Holy Spirit, now, had to put me in my place and reveal to me that I’ve been operating with my own set of blinders on. I’ve been running down a path into the Father’s heart and basking in signs, visions, and revelations. I’ve been rejoicing over healings and victories in Jesus. I’ve been teaching, and writing, and working for the glory of the kingdom and I’ve been building a wonderful community of believers with whom I can engage. Looks good on paper, right?
The problem is, in recent years, I have let my zeal for the Lord and my personal journey of sanctification distort my perspective of the condition of the Church – and of the world. I have neglected to focus on the incredible need for prayer in those beyond my reach. And, in the quest to develop a truly meaningful approach to prayer through intimate partnering with the Holy Spirit, I have made the unfortunate assumption that all believers are doing the same.
My friends, God hears all prayers, and all are good. But not all prayers carry the power to transform a life. Not all prayers make an investment that will last a lifetime. So, when you offer a prayer, I encourage you to stand close to the Holy Spirit and have the courage to be clear and direct. Have the confidence to make it personal and don’t take cover in politeness or platitudes. Take a risk and be vulnerable as you pray a prayer that can only fit one soul. Pray like Jesus prayed – with authority and compassion and unconditional love. There are hearts waiting that have never received a bold prayer that opened up the flood gates of hope. That have never stood before someone that was willing to get personal and make them feel known. There are people desperate for someone to notice their need and to acknowledge their worth in the Kingdom. Be that prayer warrior.
Father, help us to look up from our lives and see the world with the eyes of Jesus. Help us to drop fear and pretense as we step into our purpose and listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit while reaching out to minister and bless others in prayer. Let us speak Your words of life with Your breath from Your heart. And show us the way to Your starving, broken children. Amen.
Acts 4:31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Psalm 138:3 When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.
Ephesians 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.