Prayer & Amazing Works of God

On Sunday at Cornerstone, we had Gary Benjamin with us to bring the message. Gary and his team head up a house of prayer and worship in the Waterloo area of Belgium. In his message, Gary communicated his deep and passionate heart for prayer. Interestingly, he shared many stirring stories-testimonies of God’s powerful work through prayer and obedience to the voice of God.

As one who believes God still speaks today, in the specific prophetic-revelatory sense (though we don’t need to add it into the Scripture), and that God is still doing miraculous works throughout the whole of the world, I commend this message to you to stir you in prayer and faith for God’s heart to see great things take place in the earth.

You can listen to it by clicking on the icon below, or you can download it from our podcast or from iTunes. For those who would like to know, the message is 39:51 in length.

Series on Gifts of the Spirit Continues at Scot McKnight’s Blog

Over at Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, after a few week’s with, guest blogger, T, continues his series on gifts of the Spirit. The first article can be found here.

In the second article, T asks about ‘promptings of the Spirit’ and shares a specific example in his own life.

Our church back in Gainesville, Florida, would occasionally have “worship nights.” They were some of my very favorite gatherings. About once a quarter on a Friday night, we’d gather for a couple of hours and the only things on the agenda were worship and prayer. On this Friday, I was sitting near the front, and Kim and I were among the first to arrive. It was one of those nights that I was truly grateful, even excited, for the opportunity to worship God with the church, even before the first song began.

I don’t remember the song, but at some point the theme I was affirming as we sang was willingness to obey God, even though it can sometimes be costly. As I affirmed this to God, and was even considering my own limits for obedience, I felt the urge to turn around. Sitting directly behind me was Jon. Jon was one of the people in the church that I most admired, but kind of from afar. The things I heard Jon say in church or elsewhere were routinely marked by depth, truth and heartfelt compassion, but we were in one small group and he led another, so he lingered on the top of the “people-I-want-to-know-better” list at church for a while.

On this night as I turned around, Jon had a familiar intensity on his face as he worshipped, and with his eyes closed. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and I turned back around. As I did, I felt an unexpected conviction to turn back around, push my chair out of the way and strongly embrace Jon. Just for clarification, what I felt wasn’t empathy, at least not then. I wish I had reason to be empathetic; Jon was just worshipping God (just like I wanted to get back to doing). If I could describe what I was feeling at this stage it was fear and inner turmoil. My first line of inward defense was to dismiss that this was any kind of leading from God. I will summarize the outcome there by saying that however I reasoned about it, I could not persuade myself this wasn’t God’s unction, despite my best efforts. A simple unction to “do this” had come (as I was pledging obedience to God, no less), and it pretty much only had fear stopping me.

I was stuck. I soon discovered that going back to singing praises and offers of obedience to God were just impossible, unless the goal was hypocrisy and misery. I wanted to get to know Jon better, but not like this! What would he think of me? What if he recoiled? For the next several minutes, I would look back every so often just to see if he had at least opened his eyes so that he would at least see it coming. No luck. My last line of defense was compromise. If Jon wouldn’t open his eyes, I figured I would say something (anything!) and give him some warning or explanation or at least a “hello” first. But as I started to say something my guts burned with conviction that I was compromising out of fear, and not being obedient. After another bit of inward wrestling, I just did it. I pushed the chairs aside (Jon still didn’t open his eyes; the music drowned out the sound) and put my arms around him firmly but gently. I felt like as I did it, that I shouldn’t be in any hurry to let go.

Not only did Jon not recoil, he practically collapsed. His arms—weakly at first, then with great energy—embraced me in return. And he just wept. I must have held him as the singing continued for thirty seconds or a minute at least. By the time we released to look at each other, both of our eyes were wet, but we were both beaming smiles. I knew God was in this, but I still had no idea what exactly had been going on. Jon explained.

Jon had grown up on the mission field with an authoritarian and judgmental father/minister. Jon was in his thirties now and had walked through years of healing from it, but that week he had talked with his dad who had now finally been fully explicit that Jon was a thorough disappointment. All the healing Jon thought he had from his dad opinion of him just melted that week. Jon explained that he was in such misery over it that week, he almost didn’t come that night. He had little “worship” in him. He said he had decided to come with only one prayer that he had been praying repeatedly, prior to and throughout the meeting, but with little hope for any suitable answer, “I just need to know what You feel about me.” When told me that, I wept, but out of repentance for how close I was to blowing the whole thing off or changing it for my fears. Incidentally, Jon and I became close that day, and every time we see each other, even many years later now, a smile comes to both of our faces.

This is a beautiful story of what it really means for God’s people to learn to hear, discern and obey the voice of the Lord. For those of us who believe God still speaks, reveals and prompts His people today with specific words and actions, we all will have experienced some time of questioning or doubt of whether we have truly heard the voice of the Lord. And, I would venture to say that we have all missed or bypassed these promptings. But stories like this remind us that even ‘prophetic actions’ accomplish the same purpose of spoken prophetic messages:

the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation (1 Cor 14:3)

Richard Foster on Silence and Hearing God

To continue with posting stirring words from Richard Foster’s classic, Freedom of Simplicity, here are some thoughts of his on practicing silence and how this can help us hear the voice of the Lord:

One way to nurture simplicity is through the discipline of silence. Society is dominated by the inane notion that action is the only reality. Please, for God’s sake and your own, don’t just do something, stand there! Come in and enjoy his presence. Sink down into the light of Christ and become comfortable in that posture. Open the subterranean sanctuary of your soul and listen for the Kol Yahweh, the voice of the Lord. To do so gives us focus, unity, purpose. We discover serenity, unshakableness, firmness of life orientation. (p113)

These are extremely challenging words in the busied and hurried life of today. For some, they might sound New Age, but this is simply about drawing in close to the presence of God’s Spirit who resides within the believer, all to know the Father’s leading voice in our lives.

I, for one, want to quiet my heart before the Lord on a regular, even ongoing, basis.

Real Life Example of Hearing God

I think it is continually important to give actual, real life, down to earth examples of what it is like to hear the voice of God and even to prophecy. Most people need this to help bring these things ‘out of the clouds’ and into real life on planet earth. I’ve posted a few examples in the past of such instances in my own life and in the lives of others (here, here and here). And I wanted to post another example.

This comes from Richard Foster’s book entitled Freedom of Simplicity. I have recently been posting a few quotes and short excerpts from the book, food for thought, if you will. But here is an example of Foster sharing a time when he heard the voice of Lord direct him in a particular situation.

Allow me to share with you a very small experience, but one that may help you to see what I mean. This occurred at an especially busy time in my year. I was preparing for a weekend trip that involved speaking at three different churches. The financial arrangement was for each church to take up a little offering on my behalf when I had finished speaking. As I was meditating on what God desired of me for that weekend, I had the strong impression that I was not to take any money at all from these churches. For some time I struggled over this directive, for we were counting on the money to meet several obligations. The struggle further revealed an inward greed that I thought had been exorcised long ago. Finally, I felt clear that this was what I had to do if I was to be obedient. I shared this with my wife, for I felt we had to be in unity on the matter. She released the money much more easily than I, noting that perhaps there would be some people in the meetings who needed to know that ministers of Christ were not always after their pocketbooks.

I told the pastors of the first two churches that any offering should be given to the poor or disposed of in whatever way they saw fit. Although surprised at my unorthodox request, they were congenial to the idea. But I arrived at the third church just as the service began, and so had no opportunity to explain my concern. I was relieved, however, when they did not take up an offering for me, and assumed that the matter was settled.

It was late when I finally arrived at the home where I was to stay the night. As I walked in the door my host handed me a check of an amount that was, for me, considerable. It was from the church. I protested, but they mistook my concern for modesty and insisted with such vigor that I let the matter drop.

I wish I could express to you the experience I went through that night. There was the check lying on the nightstand, mine to take. I did not want to cause offense or seem ungrateful, after all, the money had been given for me. Maybe this last church should be considered an experience separate from the others. But what about the earlier directive – it had seemed quite clear. Back and forth I went. Finally, I had about decided that I really should take the money rather than cause any trouble, but I determined to review my decision once more in the morning when I was rested. I invited God to teach me while I slept if he desired.

When I opened my eyes the next morning it was unmistakably clear to me that I could not – must not – take the money. A period of meditation only intensified the conviction. With considerable trepidation I explained to my hosts as best I could why I was not able to accept the gracious gift. The moment I finished there rushed into me an unspeakable joy. Though outwardly I tried to remain calm, I was being filled with an overwhelming sense of the glory of God. Once alone in the car I shouted and sang and blessed God. I did not have to be controlled by money! I could live in obedience! It was wonderful, jubilant ecstasy, and although the profuse exuberance lasted for perhaps twenty minutes, the sense of deep warm joy flowed over me all day long. (I was pleased to learn later that the church decided to give the money for refugee work in Cambodia.)

I don’t want to give too much commentary to the story above, as I think it speaks volumes itself. But suffice it to say, I believe this is a beautiful account of hearing God and responding in obedience. And, even more, here is a great example of Foster weighing what he believed was a directive from God, and weighing it with his covenant partner, his wife. This is always a very healthy perspective as we learn to discern the voice of God. I’ve shared about this before, our spouse being one of five major gifts we have been given to help us discern the voice of the Lord.

I hope this is another example that helps make hearing God’s voice more and more real.