In New England where I grew up, you know it’s cold when you look out the window and see frost on the grass. Here, it’s when you wake up and see your breath.
Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but without central heating, a cool morning outside can make a chilly morning inside. That’s when I head to the shower. The water is heated directly by gas rather than stored in a hot water heater. That means I could take a three hour shower and never run out of hot water–not that I’ve ever tried. However there are mornings when I soak under the warm spray for a very long time, reluctant to get out. Eventually I’ll step out of the shower–and then dawdle more in the bathroom’s steamy cocoon.
I thought of that last week when a 4-person team from South Africa came for an evening of prayer. Our time together was like relaxing in a spiritual spa. The salon was filled with people sitting on our Moroccan couches which are perfectly suited to lingering.
I’m not sure how often itinerant prayer teams make the rounds in the states. Here living on the frontier, spiritually speaking, there aren’t a lot of resources. So when someone comes traveling through, we’re happy to have them share with us. Sometimes it’s preachers, but this time it was pray-ers.
The night started with each South African sharing a little about how they have been seeing God work through prayer. Then they began to go around the room and pray for people individually. Obviously this took some time. But the rest of us weren’t bored. We waited patiently, joined in prayer, chatted with those around us as if we were enjoying at evening at the local hammam [public bath]. The atmosphere was low-key without any spectacular spiritual fireworks; simply warm and restful. Even after a few hours of prayer, no one wanted to leave.
I wasn’t going to go for prayer but Emmanuelle nudged me. “You should go.”
“But I don’t have anything specific .”
“Neither did I, but it was really good for me.”
So I went over to one of the South Africans and she began to pray for me. I felt like I was sitting under a warm shower of God’s love, hearing blessing and encouragement and affirmation. Afterwards, I felt refreshed and uplifted. And thankful for those who were willing to travel and minister to people in this country.
As I’ve reflected on the experience, a few things have stood out.
We sometimes complain that God doesn’t speak audibly to us. We can become frustrated that we can’t talk to Him like we do with another person. Yet He put us in the body of Christ and when we pray for each other, we have the chance to become the voice of God into another person’s life.
That’s an awesome responsibility, and these South Africans were not novices. They had been trained [discipled if you like] in this prayer ministry. They were comfortable praying for people they knew nothing about.
Sometimes we need prayer for something specific. Those are like hammer prayers where we keep hitting the nail, and that night there were many particular requests that were prayed for. But other people, like me, were prayed for ‘just because’. I’m learning there is value in the gentle soaking of this kind of prayer, including the gift of spiritual friendship as we come before God together.
Soaking takes time
Another benefit of the evening was the time to relax in fellowship. Instead of rushing around on tasks and programs like Martha, we were imitating Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus. Now I think Martha sometimes gets short shrift. I don’t think anyone complained about the meals she made, the clothes she washed, or the cleaning she did. But what Jesus told her is a reminder for us too. Activity is not the sum total of our life in Him, including church activity. Our spiritual busyness can keep us from receiving the refreshment He wants to give us. To set aside an entire evening is a good way to slow down.
Time to step out
Just as Mary didn’t remain at the feet of Jesus forever, the evening finally came to an end. The people from South Africa traveled back home. The rest of us entered another week at work, going on with the tasks of our lives. But we now carry with us the memories of that sweet fellowship.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring,
and My blessing on your descendants.
They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.
Isaiah 44:3, 4