And what we need to talk about is prayer.
Some interesting things have been happening this week as a result of a revival at my church. I'm spending a good chunk of time thinking on them in my heart.
The evangelist for our revival was a man named Wesley Putnam. He's a fine musician, a fun story teller and all that. But most important, he's a man with a caring heart. (See his site at www.wesleyputnam.org)
Here is something I need to share with you.
The revival started a week ago Sunday with the morning sermon. I had about made up my mind that I wasn't going to come back for the evening services because Wesley talked about raising our children to know Jesus. Having no children, and having a bit of an attitude, I was having none of it. Until Sunday night, when I went back for the church supper and the evening service, despite myself.
And you know that God worked on my head as well as my heart. I wound up going to all the evening services, Sunday through Wednesday.
Tuesday night we had a really severe storm. I left the office at six after hearing a lot of sheriff's department traffic on the scanner talking about the severe weather with rotation west of town, heading my way. I walked out the door and was hit by the deluge. My umbrella turned inside out in the 10 steps from the door to my car. I struggled to get in the car and get the door shut.
I pondered skipping revival but dismissed the thought, mostly because the church was closer than my house. I drove the four blocks over to the church and sat in the parking lot for a few minutes because it was raining so hard. I couldn't see anything once I parked -- none of the cars that I knew were there from when I pulled in, none of the houses in the neighborhood, nothing but sheets of rain.
The wind was blowing at about 70 miles an hour -- enough to start rocking my car. I was afraid it could flip the car the way it was getting underneath and lifting it. So I decided to make a run for it. I thought I would be a lot safer if I could make it across the street and into the church.
Well, the wind nearly knocked me down and the rain was coming down in sheets, soaking me to the bone. The water that ran through the street was already knee-deep on me. I made it to the steps before my umbrella was destroyed. I looked like I stood in the shower in my clothes.
I was able to grab a sandwich in the fellowship hall and stood under the blower in the rest room to dry myself enough so I wasn't dripping. I was still completely wet, but at least things weren't clinging to me -- too much.
The revival service was pretty remarkable. But it's what happened later that really made an impact. I met up with my friend, who is the organist, after the service and we started talking. She's always been very sympathetic to me and truly is concerned about me, unlike anyone else in this town.
We were the last two in the sanctuary as we talked, and I rode in the elevator with her. It's a brand new elevator, but it moved incredibly slowly while we talked. We got a lot said before it made it down one floor.
Well.... the door opened on my floor and we stood there, face to face with Wesley, the evangelist who was doing the services. He was still wearing the costume of his character from his presentation. Sue, the organist, said "Wesley, this young woman is at a crossroads. I need for you to talk to her." And with that she pulled him into the elevator. The door closed and then the back door (into the sanctuary) reopened and we went to talk.
He listened to me -- really listened, as I summarized briefly what the last two years have been like. He acknowledged that I am a wounded soul. I told him how much I miss my friends, my old church and the fracture there, and my life before I moved here.
He agreed that it sounded like my life is there. And he told me that when he has been in similar situations, his best advice was to "follow the peace."
I immediately was struck with the release of tension throughout my body. He held my hands and prayed with me and told me he wants me to stay in touch. He gave me his e-mail address.
I went home then and got a hot bath and put on my nightgown, and felt good like I have not felt in a long, long time. There was no tension in my body and I felt completely at peace.
Then the power went out. Oh, the storm was long over, but a transformer blew and plunged my whole section of town into darkness. People were out in the streets with flaslights trying to figure out how widespread the outage was. I was forced to go to sleep early and slept like a much-loved baby.
The next morning I asked God to give me a sign confirming what I believe I'm being led to. The sign I asked him to give me was a definite improvement in my blood sugar test that I was getting ready to do.
Now, for months my blood sugar in the mornings has been floating between 250 and 280, consistently. That Wednesday morning it dropped to 205.
The next morning it was 180.
Nothing has gotten these numbers to budge for months -- not starting insulin, not changing and increasing my insulin, not changes in oral medications or anything else.
My levels have bounced around a bit since then, but there is an overall downward trend in the numbers, which is good. It was under 200 again this morning, by a significant amount.
So why am I sharing this story, other than for the fact that I think it's pretty cool? Because I want to talk about prayer.
That simple prayer with Wesley was different, and powerful, and personal. It lasted for a very short time, but had more impact than any pastoral prayer in any service; any call to worship; any benediction that I've ever heard in any church. Why? Plain and simple because it was one person asking God to help another person. No pontificating.
Too often people mistake prayer for a public forum to tell other people what's what. They use it to further their personal political agenda. They use it to make people listen to what they have to say, instead of having a two-way conversation with God, which includes shutting up and listening.
This was intercessory prayer -- effective intercessory prayer. As the beneficiary of it, I know that I WAS HEARD. Not just by God. God always hears, even when all we can utter is a groan. He always hears. No, what made this different is knowing that Wesley heard me -- even through the 1-minute Cliffs Notes version of my distress. He heard me -- he listened without interrupting, even at the end of his very long day. He could understand my pain, my wounded spirit, and identified with me.
And he said that in the times in his life when he's also felt himself at the crossroads, the best advice he had was to follow the peace.
We all of us need to be heard. From one heart to another. The next time you have a chance to pray for someone, don't settle for repeating something someone else has printed. We don't need a lot more corporate prayers, no matter how much we might agree with the cause du jour.
What we really need to do is listen to the needs of our fellow humans. It's about connecting with someone and HEARING them, understanding them, and THEN asking God to work in specific ways in their lives, to meet their needs and ease their pains. After all, PEOPLE is what this whole Christianity thing is about -- individuals who need to connect with one another and with God.
To Wesley: Thank you for listening. I am praying for you, too.