Sunday, January 05, 2014

Praying and Hoping

One Thing Conference with International House of Prayer in Kansas City

Prayer has a connotation of being boring. Yet, here is a glimpse of the nearly 35,000 people who came to Kansas City to do just that, and they came excited and passionate.

My time with Youth With A Mission developed my prayer life; that it is talking to, begging, pleading with, shouting at, negotiating with and lifting up people, countries, events and situations to the Almighty God of the Universe.
I could scream, cry, sing, smile, laugh or whisper. I could accompany it with music, write it in a journal or draw a picture all as part of prayer. I could repeat fabulous prayers from scripture, from saints, from speeches and make them my own pleas or praises. I could stand, stomp, kneel or sit. And then, prayer was not mono-tonally- recited or handing God lists of what I wanted; it was coming before Creator God, El-Roi and Ishma-El, and Emmanu-El (the God who sees, the God who hears and God-with-us).

And here is a place completely dedicated to that.
Filled with thousands of people completely dedicated to that.
And then we all come together and we...pray!!!

Some of the things I learned, or was reminded of at this conference:

1. People kept asking God for revival, for fire ("fi-yah!!!!").
When do we see revival in the Bible? and when do we see fire?
I have to say, I don't see revival in the life of Jesus. Even when John the Baptist came and prepared the way, called people to repentance; yes, crowds followed Jesus. He had thousands of people sitting, listening to his words. If there was such a revival when Jesus was alive, he would not have died. He would not have been killed. Simple as that. The people would not have been against him.
The great crowds often followed Jesus for food or seeking healing. (Luke 5:15, Mark 1:32-34)
That is not revival.

And when do we see fire? Pentecost, yes- an amazing account. But, also keep in mind that after this, they went out and began aggressively spreading the Gospel, and the result of that was persecution to the point of imprisonment, torture and ultimately, death.
One of the speakers (Francis Chan) gave a humorous and pointed speech regarding this request for "fire". As he prayed before going before a large crowd of Christian young adults to whom he wanted to instil passion and motivate a life submitted to God, he asked God to send fire. That these youth, perhaps fence-sitters, facing the numbing-ness of social media, the subjective poison of Western culture would be awed by the power of God. His motivation was pure- that God would get the glory, that God would be real to these youth, that they would pursue God and God alone as a result of this conference.
"Why don't you send your fire, like you did for Elijah on Mt Carmel?"
And he felt that God responded: "Elijah was surrounded by hundreds of prophets of Baal, who would cut off his head if I did not come through for him. You are surrounded by hundreds of Christian teenagers."
Humorous, but also accurate.
We want the fire, but we never want to be in danger.

During the conference I sat quietly beside my also quiet, and wise friend from church while all around us people shouted out, begging God for fire and for change and revival of our generation. It was pretty chaotic and quite loud. She looked at me and said, "You know, God's fire isn't always loud." I nodded, thinking about when God visited Elijah in the cave and when he came it was not in an earthquake, not in a storm, but in the quiet whispering.
God is not always loud.
And I responded "And let's remember the purpose of fire. Fire is supposed to burn stuff up. Fire burns. and burning hurts."
Keep in mind the difference between light- used to illuminate, flares- used to call attention, fireworks- for celebration or glorification, and fire- used for sterilization, cooking, heating, refining and of course, burning.
Most of the things associated with fire HURT. We want the end result- for ourselves, for our families, for our generation, for our country, but that means we are asking for pain as part of that process.

My friend and I looked at one another with silence; contemplating what the people around us were begging God for, and us too, when we ask God to step into our lives, to pour out on our lives; what we are truly asking for in the midst of that.

2. A relationship with me is God's priority- even over my works for his Kingdom.
Revelation 3:1 : "I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead."

I put a great deal of emphasis on works; my own pursuing God's kingdom, aligning my life, my career goals, how I spend my time, my travels, my money for the Kingdom of God, in truth, justice and love to be extended however minutely by my little life. That is not bad. That is not wrong.
But this church (the Church of Sardis) had a reputation for good works and God said that they were dead. This is the Church to whom God says they are lukewarm and He is going to spit them out of his mouth.
But why were they dead? because they didn't have a relationship with the Living God. They hadn't drank the Living Water. They were not connected to the Life, Eternal Life.
Now, I don't think works will save me; my salvation is through Christ alone. And works are to accompany true faith, as the book of James teaches.
But what is God's priority for me? To be in an ever-growing relationship with Him.
And that aligns with what a loving relationship with a husband and wife (as Christ and his Bride) and a parent and child (Father God) is to be- not works based to earn affection, but a relationship.
Whenever my focus becomes me working for God's kingdom over actually spending time with God, growing closer to God, I've missed the mark, and ultimately, it will make me become lukewarm.
God, not even justice for his Kingdom or sharing the truth about him, but God himself, has to be my first love.

3. God also addressed me personally, regarding his saving power. I was singing along with a beautifully-worded worship song, the lyrics catching my smile as I considered the true ways that God has saved me, personally.
Raised in a Christian home, having had a pretty sheltered life (of my parent's positive influence and later, my own choices) it's often easy to slip into the thinking that, yes I was saved from my sins, but my sins were pretty small compared to the cocaine-addicted prostitute that neglected her own children and maybe assaulted someone. My lying isn't really THAT bad, but Christ saved me from that, too.
However, I miss out on the beauty of God's grace when I diminish my own sin. When I see my sin for the filth, trash-heap, dirty-tampon-like rubbish it really is; then I can more accurately appreciate God's grace, Christ's redeeming of me.

4. As I whined a little to God about how the conference felt immature, with its high-schoolish hype and contagious but perhaps short-lived excitement called 'spiritual', I wondered what was the point of even travelling the 25 hours to Missouri when I could just as easily pray and worship in my own bedroom.
But would I have?
Would I have worshipped for the same amount of time? Would I have so fervently prayed? Woken at that hour? If I were at home, with my bed, my friends?
No. I certainly would not have. I would have gone about my regular days.
Is my God not worth travelling those hours, for me to spend these days, for me to praise him, when I know I would not have worshipped for that time alone in my room? He certainly is.
And when I was confronted with this, and when I admitted that he deserved these four days, he deserved this worship no matter if I felt any benefit from it, my attitude changed. And then I began to hear, to learn, to be impacted. But only when I stopped thinking the conference was about me, and my spiritual growth and a realized I was there to worship God.

I didn't keep a journal while in Kansas City, so this is my only account of my lessons learned. I must record them somewhere, because in the future, I will need to be reminded. If I have no others who read this blog, but after a while I see this and am reminded, that's good enough.