While conducting a retreat in Hamar, Norway on a ministry trip, we were having a closing prayer time when the Lord began to really visit us with His power. The Lord gave me a word about dreams and visions being released on some people. (Acts 2:17- 21)
Sometimes we think of these things as something that will happen later on in the future, but a sister named Torhild shared as we walked out: “I just had a vision of someone who needs to receive Christ who is struggling with addiction and needs prayer,” adding, “and I believe the Lord said today.”
Everyone was kind of talking and grabbing their stuff, getting ready to leave, so we began to walk back to some cabins where we had stayed for the retreat. There were quite a few different groups up there using this center. As we walked by the cabins, we noticed a girl sitting on a porch when Torhild said: “That is the girl in the vision.”
She went over and began to talk with her a bit. I joined in after a few moments and we started sharing about the love of Christ. The girl became overwhelmed and started crying, but then became embarrassed that she was crying and ran off.
Torhild caught back up to her a little ways down the road and talked to her some more. I and Mercedes and some others eventually began to join in with her again. Long story short: the young lady eventually received Jesus as savior. As we began to pray for her, she powerfully encountered the love and grace of God and was gloriously filled with the Spirit and ministered to in a very significant way. Many tears were flowing, and it wasn’t just the young girls tears either, we were all touched by the power of God’s grace in that moment.
It felt like something out of the Book of Acts. I think the Book of Acts has some good prayer models for us as believers, especially in the first two chapters:
The believers met and prayed, but with expectation. Expectation that was lit up by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Expectation is faith for God to move in the here and now. God filled and empowered and visited them. As they were filled, they took it out to others to reach them with the Gospel. Of course, some onlookers made fun of them because of the powerful manifestations of God’s presence upon them and mocked them—it was of course the religious community who mocked saying they were drunk. Explaining rather that this was actually the power of God moving amongst them and not a result of alcohol, Peter stepped out and opened his mouth and began to preach to them, and the Lord filled him with the words to reach those who were listening—he definitely had no three-point sermon prepared for this occasion. Wow, what a harvest that took place! (Read Acts chapters 1 and 2 for the whole story.)
Prayer is an important thing for us as believers, but we should approach it with the expectation and faith of a child who expects to receive, not as a drudgery or a ritual that just has to be endured with long drawn-out repetitions in order to check it off our list as some duty that just needs to be fulfilled. (Matt. 6-7) Nor should we think that we need to do this to make ourselves holy in God’s sight. Jesus, through His sacrifice on the cross has done that work for us already: “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) Thus, prayer is not meant to be a ritual that seeks to accomplish what Christ already did for us on the cross, but rather, it's to be communication with a Living Savior who we have been brought into relationship with. Through mercy and grace, He has adopted us and made us as sons and daughters, and wants to communicate with us, not have us do rituals.
I’ve had my own journey where prayer used to be a very ritualistic thing. Oh, what a relief when I got invaded by the Holy Spirit who spoke in to my heart and said: “Put down that shopping list you keep reciting like some catatonic robot and stop rambling.” The presence of God blew over me and became so thick with glory it was amazing as the Lord showed me: “I just want to spend time with you and speak to you. You don’t need to do all the talking.”
Wow! God wants to speak to us…what a concept. Oh yeah, Jesus said that His sheep shall hear His voice, and He said it repeatedly and profusely: John 10:3-4, John 10:14-16, John 10:27-30. Sometimes He just wants to tell us he Loves us!! Just gotta come with childlike faith!!
I used to do some work at the Vineyard Anaheim now and then, way back when, and I liked how John Wimber would sometimes interrupt the morning prayer time and right in the middle would say: “You know, let’s just forget about the big, long, macho prayers for a bit here and let God speak to us.”
Inevitably, there would be some visitation of God’s presence where some important word or ministry would follow when the focus changed to letting the Holy Spirit take over, something important for us to remember about prayer along with these Scriptures:
27 My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me.
3 Then he said, “The truth is, you must change your thinking and become like little children…”
13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
12 In him [Christ] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
17 ‘God says: In the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will have dreams. 18 In those days I will pour out my Spirit on my servants, men and women, and they will prophesy. 19 I will work wonders in the sky above. I will cause miraculous signs on the earth below…21 And everyone who trusts in the Lord will be saved.’