We have experienced a wonderful weekend. Friends and leaders from the Wrexham Church travelled up to have fellowship with us. We have strong links with the church there, and Tony Howson provides us with apostolic covering.
They were with us all day Sunday - for the morning meeting, the fellowship lunch and in the evening for a prayer meeting. The teaching in the morning meeting was really challenging, about Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Doing things the way God wants, at just the right time is so much more effective than coming up with our own strategies. The fellowship lunch was also good - I played endless games of Connect 4 but only managed to connect once! I was too concerned plotting five moves ahead to notice my opponent just slotting them unchallenged and unhindered by me! There is a mind set that I don't possess!
It was the prayer meeting that really set me alight! I have always thought that corporate prayer meetings are important, but very often, although we are all in the same place, the way we pray tends to be very individual. The prayers are like self contained episodes in a TV series - you don't really need the episodes that come before and after to set the scene or work out what is going on. We are listening and agreeing to what has gone before, but last night they introduced an element of honing and refining and sharpening.
Imagine prayers as arrows. Sometimes what is let loose is a very blunt arrow and it doesn't really penetrate the target. It is a nice enough prayer but something is missing. It is not to do with the words, but to do with the Spirit or the heart or something. Or imagine the bow. If the bow is not strung tight enough, the arrow isn't given the surge of speed to perhaps even reach the target. Sometimes what is needed is someone to recognise the blunt arrow and sharpen it, or see the loosely strung bow and tighten it. You don't bring down strongholds with blunt arrows and loosely strung bows.
Last night was different. It wasn't just firing off as many arrows as we could muster in the time allotted. It was scary prayer - the kind that the devil really runs from!
We began by reminding ourselves that there was a difference between prayers of the flesh and prayers of the spirit. Only the prayers of the spirit bring life. One of the reasons that so many prayers go unanswered is because we are not praying the heart of God, but our own hearts, which sadly do not always beat together! Our pastor had a picture of an egg and the bird inside the egg breaking out. There is a right time for the chick to emerge. It has to reach the point where it is strong enough and developed enough to stand up to life on the outside of the egg. I am not sure where the egg metaphor was going. I don't always listen as well as I ought. What came to mind was the constriction of the egg - the space is just too small and the chick feels it is suffocating and is desperate to get out. Maybe as the shell gets thinner, there are aromas from the outside world that filter through that are too enticing! I just happened to mention about the discomfort the chick felt, and the desperate need to break out. I am sure that it’s a case of "If you stay in here, you are going to die!"
Well, the theme of breaking out prevailed. When it came to confessing areas where we needed to break out - someone else revealed what was on the tip of my tongue as regards how I have felt hemmed in and bound up. My workplace is challenging to say the least. It seems that with some classes they draw the lines through the things that they say and the way that they behave, that push me against walls and into corners where I act defensively. Suddenly I feel exposed and rush to protect myself any way possible. Earlier in the week God had been reminding me about putting on armour, and I had said to Him that I shouldn't have to, that it shouldn't be a battlefield - and that is how things have felt.
It was just like this man, Paul, had read my mind. There was an attempt to reason the whole thing out - if he knows that I am a teacher, he probably knows what kids are like these days…it's bound to be tough. But that really wasn't cutting it - I tried desperately to keep my thoughts under control. The thought of someone knowing what I was thinking was very unsettling.
I had a picture which I kept to myself of a tool box. The workman had particular tools for particular jobs. Each tool fits perfectly in his hand because it has been carefully chosen. When it comes to needing a certain tool, it might not have been used for a while and has got a little bit rusty, so he carefully cleans it and sharpens it ready for the job. It is not broken, but if it is, he fixes it. He doesn't just replace it, because this tool is irreplaceable. There is just not another one like it.
I am speaking faith to myself here in that God has got a specific job in mind. I am the tool that he wants to use to get the job done. He has rooted around the toolbox to get me, notices that I am a little stained around the handle and not as sharp as I could be, so he has sharpened me in readiness! That is how I feel - sharp and held perfectly in the hand of God ready for the task!
You know, in some ways I have been in this place before. It is not a spiritual high, where circumstances will be a pin prick and let all the air out so I get deflated. It is the place of revival. My appetite, my hunger, my feeding not just on the word of God but on vibrant fellowship with the Spirit is what will sustain it.