Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Prayer's strange ways

I'm now focusing on our church conference - in ten days time - and Prism - the alternative stream of the Baptist Assembly in Brighton over the May Bank Holiday Weekend that I am co-ordinating with others.

In fact, I've had a good day lining people up to be involved in various of the evening celebrations at Prism - as well as raising last minute queries about the layout of the venue.

Mostly today, though, I've been catching up with an old friend and talking about prayer. She's doing a project for the 24/7 prayer boiler room in Guildford and asked me about any really great times of prayer I could remember, times when I saw God move in a particular way. I mentioned one or two things and then told her a story that I nearly included in Building A Better Body, but couldn't find the words for at the time.

It concerns the time back in the mid-90s when Britain was swept by the so-called Toronto Blessing. Our church wanted some of whatever God was doing. So we had a week of meetings in the early autumn - it must have been September or October 1993 or 94. Each evening we met to pray and see what happened. We sang, looked at the Bible and waited on God. Some people fell over; others brought words of prophecy and insight; all of us felt God come close at various times through the week.

I'm not sure what we were expecting, but I don't think it happened (if that makes sense). But we ended the week feeling it had been worthwhile.

A couple of weeks later, a young woman, Ellie, expecting her first child, died and the church was rocked to its core. I tell this story in Building A Body. In many ways this story marks my time at that church and has shaped my ministry since more than I probably realise.

Looking back on those events, I see God working in that week of prayer to prepare us for the wave of grief that broke over us later that autumn. I don't think I'd have coped if we hadn't had those moments of closeness with God; I don't think the church would have come together in the wake of the tragedy but for our week of praying.

I wish I'd put the story in the book because in many ways it illustrates one of the things that church is about - being there for one another in the presence of our awesome, mysterious God.

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