Yesterday I went for a walk after lunch. While I was out walking, my thoughts turned to the previous evening’s church meeting. The meeting had featured a thought-provoking presentation on how our church welcomes and integrates new people, and some changes that are underway to help us do this more effectively. The presentation was followed by some Biblical reflections from Steve, who gives leadership to our elders’ team.
I am someone who tends to think analytically and theologically. It’s part of how God has made me – I like to take time to reflect on what I hear, especially when it comes from leaders. So, I found myself thinking in particular about some of Steve’s comments on the elders’ high-level vision for what our church is called to become.
As I was engaged in this process of reflection, I was also in dialogue with God, as I often am. I was asking God what He wanted to say to me about the things that had been shared the previous evening. It was all very positive stuff, and there were lots of good things to think about. Yet, I had questions about a couple of things that I had heard.
Suddenly I realized that I was being prompted to move from the mind to the spirit – to move from reflection to Spirit-led prayer. I began praying in tongues. In doing this, I was intentionally shutting down the voice of rational thought and choosing to give priority to the Spirit.
Within five seconds, I heard the voice of the Lord in my spirit. His words to me were simple, direct and to the point : Do you love them?
Immediately I had a powerful, tangible sense of the presence of the Lord. I spent the next few minutes praying for our elders with a fresh awareness of how much God loves each of these precious men, their wives and their families, how He treasures them, how He wants them to experience an intimate relationship with Him.
Why share this experience in a blog post? Because I was so powerfully struck by the impact on my own thought life of a simple decision to spend a few minutes praying in the Spirit. It really was only a few minutes, yet the impact on my thought life was immediate and profound. Almost right away, I began thinking about our elders in a different way.
It was not that my thoughts had been wrong before. But now, instead of thinking analytically about vision, decisions and man’s opinions, my thoughts became very simple. I found myself thinking of our elders as men who are loved by God and belong to Him eternally. I began sensing the deep love of the Father for them, and their constant dependency on His grace and mercy.
I realized again that the greatest need of all spiritual leaders – and the greatest protection for the church – is for leaders to be filled to overflowing with a powerful awareness of how much God loves them, as an anchor for their hearts.
I realized that love covers over a multitude of sins. Even when we and our leaders make mistakes or get off track – which will probably happen at times – if we are rooted and grounded in love, His love will guard our hearts from being offended or damaged, and the sheep will be kept safe. I realized that they, like me, were bought with a high price, are infinitely precious to the Father, and are destined for glory.
Of course, none of this was new – yet it was all new, in the sense that I saw it again as if for the first time. With a humbled, quieted heart, I stood in awe of the goodness and mercy of God.
All this insight and shift in perspective from just a few moments spent praying in the Spirit. I think I will do this more often.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God (Jude 20-21)