Thirteen friends filled our living room last night. That may not seem like a huge number, but we have a small living room. They spilled over into the hallway and the dining room.
Since the start of the year, Marion and I have set aside Thursday evenings to worship Jesus and pray for our neighbourhood and city,
There have been a couple of occasions when Father, Son, Holy Spirit and the angels were our only companions. God has used those times to test and shape our hearts by reminding us Who we are doing this for. One of Jesus’ complaints about the Pharisees (religious leaders of his day whom he considered to be hypocrites) was that everything they did was done for people to see. They wanted to be noticed. They craved recognition, approval, attention. The times when no-one else is present have trained the eyes of my heart to focus on Jesus, and seek to bring Him pleasure simply because He is worthy.
That’s a process that is not yet complete. But Father in his kindness and mercy also gives us times with friends to encourage us. Last night was one of those times. Our house was full of friends new and old.
Some were from our wonderful church family at All Nations Ottawa. Some were from The Village, a little church in our neighbourhood of Vanier where Marion and I served for several months last year. Some were from Love Ottawa. Some were brothers and sisters from other parts of Ottawa with a vision to see local houses of prayer birthed across our city.
They came to worship and pray with us. They also came to hear from Jill and Kirk Weber of Greater Ontario House of Prayer in Hamilton, who brought much encouragement by sharing stories and insights from their journey as pioneers in the contemporary Canadian prayer movement. The presence of the Lord was sweet and our hearts were refreshed.
I don’t know where all this is going. I am learning to simply take one step at a time as Marion and I seek to obey Jesus. For now, we will simply keep doing what we are doing, until He shows us new steps of faith. But two truths were lodged in my heart last night.
One of these truths is that, in the Psalmist’s words, for me, it is good to be near God. I don’t know any other way to live anymore. Loving Jesus has become my identity, and being a man of prayer isn’t just something I do, it’s who I am and who I am becoming.
The second of these truths is that seeking the Lord is not meant to be a solitary occupation. Although we need to keep our eyes on Jesus when no-one is around, and although both Marion and I place high value on times of solitude when we can be alone with the One who knows us better than anyone else, we have also learned that truly God sets the lonely in families. We were made to give and receive love. We were made to share life with others.
Living in community is part of the heart and soul of a genuine life with Jesus. Learning to love others strips away our fear, our pride, our self-preoccupation. It teaches us to cultivate genuine humility and gratitude. While we do need the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we also need the encouragement of fellow travellers who are seeking to walk the same road of faith, hope and loving obedience.
Last night I received a fresh dose of both kinds of encouragement. For that, I am grateful.