Where do I begin?? Obviously it's been early September since I've written a post, and yet it feels like these past two months hold a lifetime of memories and miracles.
Let me back up and give a quick over-view… As I shared in my last post, God has been taking me on a deeper journey in prayer. For awhile, He was challenging me to ask for an answer to prayer every day… which He proved Himself faithful for. Then He began challenging me to learn how to more effectively intercede for others…This has started a journey that I expect to be on for the rest of my life!
As one 18th century writer wrote: "We may have had a measure of the Spirit of God, but by prayer and faith we are continually to seek MORE of the Spirit.” But I like the way Jacob put it best when he was wrestling with the Lord: "I will NOT let you go except you bless me!" (Gen. 32:26) And this is what we've seen God's people doing all throughout history… that's why we know about stories like:
- Enoch… he asked for MORE and God took him to Heaven!
- Abraham…he asked for MORE and he became the father of a great nation!
- Joseph… he asked for MORE and God took him from the prison to the palace and saved a whole nation in the process!
- Moses… he asked for MORE and he actually spoke with God face to face!
- Joshua… he asked for MORE and because of his faith was one of two that actually made it from Egypt to the promised land alive.
- Rehab…a harlot on the walls of Jericho saw a people who served a great God and she asked for MORE…she wanted to receive deliverance and part of the blessing! She did!!
- Esther… she asked for MORE and God delivered her people from a death decree!
- Daniel…he asked for MORE and God not only delivered him from the lions, but made him the wisest man in Babylon!
- Solomon… he asked for MORE and he became the wisest man in Bible history. (God says there was never a man wise such as he!)
- Elijah… he asked for MORE and got to see the heaven's bring forth rain and the idols and leaders of Baal destroyed.
- Elisha… he asked for MORE and he got a DOUBLE PORTION of Elijah's spirit and blessings!
- Gideon…he asked for MORE and God used him and only 300 to defeat an army of over 100,000 men and to deliver Israel once again!
- Samson…even after he had failed God and been sold into the hand of his enemies, he asked for the Lord's Spirit, ONE MORE time, and God gave it to Him. He killed more Philistines in his death than he did in his life!
- Ruth…a barren widow went to Boaz asking for him to redeem her and she became part of the lineage of the messiah!
- Mary…she asked for MORE of God's spirit and blessing and she became the mother of Jesus, the most favored of all women.
Down through biblical history we see the story of God's children (just normal weak children like us today) who were not content with just maintaining spiritually…they wanted God's blessing in a richer and MORE significant way. And so they asked for MORE…and kept asking!
Over the last few months, the personal cry of my heart has become: God, I want MORE!! (And this is actually the theme of a book I'm teaming up with another church leader to write. Our book title will be: DARING TO ASK FOR MORE! PRAY for us that we can complete this project soon!!!)
While prayer and personal intercession for loved ones has been a part of my life for many years, this new journey of "Deeper Intercession for our Church" started last January (Jan. or 2012 - almost a year ago now) when I was challenged to take a 21 day journey of prayer and fasting. Over these 21 days, I received such rich blessings personally, and I was convicted that I needed to not only do this for myself, but for religious leaders specifically and those who are the shepherds of our church. More and more my burden has grown to help bear up the arms of the leaders in our church. (Now I really don't have many ways of doing that…except thru prayer!) So after I had this conviction, I didn't tell anyone, but I began praying about the possibility of going to the General Conference in Maryland for 21 days (where the SDA headquarters is located - pictured below) to pray for the leaders and all those that work there at the Maryland headquarters - which is almost 1,000 people, including the key leaders of the Divisions from around the world. Our church has over 17 million members, and is growing rapidly, but just as in every group of believers around the world, there is the struggle of Laodicea and lethargy…and more so the more organized we get. (And SDA's, who came from Methodist and other evangelical churches, have been very well organized for over 150 years now!)
Of course, I can't hope to touch or reach the 17+ million around the world, but God impressed me that if I (and others) could pray for these leaders and see their lives impacted and revived (or taken deeper), that He would continue to use them to more effectively reach the 17+ million around the world that are part of this body. So this is where I felt convicted to start.
Exodus 17:12 gives us a good example of what can happen when others will hold up the arms of their leaders in prayer. Joshua, along with the children of Israel, were in battle with the heathen nations and Moses stood up on the mountain in prayer for them. When his arms were raised, Israel began to win, but when his arms dropped, Israel began to loose. However, he could not hold up his arms for long. So Aaron and Hur came and held up His arms. And as a result…there was victory in Israel! They won the battle!!!! (Below you see Martin sharing this very story and illustration when we were in England this spring with ARME!)
I believe the same can be true for us today! God wants us to win the battle against the powers of darkness encroaching upon our land, but we can't win this battle alone. We need to fight together on our knees.
So where should I begin?? When I finally broached the idea to Janet Page, Ministerial Secretary for prayer for the world church, about coming to pray and fast at the GC for 3 weeks for our leaders, she was very excited!!! (In fact, she was upset that I hadn't brought the idea up sooner! I had been praying about it for 6 months before I said anything!)
However, before I could go to the GC for 3 weeks, there were a few logistics that needed to be solved.
For one, I didn't know when I could take the time, if I could afford the trip, or if the GC would EVEN be open to having me/us come pray and walk their building in the middle of the night. Well, one by one the doors opened. The timing seemed to fit perfectly with the yearly Annual Council meetings, which I was invited to again for the 3rd year and which came right after one of our ARME Bible Camps. So I could step away from my usual responsibilities as ARME program director for these weeks without problem. Next, God sent me money from a generous friend (who did not know what I was praying for) so that I could afford to travel the 2,000+ miles to the General Conference Headquarters. Next, because of another generous donor, He opened up an empty house for us to stay in for 3 weeks about 1 mile away from the headquarters while we were there. Then…although even the employees and staff of the General Conference are NOT suppose to be in the building at night (and they have security there 24/7 to guard all the offices and equipment), God miraculously opened the doors for myself and team to have free passage into the building to pray during the middle of the night as needed. (This approval we got straight from the President's office! As we had already been leading prayer at Annual Council for 2 years, they knew us and they were supportive, not just supportive, but EXCITED that we would come and pray! Praise the Lord!)
All was falling into place, but one thing remained… I needed a prayer team! Now how many people have time to take off 3 weeks and go do something like this??? Not very many! The prospects looked dismal at first. Then, one by one God again worked miracles to bring each member of our team…5 from ARME and 3 local ladies. (Some of us have never met before, but God was working!) And praying with these ladies was powerful…this 21 day prayer journey was one that none of us will ever forget!!
So how did our daily journey look?? Well, it changed a lot, especially with openings that God kept giving us to lead united prayer or speak with different groups, but here's a typical daily run-down.
Each day we got up at 2:45 AM (I know, isn't that wild?? I never would have thought I could do it myself, and for 21 days at that!!) and went into the GC building at 3:00 AM. We checked in with the security guard, prayed with them, and then went to the basement where we started our prayer time by the famous "Narrow Way" picture of Christ overlooking His people.
Here we focused on making sure our hearts were right with God, and we took specific time for confession and also praise. Often we cried as we realized more of what horrible sinners we each are, and how futile our whole endeavor was if God was not with us. And sometimes we just smiled through tears of joy, thinking of what God had done for us and what He's called us to do. It was beautiful!
Next we began our walk through the ENTIRE building… stopping and praying over each department and those that work there. (This journey took between 3-4 hours…and by the time 1 week was over, I'm sure I could have been a qualified tour guide for the GC. I even drew out a detailed map for everyone!) :-)
Our main prayer theme was: "Lord, please revive each one TODAY to the power of Bible study and prayer. And if they need converting, convert them. But if they are doing great, just take them deeper! Help them to ask for MORE! Help each of them to be the lights you've called them to be." (Below you can catch a glimpse of us praying and singing outside the cafeteria area. We believed that even those service workers, some of them not believers, that worked in the cafe and in janitorial etc, also need to experience God's power more deeply. So we did not miss one of them in our prayers.)
Besides praying in each department and in each significant area, we also prayed over each conference room, and over the main auditorium where all the big meetings where held. We weren't praying for the empty chairs, but rather for the people that would be sitting in those chairs making decisions that would affect the future of the church. I believe this is biblically important, and it was a walk of faith for us. In Joshua 1:3, God tells Joshua, "Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses." While I already believe that God is working in His church…we were simply asking that He would do MORE for each person there…as if laying on the hands. (Only we couldn't lay on hands physically, so we walked the entire territory each day praying blessings.) And we saw God work over and over again in answer to this prayer of faith!
When we first arrived they were just beginning a "Global Media Conferences" that Elder Wilson had called, with all the Television and Media leaders from around the world. We were asked to go in and lead united prayer with this group one morning and we could tell that it was a very professional group, not used to mixing spiritual activities with their professional side of ministry. But over the week they were there, we saw God break their hearts and take them deeper. Pastor Jerry Page, the Ministerial Secretary at the GC, and our close friend and confident throughout our entire time at the GC, kept us updated and he told us at the end of the conference that this was a NEW DAY for these leaders. They were falling in love with prayer and were broken…many of them to tears. They finished their meetings with communion and testimonies, and one man from Europe shared how he didn't want to come but somehow felt convicted that he should. Everything was going wrong with the Television network and it seemed like things were falling apart, but he was convicted during his time at the GC and with all the prayer, and he recommitted his life to Christ and prayer, telling us that he was going back to do business different in Europe. He and others like him, who were impacted, returned home, hopefully to impact millions of people in their territories.
Finally, at the end of each morning, we finished our prayer time at President Wilson's office. We prayed daily for him and each member of his presidential team. We prayed for their families by name, and for strength in leadership, and most importantly for greater unity in the church. It was beautiful.
After being at the headquarters for a week or so, when we were visiting the building one time during daylight (because usually we were there in the dark of morning and the dark of evening), Elder Parchment, who is the assistant to the President excitedly pulled us into Elder Wilson's office to pray (he was gone then to a meeting). This was a complete surprise and honor to be left ALONE in his office, and we just dropped to our knees and cried. It was a powerful prayer session!!! (Janet Page snuck in behind us and took the following pictures of this special time of prayer.)
I could probably write a whole book just on these three weeks… but I don't have time or space and don't want to wear out those that read. To one team member, the experience was an "Enoch Experience." To others it was a "Jacob wrestling experience." To each of us, God had something very important and crucial to teach us. Here's some of the highlights of the things God taught us, did for us, doors He opened, and the miracles He worked while we were there
- Breakthrough for the SDA world-wide Media leaders - amazing and humbling!!
- All of us at some point started to get sick, and after much prayer were MIRACULOUSLY healed (sometimes instantly) and restored to health to continue the battle of prayer - all of course, while keeping INSANE sleeping hours. (I've learned though, when you are operating outside the realm of human endurance, that's when God's supernatural endurance and strength kicks in most noticeably. Since we knew He had called us to pray, He had to keep us healthy, and HE DID!!!!!!)
- God helped us be alert and awake each day…and gave us greater and greater burdens for our church leaders each day!
- Sometimes we were stuck in the basement the whole morning, just pleading for victory in a specific area, but God always gave it! And He always brought our team together in unity over what to pray…it was amazing!
- Multiple speaking appointments opened up for us to share with local churches.
- We saw security officials soften as we prayed with them each day!
- Came upon groups of GC employees praying in tears for the very things we'd been praying for! (Praised the Lord that His Spirit was drawing us all together!)
- We saw God work in powerful ways through the messages given. (One message by a young teen named Aaron Crews. He gave a very stirring appeal. Below you can see the leaders that surrounded him in prayer afterward as he's obviously called to win souls for Christ.)
- We saw difficult meetings with difficult topics turn into meetings of peace and unity for all involved! (A HUGE MIRACLE, but due to confidential nature of these meetings, I cannot share more details! But this happened over and over again, by the Lord's mercies. And I know that many people besides us, were also praying for this!)
- As time went on…even Elder Wilson and his Vice-Presidents couldn't believe it and kept telling us, "The way things are going is truly a miracle…prayer is really making a difference!" (And even though we were praying, we had a hard time believing it too! Wow!!! What an awesome God we serve!)
- While we'd walk through the building each morning, each evening, we'd go in and pray over all the Annual Council executive committee members name by name… over 423 of them to be exact. And over our time at the GC, we saw God break specific ones heart. We believe this was direct answer to specific prayer!!!! (And I believe there were many more convicted that we will never know about until eternity.)
- One staff member at the GC told Janet that they couldn't believe how God was blessing in their department. When they heard about our "mystery prayer team" they stated: "THAT's WHAT IT IS!!!! I knew something was going on, but didn't know what. Now I know that God is working in answer to prayer in our departments." (How that testimony warmed our hearts!)
- God convicted me to offer an all-night prayer session with a local church…Sabbath night during Annual Council. (Afterwards, I wondered if I'd lost my mind, because already we were not getting hardly any sleep! But God showed me He was truly in it!) It turned out to be powerful, and despite not getting sleep, God sustained us! I thought we might be running low on energy and prayers by midnight…but no worries. God's Spirit kept being poured out…and especially after we started praying over individuals. We were still going strong at 4am and had to rush to make it back to the GC in time for morning prayer before people would arrive for work. (Over 40 people took part in this all night prayer experience…even the Pastor's wife said she'd never experienced anything like this! Praise the Lord!!!!)
- Both pre-meetings and the main Annual Council meetings went so well… amazingly well!! Everyone was talking about prayer and a lot of prayer was going on. One young man who I'd met at Division meetings in Africa over a year ago stopped me and with almost tears in his eyes said: "Melody, do you see what is happening? This is what you've been praying for! This church is becoming a praying church even more! Look…" and he pointed to all the groups of leaders going to various rooms to have their own prayer meetings! (I'm just sooo thankful for a leader that believes in the power of prayer and has been seeking to incorporate prayer and Bible study into the GC lifestyle in a deeper way, ever since he came to office in 2010! Truly God is answering his prayers, and the many that have been prayed by others as well!)
- Elise (our 14 year old prayer teammate) had originally prayed at the beginning of our time that we'd have a bigger prayer room - we had a room that could hold maybe 10-15 people - but then she started praying that ALL the meetings would turn into meetings of prayer and we all began to pray this passionately. And they did!!!! One Division leader from Europe said he'd been coming to the GC for 15 years but never seen so much prayer in the meetings. He loved it!
- An extra special thing for us was that Pastor Myers, ARME President, was called to speak for one of the devotional meetings. He gave a powerful rousing message which I am sure inspired many. In fact, his message got more responses than any other the entire week! Praise the Lord!! (Pictured below we all were, along with many leaders, praying before Pastor Myer's morning session. Gilbert Wari, President of the West Central Africa Division (to the right of Pastor Myers) was a regular at prayer! I was so impressed and inspired to see so many leaders coming daily, even off the schedule, to pray!)
- Something else special for us that happened during this time was God bringing us more opportunities to share what He was doing in our lives as we are hoping many others will be inspired to go deeper in prayer. Of course, God opened doors at many churches… too many to count as we often separated and went three directions at the same time for multiple prayer meetings during our three weeks! But God also opened some larger doors. The first was for Teri and Elise to share their testimony on the "Let's Pray" program which airs on HOPE TV live each night Mon-Thursday and reaches millions of viewers across the USA and worldwide.
- Then God opened up the doors for me to share for two 30 minute programs on Hope TV's Ministry in Motion program. This was a complete unexpected miracle. But praise God He is multiplying our labors. On the first program Janet and I did with Derek Morris, we talked about how to grow your personal prayer life. On the second program we did with Anthony Kent, we talked about the power of United Prayer. (These will air in January of 2013 and later.)
- Again…throughout the time at the GC we saw God work one miracle after another…through meetings that were held, decisions that were made, and leaders that were obviously feeling the call to deeper prayer. Janet even called me one morning at 5am (knowing we would still be in the GC praying) just to tell me… "I can't tell you all the details! But just know that God is answering your guy's prayers in a BIG WAY. Keep praying!! This is amazing!!"
- Even the Division Presidents (from the 13 divisions around the world) were so impacted that they started telling Janet that they were so inspired and really saw the difference united prayer makes.
- After it was all over, Elder Wilson wrote me personally thanking us for all the prayers. "But we need to keep praying…" he told me. "There is still much MORE that we need to see God do!" (Truly a leader after God's own heart! Here our team is with him and his sweet wife Nancy, pictured below.)
- When the 21 days finished we didn't want to stop…so we went in to pray one more day…for day 22!! It was so beautiful we cried, and pledged to continue praying for these leaders by name. Hepzhi, the local prayer leader for the woman's group, who came to be a great friend and prayer partner, told us that these days of specific intercession had done more for her than any prayer seminar she had ever attended. (What a testimony…and all to God's glory!)
There are probably many testimonies I've forgotten, and many that have not been recorded. As Janet and Jerry shared with our team, "You will only know in eternity what God has done during these 3 weeks of intense underground praying! But it was more than you can imagine!!"
What God did in our own hearts during this experience was MORE than I could have imagined.
Excerpts from my journal from Day 10 of 21:
"Today is the 10th day of this prayer and fasting journey! It is Sabbath, and after a powerful church service, where we got to share testimonies of united prayer with a special congregation, we went to the GC this afternoon to pray. God really came down and broke all our of hearts by taking us much deeper. (How much deeper can we go?) Truly the Holy Spirit is at work. We all confessed our sins of pride, of fear, selfishness, doubt etc…to each other and to God. We all wept and wept. We forgot about praying over the list over names…and I'm reminded that God doesn't really need us to do that anyway. It's not like magic or something. What He needs is clean hands and pure hearts. So we just focused on heart surrender. God really stripped all of us of self and lay us bare before His throne…then He wrapped his arms of love around us and filled us with a Spirit of such praise as I've never experienced. We all came to peace about the same time, after much agony (which seemed like hours, but was actually not that long), then we began to sing, thru our tears, praise songs to God. The whole prayer was so beautiful and beyond words Heavenly…and lasted maybe 3-4 hours, but seemed like much longer. It made me imagine what Pentecost might have been like and words are inadequate to describe it. I did not want to see it end. It was such a sacred experience for all of us…one I will never forget!" (Later, when we were leaving, the security guard told us it sounded like angels singing up in the balcony. What a beautiful testimony! I'm sure the angels must have been singing with us!)
To be honest, coming up to this event and all the way through it, I felt so inadequate for the task at hand…we all did! I kept asking God, "Why me…why us? Why are we here! We are just children. We're such sinners…how can you use us?" But God kept taking us deeper and deeper. And when I felt the most despairing, God would remind me of His many promises and I'd realize, "All He needs is willing vessels…even if they are just inexperienced children."
There's a whole list of promises we claimed, but here's some of my favorites:
“Ye have not because ye ask not…Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name. Ask and ye SHALL receive, that your joy may be full.” James 4:2, John 16:24
“With men this is impossible, but not with God, for with God ALL THINGS are possible…” Mark 10:27
“Ah Lord God, behold thou hast made the Heaven and the Earth by thy great power and stretched out thine arm, and there is NOTHING too hard for you!” Jer. 32:17
This journey was so special and almost sacred that I've had a difficult time talking about it and a difficult time sharing it with others for awhile. But I and my other teammates have decided to share because we believe this is such an important experience that many more should have. God does not want this JUST for US, but He wants others to experience it too…in an even deeper way! I'm not talking about going to the GC necessarily and walking the halls at 3am (although it would be awesome if God would raise up others to do this so we could cover our leaders in prayer all year long)! What I'm talking about is praying, really praying, and being willing to sacrifice to see your family, your local church, your local community, your local conference have a deeper experience with God. What about storming our local churches, our missing members, our pastors, the lost on the streets, with prayer??? What about storming our conference buildings and leaders (even the janitors and secretarys) with prayer?? Maybe you can't go to Silver Springs, MD, but you could team up with local friends and members and pray consistently for your local congregation and your local leaders….right??? It may not seem as glamorous or important as going to the GC…but it is!!
It's interesting that when you read in the Bible, one of the chief things that amazes God is that we are not praying for others!!!!
Isa 59:16 says, "And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor."
Ezekiel goes even farther. "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." Ezek. 22:30
We live in a world of sin, of spiritual death, and of turmoil…and it's infected all of us. The enemy, to a large degree, has been successful at putting God's people across the land to SLEEP…asleep to their true condition, asleep to their responsibilities, and asleep to the urgency of the times at hand!!! (Remember, all the virgins, even with the truth of God's Word and a measure of the Holy Spirit…ALL of them fell asleep for a time!) And I believe that's where we are today. Sadly, in some respects, I believe we are becoming just like those Christians who were arguing over the style of communion cloth that they should have in their churches while Dietrich Bonhoeffer was being dragged off to be hung for standing for the truth.
Oh yes, we are experiencing a wake-up call…we are experiencing revival and reformation…but even while this is happening, there are issues that are being fought in our church as if these were the very gospel of Christ. And rather than keeping focused on our true enemy, (the Devil - Eph 6, and pride and selfishness) we are often fighting each other. (But our true battle is not over style of worship, style of leadership, what holiday we celebrate, or over equality…since when did Jesus condone fighting for these things anyway??) No, our true battle is not against each other or those in office, but against spiritual darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places…not earthly physical places, spiritual places.
Of course, I'm not here to point fingers or to take sides. When things don't go as we'd like, it's easy to complain and point fingers. It's easy to judge! It's also easy to wish that you could sit in the chair of authority and influence so that you could do a better job! But really? What are we thinking??? Who are we fooling? If we are truly fighting on God's side, there is no greater position of power than has already been given us, and that is upon our knees! For then…THEN, He will fight for us!!! (Ex. 14:14)
Here's a few more of my favorite quotes I have to share on prayer, before I bring this looong blog post to a close:
In the devotional called In Heavenly Places, the author writes: “There is a mighty power in prayer. Our great adversary is constantly seeking to keep the troubled soul away from God. An appeal to Heaven by the humblest saint is more to be dreaded by Satan than the decrees of cabinets or the mandates of kings.” p. 82
“It was because Elijah was a man of large faith that God could use him in this grave crisis in the history of Israel. As he prayed, his faith reached out and grasped the promises of Heaven, and he persevered in prayer until his petitions were answered. He did not wait for the full evidence that God had heard him, but was willing to venture all on the slightest token of divine favor...
"The greatest victories to the church of Christ or to the individual Christian are not those that are gained by talent or education, by wealth or the favor of men. They are those victories that are gained in the audience chamber with God, when earnest, agonizing faith lays hold upon the mighty arm of power." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 203
Speaking of Martin Luther: “From the secret place of prayer came the power that shook the world in the Great Reformation. There, with holy calmness, the servants of the Lord set their feet upon the rock of His promises. During the struggle at Augsburg, Luther “did not pass a day without devoting three hours at least to prayer, and they were hours selected from those the most favorable to study.”
My friends, we are living in serious times…we must be on our knees!!! Not just for ourselves, but for others. We don't have much time…decisions are being made, and lives are being lost (even as I type) for eternity.
Let me end with this quote:
"0h brother, pray; in spite of Satan, pray; spend hours in prayer; rather neglect friends than not pray; rather fast, and lose breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper - and sleep too - than not pray. And we must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest. The Lord is near. He comes softly while the virgins slumber." Andrew A. Bonar
As E.M. Bounds writes, "The little estimate we put on prayer is evident from the little time we give to it."
Ouch!! Did you catch that?? I think it's time to change!!!
It's time to take our Bibles, hold them up to God, claim those promises, and pray. And refuse to let go until Heaven answers. For we are told, the honor of God's throne is staked for the fulfillment of His Word!!!!!!! He is not deaf. He will hear! But He's waiting for His people to wake up and pray!!