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John and Carol Arnott, the head pastors of Airport Vineyard (which birthed the "Toronto" renewal), came to the San Francisco Vineyard tonight. The place was packed. I came an hour early because of ministry team pre-prayer and it was already over half full. I guess alot of people wanted to see John Arnott and were hoping to experience something of the fameous Toronto anointing. (Crowns coming early is pretty unusual for a Vineyard Church. Usually most people roll in about 10 minutes late.) The ministry team met upstairs to pray 1/2 an hour before service began. When we got back downstairs, worship had already began and people were crowded into the alter area. (The San Francisco Vineyard usually invites people to come up to the altar area during worship.) The area was so packed that there was no room to go up and join them, so I went to my seat.
The worship time was very powerful. Even though people were jammed together like sardines, they seemed to be aware of only the Lord. Many had their eyes closed and their hands lifted, smiles on their faces. Some were swaying gently to the music, while others were kneeling. Everyone, myself included, seemed to really sense the presense of the Lord. His presense was very strong in the room. The worship team completed their list of songs, but no one wanted to stop worshipping. So they did an extra song. Finally Micheal Bordeur, the head pastor, lead us in a prayer. Then we were invited to take our seats. It appeared that every seat was taken (even though the auditorium holds over 900) and there about 20 more people than seats. So some people sat on the floor.
They asked for a show of hands for first-time visitors, i.e., people who had not been to a renewal meeting before. About 1/4 of the room raised their hand. People came from a diverse collection of churches including charasmatic, pentacostal, evangelical and traditional. There were even some nuns there in full garb.
John Arnott had a couple of people share testamonies. After each testamony, he would pray for the person who shared. As John prayed, the Holy Spirit came on each person and John acted as a sort of Master of Ceremonies, commenting on what was going on. There were some physical manisfestations such as shaking, laughing and falling. The manisfectations started gently and increased in intensity as he prayed.
John discussed the manisfestations as they occurred. For example, he noted that the person laughing under the joy of the Lord is not embarrassed. John explained that usually the person is aware of what is going on around them, but does not pay much attention to it because their attention is focused on the Lord. He sometimes interviewed the person as he was praying for them, asking questions like "what is happening with you?" or "how does that feel?" Most people were able to give short answers to his questions. The net effect is that is was alot of fun (even mildly humorous) to watch people be prayed for. Sometimes people in the back of the room would stand up briefly to get a better look at what was going on. I think John did this to model prayer so that people who had never seen it before would know what to expect. This way they would not be frightened if the Holy Spirit chose to do something in them that they were not used to.
John also kept a watch on the audience to see what the Holy Spirit was doing with them. He called up a couple of people who the Holy Spirit was touching. One of them was a friend of mine. She was shaking mildly and had a big grin on her face. John started praying for her and she started shaking much more. He asked her how she felt and she said "wonderful!" I know that she is a little shy and would normally be self-conscious about being infront of such a large crowd. But she had her attention focused on the Lord and was not inhibited at all.
John explained that as she stood there shaking that the Lord was strengthening her and that it would probably be a while before she "fell". John went on to explain that the Lord often takes people through a type of process as they come in His presense and receive this type of prayer. He said that at first God restores the love relationship with Him (restores their first love). When the Lord is doing that, the people usually fall to the ground and lay peacefully, surrounded by the Lord's presense. Next the Lord takes them through a type of healing where He deals with whatever issues He needs to. Often laughing or crying occur during this phase. Finally, the Lord begins to empower the people for His service. That phase is often accompanied by a lot of shaking, trembing or quaking.
After John prayed for someone, one of the pastors or ministry team leaders would come up and would continue to soak the person in prayer. By the end of the testamony time, the alter area was cluttered with several bodies. Most of them stayed there under God's power during the entire sermon.
After the sermon, John invited everyone who wanted prayer to come up to the alter area. The area became as packed as during worship and people were also lining up in the asiles behind the prayer area. Some stayed patiently in their seats, waiting for it to become less crowded before they came up for prayer. I was on the ministry team. There was hardly enough room to move among the people and pray for them. Even though we had several prayer teams, there were so many people that many had to wait a long time (some over an hour) for prayer. We ran into logistical problems, such as there not being enough room for someone to be placed on the ground if they should be "slain in the spirit".
But God's presense and power was very strong, more so than we normally experience. People were being touched powerfully and the inconviences of a crowded room did not seem to disturb them. Soon the place looked like a mass of bodies laying everywhere -- in the prayer area, in the asiles and sometimes on the gound between the seats. Someone went to the microphone and asked that about 1/3 of the chairs be folded up to make more room for prayer.
Many of the people who recieved prayer had not seen this before and did not know what to expect. Most of them were touched deeply. About 80% of the people who were prayed for were slain in the spirit and remained on the ground for a long time -- some 1 or 2 hours. Many people shook under the power. Some laughed and some cried. Some seemed to be going through inner struggles and/or spontaneous deliverances and cried out in a loud voice. When the latter occurred, one of the pastors or prayer team leaders would come and minister to them and quiet them down. Carol Arnott, John's wife, tended to handle the most difficult cases (people who did not quiet down rapidly).
There was one lady who started screaming and continued to do so for about 10 minutes. First one of the pastors came over to assist her and then Carol came over. People became very concerned and many of them were standing in a circle around the scene. The screaming lady was laying on the ground and Carol was kneeling near her. It was apparent that Carol had the situation well in control, but it took a little while for things to quiet down.
I had prayed for my friend Jan about 10 minutes before this began. Jan is in the process of being healed from cancer and usually the Lord touches her very powerfully. She often stays "down" for about an hour. As I walked past the scene, I noticed that Jan was sitting up already. So I went over to her and talked to her. She said that she wanted to receive more from the Lord than she had gotten, but that the lady "getting deliverance" was so disruptive that Jan became concerned about her and distracted from the Lord. I suggested that she move across the room where it's quieter and that I'd pray for her again. She though that was a good idea, so we did. The Lord touched her powerfully again. I prayed with her for a little while then I moved on.
The "noisy lady" appeared to have distracted several people, as many who where in her vacinity were now sitting up. Things had quieted down again. I felt led to go pray again for some of those who had been disturbed. In most cases the Lord touched them a second time and they continued to receive from Him for a while. I guess that the enemy was trying to steal people's blessing by causing a ruckus. However, God's power to bless is much stronger than the enemy's power to steal or harm. People continued to be blessed.
Finally we reached the point that most of the people who wanted prayer had been prayed for. I decided to stop praying and looked around. John Arnott was standing near the back of the room talking to a few people. There were many people laying on the floor near him, shaking profusly. I wanted to thank John for letting me tag along with him my last night in Toronto when he prayed for people. He had taught me a lot and I really appreciated it. Since he was not that busy, I decided that I would take advantage of this opportunity.
As I approached him, John greeted me by name. I was impressed that he would remember my name since he gets so many hundreds of visitors to the renewal services at his church. John thanked me for sending him a copy of the writeup that I did for Peter Wagner describing my Toronto experience. Then he enquired about the Wagner's health and asked me to give them his greetings next time I talked to Peter. (Actually, I usually talk to Doris, not Peter, but I guess John didn't know that.)
I was about to thank him for letting me tag along with him in Toronto when he grabbed my left hand (still in a surgical cast), and asked me what happened to it. I briefly described cutting my thumb and requiring surgury to reattach a partially sevored tendon.
John started praying for the thumb, asking God to totally restore it and asking for the warmth of God's healing to come on me. I did not actually feel any warmth, but I felt the Lord's presense all over me as he prayed. It felt good, but I did not realize how strong the Lord's touch was on me. I intended to continue the converstation when John finished praying, but the instant he let go of my hand I felt myself falling backward. I do not know whether or not there was anyone behind me to catch me or if I just hit the floor. I became so aware of the Lord's goodness and closeness that I was hardly aware of the logistics of falling. I don't think I lay there very long, but I felt as though I'd been deeply touched by the Lord. Both of my hands were tingling so much that I could not tell whether or not the Lord was actually doing something in my thumb or not. A deep peace surrounded me.
When I got up, I ran into a pastor from Central California (the Four Cities area) who I had met in Toronto. He drove up to San Francisco to see John. I remembered him as being very powerfully anointed, so I asked him to pray for me. He said sure and grabbed a pastor friend who I had never met before. As they started praying for me, God started doing deep things inside of me. I don't know exactly what He was doing, but I could sense an inner struggle and made a conscious decision for the Lord's will in my life. About then, the Lord's power came on me and I started shaking. After a while I was unable to stand, but the Lord's power continued to flow into me. The pastor I had never met before was praying something to the effect of "Let her come into the ministry that You have chosen for her, Lord. Let it be now Lord. Let nothing hinder her. Let nothing hold her back! Let nothing hold her back!" It sounds like such a simple prayer, but there was an incredible release when he prayed that. I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the prayer, and the inner struggle seemed to be over. I found myself relaxing into the Lord's presense.
I know it sounds strange to have someone say that they were relaxing as they continued to shake violently. But there were two things going on as the prayer occurred. The first was something deep going on in my spirit. Some area of my life was dieing to self that it might become alive to God. As the struggle ended, I was enveloped into the Lord's peace and presense.
At the same time, the Lord was empowering me and my physical body was reacting to His power in much the same way that it would react if someone attached jumper cables to me and turned the car on. But I was mostly aware of what the Lord was doing in my spirit and only mildly aware of what my body was doing. I suspect I could have made myself stop shaking if I chose to resist the Lord, but why would I want to do that when He was touching me so wonderfully in my heart? So I laid there enveloped in His peace and presense even though my body was shaking violently. I felt like I'd been anointed and released to serve the Lord, but have no idea what form that service will take. I was greatful to the Lord for touching and anointing me and I was also excited to see what He would do in my life.
After a while I got up and hunted down that pastor from Southern California who had prayed so powerfully for me. I thanked him for prayer and mentioned the part that I found particularly powerful. He said that he knew that would be powerful because the Lord had instructed him to pray it. And whenever the Lord instructs like that during prayer, He always does something powerful. Then he indicated that I would find myself moving more and more frequently in the prophetic realm as well. I mentioned that this had been prophesied over me in Toronto as well. Sometimes it happened, but not real frequently. He said that the frequency was going to go way up in the immediate future. I said "I hope so." He sort of laughed and then told me that we'd be seeing each other again sometime. I never even learned his name or where he was from, so it will definately have to be the Lord for us to run into each other again. But that kind of thing is easy for the Lord to do.
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