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It had been a tough week. God had called me to a long fast two weeks prior -- (I've really not fasted since first tasting of the new-wine in April of 1994, so I'm somewhat out of the habit). The first week of the fast had been wonderful -- the Lord had really met me. I was hardly hungry at all and had a deep spiritual time. But the second week was quite another story. For some reason, it was difficult to be spirtiually minded and I found I'd rather watch TV than pray. As the flesh started to feel the effects of my fast, the old nature started to surface. I lost that constant feeling of being in fellowship with God. I was not hearing from Him all that much. I did not really understand what was going on -- all I knew was that by the second week of a long fast I should be in closer intimacy with God and instead I felt farther away from Him than usual. What's worse, I started really yearning for food. I had seen a Pizza Hut commercial where they were advertising their new crust with cheese in it -- and it looked so good. The last day or two, that was almost all I could think of.
As I was commuting home from work, I noticed that I was very grouchy. Everything anyone did irritated me. I remember thinking "Could this fast really be of God? It seems to be bearing bad fruit -- I'm more irritable than usual and I feel farther from Him than usual." Then I started thinking about the Pizza with the cheese in the curst and though I was going to die if I did not get some of that. I got off of the BART (S.F.'s equivelent of a subway system), walked to my car and started to drive home. At this point, if I passed a Pizza Hut, I would have gone in and ordered a cheese and mushroom pizza. But, even in that state of depravity, I felt like I should pray, so I tried to. I asked God to speak to me one way or another about this fast. I told Him that I wanted to obey Him, but it was not clear that this fast was even of Him. If He wanted me on it and showed me clearly, I would obey, but He would have to help me. But I was pretty convinced that there was nothing holy or pleasing to Him about this fast. I pretty much decided to call Pizza Hut when I got home and have one delivered to me. But the Lord started reminding me of how He had called me to this fast -- He had told me that our pastor was still fasting and that I should join him during service on Sunday Aug 13. Then, about an hour later, the pastor was meeting with a small group of us intercessors. He mentioned that he was on day 27 of a 40 day fast, and invited us to join him. That was a confirmation. But I had been quite sick (a digestive disorder) since June, and the doctor was not sure what was wrong with me. I had not commited to fast with our pastor because I was afraid about becomming even sicker. I went home and prayed all day and God confirmed to me that I should fast. So I started fasting, and all of my symptoms instantly disappeared and remained gone to this very minute. In addition, I had not been weak or fatigued like one normally gets by this point in a fast. In fact, I've never felt healthier. As God reminded me of all of these things, I realized that His hand was definately in this fast.
I remember crying out that I wanted to obey Him, but I also wanted a Pizza with all of my heart. I was choosing as an act of obedience to obey Him instead of my lust for pizza, but that I needed Him to help me. I told Him that I very much believed what Jesus said in John 15:4-5, that without Jesus I could do nothing. I told Him that if He did not help me, there was no way I could walk through this thing. I also told Him that I was really discusted with my old nature and how it was surfacing. I asked Him if all that soaking in His anointing had any effect at all, or was I just the same as before the renewal started.
Then God spoke very clearly to me. He said that I was not expected to be able to do things on my own, but to lean on Him. He said that He would never call me to something and then not help me through it. He said that the reason my old nature was manifesting so strongly was because it was being "crucified" by the fast, so it was complaining loudly. I asked Him if He couldn't just finish transforming it so it would not get in the way any more. He said that it does not work that way -- that we have our old nature until the day we die. He said that it pleases Him when we choose Him over the desires of our old nature, but that we get to continue making choices as long as we are alive. Then He reminded me of the Apostle Paul, who even though he was godly and walked in great power continued to have a flesh nature that he was at war with.
At this point I think I started crying and told the Lord that I just needed Him to hold me. I knew I was not going to be able to order that pizza, but I still wanted it. I got home and had a glass of milk (I'm drinking 1 to 2 glasses of non-fat milk per day on this fast.) That helped some. I wish I could say that the Lord's presense descended on me and that Jesus held me in His arms, but that did not happen. What did happen is that Jesus said to me, "Now you know what it felt like for Me after I'd fasted 40 days and was hungry and Satan suggested I make bread." He went on to say that a temptation was not real unless it was really tempting.
As I had a shower and got ready for Church, I became more aware of His presense again. But I was still so freshly aware of my own sinful nature (even it's reaction to fasting) that I felt sort of un-usable. I could not imagine God moving through me to touch people at the renewal meeting that night. I think I might have stayed home, except that it was my turn to be captian of the prayer team, so I had to be there.
As I was driving to Church, still feeling some apprehension about the night, I felt the Lord speak to me and tell me that it was going to be an incredible night for me. I remember thinking -- I hope that really was God's voice, but I bet it was just my own voice, telling me what I wished to hear.
Pre-service prayer (we call it pre-prayer) was great. As soon as we started praying, I could feel His presense settle over me. It was the first time in over a week that I'd felt His presense on me, and I was very greatful. I sort of just wanted to sit there soaking in His presense for ever and ever. But eventually it came time to pray for the various members of the ministry team. First I prayed for each one, and I could feel the Lord's power radiating out of my hand as I prayed. The Lord sort of whispered in my ear, "And you were afraid that I would not move through you tonight...". Eventually we were all praying for each other. God's power and presense fell and it was a little wild. There was laughing, shaking, falling, and other manifestations. His presense was so rich in the room. It was wonderful. After preprayer was over, Debbie and I stayed in the room. We hadn't planned to, but we started interceeding for the meeting. God's presense and power were so thick.
Tonight was the first night in a very long time when we had testamonies. Myself and one other lady had both received healings two weeks ago -- me of the digestive disorder and her of some back problems. We had been asked to give testamonies. She went first. (During pre-prayer, I'd suggested to Bill (the pastor running the renewal meetings) that we start modeling prayer again and pray for the other lady after she gave her testamony. I did not expect to be prayed for after mine because I was part of the prayer team.
After she gave her testamony, Bill asked the prayer team to come up and prayer for her. He asked me to give my testamony while they were praying for her. I kept it very short -- under two minutes. But by the time I'd finished, she went down. Since the prayer team was standing there, Bill suggested that they pray for me as well. My first thought was "Oh God, please don't let me have any really weird manifestations infront of everyone!"
But as they started praying, I was surrounded by the presense of the Lord. Within a few seconds, it no longer mattered that I was up in front of everyone -- I was no longer aware of them. The Lord's goodness seemed to saturate me and it felt SO good to be with Him. "I told you I would move powerfully on you tonight," the Lord said, "and you were afraid that it was just your own wishful thinking instead of My voice." This was not the way I'd pictured it at all, but it was certainly welcome. (I had expected the Lord to use me to minister to others, not for Him to so richly minister to me.) About the time I went down, I became aware of Bill (the pastor leading the meeting) saying that we would be praying for anyone who wanted it, but that people did not need to respond the say way those up front had repsonded. He went on to say that they should not feel pressured to fall, shake or otherwise manifest, just to receive from God. All of the sudden, the joy of the Lord hit me and wave of wave of refreshment started pouring over me. I started laughing. The person who was soaking me in prayer also started laughing. God's goodness was so evident in the room.
I could feel His power washing over me and I started shaking fairly violently. About the same time I became aware that the other lady who'd given her testamony was also shaking. My head was only inches from her feet, and her feet began pounding on the ground as she shook. Somehow, it seemed comforting that God was doing the same thing in both of us. Then the Lord seemed to consume my consciousness and I became unaware of everything but Him. It was so good just to be with Him again, to feel Him washing off of me all of the uncleanness I felt from the temptation to break my fast, to feel His love washing over me. I felt so secure in His love for me.
When I became aware of things around me again. They had started worship -- we often worship for about 45 minutes after the teaching and then move into ministry time. Either they skipped the teaching or I missed it being out under His power -- I'm not sure which. Anyhow, I felt such delight to be out under the power during worship. I was reminded of how passionately I used to love this. During the early days of the renewal, this happened to me a lot. It seems that there is no way I'd rather worship than while under His manifest touch like this. So I vasallated between worshipping and being totally lost in His goodness and majesty. I remember that from time to time I would also stop and thank Him for arranging for me to be under His power duing the worship again. It was so wonderful. I felt like His strenght and life were pouring back into me.
I stayed down through all of worship. From time to time, a strong spirit of intercession would come on me and I'd find myself lost in intercession. Then back to worship. This continued for a while. It was so good. The Lord's presense seemed to come in wave after wave. I remembered laying there as one was was ending and I thought about how empty I'd felt this last week while fasting. It seemed like the Lord was filling me back up. He had managed to arrange a special time when I could be ministered to without any obligation to get up and pray for anyone else. I started saying "Thank You!" to the Lord, over and over again. It seemed like He answered, "You're welcome." Then He went on to tell me that this is what the "other food that you do not know of" (see John 4) is about. He said that as I dedicate myself to doing His thing instead of my own thing, He will fill me with Him and satisfy me on a level that the needs and lusts of the flesh cannot touch.
Eventually they called the prayer team to come up and minister. I knew that it was a small team and felt like I should get up and start praying for people. But the Lord told me to stay down a little longer and just receive from Him. If I had not been captian that night, I would have had no problem with that. But I felt this sense of responsibility to at least be up and aware of what was going on in the room. The Lord told me that He was not really done, but I could go ahead and get up if I really wanted to. So I got up and started praying for people. I wish I could say that there was incredible power when I prayed, but it was sort of a quiet night. The Lord was definately meeting people, but it was more of a deep inner thing and there were a lot less physical manifestations than I'm used to. I remembered wondering if maybe I'd gotten up too soon, and that's why the anointing for me to pray was not as strong as I expected. But when I stopped praying for people, about 10:00 PM, I could feel His sweetness settle over me again. I ended up sitting on the stage with some people from the worship team and just having a wonderful time. It was so good that I was hesitant to leave the sanctuary to go home.
As I left the sanctuary, I became aware that tonight the Lord had been holding me in His arms, just as I'd begged Him to do earlier this afternoon when I was struggling with the temptation to break my fast.
He really does not leave us comfortless; He really does come to us and comfort and strengthen us! He is so good!
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