For the second week in row, my Wake Up Call sermon wasn’t really about the sermon.
Last Sunday, it led to my interview with Ron Hall.
And yesterday, it served as the set up for an interactive time of “praying in the Spirit.”
I must say, the movements of breathing, raising, singing, and speaking worked even better than I thought they would.
Our altar was full, people were lingering in prayer, and the atmosphere was thick in the room with the awareness of the Holy Spirit.
I guess you could say that yesterday is why I decided to become a pastor.
So we’re in Wake Up Call and it’s about being awake to the Holy Spirit as we say around here and you figure that at some point there is going to be some kind of connection between the Holy Spirit and prayer, right? They just seem to be like first cousins, maybe even closer relations than that.
And when we think about prayer – even for just a little bit – it’s kind of funny where we pray, isn’t it? The places we pray. Now: I know some of you don’t pray because you don’t believe (yet), and that’s fine, that’s OK. But I am going to assume that if you are devoted enough to get up and come to church on a Sunday morning that a lot of you are also people who pray. And the where of that praying, again, interests me. Some people pray in the shower. Some pray in their car. Some pray in the fitness center or the Y. Some pray in the bathroom, some in a jam, some in a chapel/church. Some pray in an office. That’s what I do – it is a preacher’s office, after all – but I always pray over my keyboard when I am preparing to write my sermon stuff. (Like those words I just said were typed onto that keyboard on June 22!) And then some people even after a dedicated, set apart room or closet or furniture piece that is a dedicated praying place. And all that praying & all those places are good & right & healthy. I’m glad you pray those places – unless it’s the car & it’s with your eyes closed. Not so glad about that.
But just when we get somewhat comfortable about praying in a location, along comes the bible with this oddly disconcerting pattern. Take a look at
Eph 6:18: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
Jude 20: But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
Revelation 1:10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet
Where are all these prayers either happening or being encouraged to happen? In the Spirit
Oh, Lord, how do you get “in the Spirit”? And didn’t this series begin with DE-WEIRDING the Spirit? And now you’re talking about not praying in my bedroom – which I can see – and praying instead in the Spirit – who I can’t? Oy vey! You’re gonna make me do something weird like fall down, run the aisles, or play with snakes. No thank you, Talbot / New Testament! You just re-weirded what you had successfully de-weirded a couple of weeks ago!
And wouldn’t it be great if I could come along and say, “oh, no, no, no, no. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. Just keep doing what you are doing! ANYTIME you pray, you’re praying in the Spirit!” But no. I can’t do that. For one thing, that’d be a lie. But maybe more important, I don’t want you to settle. See, some of you have been a Xn for a long time and you figured that hell-busting, soul-shaking, Spirit-soaking prayer is something other people do and you’ll just watch. You’re secretly glad other people do it and you’re even more glad that you don’t have to. You’re coasting. And in so doing, you miss out on a dimension of closeness to God and intimacy with God that God really wants to give you.
And if, on the other hand, you’re one of those people and who doesn’t even really believe in Jesus (yet) – much less the HS – and you’re not sure even how you track with this church, then in your case I don’t want to give you a bait and switch. I don’t want to present authentic Xnty to you as something that I know it’s not. Because authentic Xnty involves praying in the Spirit not just in the shower, and praying in the Spirit isn’t something that happens automatically or even easily. I want you to know something of what’s involved and something of the benefit, and if you act right today, I may even give you a taste of it, up close & personal like.
Because what is this thing of praying not in the bathroom but in the Spirit, not in what is visible but in who is invisible? I’ve wrestled with it and wrestled with it. And I realized that when we pray in the car, shower, etc, we are typically looking for an ANSWER TO PRAYER. Give me a job. Give me peace. Give me a mate. Give me a BETTER mate. We pray in all of our places, it seems, to get an answer TO OUR prayer.
And yet praying in the Spirit – which if you hold any idea of the bible’s authority at all, is a deal – speaks of something completely different. It’s an approach to prayer and praying that is so dramatically different because its goal is so diametrically opposite. I sense that when you pray “in the Spirit” you stop looking for answers TO the prayer and start celebrating the answer that IS the prayer. You become less interested in the answer he sends and more interested in the answer he is. You don’t talk to God; you speak with God. Get this: praying in the Spirit allows you to realize that those times when God delays answering a prayer at all – how many of you have been through that? Are going through that? — is at least in part to keep you praying! If he delays the answer, you’ll stay in touch! Stop looking for answers TO the prayer and start celebrating the answer that IS the prayer.
It’s so much like those times when I’ve been in a fix – or, more accurately, I’ve felt the church in a fix – and I’m praying over it with great agitation and I hear: “Enough. Stop. Stop trying to earn what is already yours. You’re not a human doing. You’re a human being.” Yeah, in those brief moments where God reminds me to be, even reminds me to let him love me in prayer, I catch a glimpse of what it means to pray in the Spirit.
Or it’s like the 11th Step of AA: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. I love that! Not more answers FROM God; understanding the answer IS God. And look there – the will of God morphs from being some kind of fate that you want to escape but is instead something new and creative and life-giving that you want to enter. Stop looking for answers TO the prayer and start celebrating the answer that IS the prayer.
So prayer and the Holy Spirit have been thoroughly re-weirded today. And the reason I’m talking about this is that I don’t want to pastor a church full of people who ‘settle.’ Who settle for praying in the shower, in the car, or in the flesh . . . when they could pray in the Spirit. I want to lead a group of people who know what it’s like to move & operate in the realm of the supernatural; who know that God is alive and he loves to communicate to and through his people. And for the rest of our time today, I don’t want to talk ABOUT praying in the Spirit; I want it to happen. I want to do a collective “in the Spirit” experiment. Because I firmly believe that getting your body, mind, and soul ready to REFRAIN takes some intention, some time, some purpose. So . . . for the next few moments we’re going to have some movements & amp up the RE-WEIRDING factor, but you’re going to be glad we did . . .
So it starts with some BREATHING. See, it’s hard to be “in the Spirit” when your mind is still on the fight you just had with your mate. When your adrenaline is still racing over the battle for a GS parking spot. When your heart is still breaking over the relationship that just ended. So settled in. And breathe. Breathe IN THE SPIRIT. And breathe OUT THE ANGER. Breathe IN THE SPIRT. Breathe OUT THE RUSH. Breathe IN THE SPIRIT. And OUT THE GRIEF. (Continue same pattern.) Finally: Breathe IN THE SPIRIT. Breathe out EVERYTHING ELSE.
Not just breathing. RAISING. Keep your eyes closed, please. But now open your palms. Point them God’s direction. Use those palms to, in a sense, lift praises God’s way. Would you repeat these prayer phrases after me . . . and out loud? Praise Jesus. You are awesome. You are the only God there is. Honor your resurrecting power. Praise you for creating the universe and for shaping me. Praise you for sending your Holy Spirit.
And now, hear these words from 1 Timothy 2:8: Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. Huh. You don’t only raise a hand when you sing, but when you pray. Would you, as you stay in this posture of prayer, with your eyes closed, just lift those hands to the heavens. When you lift a hand in that way, you’re surrendering to the supremacy of the Lord and you are agreeing with what is being said or sung. Now: open your eyes. Yes.
But not just raising. SINGING. Your eyes are open, your hands are up. Why don’t you stand up & Chris/Randy will help you sing to each other. I’ve got one other thing to say . . . but sing. (We sang Blessed Assurance TO EACH OTHER.) Afterwards: oh yes, music helps move your Spirit so it is surrendered to God’s spirit. I so encourage you – on your own and in your home – keep this spirit going, musically.
And one other reality. SPEAKING. Look at Romans 8:26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. You don’t know and the Spirit rushes in to pray through you. That’s what happens. That’s praying in the Spirit . . . you run out of words, out of concepts, out of energy, even, and yet you allow the HS to keep you praying and keep you speaking. For some, it’s groans. For some it’s simply more praying, asking for more of God more than more of his answer. For some, it’s even a prayer language. For all, it’s an invitation as we sing one more to come up and pray here at this altar, trusting the spirit to pray to you & through you.
(Soft, acoustic song or songs to finish with an invitation to altar/steps prayer.)